The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Barnett’s government shows their brains, or lack thereof

Tuesday 9 June 2009 at 9:48 pm
  • The Western Australian government are apparently a bunch of small-minded stupid folk who wouldn’t be able to devise any kind of vision if their lives depended on it. Or at least, that’s what I conclude from the most recent Perth foreshore proposal. (Even Richard Court aimed higher: Claisebrook Cove ain’t perfect, but it’s still fun.) Kudos to Antzpantz.
  • And again: now that they’re taking delivery of new trains ordered a few years ago — a good thing! — why on earth are they dropping midday service on the Mandurah and Joondalup lines? Those every-7-minutes trains are busy, dang it. (Except for the occasional quiet carriage, but hey, no worse than BART at midday here.) Then again, I guess this government still can’t get over sniping about how the Mandurah Line that was built is better than what the previous Liberal government proposed.
  • Two lighter concluding notes! First, here’s a nice summary of why you should question anyone who parrots the phrase “eight glasses of water per day”.
  • And second, yes, California’s government is still screwed

A few observations …

Monday 25 September 2006 at 9:21 pm

… now that I’ve finally finished (w00t!) my first thesis draft. Well, mostly. Almost all of it. Okay so maybe it’s not quite there yet, but anyway.

  • Happy Ramadan, which starts today. In the current climate of fear and distrust, it would be nice if there was some acknowledgement of this fact in the mainstream Western-world media :-(
  • Speaking of Muslims (ahem, all migrants, but of course we really just care about Muslims): you know the kerfuffle in the media about a possible citizenship test for new Australians? This is actually in response to a discussion paper that is open for public comment until 17 November. I encourage you to say something!
  • Like many other nerds, I’ve been eagerly following word from the blog of the latest space tourist, Anousheh Ansari (she of X-Prize fame). Aside from the whole geeky millionaire going into space thing, it strikes me as interesting that many of the American reports about her, such as the press release from her old uni, seem to bring up how she came to America with (almost) nothing and built a life and fortune for herself. “Never mind that she’s Iranian, she followed the great American way, so she’s one of us now!”
  • Last week the State Government announced new railcars for what will be the Clarkson — Mandurah line, adding on to the batch that the same supplier has just finished delivering. Finally, some acknowledgement that there’s a capacity problem on the northern line — and also that the current number of trains is hardly ideal for servicing a 107km route!
  • Speaking of the State Government: last week they introduced an amendment bill to bring some sense to our horridly restrictive liquor licensing laws. I’ve not yet read it but it seems to be a significant step forward, albeit still far short of fixing problems like the silly noise complaint rules. It remains to be seen if it’ll pass the upper house, but amazingly, there’s actually a website created by a bunch of Perthonalities trying to drum up support for the changes in a petition. (Amusingly, they’re running Joomla and previously had comment-spam problems; now they’re being bitten by escaped quotes in comments.)
  • And concluding with other public transport related matters: I’ve posted a few times about SmartRider, which will be the first deployed system of its kind in the country, and the PTA’s dude-in-a-suit marketing tricks for it. (The ERG readers in both Melbourne and Sydney speak RFID, but are only used by some travellers, notably most Sydney school kids.)
    It turns out that SmartRider Man pales in comparison next to the flashy website and converted truck “discovery centre” set up for myki, Melbourne’s forthcoming answer to SmartRider (or should that be “Metcard 2.0”?) … which should be an entertaining budget-burner!
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Random sights of a railway construction site

Friday 8 September 2006 at 5:07 pm

Aside from recently completing their tunnelling, the merry band of construction contractors has just re-started track laying on the bits of the southern railway closest to my house. As part of this, there are crazy trackwork machines parked at random spots in the middle of the freeway — weirdo sliding gantry cranes, machines that thump the sleepers for (I’m guessing) joining purposes, and ordinary-looking goods carriages that have holes in them to drop gravel under the tracks.

And freight trains. When Murdoch Station is finished I doubt you’ll see one of these parked there on a regular basis …

South Spur Line diesel freight engine sitting in the Kwinana Freeway median near Murdoch station


When you’ve got a gun …

Friday 25 August 2006 at 11:17 pm

I first heard about Last Train To Freo when it started filming — it sounds like a pretty awesome movie from a new local director. The early word is that it’s well-written and well-acted, and it stars Gigi Edgley, aka Chiana from Farscape!

It opens on September 14, but word is spreading and antzpantz has already taken to Photoshopping the promo photos. Inspired by his work, I present …

Last Train To Freo: if you see something, shoot something!


Yet another terrorist strike on trains

Tuesday 11 July 2006 at 11:39 pm

This morning I caught a later bus than normal to UWA, and started chatting to a friendly bloke from Saudi Arabia after he asked me how to find the Alex LT. In that ten minutes I learned more about Middle Eastern politics than what I’ve picked up from years of reading newspapers. In particular, he told me some interesting stories about conflict between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims in his country, such as blatant discrimination for mining jobs in the oil-rich areas where most of the Shi’a minority live.

This is suddenly relevant, I think, considering that barely a year after the London bombings, terrorists have struck commuter trains again, this time in Mumbai (a.k.a. Bombay). This happened three hours ago, so no one’s claimed responsibility, but the early finger-pointing is at Islamic terrorists angry at the situation in Kashmir. (Some of our American friends are pointing to Al-Qaeda or others, but hey.)

More details are on various local blogs. There’s been the inevitable traffic chaos (Mumbai has one of the busiest railway systems in the world) and unsurprising responses from Pakistan’s government and India’s opposition party, but it is slightly worrying that the Indian PM has announced he’ll “take all possible measures to … defeat the forces of terrorism”. Little more than a heat-of-the-moment populist reaction, sure, but do I sense shades of the G.W. Bush school of anti-terrorism?

Meanwhile, over in the Horn of Africa, another group of Islamists has taken control of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. It was sad a few years back when I read about how that country self-imploded in the early 90s, and it’s even sadder to see it happening all over again …


Perth’s buses and their lack of funding

Saturday 10 June 2006 at 10:58 pm

This afternoon I went along to one of the community consultation sessions that the Public Transport Authority set up for people to comment about planned bus changes in the southern suburbs once the new railway is finished.

The dude I talked to was awesome — he knew off by heart the number, route, and frequency of every bus in the area both now and after the planned changes happen. From my point of view, things will be substantially improved, with the 136 and 791 that I currently catch being replaced by the 530 that will have a similar route but double the frequency.

In fact, there’ll be a lot of frequency improvements across the southern suburbs — listening to this guy and seeing the documents he had suggests to me that the PTA actually takes seriously the idea that to provide a decent service there must only be a short wait between buses. However — and this had me shocked — he told me they’re limited in what they can do because apart from the big capital works spending on the new line and new buses, the PTA hasn’t had a budget increase in four years. So, he explained, whenever they improve service in one area they have to cut back in another.

Other interesting discoveries:

  • trains will run Mandurah – Clarkson as well as Cockburn – Whitfords, each with a 15 minute frequency (i.e. trains every 7.5 minutes from Cockburn during the day)
  • the new stations will have special displays for bus drivers so they’ll know to wait if the train they’re supposed to collect passengers from is late
  • the CircleRoute timetable will not change because they don’t even bother trying to coordinate its timetable with trains at all the different stations it visits — they just assume the wait will be reasonable
  • on several busy routes at peak hour, the PTA often sticks in extra buses in between the normal timetabled services to help deal with load
  • bus routes considered ‘local’ typically only run every hour, while routes considered ‘regional’ (like my new 530) are given higher frequencies
  • Mandurah trains will sometimes run express through some stations, including Canning Bridge, but will always stop at Bull Creek, Murdoch, and Cockburn because they’re considered ‘important’