Sunday, February 27, 2011

Melbourne public transport

Visiting a city for the first time as a tourist, nothing is more important than clear, concise, accurate and omnipresent information about public transport. On my first trip ever to Melbourne, noted and famed for its European atmosphere combined with an Australian easy-going-ness, this is the one aspect it badly failed me. All the integrated ticketing and environmentally friendly trams and trains did not detract from the fact that information about where to go, what lines to use or how to obtain and validate tickets as basically non-existent. It had us asking the (ever so friendly and helpful) tram driver where to buy a ticket and whether to use the validation pods or not. Official information, which I tried to find online, on routes is woefully inadequate. On the tram network diagram all routes have the same colour, and the map must rate as the worst in the world. The train network diagram isn't any better, and worse, at Flinders Street Station, even this map was nowhere to be found on the station concourse or platforms. It made travel really a chore because trains don't stop at all stations, which may make for a bummer journey if you're not careful. This map is actually far better but it is nigh impossible to print out due to its size.
That said, the trams and trains services were excellent in frequency and range. The A$3.70 fare for unlimited 2-hour travel was not too bad (considering the NZ$ is at a decade-low against the A$).