Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Allan Scott

Yesterday a man died who will continue to play a large role in my life, even as I have never met him.
Allan Scott, trucking magnate, was the man I wanted to make poor by the increasing use of rail freight in interstate transportation. While never doubting for a moment the man's motives and good nature, it must be observed that he presided over unprecedented expenditure on road infrastructure at a time when environmental science (and economics!) would contra-indicate.
Trucks cause by far the most damage to highways, and highways must be built extra strong to withstand the stress placed upon them by frighters. Had Scott been a rail magnate, not only would Australia be spending less on its highways (which is a good thing, given their length!) but our CO2 emissions would be significantly lower, too. Road freight causes a large percentage of our greenhouse gas emissions- rail freight causes much less, even on a tonne/km basis.

So while I mourn the man, I hope that his legacy is a Port Adelaide Premiership and a fantastic Spring Racing Carnival, rather than an enduring reliance on motor transportation for Australia's ever-increasing interstate freight needs.

Train windows

It really bugs me that TransAdelaide is so proud of itself for finally replacing the windows in the 3000-class train carriages. In a private enterprise, this sort of presentation and commitment to customer service would be paramount. When I worked at Hungry Jack's, if a customer left a tray on their table after leaving, we had precisely 2 minutes to clean it up, as a matter of policy. It was immaterial if they had been the only person in the store: the place must be kept clean. Case in point: windows were cleaned professionally twice a week, and maintained by staff all day, everyday.
The trumpeting of this "upgrade" is disturbing spin on what is actually a backlog of basic maintenance work.

Trams and Advertising

I have spent months considering this, and have come to a conclusion, which I back today, tomorrow and for ever. I like advertising on trams.
Which is to say, I do not have a problem with it. Since the decision was made to allow advertising on the new trams, letters appear regularly in the Advertiser deploring this crass commercialisation of the public transport system. The arguments include that it makes it difficult to see into the trams, that they are a tourist attraction, and that they mess up the streetscape.
I genuinely don't know which is the dumbest argument. Why do you need to see into the trams? What streetscape would that be: King William St with its tall grey squares, or Jetty Road with its (advertising-covered) buses? And for the love of all that is logical: trams are not a friggin' tourist attraction! They should be a basic part of every major city's public transport infrastructure- have been since they were invented. I can count on the fingers of one stump the number of people who have flown from Japan to Melbourne to marvel at this modern wonder, which, incidentally, are less comfortable and more covered in advertising than our own meagre offerings.
Further, that trams be exempt from interstate advertising, as Eldert Hoebee of Torrens Park would wish in today's Advertiser, is practically a trade embargo within a nation! A ridiculous idea, as anyone studying economics would be able to tell you.