Monday, December 27, 2010

Express Tram Stops on Victoria St

Victoria St Richmond is a ticking traffic time bomb. With Salta office and residential developments coming online within the next year and the Honeywell site redevelopment being approved, we're going to see a massive increase of cars and demand for tram services down this much loved street. This coupled with Ballieu's wind back of clearway times will make Victoria St a virtual parking lot if something isn't done and SOON.

Serious consideration must now be given to an express stopping pattern for trams during peak hours in the morning and evening. The proposed stops will be Burnley St, Church St, North Richmond Station and Hoddle St. This neatly corresponds to the existing tram map.

In all this express stopping pattern by-passes 6 stops, and by reducing the amount of stops will hopefully improve flow of traffic behind trams.

Planning must now begin for super stops to handle the larger amount of people that will get on an off express stops. Peak and off peak branding must be installed on tram stops along the road and an education campaign advising commuters of this change must go live 6 months before the express stopping patterns are started.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

#Myki machines on trams

The rollout of myki machines on trams has yet to begin, but already there is enough information out there to begin analysis on what to expect. Information gleaned from the myki website suggests that it will alow myki money top ups of up to $20 and that it will sell short term myki passes which is the equivalent of 2 hour or daily metcards for tourists. In other words it will not provide any better functionality than metcard. SHAME!

The two big issues I see are the lack of myki pass support, and secondly the lack of support for electronic payment methods.

The lack of myki pass support is a kick in the shins for regular tram commuters who'll inconveniently still have to go to a train stations/tram superstops to get instant myki pass top ups. Either that or purchase them online and wait a minimum 24 hours before the transaction is approved. Presumably the lack of myki pass support is because there is an issue with the storage of large volumes of cash on a tram, which brings us to the next issue, why is there still no support for electronic payment methods?

If myki touch on and touch off information can be relayed back to a central database, there must be a means for communication from the tram to the outside world, and hence a means for electronic payment methods. Are electronic payment methods too slow to function on a tram? Are they too unreliable? Or is it something for the too hard basket?

Melburnians should rightly expect things to improve with myki, except we're once again stuck with the status quo of coin collecting. Perhaps we'll see more tram superstops with full functionality myki topup machines scattered around every route in the future, but at the moment they are only seen in the city.

This blog post is a request that myki reconsiders the myki pass functionality on their tram top up machines to allow, at minimum, purchase of a weekly myki passes, then progressively phase in more days as a solution for increased storage and disposable of money on trams or electronic payments becomes available.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hey Lezala, Let's put the "P" back in premium station

Let's play a game. Name a service that you'd like to get at a suburban train station that you don't normally do.

A) Working myki or metcard machine? Regular stops? A working toilet? Bzzzt. Wrong?
B) ATM? YES and at all premium stations please. A single ATM hardware that accepts software and firmware upgrades from multiple banks. A touch screen device where you can select your service provider and not get other bank charges. That's a thought.
C) Mail Box - Why doesn't the mail man catch a train?
D) A GP - not feeling well? Let the GP send you home with a certificate before you get on the train and affect other commuters, let alone your work colleagues.

The list goes on. It's a high time metro outlines a minimum set of standards for premium stations beyond the 10 year old paradigm of regular stops and manned stations. Let's put the "P" back in Premium ay?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Myki lessons and the way forward

The myki concept in itself is decent, but the project has been plagued with very poor project management and implementation. Myki is a casestudy on how NOT to build a smart card system, compared to "successful" implementations like Octopus and Oyster. So what did the other smart cards do right that we didn't? I'd suggest two things: 1) they weren't overly ambitious from the start 2) they had a quick transition period from their old systems.

Firstly, the Oyster card was first issued to the public with a limited range of features. Myki was overambitious from the start. From offering a myki money system that wasn't fully tested, to beginning with online topups rather than top ups at stations. This was a radical change from the existing metcard system, which in turn required an education campaign. The focus at the start should have clearly been to build a low risk system that worked and that was familiar enough to existing metcard users so they could easily make the transition.

Lesson 1) They should have built a virtual metcard using myki equipment. Offering the exact same tickets as metcard (2hr, daily, weekly, monthly, etc), but using myki touch on and off technology. Myki money, online topups, etc could have been phased in later when fully tested or killed off if the government ran out of money.

Secondly, unlike the Octopus system which forced users to transtition to their new system within the first 3 months, we've had a year of two parallel system running with no end date for metcard in sight. Hence, why there has been a low uptake of the myki system. This is obviously a bad situation to be in.

The dilemna is mainly caused by the poor myki money rollout, where people just don't have confidence that the correct fare will be calculated. How can you force commuters to adopt a system that they're not sure will work? The solution is you don't.

The way forward from this mess is to isolate myki money from the rest of the system, so that it's not integral to the way the system works. As I mentioned previously, exact equivalent metcard fares need to be offered on myki pass (2hr, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and all the variants). If commuters are not confident in the myki money calculations they can now bypass it by buying prepaid fares on the myki pass system. This therefore negates the need for metcard readers, ticket top up machines, and paves the way for a full rollout of myki topup machines.

Lesson 2) The only way to have quick adoption is to force people to upgrade to a RELIABLE system.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Melbourne Bike Share: Replacing helmets with Insurance

-State government
-Melbourne City Council
-TAC - Registration of bike riders?
-Personal insurance - RACV offer a product - Must be affordable.

Improving bike share infrastructure
- bike lanes
- restricting bike riders without helmets to bike lanes

-Speed Limits within Bike Share Zone - Melbourne City Limits
-Enforcement - Fines / Demerit points to correct behaviour.
-Defensive bike riding courses

Timeframe (minimum 2 years before renewed helmet laws)
- Continue to develop bike infrastructure
- Helmet promotion campaign in the mean time.
- Debate and introduce new laws providing choice.
- Introduce insurance products
- Can bike share survive 2.5 years with helmet laws?

Friday, July 16, 2010

More Brumby greenwash

On the 15th of July, the Victorian government announced plans for a $100 rebate on registering hybrid vehicle in a press release named "VICTORIA TAKES ACTION TO LEAD NATION ON CLIMATE CHANGE".

How is offering a rebate on hybrid vehicles taking the lead on climate change? Shouldn't we be discouraging people from buying personal vehicles and using more public transport? Investing more in public transport would undoubtedly be a more effective measure. The problem for Brumby is investment in public transport isn't percieved to be acting on climate change. He needs to be seen to be doing something.

So wink, wink, nudge nudge, a plan to support the Victorian manufacturing of Hybrid Camry's gets a subsidy disguised as action on climate change.

Good work Brumby, you really pulled the wool over my eyes this time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bums on Seats - Melbourne Bike Share Challenge

Based on anecdotal evidence the Melbourne Bike Share sheme is struggling, which is a shame, because it's a great initiative. Below are some thoughts on how we can get some extra bums on seats and make the scheme more of a success.

1) Temporary Bike Stations - We know Universities are busy during the week and normally quiet during the weekend. Conversely, places like the MCG or Docklands football stadium are busy on the weekends, but would have a hard time justifying their existence on weekdays. Do bike share stations needed to partitioned into Weekday and Weekend stations to reflect this reality?

A key to getting the bike share scheme to work is getting as many stations out to places people frequent. Justifying a station such as the MCG could be hard based on 7 day patronage figures, but opening stations at the MCG just on the weekends could be a work around for this problem. Excess bikes from Melbourne University could be shifted to the MCG on weekends.

Understanding that Melburnian's travel habits are not rigid, is a key to a dynamic system and one that would maximize utilization.

2) Discounts - It doesn't take a genius to figure out that bike share patronage will be down on a rainy day. This will always be the case, but can some people be enticed to use the system on rainy day by offering discounts? Will a 50% discount be enough to entice people? What about extending the free travel period from 30 minutes to 60 minutes on a rainy day to factor in the wet?

The crux of getting this discount scheme to work is semi "real time" notifications. Push notifications via mobile phones or SMS notifications for subscribers can be sent at 6:30am in the morning. If rain is forecast or detected, a message offering discounts to users and a reminder to bring a helmet should be sent.

Further patrons should be able to register their favourite stations. If a station is underforming, discount notifications can be sent to users to encourage patronage.

3) Loyalty program - I like getting my free cup of coffee after 10 drinks, and i'm sure bike riders would appreciate a free ride after X amount of trips. It's a simple and effective way to encourage repeat patronage.

4) Bike share Buddies - Much like myki mates, the initial reaction from many Melburnians is confusion on how the scheme works. Having volunteers available to explain and demonstrate the features will be a key part of getting bums on seats.

5) Better integration with city wide festivals - Melbourne is a city of festivals. The Food and Wine festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne Open House and The Melbourne Internation Comedy Festival to name a few. These festivals use venues scattered around the city, and are excellent candidates to promote the use of bike share. Cross promotion and using the "bring a helmet" slogan would be benefitial for all.