A Peculiar Crossing

A Peculiar Crossings

There is a pedestrian crossing just to the north of Bonbeach Railway Station. On one end it opens directly onto Station Street and likewise on the other side onto the very busy Nepean Highway. One assumes it was put there to make it easier for the residents of the adjacent Broadway to access the beach and the (historically busy) shopping strip. However, it seems to see a great deal more use for other destinations than the beach. The shopping strip in Bonbeach is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Thus, people walk primarily not directly across to the beach which is attractive only seasonally, but north to the thriving shopping strip in Chelsea, or south to the train station to access the city-bound platform.

A strong desire-path has formed as a result of foot traffic coming from the crossing down to the station entrance. The path itself is somewhat precarious as the line of shrubbery pushes the pedestrian very close to the road. Caution is required. This lack of facilitation for foot traffic is constituted not only to the south where no planned footpath lay;1 there is no signalised crossing, nor under- or over-pass, to facilitate crossing to the shopping strip to the north. One must simply rely on one’s wits to cross the road. This is not too challenging for most people, but it definitely reduces accessibility and walk-ability in the suburb for the elderly, children, and people with a disability, who are restricted not by wits but by physical capability. For example, children lack the necessary peripheral vision and developed pre-frontal cortex to judge car speed and the timing of a safe crossing in-between traffic.2

View from the crossing towards the desire-path and Highway

View from the crossing towards the desire-path and Highway

This may have been adequate once-upon-a-time when Bonbeach was a rural bayside village, but the densifying of the suburb and the urban sprawl surrounding Frankston have meant a great increase in transiting and locally-generated traffic making use of Nepean Highway. At this tapered end of the Highway, it is only four lanes at this time, but a lack of a median strip, a speed limit of 60, and the sheer density of peak hour traffic make for long waits to safely cross with a certain risk always at play, especially for the above-mentioned groups of people.

The listing of Bonbeach station for reconstruction as part of the state-run level-crossing removal project has provided an opportunity for renewed walkability in this particular part of the suburb, and even at this particular pedestrian crossing. In its initial proposal to the local community, the government put forward elevated rail as the preferred solution. It’s cheaper, it doesn’t cause potential damage to the nearby wetlands, and it preserves all existing points of crossing whilst also opening up additional points of crossing where-so-ever the rail is sufficiently elevated. This was something better, not ideal, but better. The Nepean Highway Problem would remain, but at least the railway would no longer form a double-whammy for foot traffic; people would more ably access the station from underneath the viaduct, rather than using the precarious desire-path that they do now.

Sadly, the loud and short-sighted shouted down the proposal as “ugly” and destructive of their view of the beach. This in spite of the fact that the majority of residences on the western side of the rail reserve do not have a view of the beach owing to their mostly single-story mix and the view-obstructing trees and shrubbery planted along the rail reservation. In any case, the local electorate was extremely marginal at the time3 and so the government caved and agreed to a rail trench instead. The consequence has meant that the money saved by elevating and otherwise expended on additional amenities will instead be flushed into a more-expensive trench which will prohibit the amenities and development options that may have made the suburb more walkable. In particular, the government has declined to retain the pedestrian crossing at Broadway and will not be replacing it with an overpass. It will disappear altogether. The further-north pedestrian crossing at Golden Avenue will be reconstituted as an overpass, which will sadly not extend over the Highway, only the railway. Pedestrians will be dumped off on the other side of the track and will then have to negotiate traffic for themselves.

At least, that’s where things apparently stand as of today. These plans were put forward before the nearby crossings at Argyle Avenue and Chelsea Road were added to the list to be removed. The plans will need to be revised, and so perhaps this crossing may survive and may indeed be reincarnated in a more foot-friendly manifestation. I have hope, but also doubt. The government has already ruled out elevated rail for the entire section between Bonbeach and Aspendale, and so that obstruction remains. One barrier (a railway) will simply be replaced with another (a trench), and so the possibility of the Broadway crossing surviving seems slim. However, I’ll wait until the final overarching designs for the section of railway are released before passing final judgement as to whether this opportunity for revitalisation has been met or squandered.


  1. Though there are some parking spaces that were added over the last few years. No adjoining footpaths were concurrently laid. This is a strong example of building for cars instead of people. ↩︎

  2. They’re also short-legged. ↩︎

  3. Carrum district was within 500 votes (a less than 1% margin) of being retained by the then-incumbent Liberal in 2014. Since then, at the 2018 election, the margin has blown out considerably with the seat now considered ‘safe.’ ↩︎

Medevac and the Politics of Fear

Medevac and the Politics of Fear

In line with the various desperate and dogmatic moves made by the federal government, rhetoric has shifted increasingly to the area of final resort. From the last preponderances on dealing with climate change under Malcolm Turnbull, to the current threatening hyperbole of Scott Morrison spreading fear of “paedophiles and rapists” coming in their “thousands” to our shores, the massive shift from a position of attempting to govern to just pure politicking is fully self-evident. Whereas Turnbull initially built his leadership on an attempted departure from the reactionary conservative politics of his predecessor — of abandoning the three-word slogans — the Morrison government has been defined by its return to the roots of modern Coalition politics. Cajoling and rabble-rousing over the issue of refugees is always a fraught area and prone to borderline racism, but it too often pays dividends for conservative politicians to be passed over by a desperate conservative government which lacks any real policies; which has to concoct crises for which they can contend to hold the anecdote.1 The dangerous consequence is the vile rhetoric and the justification of hate and prejudice which follows.

The Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018 or “Medevac Bill,” is a relatively benign amendment to the Migration Act which allows for refugees being detained in offshore “processing facilities”2 to be treated for medical illnesses in Australia. What makes the legislation so benign (watered down) are the various caveats that have been attached: 1) seeking medical treatment in Australia is contained to those refugees who a) cannot be otherwise treated by the inadequate facilities in PNG or Nauru, b) are not marked as a national security threat by Home Affairs, c) are already being detained, meaning that the law does not apply to future arrivals, d) are subject to a multi-week process of objection and review if the Minister chooses to interfere on any grounds, and 2) the refugee remains, for all intents and purposes, under detention for the duration of their onshore medical treatment, meaning they will be handcuffed and/or imprisoned and segregated from the public as would be a criminal.

In spite of the massively watered-down nature of the legislation, which was itself a prerequisite to attain the support of the more right-leaning independent members of the House of Representatives, the government has had to react by way of open warfare. The defeat — any defeat — on the floor of the house is a major political blunder for any government. It was secured, at all costs, by Labor for the hoped-for political dividends that would be repaid by having the government on the back-foot.3 The result has not been the calling of an early election, nor even the humane treatment of refugees, but rather a more vitriolic rhetoric from the government as it ramps up the dog whistle. Layered in alleged bleeding-heartedness for those who have drowned in transit, is a deep seated racism at its core that the government hopes the low-education and low-information voters who constitute the hard-swinging section of the electorate will hear and respond to with fear and votes for the government. The obfuscation of this nasty racism by a proclamation of supposed humanity for “preventing drownings at sea” serves as the sweet-tasting veneer needed by the rest of the more educated swinging voters in order to make the hardline anti-refugee policies of the government palatable and even justifiable.

This, notwithstanding the fact that the drownings at sea are in fact encouraged by current border security arrangements. Towing unseaworthy vessels back out into the open ocean, refusing entry to Australia via safer means of transport, and actively buying up or destroying seaworthy vessels, are all aspects of a policy that has never in fact been predicated on the supposed good-will of preventing drownings. It has always been about subtly hinting at the public that they are safely protected from the fear-inducing other; the brown-skinned and non-English-speaking desparates who maliciously await their opportunity to displace the white working class and recolonise Australia as a Sharia haven. In truth, the fear of displacement and recolonisation is a fear based on a mis-truth spread with the aim of distracting the general public from those whom they should truly fear: the wealthy and powerful elites who readily abandon any morality and brutalise and imprison the weak and infirm just to secure their own prosperity and the poverty of others. More dangerous to Australians than the possibility of desperate human beings being given some humanity, dignity, and the opportunity for a new life, is the desperate dogma of a dying government and the politics of fear which it uses to divide and destroy the lives of those detained on remote tropical islands and those who dare to question the basis of the at-its-core racist and inhumane border security policies.

Notes


  1. The only alternatives being to either develop policies to address real issues, or to admit self-defeat and resign. ↩︎

  2. This is the offical term for these places. However, if you have no alternative and are compelled to the confines of these under-resourced and over-crowded tropical camps, you cease to define the facility as a processing centre and instead refer to it as what it has become — a prison. ↩︎

  3. It would have been a tough debate internally for Labor. They recognise any issues around refugees to be an Achilles heel for them; but the potential consequences of a monumental legislative defeat for the government including greater instability and a potentially earlier election, are just too good to pass up, especially whilst they remain ahead in the polls and can take risks. ↩︎

Mobile Myki

Mobile Myki

Starting from a couple weeks ago, PTV has been running a trial of Myki on smartphones1 which will continue until the end of March. For the time being, the trial is limited to an initial sample of four thousand participants, and is only available through Google Pay, making it Android-only. I was one of those randomly selected to participate in the trial, and so I'd like to offer a few thoughts on the matter.

Getting Started

nexus6-myki-googlepay.jpeg

Firstly, the initial set-up is super painless; much easier than getting a Myki through the conventional means. It's also cheaper as you (of course) do not have to pay the $62 for the physical card. You simply open up the Google Pay app and select Myki under the 'passes' tab. You select the amount for your initial top-up, which is charged through whatever payment method you have associated with Google Pay, and the app communes with PTV to generate a 'card' with a unique ID like those on the reverse side of physical cards.3

The Local/Remote Conundrum

The end result is that the operating system can use its NFC chip as a Myki card when presented at a Myki reader. The balance, as with regular cards, is stored on-device. Whilst PTV maintains transaction records, its database is not a live indicator of the amount on your card, that information is stored on the card itself. This differs from a credit or debit card where your balance is stored remotely (with the bank/creditor) and the remote balance is considered the live balance. When using a credit/debit card you are simply authorising the reader to access the remote database and perform a transaction. Myki cards perform the transaction locally with the reader.

There are plusses and minuses to each of these approaches. Remotely-located balances (credit/debit cards) rely on an Internet connection.4 Local balance storage (Myki) guarantees you can always make use of your card even when there is no Internet connection available to the reader.5 The main drawback with local-only is that you have only one 'key' with which to make transactions. In practice, this means that if you lose your card you have to go through a refund or balance transfer process which relies on the possibly out-of-date remote database which may leave you out of pocket a few dollars. It also requires that you have registered your card so as to verify ownership. If you lose your credit card, you call your bank and they cancel it and send you a new one. In the meantime, you can continue to make certain transactions by accessing your online account. Your gym membership and phone bill will continue to debit seamlessly.

Continuing on with this, let's say you forgot your wallet at home one morning. You then realise you need to buy some supplies from the local corner store. Supposing you already set-up your credit/debit card on your phone using Apple or Google Pay, you can make transactions with your phone or smartwatch instead. You can have virtually unlimited 'keys' to access your balance.

PTV has attempted to mend this issue by way of Mobile Myki. You forgot your wallet at home? Then you can use your phone instead! Except you can't because the balance is locally stored, meaning that you effectively have an entirely separate card on your phone from what you had in your wallet. Any balance on your exisiting Myki card is not pooled with the balance on your phone. This means redundant transactions, extra money converted into Myki money, and so on. Overall, there is less flexibility than what is offered with a remote-oriented system, but more than what was offered before with the “card only” locally-oriented system.

Anyway, it is that which most displeased me with the initial set-up; that I was unable to use the balance on the Myki card I already own, and that I could not digitise the card at all. Creating a new card was the only option.

Using the Card

On my first day commuting with Mobile Myki I got a good spread of experience with which to judge the overall performance. I travelled on both trains and busses, and interacted with both the classic Myki readers and the new Vix-designed readers.

The Good

Touching on with a classic reader using a Nexus 6.

My day started with a touch on at my local train station using a classic reader. The speed was roughly equivalent to a physical card, perhaps a few milliseconds slower. However, that may just be a psychological effect from having to unlock the phone first before touching it on.6 However, the double assurance of a check-mark across your phone screen is certainly pleasing. It's also nice to be able to see the transaction history immediately, rather than delayed by up to 24 hours. Whereas previously you could access your transaction history online, only if you registered7 your Myki, because your balance is stored locally (as discussed above) you can see your touch on/off history immediately including with location and the amount debited/credited.8

The Bad

A ‘next-gen’ Vix-built reader

A ‘next-gen’ Vix-built reader

The rest of my commute went fine until I changed for a bus and encountered one of the new-generation Vix readers. I made multiple attempts to touch on but no transaction was made. Multiple different error messages were presented by both the phone and the reader, including "multiple cards detected" and "move your phone closer." I concluded that the latter error message had to be a false-positive as my phone was in direct physical contact with the reader. I extrapolated that the new readers must not have been updated for the trial and so were not signalling to the phone the exact card that it wanted, and so was being presented with every card on my device at once,9 hence "multiple cards detected."

Therefore, when making the reverse trip, I opened the Google Pay app on my phone and selected the Myki card specifically, before presenting it to the reader. The same problems, with no transaction made.

Bugs are to be expected, and it's perfectly possible that I was unlucky enough to have encountered two readers that hadn't been updated for the new mechanism, or the specific mechanics of which had not been considered in the programming for the digital card. Nonetheless, as a good beta tester, I made a report including as much detail as I could to PTV. Hopefully they can work out this issue, however a good working week on from the report I still haven’t heard back from PTV. That said, I’ve heard from others in the trial that they’ve had success with Vix readers by holding the phone in certain positions.10

Conclusion

When it works, it's a pleasure. There are certainly flaws, but these are mainly owing to the fundamental nature of Myki such as the above-mentioned issues around a locally stored balance. There’s also the problem of mixed technologies such as old and new generation readers, as well as portable (tram and bus) and stationary (train) readers. Finally, as an Apple devotee, I’m disappointed to see that PTV and Apple weren’t able to work out an arrangement prior to the launching of this beta to see an iOS Myki trial take place concurrently.11 However, I expect some continued background work to be going on between PTV and Apple on this matter. The latter has been known to make exemptions and workarounds for large enough entities such as governments or corporations.12

In practice, I believe Mobile Myki will be a net-good for the public transport system. Both for locals and for visitors. Mobile allows tourists to set up a card without the un-refundable outlay of $6 for a new card; it serves as an effective bandaid for the abandonment of single-use tickets in the transition from Metcard to Myki. It also provides an easy in-built mechanism for the refunding of a remaining balance. Single-use cards would still be better for tourists, owing to their simplicity but this is almost as good.13 Locals will benefit from having a thinner wallet or a backup mechanism for when they do forget their card or wallet at home.

Notes


  1. PTV is currently branding it as 'Mobile Myki.' I suppose once can't do much better when the starting name is the abominably named 'Myki.' ↩︎

  2. PTV charges $6 for full-fare passengers, $3 for concession/seniors. ↩︎

  3. For all intents and purposes, this is considered a ‘real’ card, meaning it can be registered and managed on the Myki website. ↩︎

  4. Unreliable Internet is a widespread issue in Australia, which probably motivated the preference for locally-stored balances for Myki, which launches well before the NBN was even announced. ↩︎

  5. This is useful for stations and busses/trams that may happen to be in coverage black-spots, as well as for the portable readers used by Authorised Officers. ↩︎

  6. Though the phone has to be unlocked to perform NFC transactions, the Google Pay app does not need to be opened. The purpose is to ensure some sort of authentication to prevent theft. ↩︎

  7. Registering your Myki de-anonymises you, which may concern you if you're privacy-conscious. Being able to view your transaction history without the website circumvents this issue. ↩︎

  8. PTV has recently stated that they will be rolling out auto-top-up and other more in-depth features to the digital card going forward, so things are looking promising and that this isn’t one of those projects that gets up and then abandoned or sees only drive-by updates. ↩︎

  9. I also have my debit and Woolworths loyalty cards loaded into Google Pay. ↩︎

  10. Indicating this may be an irreconcilable hardware issue. ↩︎

  11. My primary phone is an iPhone and I was using an old Android phone specifically for the purpose of the trial. ↩︎

  12. For example, the issuing of enterprise certificates allowing the side-loading of apps for internal use without having to go via the App Store or TestFlight. The issue with iOS devices, as I understand it, relates to the fact that Apple restricts its NFC chips to read-only for readers for security purposes. Myki needs the ability to write to the chip to transact an updated balance to the card. ↩︎

  13. It also has the added benefit of by forcing the person to use their phone, it will provide information in the system language. Coming from China and can’t speak English? Set up Myki on your phone with a Mandarin interface. ↩︎