Sunday, November 29, 2009

Should all Melbourne Premium Stations have ATMs?

A few years back, I remember reading an article in a Beijing newspaper at the outrage of the lack of ATM facilities in their new subway system, and can't help but find a similar problem here in Melbourne. Apart from Flinders St, which stupidly awarded ANZ sole rights, why aren't there more ATM's in conveninent locations for us to use them?

The lack of commercialization of our train stations is surprising given the massive foot traffic that passes through the system every day. Is this a department of transport issue, or is it an issue with the train operators? Or is it a security issue? Surely its not a commercial issue.

Either way a solution must be found. Is there any other things our train stations lack? What should the new operators MTM be looking at to improve our system?

Protecting the Australlian education industry

Once again I'm reading about a drop in international student enrolments and can't help but think this is linked to the rising Australian dollar. Unfortunately parents of foreign students and foreign students themselves may not have access to buy large amounts of Australian dollar to mitigate this rise.

Can a solution to this be found by pegging the price of education in Australia to a fixed amount of foreign currency? For instance can education authorities analyse the average cost of education in Australia over a 10 year period, and fix the price in the mid band? Say it costs between 30000 Chinese Yuan and 50000 Chinese Yuan over a 10 year period, can authorities fix the price at 40000 Yuan over the 3 year course? Obviously this is oversimplistic, but i'm sure their are several market mechanisms that can be used to mitigate risk for students. Insurance schemes could be one of them and large subscription based education fund could be another. There are many possibilities. Ensuring stability in this industry is important. Having students quit half way due to the rising dollar would be a disaster.

Please leave a comment to discuss.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Would you like a paper reciept?

That's going to be the catch cry for future supermarket checkout chicks, if indeed in the future there will be checkout chicks (self service machines are slowly taking over). Besides the obvious environmental (less trees chopped down) and economic benefits (reduced inventory costs), going electronic will actually improve the customer service experience. "Tracking" mark my words is the next big thing in the supermarket customer service experience. Customers googling their spending habits. Now it's going to be so much easier.

So how will it work? There are several possibilities.
1) Online. Once your transaction is finished, your scan your loyalty card and the reciept is automatically delivered in pdf/other format to your online supermarket account. Should you decide to print it out, you can also do that. In the future, if you lose your reciept it won't necessarily be gone forever. No more picking through dirty laundry to track down those buggers!

2) Via email. Don't have a loyalty card? Give them your email, and the cash register will send it directly to your email account.

3) Via Mobile phone. Don't trust the checkout chick to get it right? Send it to your mobile phone for instant review.

Two issues that will be the key to get this right is privacy and protecting the integrity of the data. Woolies, Coles, who'll take the lead?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What killed Ringwood? (besides Eastlink and bogans)

Driving down Maroondah Highway one can't help but get the feeling that you're driving down a ghost town, or one that is dieing a slow a painful death. Ringwood, once a vibrant suburban community has been cut in two by Eastlink and now the Global Financing Crisis (GFC).

So what can be done to rectify this? One has to start at it's head to find the solution. First impressions count, and when entering from Heatherdale Rd, you immediately see abandoned businesses. The old Holden dealership abandoned, and as you progress to the heart of town the clock tower, you'll find more abandoned businesses and a row of "smut" (tattoo parlours and strip clubs).

The widening of Maroondah Highway to allow cars to enter and exit Eastlink is a permenant road block to the revival of Ringwood. 6 lanes of highway is intimidating. Therefore a traffic solution must be engineered to fix this, so that more parking is available for businesses and importantly to encourage pedestrian traffic back. When your veins are blocked, how can the heart function?

As we progress deeper into the shopping district, more signs of decay, the abandoned Ringwood market and old post office left in decay. Ringwood market has been closed for 10+ years, and suitable replacement has not been found for it. Personally I think the site would be perfect for a Bunnings, or a hardware store competitor from the new Woolworths startup. The parking spaces, connection to the Coles/Target/Aldi and Eastland would really fill a gap.

One can't help but think this is state and local government planning issue. Ringwood is a transit hub that needs to be developed. Holistic thinking is required to transform the transport, retail and office districts into a coherenet space. Come on Brumby, get a taskforce onto it. Local members can only do so much.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Alfresco Dining for non-smokers

As a lover of alfresco dining, I'm appalled that smokers are given the best seats in the house in summer. I want to reclaim this area for families and those that enjoy a smoke free environment. So what are some possible solutions?

1) As a trial Melbourne City Council should enforce a no smoking zone down the famous Lygon Street strip and ban outdoor smoking. Those that don't comply could have their permit for outdoor seating revoked. Quite a heavy handed approach here, and I'm not sure the council has the politcal will take on restaurant owners and their buddies in the hotel industry.

2) Provide discount outdoor seating permits to restaurants that don't allow smoking outdoors. Melbourne City Council should consider providing incentives to encourage restaurants to follow a no outdoor smoking policy.

3) Allow outdoor smoking, but enforce mechanical ventilation of these outdoor areas. That way restaurants that make the choice not to allow outdoor smoking, don't have to worry about smoke drifting into their zone by neighbouring restaurants. I consider this approach to be very pragmatic and encourages restaurants to take responsibility for allowing certain actions that affect others. The biggest challenge here is finding a technical solution that will work.

4) Go for a statewide ban on smoking at restaurants. Something I believe is inevitable but will take time.