Went out for drinks with friends last night at Lane’s Edge bar, Bourke Street Melbourne. Caught the train from Collingwood. Missed the first one waiting for someone in front who was having trouble with ridiculous Myki ticket machine. Should count myself lucky – got the next one about 20 minutes later (housemate recently missed a train back from Greensborough at 10pm – and there were no more so he was forced into a cab). Despite government advertising & assurances, public transport in Melbourne is third rate by any standard (got talking about this last night). A common defense is our ‘lack of population’, especially when comparing train systems in Europe. Indeed, this is a very poor defense. Take Berlin, population 3.44 million. No matter what station you’re at, trains leave every 2-3 minutes, 24 hours a day. Ticketing is simple & cheap. So everybody uses public transport all the time as second nature.

Berlin Trains
Map of Berlin’s train system. Note the ring rails & comprehensive interplay between lines, making for relatively easy travel north-south/east-west anywhere in the metropolitan area.

Back to Melbourne: Population 4.1 million – trains leave unpredictably and often 20 – 30 minutes apart (when they’re not cancelled without notice). Melbourne is also a wealthier city by GDP. It’s as though for the past 30 years we’ve failed to notice (or care) about a gradual & incremental slip behind the rest of the world when it comes to public transport. Tragically, Melbourne has become a city choked by traffic congestion as more and more commuters are forced onto grid-locked roads. The government’s answer: Shelve all new rail projects and build MORE roads. Why is it that the most economically sensible, socially and environmentally responsible transport solution is so horribly ignored in Australia’s 2nd largest & fastest growing city?

Fires out.