Random thoughts on recent subjects
Russell Degnan

The tenders for installing a ticketing system for Melbourne's public transport system have closed. The smart-card may or may not be a good idea. The devil will be in the details whether it is better or worse when it comes to fare collection. What I would like to mention is the consistent description of non-paying customers as 'fare-evaders'. That they are isn't in dispute, however it approaches the problem from the wrong direction. It sees it as a failure by the commuter to pay, instead of a failure by the system operators to collect. Other businesses spend a lot of time and effort ensuring customers pay when they are required, while still making the process efficient and simple.

The user-interface design of the public transport system is neither efficient nor simple. They make up for it by fining customers, making it unfriendly as well. To that end I think we need to rethink how public transport ticketing is operated, starting with some basic principles:

1. Fare collection should be integral to the system operation itself; collecting fares should be the responsibility of the operator whose revenue depends on them (or should).
2. Fines should be abolished. Regardless of whether every other system does it; it is an easy way to avoid making a workable system and an abuse of legal privilege.
3. Payments should be easy to make, the method of doing so, easy to understand, and as with any design, assume no prior knowledge and no particular intelligence on the part of the commuter - who will invariably find a way to break your system no matter how simple it is.

If it is good enough for other businesses, it is good enough for p/t.

Water, we are running out. I've talked about water before, and those two articles give a good summary of proposed developments to alleviate Melbourne's projected water shortage. I will therefore only make a few comments:

1. People who use aggregate statistics or usage trends to describe Melbourne's usage need a good talking to. Although water saving measures have made a marginal difference, the drivers of water usage are the water restrictions being imposed - if any; the number and size of public and private gardens; and the amount of recent rain. Since we can't control the last element, the politically sensitive issues of restrictions and people's gardens will remain the problem.

2. We don't have a major shortage of water, except in the most basic sense. There is a lot of rain - albeit highly variable - that is running straight into the bay, and except for evaporation, used water doesn't disappear, it only gets dirty. Therefore, there are vast untapped resources of water that we are just beginning to look at now the simple dam approach is no longer available. However, water will need to become more expensive to cover these changes and a lot of attention will need to be paid to how local modifications affect their immediate environment.

Apparently someone just noticed that the corner of Springvale and Whitehorse Roads doesn't move very fast. The key quote is this one, courtesy of Peter Batchelor:

"We are not ever going back to that [low traffic road conditions] because there are more cars than ever before, travelling further than ever before."

As discussed ad infinitum here and elsewhere, more roads - and for that matter, more public transport - makes people travel further. Infrastructure provision needs to focus on getting people to places close to them, in the most efficient manner possible. It would be nice if people started keeping that in mind when discussing it.

Sterner Matters 2nd November, 2004 19:45:33   [#]