Sunday, May 17, 2009

Melbourne Thessaloniki sister cities

Melbourne Thessaloniki sister cities stele in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, AustraliaTaking a break from the State Library of Victoria , I went around the corner to Lonsdale Street for a coffee and baklava. On the footpath at the corner with Heffernan Lane I found a marble stele (pillar) engraved with a relief of Saint Demetrius on the other with Alexander the Great, and the words "Melbourne - Thessaloniki sister cities. From the Prefecture of Thessaloniki during the Psomiadis Administration". This affiliation happened in 1984. but the monument was only unveiled 11 November 2008.

Demetrius and Alexander are two of Thessalonik's best known residents; another being Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. I went to the church dedicated to Demetriusis a few blocks away, the birthplace of Atatürk (now in the grounds of the Turkish Embassy) when on a visit to Thessalonik. It is a curious echo to see a reminder in Melbourne.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Grilled Sardines with Market Salad and Chilli Jam

If you are near the Purple Pickle Cafe in Canberra and have not yet had lunch today, then I recommend the Grilled Sardines with Market Salad and Chilli Jam. This is the best I have had this side of the Arch of Galerius in Thessaloniki.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Big Red Metrobus in Sydney

Yesterday I was in a hurry to get from Norton Street (Sydney's Little Italy) to the Sunday concert by The Song Company in the 2008 Spring Festival of Music Concert Series. In answer to my prayer, along came a big red new Metrobus. This is a new service which commenced operation yesterday and is being trialled for 12 months. As the name implies the service operates like a metro: there is no timetable, with buses instead arriving at set frequent intervals (every 10 minutes in peak hours, 15 minutes off peak, 20 minutes on weekends).

As the service had just been introduced there were two extra staff on board to hand out pamphlets and explain the service. The buses are claimed to carry more people that a standard bus, but looked the same to me. They are fitted with an electronic display showing the next stop and an automatic voice announcement. The bus I was on is a single unit, but articulated ones are also being used.

The pamphlet and the bus stop signs are an improvement on previous STA bus information. The metro style maps are easy to understand and to work out where to change to other transport. The roadside signs lack a countdown timer to tell you when the next bus is leaving, but the on-board staff explained that these signs are planned.

The buses do not accept cash and all tickets must be purchased before boarding. This will cause some inconvenience but greatly reduces bus loading time. It is also safer than the arrangement in Melbourne with trams (and buses in Thessaloniki), where patrons have to attempt to buy a ticket from a machine on-board a moving vehicle. There are newsagents and other vendors selling tickets near most bus stops.

The Metrobus is a cost effective and realistic answer to some of Sydney's transport problems, unlike the unworkable "North West Metro". However, there is a danger the Metrobus trial will fail due to a lack of investment. Some areas where it could be improved are:
  1. Usable Web Site: Sydney Buses provide a minimum of information about the service on the web in a difficult to read format. Instead of large, slow to download and hard to read PDF documents, the Brochure, Route Map, Download the TravelTen calculator should be provided in the form of web pages accessible by the disabled and usable on a mobile phone. The Wikipedia entry for the service provides better information than the official government web site.
  2. Next bus electronic sign: Each stop needs an electronic sign counting down to when the next bus leaves. These signs need to provide an accurate estimate. When I tried the Perth "Cat" system, the signs were so inaccurate as to be useless and discouraged patronage, rather than helping it. STA should invest in a reliable system which uses real time displays with wireless links to a GPS reporting bus. The signs could be solar powered in most cases.
  3. Next Bus Cafe: Electronic signs could be installed in cafes near the stops and the the staff encouraged to help patrons with bus information.
  4. Better road access: While the Metrobuses are new and have a good ride, the service suffers from the poor Sydney roads. The NSW government should repair the road surface along the bus lane for the Metrobus route to improve the ride and speed up the service. Bus priority traffic lights would further improve the service. Also the buses could be equipped with with traffic cameras, linked to the RTA Transport Management Centre, with a button for the driver to report a traffic problem. The RTA central controllers could then see and act on problems effecting the buses. An additional option would be to fit the buses out with mobile traffic infringement cameras, so that vehicles parked in bus stops and otherwise impeding the service could be issued with fines immediately.
  5. Electronic tickets: Sydney needs a workable electronic ticketing system, such as the Akbil system used by Istanbul Public Transport. Sydney has abandoned one electronic ticket system (Tcard) and is planning to install another system which will not work. Sydney needs to rationalise its fare structure before an electronic ticketing system will be workable. One option would be to propose the Australian Government fund a national standardised system and have it piloted on the Sydney Metrobus.

Name of stationStop numberLocations servedConnections

Market Place Leichhardt22WLeichhardt Market Place
Elswick Street21WLeichhardt
Cromwell Street
(Eastbound only)
Leichhardt Town Hall20WLeichhardt, Norton Street Palace Cinema
Norton Plaza19WNorton Street Plaza
Norton Street18WNorton Street Italian Forum
Catherine Street17WSydney Institute of TAFE - Petersham College
Percival Road16WAnnandale, Stanmore
Johnston Street15WAnnandale
Bridge Road14WAnnandale
Denison Street
(Westbound only)
13/14WCamperdown, Annandale
Mallett Street13WCamperdown
Missenden Road12WRoyal Prince Alfred Hospital
Larkin Street11WUniversity of Sydney
Ross Street10WUniversity of Sydney
Sydney Uni (Footbridge)9WUniversity of Sydney
Sydney Uni (Main Gate)
(Westbound only)
8/9WUniversity of Sydney
Victoria Park8WUniversity of Sydney, Victoria Park, Broadway Shopping Centre
Broadway7WBroadway, Broadway Shopping CentreBus: Newtown, Glebe Point Road
Abercrombie Street6WBroadway, Ultimo
Unversity of Technology (UTS)5WUTS, Broadway, Ultimo, Haymarket
Railway Square4WRailway Square, Sydney Institute of TAFE, Ultimo, HaymarketTrain: Central Station
Bus: Northern Beaches
Rawson Place3WChinatown, Paddy's Markets, Haymarket
(Westbound only)
2/3WChinatown, Paddy's Markets, Haymarket
World Square2WChinatown, World Square, Town Hall
Sydney Town Hall1WTown Hall, Queen Victoria Building, St. Andrew's Cathedral, George St CinemasTrain: Town Hall Station
Park Street City1ETown Hall, The Galeries Victoria, Pitt Street MallMonorail: Galeries Victoria
Hyde Park2EHyde Park
Museum3EHyde Park, Downing CentreTrain: Museum Station
Bus: Bondi Beach, Paddington, Bondi Junction, Bronte
Brisbane Street4EWhitlam Square
Riley Street5EOxford Square
Taylor Square6ETaylor Square, St Vincent's Hospital, University of Notre Dame Australia
Albion Street7ESurry Hills, UNSW College of Fine Arts
South Dowling Street
(Eastbound only)
7/8ESurry Hills
Moore Park8EMoore Park, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney Football Stadium
Cleveland Street9EMoore Park, Fox Studios, Entertainment QuarterBus: Randwick, Coogee
Robertson Street10EMoore Park, Centennial Park
Alison Road
(Eastbound only)
10/11EMoore Park Supa Centa
Carlton Street11ERandwick Racecourse
Ascot Street12ERandwick Racecourse
Todman Ave13EKensington
Addison Street14EKensington
Doncaster Avenue15EKensington
UNSW16EUniversity of New South Wales
Barker Street17EUniversity of New South Wales
Middle Street18EKingsford
Kingsford Nine Ways19EKingsfordBus: Maroubra, La Perouse

From: Metrobus, Wikipedia, 2008

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Metro in Sydney Transport Plan

The formation of a new NSW Government provides the opportunity to rethink Sydney's transport planning. The "North West Metro" proposed as a "European" style metro was not viablee. Sydney is not a European style city and needs a different transport system. The government should look to cities such as Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane to see how to use heavy and light rail and express bus ways for public transport.

European style metros service densely populated cities using closely spaced stations and short lines. The Sydney metro was to be a single 38km rail line with 17 stations (one for every 2 km) to cost $12B. A few months ago I visited the Greek city of Thessaloniki and saw a real European metro under construction This will have 13 stations, almost as many as the Sydney plan, but is only 9.6 km long, one third the spacing of the Sydney system. This smaller system will cost only 800 million euros, but even so has taken thirty years to build.

Instead of one long rail line, Sydney could consider some shorter genuine metro lines to service densely populated parts of the city in the next few decades. However, this should be a supplement to improved heavy rail, as Perth has done. There are also measures which can be introduced relatively quickly and cheaply, costing hundreds of millions of dollars and taking years, rather than billions taking decades. These include extending the existing light rail in the inner west of Sydney and providing priority bus lanes.

Another relatively easy problem to solve is the ticketing system for Sydney transport. The previous smart card project failed due to a complex pricing system for Sydney's diverse transport system. Istanbul has an integrated electronic ticketing system (Akbil) for the city's trams, trains, buses, ferries and even two Funicular railways. This works because the fare structure of the transport system has been simplified.

Given that transport systems take decades to implement, Sydney could look at some emerging technologies, such as hybrid buses,
Guided buses (used in Adelaide), and rubber-tyred trams. The have the potential of providing the low cost and flexibility of conventional buses with the capacities of metro and light rail, using some of Sydney's existing road infrastructure. As an example some of the lanes of existing toll roads and toll tunnels could be converted to guided bus-ways. The buses would collect passengers on ordinary roads and the enter the guided way for a high speed trip to the city center.

The buses could be electrically powered from renewable sources while on the bus way. Computer control of the buses would provide a similar level of safety, ride comfort and speed to an advanced light rail system. Buses which primarily use the guided ways could be powered by rechargable batteries when away from the guide way and would not require internal combustion engines. Express buses which only used the guide way could be driver-less.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Hotel Rex Thessaloníki

The Hotel Rex, Thessaloníki, Greece might be a good place to stay after the current renovations are finished. But as of a week ago it was like staying in a building site. A new lift is being installed, but in the interim you have to walk up four flights of stairs to your room. New soundproof double glazed windows are being installed, but while that is happening you have to step over builders tools, and listen to hammer drills.

Rooms have air conditioning, but I found the filter in mine was blocked with several millimeters of dust and carpet fluff. There seemed to be more pile in the filter than on the grimy unclean carpet on the floor. I would guess the management have decided not to clean the carpets until the building work is finished, even if the cleaner could be made to carry their equipment up the stairs.

The hotel did have some good points: most notably, very helpful staff. It is very close to the railway station (perhaps a bit too close). It had a very good free cyber cafe, apart from the air conditioner set to 29 degrees and the flat batteries in the cordless keyboard and mouse. Who in their right mind installs a cordless keyboard and mouse in a cyber cafe?

The hotel will be even better placed when Thessaloníki finishes the Thessaloníki Metro, running past the door. But that could be decades away.

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Ancient forum of Thessaloníki

The Roman Forum is an archaeological site in the center of the modern Greek city of ral Thessaloniki. The site is free to visit, with useful signs in English and staff to ask questions of (and almost deserted when I visited). There is a Stoa (covered walkway) which was the site of ancient trade (the modern covered marketplace is a few streets down the hill and operated mugh the same way as this one did 2,000 years ago).

The roman forum itself is at one end of the Stoa and has been restored for performances. The remains of the original floor have been preserved in glass under the modern stage. Unfortunately several of the glass panels have shattered, hopefully a fate not shared by the New Acropolis Museum of Athens, which has an extensive glass floor.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Byzantine Monuments Thessaloniki

There seems to have been an international standard established for tickets to museums, such as the Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki. Each issues a ticket about the size of a bank note. The ticket has a larger portion with a photo of the museum or of an artifact from it. There are then perforated sections at either end, which are torn off and retained by the attendant at the door. Museum complexes may have multiple tear off sections (one had five) for different exhibits.

The tickets have some of the anti forgery features found on a bank note. All the tickets have micro printing in multiple colors as a backing to the ticket to make them difficult to photocopy or reproduce on a laser printer. The more expensive and popular museums have holographic strips and watermarks.

The tickets could make good souvenirs of a trip, when all placed in a frame together. However, one omission is that many do not say exactly where they are. After some weeks of traveling, you can forget which museum is where. For example, where are the Byzantine Monuments? The ticket has an image of gold and enamel bracelets from the White Tower, Thessaloniki, but where is the museum they are in?

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