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.’ ↩︎

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


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


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.


  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. ↩︎

Expansion of the Level-crossing Removal Programme

The Premier’s office has announced 25 additional crossings will be added to the list of 50 to be removed by the LXRA. The added crossings mean the expiration date of the programme has been revised from 2022 to 2025. This is part of a broader suite of promises made by the Labor party going into the November 24th state election, which includes a massive expansion to the metro system, and upgrades to the regional rail system.

I just want to address two particular crossings, one of which happens to be local to me, which has been added to the list — Argyle Avenue, Chelsea. I’ll talk about Glenhuntly Road later in the post.

En-queued at Argyle Avenue

En-queued at Argyle Avenue

Argyle Avenue

The crossing itself is a well-known bugbear of locals in the Chelsea-Bonbeach community, and I doubt I’m the only one relieved to see it announced as a target for removal. The nearby Bonbeach and Edithvale stations have had their adjacent roads already slated for removal in the initial list of 50 put forward in 2014. A long process was undertaken to determine the preferred model for removal of Bondi and Edithvale Roads.

The government initially put forward elevated rail (‘skyrail’) as its preferred option, with the possibility of rail-under-road (trenching) depending on community feedback and an environmental impact assessment related to the closely situated and internationally-protected Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands.

You may call me a cynic, but I believe that the state government, owing to the marginality of the sandbelt electorates, wanted to go forward with skyrail only on the condition that no protests were made. Even a little bit of protestation was bound to tip the scales, given that the seat of Carrum was won at the last election on a margin of just 0.72% of the vote, or roughly 500 votes. Needless to say, there was a campaign, with the backing of local Liberals, to stir up anti-skyrail sentiment. Labor was completely unwilling to rock the boat by doing anything even slightly controversial, and thus caved. Trenched rail effectively represents the status quo, whilst skyrail represents a reconfiguration and re-imagining of the local area, due to its more outstanding and obvious nature.

The reason that the government initially put forward skyrail, in spite of the risk of hostility, as its preferred option is for two reasons: firstly, skyrail is cheaper. The more you save on each individual crossing, the more you can do overall. Secondly, it was the obviously superior option for the area. Indeed, skyrail is a preferable option as a general rule, for a variety of reasons.

Skyrail is cheaper. It enables amenities or shops to be built underneath, as well as parking or bus loops close to railway stations. It allows easier crossing on foot, by opening up an effectively unlimited number of crossing points. Bonbeach and Edithvale in particular are each areas waiting for a commercial boom to happen, which I believe to only be inhibited by the ghetto-isation created by the Berlin Wall that is the Frankston Line. This could so easily be achieved by making it easier to move around on foot, by bicycle, as well as by car. There are already burgeoning residences in the locality moving into medium density apartments and flats; the consumers are there, they have only limited options for consumption.

Chelsea is at the midway point between Bonbeach and Edithvale, and it is indeed already burgeoning commercially, albeit not as much as it once did. The past saw a broader variety of stores which have in the intervening decades fallen to the onslaught of shopping centres. This is not unique to Chelsea, nor even Australia. Still, all big four banks have branches here, there’s a post office, numerous restaurants and cafes, and a major grocery chain. The pristine beach, and the successful local businesses, draw in visitors by road and rail to shed their cash and clothes to take a dip in the water on Melbourne’s notoriously hot summer days.

Whilst the decision to trench the railway at Bonbeach and Edithvale represents a lost opportunity, my hope upon hearing the announcement that Argyle Avenue, Chelsea Road, and Swanpool Avenue, all localised to Chelsea, would be grade-separated gave me pause to wonder the enormous possibilities. Imagine a central plaza, a proper bus interchange, the unlocking of Station Street retail opportunities.

Alas, the Premier pre-empted all discussion or possibility of a future satellite business centre at Chelsea by conceding on the same date of announcement that there would be only trenches in Chelsea. There was no community consultation, no independent bodies analysing the proposal, not a single academic lending a word on the matter. The 500 voters prized by Labor had their way. The Premier had made his decision, and it was an easy and cowardly one. Now a massive gash will open wide across our beachside community. Foot crossings will be closed, people forced into their cars. We will all become a little more isolated, and our community will whither. Those situated west of the canyon will get richer, and those to the east will be crammed into smaller and smaller units on increasingly subdivided blocks. There will be no inter-cooperation or interchange of people. We will become two separate communities. I bemoan yet another lost opportunity for revitalisation and local economic growth.

I am left with only one last speculation on the Bonbeach-Chelsea-Edithvale Project. Will it be a single trench? In the case of a similar project to the north at Bentleigh-McKinnon-Ormond, the decision was made to have three successive trenches in short intervals so as to save on expenditure, at the cost of a lengthened timetable due to excessive train acceleration and deceleration. Passengers are left with an irksome feeling as the train makes repeated dives and halts. Will this shortsighted design be re-employed in my locality? Will commuters from Frankston be made to endure a rollercoaster of design compromises on their daily commute?

That brings me to the second crossing project I wish to discuss.

Glenhuntly Road

This is probably the worst level crossing in metropolitan Melbourne. It severely negatively impacts on all who use it: motorists, train and tram passengers, and pedestrians. The pain of Glenhuntly is felt all up and down the Frankston line owing to the fact that all trains, including expresses, must slow to a crawl at the intersection due to logistical issues to do with the intersection of overhead wires of both the railway and tramway. This severe slow down leads to backed up queues of pedestrians, trams, and cars. That this nightmare of a level crossing has finally been listed for removal is something for which it is worth praising the transport deities.

That said, why in said deities’ names was this crossing not removed when the three to the direct south were thusly removed? There was huge impact on services as the line was suspended for weeks at a time as the crossings at Bentleigh-McKinnon-Ormond were removed. Now, due to lack of foresight, we commuters of the Frankston line will be made to endure this nonsense over again. The local businesses of the area adjacent to the stations, who have only just recovered from the enormous disruptions caused by dust clouds and the fleeing of customers, will once again face the exact same. Level crossing removals will have and will continue to take place all up and down the line with an order that indicates no rhyme or reason other than political expediency. The Frankston line, by the time all is said and done, will have only been haphazardly usable between the years 2016 and 2025. Nine years of continuously interrupted travel is not something that freeway users would expect or tolerate, so why should commuters of Melbourne’s second busiest railway line tolerate such?


I thank good fortune for Victoria having a government that finally, after decades of neglect, is paying attention to rail transport. I will fiercely defend said government insofar as they continue to pursue an agenda that is anti-congestion and pro-rail, and I will likewise heavily criticise the flaws which have pockmarked the litany of announced projects; pockmarks emergent almost entirely from political expediency and the desire to cling to power. Labor is no better than the Liberal party when it comes to splurging billions to win votes, damn the consequences. I want a government that thinks far into the future, and doesn’t just make decisions for the here and now.