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If there’s one thing that I’ve taken away from my IT stud­ies, it’s this: even if you come up with a new, whiz­bang idea, ask your­self, what prob­lem does it solve?

Many innov­at­ive people are prob­ably hav­ing many innov­at­ive ideas right now, but do any of these ideas solve real prob­lems that people care about?

As an example, my pet peeve are those bar­codes on posters that you’re meant to scan with your mobile phone. Tel­stra seems to think they’re a great idea, but really, what prob­lem does it solve? Is it that I can’t get enough advert­ising in my day that I need to access pro­mo­tion­al crap even faster? It doesn’t even save me time, and it’s not easi­er either. I tried it on a bus once: nav­ig­at­ing the menus on my Nokia and try­ing to get the cam­era (which (un)helpfully zoomed in to tele­scop­ic depths) to focus on a little square on the ceil­ing above my head got me nowhere except for stares all round.

Any­way, back to the main point for today. Firstly, I’d say met­ros are good. I like met­ros. Nath­an Rees likes met­ros too.

But what prob­lem does the Cent­ral-Rozelle metro solve?

Accord­ing to the Her­ald today, the first three stops are Cent­ral, Town Hall and Mar­tin Place. We already have a train line that allows you con­vey your­self between those very three points. Then it con­tin­ues on to Rozelle. What on earth is at Rozelle? The idea is, it would be seem, to make people alight from Vic­tor­ia Road buses and fin­ish the bal­ance of their jour­ney on the metro. Yes, Vic­tor­ia Road is a park­ing lot dur­ing peak hour, but does this metro solve the prob­lem? If people aren’t catch­ing the buses right now, there’s no indic­a­tion that more people will be inclined to catch buses that con­nect onto a metro. Look at the map your­self: Vic­tor­ia Road is a night­mare because it’s the free altern­at­ive to the Lane Cove Tun­nel and the Har­bour Bridge, for people up north-west­ern way (Ryde, etc).

Then there’s the Cent­ral end. The idea is to make people get off CityRail trains and force them to change onto the metro… which runs to Town Hall, Mar­tin Place and Wynyard. Apart from the fact that those sta­tions can already be reached by people get­ting off at Cent­ral, what prob­lem is the metro solv­ing? It’s a little crowded at times, but it works reas­on­ably well, and the gov­ern­ment must have been think­ing that they could arti­fi­cially engin­eer a prob­lem by mak­ing every­one get off. It’s not going to work.

Spend­ing $5bn for a pat­ron­age of 5,500 people is pathet­ic. But people will come if you solve their prob­lems.

So what prob­lems are there that could be solved by a metro? Buses. Sydney Buses suck. Espe­cially the ones that run along George and Cast­lereigh Streets. If you stand along George Street dur­ing peak hour, every second vehicle going past you is a bus. The Wynyard bus ter­min­al is also a night­mare; office work­ers queuing up for miles to get on buses destined for the north­ern beaches, along with the Great Wall of China, are the two man-made form­a­tions vis­ible from space.

I’ve had this drawn up for a while, but this is a metro line, if it were built, that I think would solve prob­lems:

Enlarge this map

With this metro, you would ter­min­ate Par­ra­matta Road and City Road buses before Broad­way. In this case, for­cing people off won’t irk any­one because the ride into the city is cur­rently tor­ture any­way. Like­wise, on the north­ern approach, ter­min­ate north­ern beaches buses before they hit the bridge. I’ve only paired two sta­tions with CityRail sta­tions — Cent­ral and Wynyard (I think Town Hall is bey­ond hope) — and moved city sta­tions closer togeth­er. They’re fur­ther apart than bus stops, but frankly, bus stops on every block as it cur­rently stands is a bit ridicu­lous. Com­bined with some light rail on the sur­face, which Clover seems more than happy to provide, this, I humbly sub­mit, is a metro that solves the CBD’s prob­lems.

It’s not that I think a metro can’t be a good solu­tion, but as it stands, the Cent­ral-Rozelle metro gets Sydney nowhere.

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I don't think it's time for me to give up my day job yet.

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It appears that CityRail quietly changed the timetable without telling any­one. This week, I’ve caught a couple of out­bound trains along the Air­port & East Hills line that stop all sta­tions to Kings­grove and then East Hills. I thought they took an all sta­tions to East Hills ser­vice and cut out all the sta­tions in between, but look­ing at the timetable, I now real­ise they’ve taken the ser­vices that are sup­posed to ter­min­ate at Kings­grove and exten­ded them to East Hills. The first one is at 8:23pm at Cent­ral and then every half hour until 10:23pm. The time taken from Kings­grove to East Hills non-stop is just over 10 minutes.

The strangest thing is that they haven’t made any announce­ments at all, not on the web and not on notice­boards at sta­tions either.


I am cur­rently stand­ing at Revesby sta­tion fum­ing over why CityRail can’t do any­thing to accom­mod­ate cus­tom­ers they screw over. My train just got can­celled and I will be late to a present­a­tion that I need to attend at work. My com­pletely reas­on­able request that the next express train that zooms past make an unsched­uled stop was denied because the next train arrives in just 9 minutes. Per­fectly sound reas­on­ing if it weren’t for the fact this means we arrive in the city 25 minutes later and office work­ers can’t get in before 9am.

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A while back, CityRail star­ted hav­ing these Empty Trains. I can’t for the life of me work out why any­one would choose such a stu­pid name. Does it mean that there’s no one inside? Does it mean it doesn’t go any­where after­wards, as in, it’s ter­min­at­ing? (If so, what’s wrong with the word ter­min­at­ing?) I sup­pose it’s bet­ter than a (null) train.

The real WTF in the pic­ture, though, is how a plat­form 23 ser­vice ended up on the Illawarra Line screen.

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Ah yes, The Mind Gap.

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I often sleep on the train, and I usu­ally just have the abil­ity to magic­ally wake up on cue and make my stop. I guess I couldn’t have picked a worse time to sud­denly wake up to find myself at Ingle­burn. Oh, it’s not too bad I guess… it was just the last train for Fri­day night, and every­one at Camp­bell­town sta­tion apart from me and the secur­ity guards are drunk and say­ing “fuck” every five words, and it’s, well, fuck­ing cold. And I have to be coher­ent for a 5-hour pro­gram­ming com­pet­i­tion tomor­row…

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Grace men­tioned this quite a while ago, but her par­ents’ shop at Suth­er­land sta­tion will be for­cibly taken away by Rail­Corp, which wishes to widen the con­course at the sta­tion to, appar­ently, ease con­ges­tion. Des­pite their invest­ment in the busi­ness, from what I under­stand, the prob­lem lies in the fact that their con­tract does not provide for recom­pense in the event that Rail­Corp needs to do some­thing with it.

I’d say that most people would be sup­port­ive of rail­way infra­struc­ture devel­op­ment — who doesn’t want bet­ter sta­tions, and bet­ter trains, and bet­ter ser­vices. The prob­lem here is the way in which this devel­op­ment has been ear­marked to pro­ceed — to the det­ri­ment of one fam­ily, and with dubi­ous bene­fits to rail­way com­muters as a whole. RailCorp’s alleged atti­tude (i.e. silence) doesn’t instill con­fid­ence in the abil­ity of this case to res­ult in an equit­able solu­tion. As I com­men­ted (on the news­pa­per art­icle), just because it’s leg­al doesn’t mean you should do it. If the redevel­op­ment of the sta­tion must go ahead, oth­er solu­tions, such as buy­ing out the busi­ness, or offer­ing to relo­cate the busi­ness to anoth­er part of the sta­tion, are both reas­on­able altern­at­ives that Rail­Corp should con­sider. Rail­Corp is a cor­por­at­ised busi­ness, but at the same time, as a busi­ness owned by the people of New South Wales, a more caring atti­tude would not go amiss, and should be man­dated in the organisation’s prac­tices.

Some­how, I get the impres­sion that push­ing Rail­Corp but­tons won’t work in this case. The Ngs will have to search for oth­er, big­ger but­tons to push. Let’s all rally behind them in their moment of need.

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In news that shouldn’t sur­prise any­one, trains on the East Hills line (the bane of my exist­ence) and the Bank­stown line were stalled for an ungodly thirty minutes around the City Circle because there was this lun­at­ic run­ning around on the tracks in the tun­nel near St James. Did I hear someone mut­ter the word “fra­gile”?

What made it worse was how the sta­tion staff respon­ded: almost like chooks with half their heads cut off, they had no idea what to do. It was mildly amus­ing when this train pulled up (from the oppos­ite dir­ec­tion), and after a few minutes, the sta­tion staff asked the guard if he was leav­ing yet, but he threw his hands up in the air and told them he didn’t know where his driver went… he some­how just dis­ap­peared.

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