18 May 2014

Are the Adults back in charge of Australia's Government?

Some supporters of the Liberal/National Parties summarise the result of their win in the 2013 Federal election as 'The Adults are back in Charge of our country'.
here and here

I know it's political spin, but why is this the theme? And is it true?

Adults differ from children by being more aware of their mortality, being more conscious of their impact on surroundings, the environment and on other people. Adults are more capable of recognising and admitting their mistakes. They are more rational.

So, does Australia's new Government behave more like adults than its predecessor? I'd like to think so, but sadly the evidence suggests the exact opposite.

An adult can comprehend an argument and will adjust his or her opinion when proven wrong. Our government is a child when it comes to Environment Policy. On one hand PM Tony Abbott says that he believes in Man-Made Climate Change. Yet ALL his actions suggest otherwise. Mr Abbott has completely emaciated Australia's environmental programs, and indeed is ramping up environmentally destructive investments like coal mines and freeways at the total expense of renewable energy and public transport. Why? There are three possible explanations - all of which are equally unpalatable:

1 - Mr Abbott doesn't believe in Man Made global warming. He just says he does so that he appears moderate, whilst getting on with what he honestly believes is best for the country. Under this scenario Mr Abbott is both ignorant and dishonest because he ignores the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion, and he lies to the electorate.

2 - Mr Abbott does believe in Man Made global warming, but thinks this is our last opportunity to exploit our coal and other polluting resources - so grab the opportunity while it lasts to win a political contest before things get really bad - but that will be some years away and beyond his term in Parliament.

3 - Mr Abbott does believe in Man Made global warming, but doesn't think there's anything we can do about it so might as well make hay while the sun shines.

All of those options are childlike in the extreme, and all involve deception and dishonesty. I can't think of any other rational explanation.

Why does this matter? Aren't all politicians dishonest? Well, no, most politicians are not dishonest. Some are for sure, but most honestly want to make the world a better place. I don't always agree with their policies, but that doesn't make them wrong and it certainly doesn't make them bad people.

But what we have now in Australia is a government that presents itself as the exact opposite of what it really is. It presents itself as the adults in contrast to the former government who were presumably children. Their behaviour though shows many traits of childishness. Its election campaign was founded on rejecting the former Prime Minister because she broke a promise to not introduce a Carbon Tax, whereas in its first six months the new government has broken myriad promises. It claims to believe in Man Made global warming when all evidence suggests that deep down they in fact reject the 97.1% of science that supports it.

Treasurer Joe Hockey's offhand comment during a radio interview that he finds wind turbines 'utterly offensive' is a fascinating insight into the mysterious alien world of this man's head and heart. It's probably a genuine emotion, but why? What role has that strong emotion played in his decision making? Might it have something to do with wind turbines being a symbol of what his political opponents have long striven for? If so, then might the government's rabidly anti-environmental stance be emotional rather than rational? I don't know for sure, but it's frighteningly plausible. How childish would that be?

Why am I writing this? I have never before felt compelled to protest let alone actually do anything about it. It's because I feel like I am being treated like a child. I am being told something I know to be a lie, yet the Government asks me to 'trust them'. I hate dishonesty and I resent being treated like a fool. I see a government that does not value science and appears not to value or even recognise truth, yet they ask me to 'trust them'. Most Australians have well tuned bullshit detectors, and at the moment there's a lot of beeping going on. And we don't like it.

Mr Abbott, I don't trust you, I don't believe much of anything you say. You are behaving childishly.

Go to your room. You're grounded.

17 November 2013

Ominous signs for Melbourne transport

Recent announcements by State and Federal governments have caused great concern for the future of the city. The newly elected Federal government has cancelled all planned federal investment in urban rail and tram. Their view is that urban rail is not a Federal matter but is for States to fund. At the same time, they have redirected the funds into freeway projects across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. In response to this injection of federal road funds the State government in Victoria has dramatically accelerated planning for a major new urban freeway tunnel at the expense of a previously more advanced urban rail subway project. They have earmarked significant State funds to the East-West road link and deferred and de-funded the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel despite the Federal government decision that urban rail is a State matter. Disturbing though this is, it's worse because of the way in which this policy change is being publicised by the State government who came to power in 2010 on a platform of improving public transport. East-West road link publicity claims this freeway will improve public transport! Seriously - they are trying to convince us that cancelling a major urban rail subway project and replacing it with a major freeway is good public transport policy. It really is stomach churning stuff. You can view one of their spin videos here. (Brace yourself) Linking Melbourne Authority Youtube Channel Almost as alarming as the negative impacts on the City and its culture of such a Detroitian dystopia is the utter contempt for voters underlying this publicity campaign. They must have a very low opinion of our intelligence to even try it. It could be written up as a case-study in Orwellian doublespeak. Along with so many residents of Melbourne, we will be watching developments with great anxiety. For more information East West Road Tunnel Project (accelerated and funded) Metro Rail Tunnel Project (delayed and de-funded) Follow the Yarra Campaign against Road Tunnel on Twitter: @yarra_campaign

10 April 2010

Australia's best and worst rail maps of 2010

We here at Australian Rail Maps draw and publish our own maps of Australia's various rail systems, but of course the transport operators produce their own official maps. So, what are those maps like, and how good are they? We thought we'd take a look at them and award some bouquets and brickbats.

In our opinion, the quality of Australian rail maps is very poor. Some are better than others, and they span the range from atrocious all the way up to adequate. We have decided to award the best map, the runner-up, a wooden spoon award for the worst map, and some dishonourable mentions.

Award for the Best Australian Rail Map:

Our award for the best official Australian train network map goes to Cityrail for its map of the Sydney metropolitan and interurban services to Newcastle, Hunter Valley, Bomaderry, Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands.
See the map here

Comment: This map uses quite clear and distinctly defined lines to show a moderately complex network. It shows good colour discrimination and uses quite readable fonts. Without being a thing of great beauty, this map is reasonably elegant and pleasing to the eye. It is functional and usable by regular and first time travellers alike and makes reasonable use of page real estate. The disciplined restriction of lines to horizontal, vertical and 45 degree diagonals works well, but the confused colouring of longer distance routes where the lines are grey and the station ticks are coloured is clumsy. The listing of some station names in diagonal print is an unfortunate but understandable compromise.

Runner-up award for the best Australian Rail Map

The runner-up award goes to Countrylink for it's map of country and regional New South Wales train and connecting bus services.

Comment: Like the winning Cityrail map above, the Countrylink map of New South Wales shows all the routes distinctly and uses colour well to discriminate train and connecting bus services. It is arguably less elegant than the Cityrail map, and it's web publication is at too low a resolution to do it justice - but it is functional. The lines denoting rail routes are perhaps a little too thick than they need be for elegance, but they do nonetheless clearly show which routes are trains, which are buses and where connections are made. This map could have achieved the top award had it used the available page real estate to avoid printing some station names in diagonal text.

So, what about the other end of the spectrum. Sadly, there are so many from which to choose.

Wooden Spoon award for the worst Australian Rail Map

The worst map is Yarra Trams' map of the Melbourne tram network.

Comment: This is an abomination quite frankly, and an insult to the great tram network that Yarra Trams operate so effectively. Bizarrely, all routes are the same colour with no route distinction at all - and that colour is yellow. Yellow routes on white background - it would be hard to select a less distinct colour pair. There are some short sections of route shown in blue which is intended to illustrate a different fare zone, but to the unfamiliar viewer this may be incorrectly interpreted as a different route requiring a change of trams. Where routes cross each other, because both routes are coloured yellow, the author has distinguished the lines by inserting a white gap in one route. Ridiculously though they have also placed white gaps in many normal junctions where trams do traverse the junction unfettered. As a result, this map has numerous unnecessary breaks in the routes that just aren't there on the ground. The lines are way too thick making the overall appearance ugly. To top it off the city area is shown as a separate breakout map presumably to highlight the intensity of services there - but this makes it very hard to navigate between the two parts of the map. The city area is tilted diagonally when it could so easily have been kept vertical and horizontal - they way that most locals think of the city streets are north-south and east-west so why on earth not show them that way here - it could so easily have been done. The tourist oriented city circle tram is illustrated as a tiny thin green line running along the centre of the normal yellow tram route - making it almost invisible and a completely unsatisfactory way of showing the most commonly sought out aspect of the network by visitors to the city who could be the most common users of this map. Location names are a mishmash of horizontal and diagonal left and diagonal right and some run across the route lines. Except for termini and train connection locations there is no explicit naming of locations - even major junctions. To top it off, there are many places where routes join at right angles or T junctions with no indication of which way the trams actually turn. in one instance (at Domain Interchange) the route taken is shown as an acute angle - but unless you knew it already you couldn't tell from this map.
There are so many things about this map that are so bad it is a clear winner of the wooden spoon award for the worst rail map in Australia.

Dishonourable mentions

Special brickbats must go to TransPerth and Adelaide Metro. Incredibly neither of these organisations actually publish a map of their metropolitain rail services! They do show train lines and station on their bus maps, but only as addenda and in both cases it takes a lot of experience to navigate your way by train through the maze of bus routes and roads. Luckily in each case the network is reasonably small so it can possibly be managed - but for goodness sake guys please produce maps.

Other maps assessed in making these awards:

23 March 2010

Adelaide Tram route extension opens

The next step in the rejuvenation of Adelaide's tram system was marked with the opening of the second extension to the city's tram line in recent years. On Monday, trams commenced regular passenger services over the newly laid track from the former terminus at City West, west along North Terrace to West Terrace, then north-west along Port Road to the Adelaide Enterainment Centre.

Trams now operate at every 15 to 20 minutes throughout the day from the Entertainment centre, via North Terrace and King William Street in the city, through to Glenelg. Additional services operate on weekdays in the city area, and services are more frequent in peak hours.

Australian Rail Maps has updated our Adelaide train and tram map to include this newly opened route: http://www.railmaps.com.au/adelaide.htm

Adelaide's tramway history is both fascinating and tragic. For most of the early 20th century, Adelaide was blessed with a wonderful electric tram network. Services were extensive, frequent and reliable. Adelaide's terrain is ideally suited to trams - the roads are wide and the landscape flat. Not only that, the tramcars themselves were arguably the best built and most elegantly adorned of any in Australia. But alas, like so many other cities in Australia and around the world, Adelaide fell victim in the 1950s to the unfortunate and rapacious march of the motor car. From 1952 to 1958, one by one the city's tram routes were closed and relaced by what were portrayed at the time as more 'modern' motor buses or trolley buses. In truth though this was a blind for the move away from public to private (motorised) transport. By the end of 1958 only one single route remained - the largely off-road line from the city to Glenelg.

Whilst Adelaide was by no means alone in falling into this pit, it did have an added dimension. Many of Australia's most successful coachbuilders were based in Adelaide, and indeed these coachbuilders were the suppliers of quite a few of Australia's tramcars. Companies like Duncan and Fraser, Pengelly, Holdens and others, all based in Adelaide, built not only Adelaide's beautiful trams, but supplied tramcars to other cities across the nation. Unfortunately, after world war 2, these very companies learned that there was much more money to be made by building automobiles, and in one way or another they turned their back on trams and looked to the rubber wheeled vehicles. Thus began Adelaide's love affair with the car, and so was born the strength of the Adelaide based motor car building industry and the local political support for car usage and car construction industry. Ironically, Adelaide's prowess in tram building led to the political support for private transport.

Nonetheless, the Adelaide to Glenelg tramway survived after 1958, into the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and on into the 1990s and 2000s. It did this without ANY new tramcars - it was operated solely by the original H class trams - built in 1929. Quite a remarkable feat that is a credit to Pengelly & Co the builders of those magnificent machines.

In the 1970s, there was so very nearly a tramway rejuvenation when there was a proposal to build a new tram line to the North-East - along what is known as the Modbury Corridor. However in such a tragically Adelaide fashion, at the very last minute, the tramway was cancelled by an incoming State government, and in its place an O-Bahn busway based on German technology was constructed. The O-Bahn still exists to this day.

In the mid 2000s, a slightly more enlightened air graced the environs of Adelaide as amid the worldwide return to public transport, local authorities realised that they had buried within their suburbs the kernel of a light rail system - the antique Glenelg tramway. So many light rail success stories were evident around the world - why not Adelaide? Well for a start, 80 year old tramcars was probably a limiting factor. So, for the first time in 50 years, an order for new tramcars was placed, and a brand new fleet of 21st century trams was brought to the old line. But that was only the start - why not extend the line? Well, in spite of much opposition, and claims that 'it doesn't go anywhere', the Glenelg tram line was extended in 2007 along Adelaide's two main thoroughfares, right through the heart of the city and past the main railway station to a new terminus at City West.

The return of trams to the heart of Adelaide's CBD was an immediate and enormous success. Patronage of course boomed. The politicians were emboldened, and soon a second extension was approved - from City West to the Entertainment Centre. This extension opened this week. A second order for more new tramcars has been placed, and an auxiliary fleet of loan tramcars has been pressed into service to cope with the traffic demand.

It's a great Cinderella story from which all advocates of public transport, in particular fixed rail public transport can take heart. The city that had turned its back on public transport and on trams, where its remaining tram service arguably continued to operate only through neglect rather than conscious action, has in its new generation so definitely embraced fixed rail street tramways.

Best wishes Adelaide. May this be just the first few steps towards a great 21st century tramway network that you so richly deserve and that will be a lasting memorial to the 20th century tramcar building industry that you gave us all.

10 March 2010

Contact Australian Rail Maps

The Australian Rail Maps website is developed and published by Australian Rail Maps - (ABN 18 607 855 177). The site was first developed in 1996, and has been operating online continuously ever since. We value your feedback. Questions, suggestions and observations, please contact us by email.

Please note: We are not affiliated with any transport operator, and we are not a licenced travel agency. We suggest that you direct all enquiries regarding travel and fares to the transport operators - we provide web links, telephone numbers and email addresses for the operators on each of our route pages.

If you are unable to get an answer to your enquiry from the train or bus operator, we are happy to help by answering your email personally, but please understand that due to the volume of enquiries we cannot absolutely guarantee a response to all emails.

From 2001 until 2005 the website was hosted by Railpage Australia. In 2005 we extended our services to include a database of train, bus, ferry and tram timetables and published an online journey planner.

In 2003, Australian Rail Maps published a printed version of our maps in conjunction with Hema Maps - titled "Rail Journeys of Australia" (ISBN 1 865002 62 3).

In 2004, at the International Map Trade Association (IMTA) convention in Tours, France, "Rail Journeys of Australia" was awarded the gold medal for the Best Map in the World, 2004.

An updated second edition of "Rail Journeys of Australia" was published in 2007. Click on the image of the Hema map above for more details.

07 March 2010

Welcome to the Australian Rail Maps blog.

Australian Rail Maps has been online since 1996 - that's 14 years. Maybe we're a bit slow off the mark, but today we launch our blog. We will keep you up to date with changes to our website and to rail, tram, ferry and bus services all over Australia.

We are proudly independent of all operators and all transport authorities. We believe that travel in Australia out to be fun and easy. We have some great transport options in this country - some fantastic train journeys, wonderful buses, trams and ferries from which you can experience all the country has to offer without ever leaving the ground. The problem is that it is just so so difficult to figure out what train runs from where to there and when, who operates it, what bus you can catch to connect with it, how to buy a ticket and make a booking etc. All too often the casual traveller will just give up and drive or fly. But why should it be that way? Well of course it needn't be.

The myriad of separate operators rarely co-operate sharing information, and there are no accepted standards for presentation of information. In recent years in some States, transport authorities have made tentative moves toward providing travel planning services, but these are still limited and none cross State boundaries. Australian Rail Maps is the only website to have national coverage.

While you might think we are only about trains - and admittedly that is where we did start - we also cover trams, ferries and long distance buses. Take a look at our national public transport map - it shows all non-metropolitan services in the country - on a single pdf map. Take a look here: http://www.railmaps.com.au/railandbusmaap.php?map=central_b

We're not just about maps either. We also have a comprehensive online database of train, bus and ferry timetables, and we use it to operate our journey planner. You can plan a trip from anywhere to anywhere else in Australia regardless of which company operates the services. Try it http://www.railmaps.com.au/stationfinder.php