Public Transport in Melbourne makes me love my car!

While public transport has its place in a modern city, it seems that unless you live & work extremely close to train stations on the same line, in many cases it’s far better to take a car.

Our car is currently off the road so we’ve been relying on public transport here in Melbourne and it’s a bloody pain in the neck! We live in McKinnon which is in the sorta-inner south east not too far from Moorabbin Airport so we’re not way out in the boonies but were also not in the inner-city as we once were.

So, here’s a list of issues so far:

  1. From the front door of my house to the front door of my office in West Richmond, it’s faster for me to drive than take public transport, even if I use the bus from home to the railways station instead of walking. At 7:30am I drive to the office by 8am and that’s even after dropping Kitt at Richmond station to get into the CBD. Via Public Transport it’s a bus (or walk) to the station, then a train to Richmond & walk up to West Richmond or a train to the city & then another to West Richmond. Not all trains that go through West Richmond stop there and buses at home are infrequent enough to make walking almost but not quite more effective.
  2. Now that holidays are over, the trains are starting to fill up, occasionally being standing-room only even from McKinnon around 7:50-8am (especially if they’ve cancelled a prior service or it’s running late). Certainly the roads are getting more crowded but I’m still faster in the car.
  3. On weekends when we go shopping, the bus service through Carnegie and/or to Chadstone drops to one per hour from about 3 or 4pm onwards – bad luck if you just miss one!
  4. Later in the evening or on a Sunday, frequency drops right off and you’re screwed if you want to stop off for a late dinner on the way home from watching a movie in the city.
  5. Carrying anything more than a couple of bags of shopping per person becomes a joke! If you’re lucky there’s space but you’re still hauling them all with you instead of chucking them in the back of the car.
  6. Even if I’m in slow moving traffic, I have heating/cooling, my music and space. Woe unto the commuters packed into a bus/tram/train with crappy temperature controls, packed up against others who usually hate moving into the middle of the carriage.
  7. Lets not even talk about going from down here up to Kew or Greensborough where you need to go into the city then back out again on not-so-frequent services (if you’re doing it on a weekend/evening/holiday) and walk a few kilometres if your friends aren’t living near a service.

Yes, public transport is an essential item but we really need to improve the offerings here in Melbourne if more people are to start using it. How about more frequency on routes & not dropping down to “non-existant” on Saturday arvos, Sunday’s or Public Holidays? Just that would help immensely let alone putting in some more routes for those of us not conveniently near a train station or tram stop.

Not the car’s fault

So, remember my previous post about having car problems?. Well, it seems it wasn’t entirely the car’s fault that it wouldn’t start.

After leaving work early on Monday arvo and getting to the car, I called the RACV to arrange the tow down to Greg’s shed. The truck arrived about 40 minutes after I called and did a great job of getting the car on the back and down to the shed in record time. I’d tried to leave early enough so we beat the worst of the traffic and it was a surprisingly good run down the expressway and on from there. Awesome.

The first 20k are free so I only had to pay for the last 10k which meant the whole tow cost me less than $40 – handy. Greg arrived back at the shed with a starter motor to suit my car – $125 – ouch – lucky me to have such a unique vehicle.

We cracked the hood and I demonstrated the lights, camera, no action problem. “Wait a minute” says Greg “Do that again?” – lather, rinse, repeat and Greg goes “Ahhhh – hang on.” He heads into the shed and comes back with a small hammer which he then proceeds to whack the battery terminals with, knocking off a bit of corrosion in the process. He adjusts the leads onto the battery and tells me to try again.

Vroom – Houston, we have ignition!

Bloody hell…

Seems that the battery had power, the lights could work, the windows go up & down and so on, but the connection wasn’t solid enough to supply the current required by the starter motor (the Cranking Amps). So, when the RACV guy had a look at the battery, it appeared fine, but it just couldn’t enough power down to the starter.

So, if I had known to double check the battery connections I would have saved myself a stack of hassles. However, seeing all the lights come on and so on, I figured the battery was fine.

Looks like it fooled the RACV guy too. Greg reckons he should have done the same thing anyhow, even though the battery gave good readings on the meter.


So, the car is working fine, Greg’s able to return the expensive little starter motor and get his money back and I’ve learned yet another lesson about electro-mechanical systems. Hell of a way to learn, no?

Joys of older cars

What a “fun” day – my car broke down at the Queen Victoria Markets this morning. I got back with my load of shopping, jumped in and went to fire it up. Lights, camera but no action. No cranking at all.

Called RACV and had to wait over 2 hours before their roadside assistance guy could arrive (busy day). He worked at it for a bit but couldn’t get it to fire up and confirmed that the starter was shot. While they have starter motors for a number of Mazdas, the RX-7 is not exactly common so there wasn’t much they could do for me.

Fortunately RACV membership includes a taxi ride up to $50 to get you home if your car breaks down, so I used that to get myself and the shopping back. Of course, that didn’t go smoothly as it took 2 taxis to get one who could find where I was. DOH!

So, the car is sitting in the parking lot overnight but security knows about it and will keep an eye on it where possible. I’ll arrange for RACV to tow it to my mate’s shed where we’ll see about trying to fix it. At least I get a discount on the towing – all part of the service.

So, it’s change over time…

So, it’s pretty clear that we’re going to have a new government here in Australia following today’s federal election. Some people are running around saying how good it’ll be with the new guys in, others are saying they’ll miss-manage it to hell and we’re all doomed.

Hah! Yeah right. Personally I don’t think it matters at all who is in power – the next 2 to 3 years are going to be a scary ride with interest rates going up, the US economy having problems and environmental issues. All this plus the whole situation with Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, etc.

If the previous bunch stayed in, they’d keep pushing their ideas and plow through it all, saying “Shit Happens.” The new bunch will no doubt blame problems on the previous lot. Either way, those at the bottom will be feeling the pain and noticing a larger number of people joining them there.

Yet Another Car Hassle

Oh great, someone else has run into my frickin’ car – I was in working at Destra with the car parked on a side street. When I came out, I found that someone appeared to have backed into the side of my car, putting a massive dent in one panel and a scrape on another. No information left on the car, they just drove away. Did some checking and no one in the area had seen anything. Very annoying, but the car is at least still useable.

Still sans phone

Unbelievable – almost 3 weeks without a phone or ‘net connection at home. Telstra keep missing deadlines, stuffing things up and generally acting like an incompetent, bureaucratic bunch of idiots. I know that’s nothing new, but I was expecting that the “big changes” going on over there would have brought them into the present, not sent them even further back into the 1950’s….

Where’s Grant?

So, it’s been almost three months since my last entry – what’s been happening?


Will tell you all about it over a series of posts that, hopefully, I can load up over the next few days.

It may take a while as I don’t have ‘net access at home – a storm came through a few days back and a lightning strike right overhead/nearby took out phones to our apartment block. We’re *still* waiting for Telstra to sort it out – seems it slagged the core coming into the building and it’s *really* old so they have to get a special group out to repair it. Oh, joy.

Don’t Buy DELL Equipment

Way back in 2000, I purchased a DELL laptop over the web and, once it arrived, I was very happy with it. Given I was using it all the time for my work, I took out a 3 year “Next Business Day” onsite warranty. Perhaps the luckiest thing I’ve done in quite a while.

After about a year of operation, I started to experience problems with the keyboard. The 8, I, L and . keys would just stop working – nothing – all the other keys were OK but those would just not produce any characters. I cleaned it out, tried again, same problem. Eventually, things would work again. I called DELL support and they decided to send over a replacement keyboard. This seemed to help for a month or so, then the problem came back.

Over the next few months, DELL replaced the motherboard, keyboard, RAM, etc a number of times. Eventually, they told me that they would be giving me a free warranty replacement unit as they were giving up trying to repair it.

Not bad – I can put up with that…

About a year or so after getting the new replacement laptop, the mouse buttons near the bottom of the trackpad start to come loose. Out comes a DELL service tech to replace the wrist guard and touchpad.

Some time later (about 1.5 years after getting the new unit), I start experiencing new problems. Strange behaviour, etc. After a few calls to DELL, I’m able to catch the problems “in the act” and get concrete evidence for tech support. They send out a new motherboard and RAM.

All seems fine for a while, then the mouse buttons near the bottom track pad start to come loose again. Call DELL, explain the problem, out comes tech with new equipment.

At about the two year mark, the CD/DVD-player in the laptop just ain’t cutting it. I’m trying to rip my CD collection to MP3 for my home system but can’t read the majority of them (they work fine on other equipment). Call DELL, try a few things, out comes a tech with a replacement CD/DVD drive.

Now, a little over two years since I first received the laptop as a replacement, it looks like the hard disk has packed it in. I started getting Windows XP blue screens with spontaneous reboots. Call DELL and they advise it could be new software, convincing me to use System Restore to roll back the config to before these problems started.

I’ve done that, but it’s made no difference as I’ve had the blue-scren+reboot thing a few times. It’s also come up “No Boot Device” a few times. Now it just won’t boot at all :(

So, in short, DELL’s tech support service is really really good (especially when you’ve got a good warranty :) but their products are absolute shite! I’ve had more go wrong with these two units over about 4 years than I’ve had across *ALL* the other laptops and desktops I’ve ever owned.

As the Technology Manager for one medium sized organisation and the Technical Director of smaller one, I’m able to influence the buying decisions of a lot of people & systems (plus I’m always being asked by family & friends re: recomendations, etc). Suffice it to say that I’ll not in any way be recommending DELL equipment! At one location, we’ve ordered a total of 12 laptops in the past year or so – they’ve all been Toshiba – funny that.