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.

Why Telstra Sucks

Lets face it, it’s a miracle that Telstra is still in operation. They couldn’t organise their way out of a freakin’ paper bag and have zero idea about making their customer experience worth while. The only thing they have going for them is their great mobile phone network, and even that benefit is starting to fade.

My mobile phone is with Telstra due to some work I was doing with a previous company. When I started the gig, I ported my personal number into the company’s account and had it linked to a new Blackberry. When I left, we tried to get my number back to me and give the Blackberry to another staff member. Sadly, this was not possible as Telstra claimed the phone number & Crackberry were locked together until the 18 month contract ran out.

First black mark – the number should be portable, the contract & phone can stay with the company. Whatever.

So, for another project I’m doing I’ve picked up a Telstra $10 prepaid starter kit (SIM card with associated number) because the phone’s going to be texting my phone and a number of others on the Telstra network. Telstra offer a plan with $0.01c SMS rates when sending to Telstra phones. Nice – more testing for less $$$.

OK – that’s a good thing – they get a tick for that.

Then I set up the SIM and get it started. I try to do it online (being the online kinda guy I am) but I’m registering it under my company’s name (it’s being used for a project) and the online registration wants me to enter two forms of proof that my company exists. What are the options? A fixed line phone bill and/or a rates invoice. Say what? We run a small company that has no office or fixed services or rates or anything. WTF?

Yet another black mark – I guess Telstra’s idiotic legal types have stated that all companies must have these so that’s what they’ll use to verify corporate info.

Right, so I call in and get the starter kit happening. YAY. It’s not that painful dealing with a human and I can register it under my company, just supplying both ACN & ABN (why I need both though is odd as usually the ACN is sufficient).

Half mark there – not a full mark, but OK.

Comes now the fun part – I have no credit on the phone. Say what? Where’s the $10 that comes with the pack? It’s not there. WTF?

So, I go to their Prepaid Portal to register online and check where the problem may be. Bzzzt – the registration fails, telling me there’s a problem with their systems and to come back in 24 hours.

Sorry, isn’t this a mega-corporation? Shouldn’t their systems just work? Yes, OK, I know, I’ve worked in Telstra IT before and quite frankly it’s a miracle anything works in that place.

So, major black mark on Telstra’s image as a credible organisation.

A few days later, I manage to get the registration done and can access my account, confirming that there’s no credit.

I call their voice line and, after going through a few prompts, wind up sitting on hold for 3 to 5 minutes and then get through to a human. Clearly not from around here, she is polite and trying to help. She tells me to call their number on the mobile and press 1 then 1 to activate the $10 bonus credit. Gee, that’s news – it wasn’t listed anywhere.

OK, lets do it while we’re on the phone (good thing I called on the landline, yeah? :). I call it on the mobile and follow her instructions but it doesn’t work. I talk her through what’s happening and she realises her advice isn’t correct in this case. She needs my info to look into it further. I’m part way through this when the phone call drops out. Ummm – WHAT???

Yes, that’s right – while talking to Telstra’s helpdesk somewhere in the world other than Australia, the call got dropped. Oh yes, way to go mega-comms company. I feel so much more reassured about purchasing your communications products – NOT!

So, another black mark.

I call the number again, follow the prompts, sit on hold and start talking to the person I get through to (again, not from around here). They look into everything and then tell me that all is good but I first need to purchase some credit for the account and that will activate the “bonus” $10 credit. Ummm – say what??? Where was that plastered everywhere when I purchased the kit? There is something mentioned on page 9 inside the little booklet but it says:

If you have selected a Telstra Pre-Paid offer that gives you an included bonus amount or value, remember to recharge the correct amount to get the included benefits of your offer.

Ummm, yeah, right, whatever. Slightly confusing and also written in small font. Not clear, not obvious. Good grief…

As of the moment, I’ve recharged the prepaid account but the $10 that was supposed to come with it isn’t showing. I give it a day or two and then if it’s not showing up, I’m going to get *really* angry and will call them again to complain.

All this freakin’ effort just to get a prepaid sim up and running?

Hello Telstra, you are farking clueless idiots who deserve to be broken up and made to compete on a level playing field with other telcos. With luck, you’ll finally “get it” and be able to lift your game, but it is highly likely that you will be beaten by other companies that understand quality & customer service.

As soon as my current contract is over, I’m taking my Blackberry to another provider ‘cos clearly Telstra isn’t worth supporting at all.