Friday, November 23, 2012

Lutte contre les feral

First off the bat, you'll be pleased to know that police have caught up with two of the lovely specimens who threatened the lady on the bus. Being fans of public transport, I'm sure you've already seen the footage.
Unfortunately, if you've been using public transport recently in the post-PM peak times, you've probably seen stuff like this. Eight hours in the cabin, I know I've seen it. Drunk, aggressive behaviour, usually targeting people who won't fight back (something that real men don't seem to bother with) and being so aggressive that people fear intervening. I've seen it both on and off-duty and the thing that seems to bother me is the fact that these people seem entitled to abuse others openly and without fear of anything. I've stopped my tram before to address passengers similar to these. I've refused to move until they're off. The tough part is that very rarely do I get support from other passengers. I don't blame them though - at least I'm getting paid to do it. However, the sad thing is that if I don't do anything, these people would waste no time complaining.
If stuff happens, coming forward as a witness helps so much, as it has in the bus case. Leaving your details with staff bolsters the case against the offenders. Don't be afraid to call 000 if things look like they might get ugly. I've called on my mobile regarding a vandal scrawling on my tram and the cops appeared right away, no questions asked. If they can turn up to Mr Texta Douchebag's crimespree, don't be afraid to do it. In fact, I encourage it. The only real way to improve safety on PT is to boost those stats that pollies and cops live and die by. Letting this stuff slide is not only condoning it, but it sends a message to Spring St that everything is OK on public transport and no further action is required. Or worse, our stats are down from last year, let's shit-can the PSOs. Not only do we want ferals off public transport, but we also want our public servants to know what happens on buses, trams and trains. If they actually used public transport, this might not be needed as much.

If you're going to report things to the police, vehicles may have to be stopped and doors opened as part of procedure. If things get violent, people have a means to escape and the police have a pin-pointed position to attend. Yes, offenders can escape, but they usually do so on foot. MAKE SURE YOU GET A DESCRIPTION. This includes age, height, clothing, hair, manner, (hell, even if he/she touched off might help). You can supply the vehicle number and notifying the driver that you've called the police would be helpful (as he/she can contact Fleet Operations who can then contact the police - two calls are better than one). It's up to all of us to start fighting back against these social cancers and let them know that we're a decent society that doesn't tolerate racism or threats.

Let me ask you this:
What happens if that girl was you? Being sworn at, abused and threatened. If more people stood up to these bastards, took their photos or video and reported these things to the police, they wouldn't be able to strut around as though the world owes them something. If you were that girl, you would want someone to help you out. Mind you, the person there that needs the most help is the occupant of the pram.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Public Holiday Services

Firstly, sorry. I've been slack and haven't had any entries here for about six months. Yep, pathetic. Well, I'm sneaking in a window, so make this count.

Public Holiday Services

A common and consistent complaint about public transport services is the lack of service on public holidays (and some major events). Staff, vehicles, whatever. It can cause long delays and added frustration, particular in the summer months, where a shandy or two can shrink fuses considerably.

As a general rule, most public holidays are treated equally. They end up running a Saturday or Sunday roster based on a rather flimsy assumption that demand will be around that level. Sometimes extra services are run. Often you'll see on the trams that the first tram will operate as per normal weekday, with the following tram kicking in at the usual time for Sat/Sun. However, experience in the real world will tell you that not all public holidays or services are created equal. Melbourne Cup is a classic example, where services from the city to the course might have extra services, but elsewhere they may be running to a Sunday schedule. 

But why not run extra services? Well, the main deterrent is price. Staff working on public holidays are paid at double time and a half, which can work out to be a very pricey exercise. Before you scream at union injustices and the like, consider that I've worked almost every Christmas Day for over a decade and every staff works New Years Eve. I can tell you now, 2.5 times my wages isn't enough to make up for the lost family time/additional drunken moron exposure). 
Maintenance and other ground support staff are often skeletal as well, so any problems can get blown out of proportion very quickly. So next time there's a delay on a public holiday, try to bear this in mind.

Rostering can also be a problem, with staff cooped up in an air-conditioned office coming up with marvelous schedules that look great on a screen, but suck on computer. We might get less running time in some parts due to the assumption that there's no passengers or traffic, or too much. For example, Saturday afternoon on Chapel St would normally see bumper to bumper traffic with plenty of time given to go from end to end. However, as it's a cross-city service, the number using it on, say Christmas Day, might be much less. So trams can end up with huge amounts of time, and little or no obstacles (passengers or vehicles on the road).

False Rage is a phenomenon where passengers waiting for a regular service become angry because trams operating on a special timetable or running out of service turn up and can't be used. While the regular timetable might be running perfectly, the mere sight of an empty tram running on tracks (regardless of destination) is enough to break out the pitchforks and torches. Just ask passengers waiting for a #70 tram next to Rod Laver Arena during the football. Hundreds of trams running backwards and forwards to the city, but nothing for Wattle Park bar the usual services. Often, trams returning to the depot will run out of service (as per instructions), so depots on that side of the city like Camberwell can cop abuse. This isn't really a public holiday issue, but it can appear if there's a large delay between services, and along I come moving a tram from depot to depot.

So what to do? I often submit reports about public holiday events. I include the good, the bad and the ugly. Forms get submitted and I'll never hear about them again. Recently, I've actually given up. I don't want any accolades - I just want an acknowledgement that the feedback has been received. More effort goes into following up a complaint from a member of the public. That might be something worth considering next time you have dramas on the road. Just remember to submit them to Yarra Trams via their website. Please note the time, date, route, tram number and any additional information that would help.

The shit thing is that these public holidays happen every year. Yes, issues like first-time myki users might blow out problems now, but Anzac Day, Australia Day and New Year's Day happen every year (even though some passengers find this a shock). It feels like every year the same stone is wheeled out and from it a wheel is supposed to be invented. The lessons from previous years don't often seem to have been learned, let alone incorporated into a constantly-improving service. Now there's a novel concept!