Wednesday 11 February 2015

this melbourne tram stop is now somewhat less likely to get someone killed

"Hats off to the City of Melbourne!", cried President Lyndon B. Johnson during his visit of October 1966.  A delighted public, always keen to be told what to do, willingly complied.  Unfortunately, a melancholy President Johnson neglected to retract this order when he returned to Melbourne a year later to oversee the construction of the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Centre, and Melburnians have remained hatless ever since.

I can therefore only doff my figurative hat (with much gratitude) to the City of Melbourne, for proving that an idiot with a blog really can make a difference in the actual physical world.

Last year, I corresponded with Yarra Trams, VicRoads, and Public Transport Victoria regarding the design of the "easy access" tram stop on Macarthur Street, outside Parliament train station, and published the results here for all to see.  Via (or despite) several pages of nonsense and bluster, I explained how the tram stop's design is horrendously flawed, as it tricks drivers into thinking that there is no need to stop behind the tram for alighting or boarding passengers—which I was sure would soon lead to serious injury.

Failing a complete redesign of the stop, I suggested that, at the very least, adequate warning signs and road markings should be installed to warn approaching drivers to take care.

Having thus led the bureaucratic horse to water, I naturally expected it to subsequently dip its muzzle down and fortify itself on the commonsense that lay underfoot.  But the bureaucratic horse is an obstinate one, and would rather perish of thirst, have its carcass sold to the lowest bidder, and end up in the less scrupulous supermarkets of Europe, than take action on the matter before it.

None of the above parties—despite having designed and built the tram stop—felt like it was necessary to have anything to do with its ongoing safety, and instead suggested I go and harass the City of Melbourne.  Always keen to be told what to do, I promptly did.

In the meantime, others (independently) took up the same cause at different locations across Melbourne.  This fellow appears to have been causing quite the ruckus over a similarly designed tram stop in Bridge Road, Richmond, proving that the principle of diffusion works in respect of malcontents just as it does in respect of solute molecules (see illustration below).

Soon, the City of Melbourne wrote me back.  The City confirmed that the design and installation of the tram stop had been the responsibility of the aforementioned bureaucratic horse, and then proceeded to give me further background information about the stop's design.

Interestingly, this tram stop was officially designated as a "demonstration tram stop"—a test model that preceded the design's unfortunate expansion throughout other parts of Melbourne—similar to how the testing of the Navy's "demonstration submarine" HMAS Collins led to five additional submarines that were also not able to travel underwater or fire torpedoes, or to how "demonstration Prime Minister" Tony Abbott is currently being used to assess the willingness of the Australian public to be governed by a succession of lizard-kings (with rudimentary communication skills).

And then, crucially, the response concluded: the context of your concern, the City of Melbourne is making arrangements to upgrade the existing static warning signs to include two more prominent signs, one on each approach to the tram stop.  These signs will be larger in size and font, and will advise motorists "TRAM STOP AHEAD, PREPARE TO STOP".
Large font!  I could hardly contain myself.  But there was more:
In addition, the City of Melbourne will write to VicRoads requesting that they consider relocation of the electronic advanced warning sign... currently being obstructed by a pole.
Many moons passed, but the long-awaited upgrades did not eventuate.  My excitement began to waver.  By December, it had all but dissipated. 

One day, as I was sulking around the general vicinity of Macarthur Street, I was stopped in my tracks by an unfamiliar sight.  Someone had run a Polish flag up over the tram stop!  Seeing as the idea of asserting sovereignty via the planting of a flag is fundamentally repulsive to all Australians, I resolved to remove the offending banner immediately (unless it marked the location of a pop-up pierogi stall, in which case, it could stay).

But oh, how wrong I was:

This was even more exciting than the time in primary school when the dairy lobby wheeled a giant plastic cow (complete with functioning teats) into our schoolgrounds, allowing us to milk the cow and drink as much milk as we pleased.  The City of Melbourne had installed a sign with a font size so large that it must have been manually typed into the little drop-down font box in Microsoft Word.  The sign at the other end of the tram stop was equally impressive:

You could have built a penny-farthing bicycle from the ratio by which the size of the new tram stop sign eclipsed the old:

The Christmas holidays came and went, and I returned to work in the new year to find that the Miracle on Macarthur Street had continued—painted warnings had now been added to the road surface!

Well, I was mighty chuffed.  I sat down in neighbouring Gordon Reserve to reflect upon this journey, and the good work of the City of Melbourne.  As I gazed out over the memorial easy access tram stop version 2.0, a speeding delivery van provided an appropriate fanfare to my thoughts as it blazed through the tram stop, tooting and swerving past alighting tram passengers.  2014 wasn't so bad after all.

NB: At last check, however, the "electronic advanced warning sign" is still being obstructed by a pole.  Apparently he refuses to go back to Warsaw until things have calmed down in Ukraine. He also quite likes the colour scheme on the new signs.


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