A 5.3-million-dollar bicycle bridge on the Federation Trail near Yarraville will close on Monday 16 July, 2018, to make way for the Andrews Government’s destructive West Gate Tunnel elevated tollway.

FedTrailBridge

The bicycle bridge, which provides the only safe route from Melbourne’s industrial west towards the Maribyrnong River Trail, was opened in 2014 before any whisper of the new tollway was known to the public.

The new road will widen the West Gate Freeway to 12 lanes, with some of those lanes taking the place of the new bicycle path. A realigned path connecting with the new bridge will not be open until 2022.

So what are your alternatives?

The first option is the route identified by the West Gate Tunnel project.

Official detour

This is the most direct detour, but the route through the West Gate Freeway interchange with Millers Road would be enough to deter even a determined bicyclist from ever travelling that way again.

The official detour also dumps bicyclists at the (soon to be) former city end of the Federation Trail. The trail is incomplete and bicyclists must find their own way once they have crossed the (soon to be closed) bridge, so it does not make sense to dump users of the trail in the middle of nowhere rather than provide a route to connect with the Maribyrnong River Trail.

Detour via Richards Court Overpass

FedTrailRichards

This detour (see here) utilises an overpass between Richards Court and Rosala Avenue. The map I have provided also guides users of this route towards the Maribyrning River Trail rather than dumping trail users at the end of an incomplete path.

For note, this route interacts with the West Gate Freeway via the overpass. Work on the freeway expansion may limit access at times. Also, this route utilises Blackshaws Road, which is not the most comfortable for bicycling, but the road is quieter than some of the busy trucking routes in the west.

Detour via Kororoit Creek Trail

FedTrailKororoit

This detour (see here) utilises the (incomplete) Kororoit Creek Trail from the Federation Trail to Blackshaws Road. The map I have provided also guides users of this route towards the Maribyrning River Trail rather than dumping trail users at the end of an incomplete path.

For note, this route interacts with the West Gate Freeway via an underpass along the Kororoit Creek Trail. Work on the freeway expansion may limit access at times. Also, this route utilises Blackshaws Road, which is not the most comfortable for bicycling, but the road is quieter than some of the busy trucking routes in the west.

Detour via Point Cook

FedTrailPointCook

This detour (see here) abandons the Federation Trail entirely and provides a route for those who want to cycle all the way from Werribee or Hoppers Crossing to the Maribyrnong River Trail. The route utilises a combination of roads and trails, including the Bay Trail through Altona. At 27.5 kilometres, it really could be quite a fun ride.

For note, this route utilises roads that have wide paths along the side, specifically Sneydes Road. These paths appear to be intended for shared use, however, few are actually signed that way. So I leave it up to you to choose whether to ride on the wide path or on the road.

Final thought

The West Gate Tunnel will actually complete the Federation Trail at the city end, so bicyclists will benefit eventually, however, it is still disappointing that so little foresight is applied to infrastructure planning in Victoria.

It is also disappointing that safe bicycle infrastructure is so often only provided alongside roadway expansion projects rather than as standalone initiatives aimed at promoting bicycling. This also means that cycleways are often only built beside new bypass roads, which is not where a commuter bicyclist is likely to want to ride. Homes are not on the bypass, neither are the shops, schools, employment. They are in town, with the people, and that is where a commuter bicyclist is likely to want to travel.

This post has been updated to reflect that the four-year-old bicycle bridge will not be demolished. Instead the path leading to it will be demolished and a new path connecting to the bridge will not be open until 2022.

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As part of the Melbourne Metro Rail tunnel project, Moray Street in South Melbourne is being partially upgraded for bicyclists in compensation for closures on St Kilda Road, which runs parallel, due to the construction of the new Anzac Station.

The bicycle upgrades to Moray Street include physically separated bicycle lanes, wider painted bicycle lanes, and the installation of pedestrian and bicyclist priority features to the existing roundabouts at Coventry Street and Dorcas Street.

Moray Street and Dorcas Street

The new roundabouts include ‘wombat’ crossings (raised zebra crossings) that are fairly common on roundabouts in busy pedestrian areas. The difference with these wombat crossings is the bicycle lanes added on the roundabout side.

This positioning of the bicycle lanes is inspired by design from the Netherlands (video below), however, it is likely that simply adding a bike lane to the wombat crossings, rather than providing greater pedestrian and bicyclist separation, is due to a perceived need to provide infrastructure that motorists would find familiar.

What I like

Road User Hierarchy

The first feature to like of the new roundabouts is that they enforce the vulnerable road user hierarchy. That is, pedestrians are given priority over bicyclists and motorists, bicyclists are given priority over motorists. All road design, at least in city, suburban, and town areas, should attempt to enforce priority in this way.

Secondly, this general design is the only way that roundabouts can be incorporated into bicycle friendly corridors. One of the major reasons people do not ride a bicycle on the road is due to the lack of safe infrastructure. A new bicyclist is unlikely to willingly choose a route that forces them to merge with busy motor traffic, such as at roundabouts.

Thirdly, and personally, I like that I can just ride through these roundabouts rather than needing to constantly gauge traffic, merge, and stop in front of motorists who like to inch their cars forward, closer and closer. Of course, an individual should not sail blindly through these new roundabouts, but the pressure is greatly reduced.

What can be improved

These are the first attempt at bicycle priority roundabouts in Melbourne (and maybe Australia), so there is going to be room for improvement and the first suggestion I would make in that regard is greater pedestrian and bicyclist separation.

No pedestrian and bicyclist separation

These bicycle lanes have been placed on the footway on the corners of the intersection. You will see from the Netherlands video above that the bicycle lanes have been physically separated from pedestrians by raised traffic islands and kerbs. On Moray Street, possibly due to space constraints and the need for the bicycle lanes to be at the same height as the footpath to access the wombat crossings, the design easily allows for a pedestrian to wander onto the green paint.

Pedestrians cannot be blamed for wandering into the bicycle lanes, though, as this is a new design and there is literally nothing to stop them. With future roundabouts, a barrier between the bicycle lane and the footway should be included. This barrier could be planter boxes, seating, or other dual-purpose feature.

Harsh kerb ramp

The second improvement I would suggest is gentler kerb ramps on the bicycle lane. Harsh kerbs are, unfortunately, a continuing feature of bicycle infrastructure. It is unclear why gentler designs are not the first consideration. Harsh bumps are a bane to new bicyclists who are likely to have a sore bottom and, in this case, the kerbs may even cause confusion as the painted bicycle lanes leading towards the roundabout do not force a bicyclist onto the green strip.

This brings me to my third area for improvement. A new user approaching these roundabouts from a bicycle lane that is not physically separated from motor traffic may merge with traffic through the roundabouts as they are unaccustomed to being guided to the left. The kerb ramps add to this confusion as they may appear to be intended for accessible access to the footway, especially when joining Moray Street as pictured below. Protected lanes that physically guide bicyclists onto the bicycle lane around the roundabouts should be included in future projects.

Bicyclists are not clearly directed to onto the green strip

Further thoughts

Design that allows a person to choose to ride a bicycle rather than drive a car is design that is good for bicycling and motoring. It frees space in the motor lane as a person who does not need their car is given the choice to leave it at home. It also improves individual health and happiness, aides the economy, and encourages new bicycling which drives authorities to provide greater infrastructure.

With those points it is disappointing to see certain media already fuelling division by stoking community misunderstanding of the benefits of initiatives that allow a person to choose not to drive.

It is also disappointing that we have a supposedly progressive Government that is determined to run the state as though it is the 1980s. All around us Daniel Andrews is pushing ahead projects that will entrench car dependency and, in doing so, make traffic congestion worse. He scrapped bicycle improvements to St Kilda Road, ceased PTV’s incremental improvements to train timetables almost immediately upon taking office, is pressing ahead with construction of the most destructive road Melbourne will have ever seen, has shown that he is not against destroying suburban centres with enormous trenches, and has thrown out consideration of restricting vehicle use in Melbourne’s CBD despite the extreme inefficiencies the city currently suffers by the free use of motor vehicles on its congested streets.

But I have wandered off topic. These new roundabouts are a good start and I look forward to seeing them rolled out at other suitable locations.

University case study of the failed Camberwell Railway Station Redevelopment.

The Age

What is the case about?

The Camberwell Station redevelopment was a proposal, many years in the making, to build three and nine storey towers beside and above the 1918 Camberwell Railway Station which services the Camberwell Junction shopping strip on Burke Road and surrounding residential areas (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). The development had been in planning since before 2002 by the State Government owned Victorian Rail Track Corporation (VicTrack) which owns the railway station and adjoining land. The development would have seen a mix of lower level business with residential above, but faced criticism from residents, the Boroondara Council and from high profile individuals, including actor Geoffrey Rush, as the development would have been much taller than other structures along the shopping strip, which generally sees buildings of only two storeys, and would have almost totally blocked the view of the railway station from Burke Road. The dispute came to a head in 2009 with a hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) that ruled in the favour of VicTrack and their chosen developer, but with a requirement that some design alterations be made. However, the development was shelved in 2012 following the election of a conservative Government two years earlier (Carey, 2012).

What are the substantive issues in the dispute?

The substantive issues came down to differing policy at the state and local government levels. Policy of the state would like to “facilitate residential and commercial development in existing activity centres with good access to public transport” (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). This is consistent with a global governmental push for high density urban living along high capacity transport corridors as cities become evermore populated. In 2010 the then Labor State Government made moves to amend planning schemes to encourage “high-rise corridors” along railway, tram and bus routes, moves that were opposed by the Liberal-National opposition who believed that the policy would lead to “unliveable” conditions (Johnston, 2010).

Camberwell’s Boroondara Council and Boroondara Residents Action Group (BRAG) appear to have agreed with this sentiment and had further worries about neighbourhood character in the “leafy east”. The opponents of the nine-storey station development proposed an alternative development which would have seen a low level structure, consistent with the height of existing Burke Road buildings, and only on the southern side of the site (BRAG, 2009). Whether or not such a development would be cost-effective is unknown, especially considering the cost of railway works including the removal of train stabling and accommodating those trains elsewhere.

(This answer should have made reference to “substantive issues” as set out in Planning Australia by Thompson and Maginn).

What are the planning issues?

At the zoning level, the proposed development was not in breach of planning law as agreed by VCAT. The railway station was zoned as a Public Use Zone (PUZ) and was adjoined by areas zoned Business as well as Burke Road which was a category one main road (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). VCAT made note of seemingly conflicting Council planning schemes. The proposed development had been in the planning since at least 2002 and would have been relying on an old 1993 structure plan which came to clash with a new plan released by Council in 2008. The 1993 plan appeared visionary for its time as it pre-dates the Melbourne 2030 strategy, which called for major development in “Principal Activity Centres”, as it encouraged “significant development” at the Camberwell Railway Station site. The new 2008 plan encouraged “low scale” development at the station (Camberwell Junction Structure Plan, 2008, p. 8) but was released the year after the developers had applied to Council for a planning permit. As demonstrated, this new Council plan clashed with State Government strategies that aimed “to create a more sustainable urban form for metropolitan Melbourne” which would see development of a “high level of intensity and scale” in activity centres, close to public transport (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009).

How has the planning system been applied here?

VCAT made many notes encouraging a balance between state and local government policy frameworks, but ultimately resolved the conflict by attempting to satisfy planning scheme “clause 11.01” that states, “It is the State Government’s expectation that planning and responsible authorities will endeavour to integrate the range of policies relevant to the issues to be determined and balance conflicting objectives in favour of net community benefit and sustainable development…” (CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors, 2009). “Net community benefit” and “sustainable development” are the key planning issues for the site at Camberwell Junction. The 2002 Melbourne 2030 plan listed the shopping strip as one of Melbourne’s 25 “Principal Activity Centres” and as such is an area where “concentration of new development” is encouraged (Department of Infrastructure, 2002, p. 33). That, coupled with the 1993 structure plan, made it clear that the proposed development at the Camberwell Railway Station should go ahead. The main limitation of this process was community consultation. Planning applications are judged according to planning law and policy and, where the developer fails to provide adequate consultation, planning assessors can be overrun with complaints that are irrelevant to their main purpose.

What are your thoughts on the effectiveness of the planning system to resolve these disputes?

For the Camberwell Railway Station redevelopment the planning system was effective in solving the core planning dispute, that being differing policy at state and local government levels, but it fails to provide the community with an opportunity to express their thoughts on the design of the development itself rather than whether the development is in breach of planning law and policy. The community consultation “burden” falls onto the developer who really should be required to provide a constructive level of community involvement for a development in place of high community significance. Allowing the community to have their say will result in the best outcome as participants can feel as though they have been included in the design process and can take a piece of joint pride in the result. Failure to allow this may lead to community resentment and possible political interference where the project is not bipartisan.

In 2013, around three years after the election of a conservative State Government, a raft of new residential zones were brought into effect (Peterson, 2014). Boroondara Council moved to apply the most restrictive zone in the new suite to a huge area under its authority. The measure restricted developments to eight metres high and allowed councils to determine minimum lot sizes. While this did not apply to the Camberwell Railway Station site, it can be seen as a possible retaliation against developments like that proposed for Camberwell Junction and demonstrates the importance of bringing the community with you in the development process.

References

BRAG. (2009, January 31). Camberwell Station BRAG Plan vs Govt Plan [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFfwQJLqJ9s

Carey, A. (2012, October 3). Camberwell station development shelved. The Age. Retrieved from http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/camberwell-station-development-shelved-20121003-26yls.html

City of Boroondara. (2008). Camberwell Junction Structure Plan – Adopted by Council 27 October 2008. Retrieved from https://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2017-05/Camberwell-Junction-Structure-Plan.pdf

CSTP Pty Ltd v Boroondara CC & Ors 2009 VCAT 1078

Department of Infrastructure. (2002). Melbourne 2030: Planning for Sustainable Growth: October 2002. Retrieved from https://www.planning.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/20466/Melbourne-2030-Planning-for-sustainable-growth-text-only-version.pdf

Johnston, M. (2010, June 22). New laws promote high rise corridors. Herald Sun. Retrieved from http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/new-laws-promote-high-rise-corridors/news-story/28d558817353a8f40ae002cdeb534e79?sv=32539b83cc57eedc1318ed89e24737da

Peterson, C. (2014, February 18). NEW RESIDENTIAL ZONES – WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MELBOURNE [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://urban.melbourne/planning/2014/02/18/new-residential-zones-what-does-this-mean-for-melbourne

Could you find your way if you were given a piece of paper with a line on it and a little north symbol? Public Transport Victoria and Yarra Trams think you can.

Coming on the 1st of May, Melbourne’s new tram ‘map’ sans wayfinding:

New tram map

This is a cropped section of the south east.

Tell me, using the new map, at what two streets do the route 6 and the route 78 intersect?

The old map can tell you that:

Old Tram Map

Tell me, what two tram routes run on Dandenong Road?

New tram map

The old map can tell you that.

Tell me, what’s the name of the big trunk that most of the tram routes in this section branch off?

New tram map

The old map can tell you that.

You probably take my point, the map is about as map-like as spaghetti on the floor, but why? Was the graphic designer given free rein, allowed to make a work of art rather than something that’s actually useful to the public?

I made contact with Yarra Trams to tell them that their new map is useless and received a reply of the same.

Thank you for contacting Yarra Trams regarding the new network map.

Yarra Trams appreciates the time you have taken to provide us with your feedback.

The new map is part of a suite of new information that will be released in the lead up to the network and timetable changes on 1 May 2017. For further updates please visit www.ptv.vic.gov.au.

All feedback is recorded and considered in future network information updates.”

Looks like I’m going to have to travel the trams with a fine-point black marker from the 1st of May. Anyone want to come with me?

Postscript: The new map has been altered today to include some extra street names in the route descriptions, but not on the map itself.

 

A little project I have decided to undertake is to map Melbourne’s connected bicycle network. It will take a very long time to map out to the suburbs, but from the little I have mapped so far it is already possible to see gaps in the bicycle network.

The map codes bicycle routes with three colours:

  • Green for shared user paths
  • Yellow for bicycle friendly streets (mostly with bike lanes)
  • Blue for back streets (no bike lanes, but few cars)

The colour coding is not rock solid. Toggle satellite view to see street names.

See the map here or below and pop back every now and then as I keep mapping.

A major gap already visible is Spencer Street on the western edge of Melbourne’s CBD. Another is Southbank and South Melbourne as well as Lorimer Street in Fishermans Bend.

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Bendigo express at Castlemaine

Update: I sent this post to Public Transport Victoria who forwarded it to V/Line. This is their response: 

Thank you for your feedback regarding Bendigo timetabling. Your suggestion was sent to our Timetable and Planning Department for consideration.

We have consulted with Metro trains and I can advise that most of the services listed will be able to be moved to a later departure time from Southern Cross and maintain their current Metro pathway i.e. reduce the overall journey time in the Metro area from our next timetable change due in August 2017.

Exciting! I will look forward to seeing how it pans out in August.

I used to assume that when a V/Line train slowed to a crawl behind a stopping Metro train it was because the Metro train was late. Surely our professional timetablers would not intentionally run the fast train right behind the slow train? But I was wrong, it is the timetable’s fault.

There are seven trains from Melbourne to Bendigo between 9 pm and 4 pm. They are all an hour apart and they all depart from Southern Cross at the 14th minute of their hour. They do not all arrive at the end of the Metro network, Sunbury, at the same time, however.

This is the timetable as of the 29th of January, 2017 (services run left to right instead of top to bottom):

Southern Cross Footscray Sunshine Sunbury
To Sunbury 09:03 09:11 09:20 09:48
To Bendigo 09:14 09:21 09:26* 09:52
To Sunbury 09:15 09:23 09:32 10:00
To Watergardens 10:02 10:10 10:19
To Bendigo 10:14 10:21 10:26* 10:48
To Sunbury 10:22 10:30 10:39 11:07
To Sunbury 11:02 11:10 11:19 11:47
To Bendigo 11:14 11:21 11:26* 11:51
To Watergardens 11:22 11:30 11:39
To Watergardens 12:02 12:10 12:19
To Epsom 12:14 12:21 12:26* 12:48
To Sunbury 12:22 12:30 12:39 13:07
To Sunbury 13:10 13:19 13:47
To Eaglehawk 13:14 13:21 13:26* 13:51
To Watergardens 13:30 13:39
To Watergardens 14:10 14:19
To Epsom 14:14 14:21 14:26* 14:47
To Sunbury 14:30 14:39 15:07
To Sunbury 15:10 15:19 15:47
To Echuca 15:14 15:21 15:26* 15:53
To Sunbury 15:31 15:40 16:08
*Does not stop

In bold you can see that Bendigo trains (Bendigo, Eaglehawk, Echuca and Epsom) are just seven minutes behind stopping Metro trains from Sunshine towards Sunbury, which is where V/Line and Metro must share tracks. During this time of day Metro trains on the Sunbury line run every 20 minutes. That is 20 minutes of ‘space’ to drop in the express Bendigo train. So why are Bendigo trains just seven minutes behind Metro trains when they could be up to 19 minutes behind?

I do not know, but I decided to see what the timetable would look like if Bendigo trains were further behind stopping Sunbury trains. I decided not to give them the whole 19 minutes because that would offer no room for delay, instead I gave them 16 minutes. A Sunbury (or Watergardens) train would depart Sunshine at the 19th minute of the hour, as they do, the Bendigo train would pass through Sunshine at the 35th minute and the following Sunbury line train would depart Sunshine at the 39th minute, as they do.

To calculate how long it would take a Bendigo line train to run express from Sunshine to Sunbury I calculated the time from the speed and distance. That would be 11 kilometres at 80 kilometres per hour between Sunshine and Watergardens, which came to nine minutes rounded up, and 15 kilometres at 130 kilometres per hour between Watergardens and Sunbury, which came to seven minutes rounded up. 16 minutes overall.

Adding 16 minutes to the 35th minute of the hour comes to the 51st minute of the hour which just happens to be precisely the time two of the seven Bendigo trains arrive at Sunbury and very close or better than the other five. So you could depart all, but one, of the seven Bendigo line trains from Southern Cross nine minutes later, at the 23rd minute of the hour, instead of the 14th with no loss to the arrival time, but give passengers nine extra minutes to complete their business in Melbourne and provide what would feel like a much speedier trip.

This is how that would look:

Southern Cross Footscray Sunshine Sunbury
To Sunbury 09:03 09:11 09:20 09:48
To Bendigo 09:14 09:21 09:26* 09:52
To Sunbury 09:15 09:23 09:32 10:00
To Watergardens 10:02 10:10 10:19
To Bendigo 10:23 10:30 10:35* 10:51
To Sunbury 10:22 10:30 10:39 11:07
To Sunbury 11:02 11:10 11:19 11:47
To Bendigo 11:23 11:30 11:35* 11:51
To Watergardens 11:22 11:30 11:39
To Watergardens 12:02 12:10 12:19
To Epsom 12:23 12:30 12:35* 12:51
To Sunbury 12:22 12:30 12:39 13:07
To Sunbury 13:10 13:19 13:47
To Eaglehawk 13:23 13:30 13:35* 13:51
To Watergardens 13:30 13:39
To Watergardens 14:10 14:19
To Epsom 14:23 14:30 14:25* 14:51
To Sunbury 14:30 14:39 15:07
To Sunbury 15:10 15:19 15:47
To Echuca 15:23 15:30 15:35* 15:51
To Sunbury 15:31 15:40 16:08
*Does not stop

The 09:14 is trapped between two close stopping trains so it has to remain where it is.

Now we get to the disappointing bit, but do not let yourself down just yet. We cannot just move around Bendigo trains because they have to share the line with other V/Line Regional Rail Link trains, which would have to be altered too, BUT, I checked, there are no conflicts, even in the other direction at Sunshine where trains have to cross paths, there are no conflicts. I admit that the 13:20 train to Warrnambool would be a little close to the 13:23 to Bendigo, maybe they could be switched around, but even without it is still a quicker trip.

There is nothing to stop these simple alterations from improving our lives right now, except V/Line, Metro Trains, Public Transport Victoria and the State Government.

Have a good day.

img_3108

I popped over to Caroline Springs Station on the Ballarat line to see the how the project was going before its opening on the 29th of January next year. The station has been a long time coming and has been faced with more than its fair share of issues all of which has resulted one great big mess.

The station

ptvh1078_caroline_springs_website_impressions_v2d-map11

Construction of half the station was completed months ago. The original design, which is the design showcased on the PTV website, was a single platform on a single line section of track. It was never going to work and when the Regional Rail Link opened and forced the Ballarat line to operate at or beyond capacity, someone at V/Line probably had a little spasm in the Minister’s office and secured costs for duplication of the line to Melton.

With that the station was expanded. The platform that had already been built was widened to become an island platform and the track on the new side is under construction.

img_3093

img_3100

The station will have a set of points at both ends as seen above and below. Hopefully this will allow trains to turn back in both directions during disruptions. The new station will be a very easy place to run train replacement coaches to and from with it being next to the Western Freeway.

img_3091

Vehicle access

The station is in a paddock out of town so you can expect most users to come either by private car or bus. An issue that was evident well before actual construction of the station was announced was the roundabout at Christies Road and the Western Freeway off ramp. During the evening peak the off ramp is jam packed with motorists coming home from Melbourne. They sit through the roundabout and prevent any road user from the south (from the new station) from entering.

But it seems this issue may have been addressed with the addition of a signalised pedestrian crossing at the end of the off ramp with the inclusion of a vehicle sensor on Christies Road. I assume the sensor would activate the pedestrian crossing after a time to stop off ramp traffic and allow station traffic to enter the roundabout.

img_3098

img_3099

img_3097

Foot and cycling access

This could almost be a footnote, coming to this station on foot or by bike would be quite intimidating. First, it is about four kilometres from the town centre to the station.

Second, the shared path is terrible. It is dirty and very close to the road and the hurrying motorists and the truck after truck after truck going to and coming from the Boral Quarry would put off even the most determined walker or cyclist.

img_3096

There is also a shared path heading south from the station to no where, but it had to be cut into to make room for the turning lane. The road was built for the station. Wonderful planning.

img_3095

img_3087

But there is no need to worry, I was probably the only path user this month.

Accessing Melbourne Airport by public transport from Melbourne’s west is a pain. It really should not be difficult since the airport is actually in Melbourne’s (north-) west, but there is no easy bus from western transport hubs, not even from Sunshine which services a Metro rail corridor and two (potentially three) V/Line country rail routes.

For decades now the community has been calling for a train to the airport but, probably due to a whole range of factors, it is yet to be built. However, if it were to be built it would most likely run via Sunshine as seen in Public Transport Victoria’s Network Development Plan.

airport-rail-ndp

There is no reason why the potential rail route could not be serviced right now by a direct and frequent bus, at least one every 20 minutes. It could run directly north from Sunshine Station using McIntyre Road, the Western Ring Road and the new Airport Drive extension. The route is about 16 kilometres long according to Google Maps and would take 20 to 30 minutes depending on traffic and passenger loading.

airport-bus

The route need not be express and could also service locals in Sunshine North and airport workers stationed near Airport and Melrose drives. It would also work best as a myki ticketed service so users would not be discouraged by a requirement for multiple tickets transferring between train and bus.

The bus would provide reasonably easy access to the Airport from Bendigo, Castlemaine, Kyneton, Woodend and Gisborne in the state’s north-west, but only if trains on the Bendigo Line stop at Sunshine which none currently do. The bus would also provide access from Ballarat, Ballan, Bacchus Marsh and Melton heading directly west, as well as, and probably most usefully, the suburbs of Geelong as well as Lara and Tarniet in the south-west.

Everyone travelling from these places would otherwise need to travel all the way into Melbourne and use the costly Sky Bus service, use often inconvenient once-a-day airport shuttle busses from their local town or get a friend or family member to drive them to the airport.

If you think this is a good idea let your member of state parliament know and contact PTV, too.

This post continues this earlier post.

It is with great regret that I abandon the Linux ship. I have returned to Windows following a week or so of piling issues faced by my ThinkPad E460, from the graphics processor to the SD card slot and the power management.

This was my total list off issues by the end:

  • Limited to no AMD graphics support in Mint 18
  • Constant crashing in Mint 18
  • No support for WiFi out of the box in Mint 17.3
  • No support for the SD card slot out of the box in Mint 17.3
  • Updated kernel in Mint 17.3 supported WiFi and SD slot but lost AMD graphics controls
  • Updated kernel preventing sleep and/or waking from sleep
  • Woeful power management, battery lasting no more than two and half hours

While I did manage to get everything working, aside from ideal power management, at no point did everything work at the same time. I am not the type of person who can live with a problem that is not currently causing an issue, everything must be ready to work straight away and I think it was that, ultimately, that sent me back to Windows.

The disappointing thing is that I am fairly sure that Mint 18, the latest release based on Ubuntu 16.04, would offer much greater support for my hardware, but its lack of support for AMD has turned me away.

It needs to be said that Windows 10 is far from ideal, also. While everything works at the same time, and my current expected battery life is eight hours, it is a resource hog and horribly controlling. The memory usage right now is two and a half gigabytes while the same usage on Linux Mint 17.3 Xfce would be much less, somewhere around 500 megabytes.

I have ‘uninstalled’ Get Office and Get Skype three times now, but they keep coming back. There is no way to disable Cortana in the latest update, 21 programmes were allowed to run in the background by default and there are so many privacy settings, it would be great to have one option to switch everything off.

In a few years, if support for AMD has been developed, I will return this laptop to Linux. And, despite my opening sentence, I will continue to experiment with Linux on my desktop computer.

Linux Mint 17.3 Xfce

I have been running Linux Mint 17.3 Xfce on my old Dell Latitude D830 for more than a year. The laptop would have been useless without Linux, which is free in most cases, as Windows XP is no longer supported, but it got to a point where the performance of the laptop became too much of a drag and it is now barely capable of anything more than the worst Chromebooks.

Installing and using Mint from last year has been my first real experience with Linux. The Xfce desktop environment is lightweight, easy to customise and Mint comes with so much software out of the box that it is really just a grab-and-go experience. It became my default operating system since it was more comfortable to sit on the couch with a laptop than sit at my desk with my desktop PC. I was so impressed by it that I offered to revive old school laptops sitting in the cupboards of family and friends and I put a terrible old tower under the television, which is only ever turned on to show the whole family the weather forecast.

So when I decided to buy a new laptop I had no hesitation in throwing away Windows 10, for which there are great privacy concerns and ever decreasing control of your own device, and installing the latest Linux Mint release.

The laptop I bought was the Lenovo ThinkPad E460 on special for $999 AUD. It came with an Intel Core i7 6500U processor, eight gigabytes of RAM, a 256-gigabyte SATA three SSD and an AMD Radeon R7 M360 two-gigabyte graphics processor that runs alongside Intel integrated graphics.

Those in the know may have just spotted a problem. The latest Linux Mint release, Linux Mint 18, does not support many AMD graphics processors anymore, or more accurately, Ubuntu 16.04, on which Mint 18 is based, no longer supports AMD. I knew this was the case before I bought a new laptop, but somehow I had come to think that it was only old AMD graphics processors that were no longer supported, something you might find in a desktop from 2007.

I started by installing Linux Mint 18 Xfce. The first problem I encountered was Secure Boot, which is a feature of UEFI (a different sort of BIOS or something). Secure Boot needs to be disabled for many Linux operating systems. Mint had me enter a password that I would need to repeat to disable Secure Boot, but when it came to repeating it the interface was completely alien, it seemed to be asking for the sixth, then the 10th then the eighth character of the password which I did not understand until it was too late and the whole thing failed.

Not to worry, I entered the UEFI(?), let us just call it the BIOS, and disabled Secure Boot the easy way. I installed Mint 18 again. After login I connected to WiFi and installed available updates. I then went to the Driver Manager which did not show my AMD graphics processor. My stomach sank and then the laptop froze. I did a ‘soft off’ (held the power button down for four seconds) and logged back in, but it froze again almost instantly. And again, and again.

I installed Mint 18 a third time, but first I let the ‘medium’ check for errors which was an option from the boot screen. There were no errors, but the computer froze again and again until I gave in and downloaded Mint 17.3 Cinnamon.

AMD is supported in 17.3, which is based on Ubuntu 14.04. The install went perfectly, but after login I noticed that I had no WiFi option nor were than any WiFi drivers in the Driver Manager (but AMD was there phew). I did some Googling, via Ethernet, and found I was not the only person with the issue. It appears that the WiFi card in modern computers is not supported by the Linux kernel in Ubuntu 14.04. It was at this point that I seriously considered going back to Windows 10, but happily I found this step-by-step procedure by Gary Newell that ‘backported’ the newer Linux kernel, or at least enough of it to fix the problem. The fix had to be undertaken in the Terminal (Command Prompt), of which I am a complete novice, but since it was just a copy and paste procedure, it was quite easy. Thank-you, Gary.

Why I decided to install the Cinnamon desktop instead of Xfce I have no idea, but I nearly instantly regretted my decision. The ThinkPad I bought has a full HD 1080 by 1920 display, which is beautiful, but everything is very small and the Cinnamon desktop included in 17.3 doesn’t have an option to increase the number of dots per inch (DPI). The Windows 10 DPI was somewhere between 125 and 150, anything less and you need a magnifying glass to see everything.

So, fifth time lucky, I went back and got Linux Mint 17.3 Xfce that has an option to alter the font DPI and permits many more customisations that Cinnamon appears not to. And I repeated the WiFi fix.

Looking back, I was an idiot not to do a simple Google search for, “AMD R7 M360 Ubuntu 16.04,” I would have known straight away that it was not supported and I probably would not have bought the laptop. Of course I cannot know for sure that it was the unsupported graphics causing the laptop to freeze, but even so, I would not have wanted a useless graphics processor. To add salt to the wound, three or four days after I ordered the E460, Lenovo released the E470 which has Nvidia graphics!

But looking forward, 17.3 is supported until 2019 by which time there might be an AMD solution or I will just have to go back to Windows. I suspect there may be a power management issue at the moment anyway which may send me back to Windows to make use of Lenovo’s support, but I will monitor that for the time being.

Fairly immediate update:

AMD Catalyst Control Centre

I found this setting in the AMD Catalyst Control Centre that may improve my battery performance. I will just have to remember to switch back before video editing.