Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sydney Public Transport

$80 would have been the perfect amount to put on my Opal Card. $34 was the return trip off peak cost to and from the airport. Most of the charge is the airport gate charge, going to a private company. This compares very favourably to Melbourne's Airport bus of $36 return but I do object to paying private companies such large amounts of money for what should be basic public transport to and from major airports.

I am not sure if I reached my weekly cap but after the first ferry ride I was no longer being charged that day, which was quite a saving. Eight journeys a week takes you to your cap, but note journeys, not trips. They are different things. I just trust the system worked and as far as I can see, it was ok. Once you know what flag to look for, it is easy to find shops where you can top up your Opal.

The Opal card readers are much faster than in Melbourne, but like in early stages of our Myki system, people will wave their cards around the readers instead of holding them still. I can't really read the details on Myki readers without glasses on, but I could with Opal readers, except it takes my eyes a little longer to read the detail and unlike our system where the details remain on the screen until you remove your card, you have to be quick and ready to read.

On trains and the ferries the readers worked flawlessly. Not so in buses, with readers often not working. I suppose it is to prevent people touching off their ticket early to receive a cheaper trip, but the scanners don't come on until the bus has nearly stopped at a stop, controlled by GPS I suppose.

This brings me to the extreme slowness unloading when the bus stops. With trams, people are normally at the door when the vehicle stops and there is no need to touch off your Myki. Trams are smoother than buses and it is not hard to be at the door once the tram stops and if you aren't, the driver may well close the doors and take off and you will be left on the tram. I don't blame people for not being at the door of lurching buses but what a mess happens as people make their way to the doors, touch off their Opal and because no-one is at the door to get off, people start getting on, then the woman with a pram gets to the door, touches off and is tangled with people getting on, dodging around and the whole thing is a ridiculous mess. As I have already said I think, Sydney bus drivers seem endlessly patient with unthoughtful passenger behaviour.

I understand there are still trains in Sydney without air conditioning but we never struck one. I feel the aircon could be set a degree or two cooler. Most of the buses we travelled on were modern and quite smooth with the interesting feature of interior lights brightening when the bus doors were open. I may have assumed that all Sydney buses had aircon but at the driver changeover at Waverly Depot, the relieving driver mentioned to the other driver he was pleased the bus had aircon. The aircon temperature on buses seemed correctly set and unlike in Melbourne where the driver on some buses have control of the aircon, every bus had the aircon on, I assume on an automatic setting. The two longer bus ride trips we took had older buses working the route. Coincidence? Get the most out of them before they must be retired and go easy on the new ones?

What else to say? Stops can be a long way apart, but not for the good burghers of Military Road, Mosman where stops are quite close together. Most buses have a route number at the rear, which is so useful if you need to know what bus you have just missed. Seriously, rear showing route numbers are useful. At busy bus stops where there are multiple bus stands, signage as to which bus stops where could be better. It is not really a criticism but as we discovered on our first visit to Sydney in the early 80s, you do have to be proactive about catching a bus. Standing at a stop is not enough and the bus will just pass you by if you don't hail them. I expect this mostly applies to streets where there are multiple routes.

A strong criticism of Sydney Buses which equally applies to Melbourne's public transport, is that during a special event, such as St Patrick's Day,  and street services are re-routed, times are not correctly adjusted resulting in buses running very late, as we discovered when we were at La Perouse. The L94 buses were running very late and I am sure because they were re-routed and probably some resulting traffic congestion. The ever so patient Sydney bus drivers seemed to lose their patience, with some people just being left behind. Such behaviour by drivers can be firmly slated back to Sydney Buses management who did not adequately plan for changed circumstances. St Patrick's Day in Hyde Park is hardly a new event. Sydney Buses will have experienced what happens on St Patrick's Day many times and Sydney Buses staff will have been paid very good money to plan for the event and in my opinion, they failed.

But don't come to Melbourne expecting any better.

14 comments:

  1. Adelaide buses have back doors, about halfway down the bus for people to exit from so as not to hold up those wishing to board at the front, it's a good system, since we don't have to 'touch off' our cards. Many people, like me, still exit from the front doors if we can, because they are wider and there is a better handle to grip. Also on some older buses, the back door isn't automatic and must be pushed open and held, not always easy for older persons, plus the middle/rear of the bus is higher off the ground just enough to make disembarking uncomfortable for shorter, less agile people.
    Our bus stops are all clearly marked which makes it easy for people to find where they should be waiting for their bus. but thank you for mentioning rear route display numbers, you've reminded me that I want to email our metro company about how many of our buses don't have the number displayed.

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    1. River, I have never come across back doors on buses like that. They don't sound good at all and it sounds like some new buses are needed in your city. New low floor buses have the rear door at the same height as the front. Again, if the rear number has to be manually changed, then that indicates the age of the bus. It all happens automatically now. I think you really have to be a stranger to a city to see how good signage is for public transport,

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  2. Andrew, I think your transport desn't work well . Public transport at my place is not perfect one but works well in 3 million conurbation..

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    1. Gosia, our public transport is not even close to the standard of European public transport. I think Vienna and Prague do it very well.

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  3. I suggest a reason why Sydney Bus drivers are endlessly patient with passengers at stops is because as lengthy as you considered those stops they are shorter now than before the days of both prepaid ticketing and Opal cards. Previously passengers searched for their fares, paid the driver, waited for the fare to be entered and the ticket printed and their change to be provided and then be seated. (Drivers are supposed to wait until passengers have seated before driving off.)

    Drivers can adjust the air-conditioning and they will (sometimes) respond to passengers' request for the level of air to be raised/lowered.

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    1. Victor, yes I recall buses being very slow at stops and the 380 buses leap frogging over each other along Oxford Street. I also noticed about generally waiting for people to sit down, especially older people. But them some people muck around, this seat or that seat, put my card in my bag before I sit etc.

      One person's comfortable temperature is too hot or too cold for another. Better to have it set at the standard temperature and no control by the driver, except for his/her own comfort in the driving area.

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  4. We do have to tag off our buses, but there is a reader at the back door as well as at the front. I prefer the front for the reasons River mentioned. Our delays are usually caused by people wanting to pay in cash - often high denomination notes.
    I do wish our buses were more frequent though - particularly on the weekends. If I want to catch a bus then, the stops closest to me are not used. It is a one kilometre walk to the nearest which is operational. And an uphill walk on the way home. And an hour between buses sucks.

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    1. EC, Sydney buses have two readers at each door, as well as an old ticket system validator at the front. As the the old system is phased out, there should be an improvement. Melbourne trams, the ones the size of a bus, have a minimum of nine readers.

      Sydney is getting away from cash fares. Many bus routes no longer have ticket selling on the bus. You can't buy a ticket on board Melbourne public transport at all.

      A one hour service does not encourage anyone to use public transport. It is a bit of a chicken and egg matter, but for sure people won't use buses that aren't there to use.

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  5. Public transportation, which is somewhat better in larger metropolitan areas in the States, is a joke in rural and semi-rural areas. Since I'm no longer able to drive, I'm completely dependent on the Great Scot.

    For someone as independent as I had always been, it's a rather largish pain in the posterior. Although, were I in the same situation as EC, I'd probably throw my hands up. Time to start taking taxis!

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    1. Jacqueline, I hope I am not speaking out of turn, but I should think EC would get discounted taxi travel subsidised by the government. If she doesn't, she should. Public transport here is controlled by the state, not the town or city, so there are not the disparities that would happen if it were town controlled. Where EC lives is a territory, a city and the seat of our national government, and so is a bit unusual.

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  6. Oh man, people still put their Myki on the reader and slide it about. I want to prod them and tell them to keep it still!!

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    1. Fen, I know, I know. Sydney's readers are lightning fast if you do it properly. Our system is quite old now.

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  7. I can't remember the last time I was on a bus Andrew, but on the other hand I've used the train more in the last year than in the last ten years and it's brilliant :)

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    1. Grace, they are my preferred way to travel. I do understand how some people like the privacy of their car but I see and hear such interesting things on public transport.

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