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I have found myself darkly amused by Melbourne's public transport system this week. Today was a highlight, when I missed four trams at Federation Square - including, annoyingly, one that goes right past my work - because I could not get on any of them. This was due to the sheer crush of numbers, not me being incapacitated. Where oh where is my Caufield to Footscray rail link when I need it? It would relieve the congestion on St Kilda Rd no end.

Flinders St Station, on the other hand, has finally instituted a one-way system in peak times, whereby they've made two thirds of the gates outgoing during the morning peak and ingoing during the evening. This is something I've been ranting about for literally years so it's good to see they finally got hold of the manual and worked out how to do it.

Now if they can just work out an exit from platforms 12, 13 and 14 to Federation Square I'd be thrilled.

And then you have the new government's porkbarrelling, nicely summed up in this article, whereby a senior member of the new government's electorate is to have their rail crossing upgraded and/or put underground - despite it being number 221 on a priority list. Still, it's nice for the whinging rich to get something I suppose.

My highlight for public transport recently though would have to be the train that was (a) 20 minutes late (they finally made an annoucement 18 minutes in, telling us that the train had been delayed. No shit Sherlock), (b) was then so full that no one could fit on two stations in from me leaving around 100 people stranded on the platform hoping the next train would come some time that day, (c) stayed so full the guy in the wheelchair gave up trying to get off and decided just to go into the city, around the Loop and back out to the station he wanted, (d) which was partly because he was blocked in by a cyclist, which seriously? None of us can move. Some of us are having trouble breathing. Take your bloody bike out and ride it, it'd be faster for starters, sheesh, and (e) the train turned from a double express into a stopping all stations (which was then even more delayed as people attempted to cram on, and at least ten passengers had to disembark and re-embark every time someone wanted to get off) which added about 20 minutes on to the travel time. I have actually been on a more packed train in Cairo, but this was the most packed Melbourne train I've been on. You know what would help? More things to hang onto along the train so more people could fit in. Not that that was an issue on that train, everyone just used each other for balance when they didn't have a hand-hold. And yet it was still better than the train my friend was on this morning, which was all that and more crowded still. At least my train made it to Flinders St Station - hers terminated at Southern Cross, leaving her to find her own way from there to Swanston St.

Actually who am I kidding - my highlight for public transport this week was the lovely girl who was chatting on her mobile while still listening to her iPod, and who came out loudly with "so then I found out he was planning on having sex with her while I was there..."

*grin* Ah yes, the world is your living room and no one can actually hear you. Please, tell us more! I think she had a third of the carriage eavesdropping by that point.
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Reading the Mx on the way home I notice that the state government has - yet again - announced that this time, definitely, no, really, definitely definitely, the South Morang rail extension is going ahead and will absolutely be taking passengers by 2013.

Which can of course only mean one thing - there's an election next year, and if they are returned to office the extension will return to the same backburner it's sat on since the 1999, 2002 and 2006 elections.

Cynical, me?

What's even more irritating is that they haven't just bitten the damn bullet and extended the line all the way back up to Whittlesea. Given that they've allowed development along all the green wedges in that area, that the area to the west from Epping to Wollert is also going to be developed and that Plenty Rd, McDonalds Rd and Epping Rds are struggling as it is. There's a reason we take the back route to Whittlesea, and the reason is that Plenty Rd sucks now during quiet times, and is bumper to bumper the rest of the time.

Naturally there's no mention of the Aurora extension, which was also a definite election promise about three times. "Green" development my arse.

Naturally of course though a new freeway is going ahead right now - because everyone knows that the answer to congestion is roads! More roads! Bigger roads! Built with public:private partnerships so that the government doesn't have to spend, and companies make a profit! We're all winners, with new toll roads! (oh come on, they promised not to toll Eastlink before the election too. You seriously think they're not going to toll this road?) Unless of course people don't drive on the road, as appears to be happening with Eastlink. Profit margins? Not so good then.

But on the positive side, we've got a new bus! It'll be magic! Or something. *sigh*

The thing that makes me giggle the most about this is the government advertising. As you come into Clifton Hill station there's a big sign informing you of the cost of the duplication, when it started and that "it's part of the plan". To which most people reply "there's a plan? We thought you were making this shit up as you went along."

Because God knows when you're crammed into your technically not overcrowded ("there is no stated limit") train staring at the sign in you do find yourself wondering about the lack of infrastructure funding, the lack of coherent development, the lack of any apparent ability to actually fund public transport effectively and how, exactly, this constitutes a plan. Other than "re-elect us please, we promise this will happen. No, really this time."

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