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What can Toronto learn from Melbourne, Australia?

Posted by Chris Bateman / March 6, 2014

ttc streetcar trafficNext time you're squeezed inside a stationary rush-hour streetcar - and I bet you won't have to wait long - remember that Toronto isn't the only city with surface transit challenges. Melbourne, Australia, home of the biggest tram network in the world, is also grappling with dense traffic, but practical ideas are helping to get things moving.

Now that the city and the TTC are studying ways to improve streetcar service on King Street, a route that carries more people than the Sheppard subway, perhaps it's worth finding out how another major city handles its surface rail network.

Melbourne's tram system is roughly two-thirds bigger than the TTC streetcar network. It has 168 kms more double track - lines that run in both directions - and more than twice the number of vehicles, though some are decades old.

"Melbourne is the only city in Australia that retained its tram system in any meaningful way," says Ramesh Liyanagedera from Yarra Trams, the city's surface rail operator. "Trams occupy a bit of an emotional space with the Melbourne public; whether they travel by tram or not, Melburnians tend to love their trams."

melbourne tramSpeaking over the phone with Liyanagedera, the challenges faced by Australia's second largest city sound familiar: heavy traffic, poorly timed signals, and a fear of giving up on-street parking.

"There's a perception in Melbourne that car parking along major routes equals increased trade for the shops but we've actually proven that's not the case," Liyanagedera says. "It's far better to move a lot of people into areas than a select few in cars in terms of generating trade."

The sheer number of road users is also a problem, especially in the central business district. 80% of the Melbourne network operates in mixed traffic, which slows some routes to a crawl. Trams average just 17 km/h, slowing to 12 km/h in the core. In fact, a study showed Melbourne trams are moving just 65% of the time.

In an attempt to make traffic flow better the city has a several special road rules: no moving into the path of a tram, no stopping within 20 metres of a tram stop, and, most famously, the "hook turn," a traffic manoeuvre that requires vehicles turning right to use the far left lane to avoid blocking the tracks.

Drivers move as close as possible to the far corner, wait for the a green light on the street they are planning to enter, and then complete the turn. The Canadian equivalent would require drivers to turn left from the right lane.

Staff at Yarra Trams think separating trams from cars is the best way of improving service. Route 96, one of the city's busiest that runs from the beach at St. Kilda through the dense central core, is slated to become the Melbourne's first fully-segregated line in the next few years, and others are expected to follow.

Another idea involves installing traffic lights capable of turning green ahead of an oncoming tram, reducing wait times for motorists and accelerating transit. "The technology exists ... [but] it's not something that's been pursued very hard over the years because the road traffic authority who controls these matters hasn't been too interested in doing something about it," Liyanagedera says.

"I think Melbourne is going through a bit of a change ... there is a collective consciousness that trams help to revitalize and rejuvenate places that otherwise wouldn't be. And it's been driven from the public really, from the residents and public, not necessarily the politicians."

What do you think Toronto could do to improve streetcar service? Could hook turns improve streetcar service in Toronto? Are you surprised Melbourne has many of the same problems as Toronto?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Dan/blogTO Flickr pool, Matthew Paul Argall/Creative Commons

Discussion

47 Comments

Cameron / March 6, 2014 at 01:32 am
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I'm a Melbournian that's lived in Toronto for over a year and a half now. I have to say, hook turns aren't that complicated, and they do make a very noticeable difference in the traffic. New and inter-state drivers hate them but once you've figured them out they're a big help.
Oh Melbourne / March 6, 2014 at 09:15 am
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What can Toronto learn from Melbourne? Transit. Waterfront revitalization. Pedestrian-friendly sidewalks (look ma! no shit-tons of useless interlock!). Having a mayor without massive denial issues...

DL / March 6, 2014 at 10:44 am
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Convert Queen and King to one-ways. So bloody simple. I don't even know why they were ever made to be two-way streets, given that they both originate and terminate from the same location. You might not even need such an extensive DRL by doing so.
King / March 6, 2014 at 11:45 am
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Toronto can learn nothing from Melbourne, Toronto is a cold and damp wasteland compared to the sunny skies and hot temps. We spend over 200 million a year in track repairs due to cold weather screwing our trucks up. Toronto, lose the street car obsession and lets move into this century, or, let me get a horse and buggy, at least they can change lanes.
me / March 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm
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I'd be curious to know which other streetcar lines carry more people than the sheppard subway. I think that is an interesting point to make in the subway lrt discussion
me replying to a comment from DL / March 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm
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agreed!!
the lemur replying to a comment from King / March 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm
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I assume you mean that the cold weather screws up our *tracks*, but trucks actually cause more damage to our roads. Streetcar tracks, even though it seems like they're being replaced all the time, are now much better at distributing the weight of streetcars over the trackbed. It's the rest of the road surface that really suffers from the weight of traffic and the freeze/thaw cycle.

Other things Toronto can learn from Melbourne:

-streetcar tracks with crossovers at the ends instead of loops

-strictly enforced ban on cars on streetcar tracks during rush hours where streetcars run in mixed traffic

-streetcar tracks separated from other traffic (esp. off the road entirely, but I doubt we (will) have the trackage to make that possible)

-converting vintage streetcars into moving restaurants instead of just scrapping them

-a better plan to enforce rules for drivers around streetcars ('when the tram stops, you stop' is the current slogan, I think)

NativeTorontonianAl / March 6, 2014 at 12:24 pm
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It is said that Melbourne is Toronto's precise equal for world cities. The difference is that Melbourne aims to progress and improve, and because of this, is now leaving Toronto behind. It's not just about Melbourne-Toronto, but Australia in general has more of a want for progressing and also being all about Australia and its citizens.
Josh / March 6, 2014 at 01:08 pm
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While there are good points in this article, it should be noted that Melbourne has a quieter core than Toronto and riding the trams is more expensive. Incomparable advantages exist from those points alone. I don't believe Melbourne is Toronto's precise equal.
whiners replying to a comment from King / March 6, 2014 at 01:27 pm
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LOL! The usual self-loathing grovelling by people who assume everything everywhere else just has to be better than here. What would make Toronto better is if these people would pack up and move somewhere else.
whiners replying to a comment from Josh / March 6, 2014 at 01:30 pm
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Of course it has a "quieter core"; both Melbourne and Sydney are far more suburban cities than Toronto and their downtown sections are nothing like ours. No point trying to tell that to people here though because they won't believe anything but doom and gloom about TO.
whiners replying to a comment from Josh / March 6, 2014 at 01:31 pm
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Typo in your name, Al. Should be NaiveTorontonianAl.
iSkyscraper / March 6, 2014 at 01:32 pm
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Good summary and long overdue -- we should be talking about Melbourne as much as they talk about us. They look to us for better implementation and integration of bus and rail (on the whole Toronto has a more-utilized transit system); we should absolutely be looking to them for how to improve legacy streetcar networks.

http://transportblog.co.nz/2009/11/21/melbourne-v-toronto/
http://www.amazon.com/Very-Public-Solution-Transport-Dispersed/dp/0522848672/
http://www.ptua.org.au/melbourne/solution/
http://monash.edu/news/show/how-does-melbournes-tram-network-fare

Some other lessons from Melbourne besides hook turns:

- Differentiate trams from buses on maps. Seriously. You can't even find streetcars on a TTC map. Here is a Melbourne tram map - why does the TTC not produce a Streetcar System Map? Or show streetcar lines in some fashion on the subway maps and turn them into Rail Maps?

http://ptv.vic.gov.au/assets/PDFs/Maps/Network-maps/TramNetworkMapPTVA4.pdf

- Toronto is way behind getting payment away from the driver. Melbourne payment is ENTIRELY off-vehicle. Presto will help, but machines will not be at every stop. How are you supposed to fight your way to the on-board machines on a streetcar packed tighter than a sardine can?

http://monash.edu/news/show/how-does-melbournes-tram-network-fare

- Melbourne privatized its trams, and it did't really work as expected. Required reading for all you Rob Ford fans:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0144164042000335779?journalCode=ttrv20

- Melbourne just bought giant new Bombardier trams, so at least on that point both cities are now quite firmly in sync:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-class_Melbourne_tram

- Melbourne has aggressively been installing "superstops" for trams that allow for wheelchair boarding of low-floor trams. Not unlike what you see on St. Clair -- but imagine similar starting to appear along King or Queen:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Think_Tram

- Of course the biggest thing Toronto can learn from Melbourne regarding streetcars is how to elect a conservative mayor who actually understands urban streetscapes and transportation planning and can work with people.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/action-needed-on-flinders-street-station-says-lord-mayor-robert-doyle/story-e6frf7kx-1226012572398

You see, the Lord Mayor started out with some very Rob Ford-like ideas -- he wanted to convert a streetcar/pedestrian street back into carrying auto traffic, as he was very much a let's-drive-in-from-Etobicoke kind of guy.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/new-mayor-driving-down-a-wrongway-street-20081201-6otz.html

The difference is that he was wrong, realized he was wrong, and backed away from his campaign promise and ended up championing an urban makeover instead. (Not exactly Ford-like behaviour). The street remains car free today and in fact was recently renovated to permanently remain so. The Lord Mayor now says "we don't want to encourage people to drive to the city":

http://www.theage.com.au/national/no-cars-new-city-squares-doyles-swanston-street-reversal-20100127-mxau.html


So, yeah, lots to learn from Melbourne. ASAP, please.
Justin / March 6, 2014 at 01:40 pm
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Being a Melburnian who lives and commutes around Toronto, I can't see hook turns working.

First you need the city intersections to able to provide access to hook turns and a majority of Toronto's four-ways aren't all accessible (i.e. they are one-way streets, no left or right turns etc). Toronto also has more road construction than Melbourne which impedes traffic flow and hook turns (if they were implemented).

Second, introducing hook turns into a new environment would take some doing. I've seen Canadians use a roundabout (which there aren't that many of) and most drive straight through without giving way to the left (it's the right side in Melbourne). Hook Turns would be harder to understand and implement as their is no infrastructure to guide you (like a roundabout). Just a diagram.

I think one idea Toronto could use from Melbourne is how the city changed Swanston Street into a dedicated tram & pedestrian street, where no cars (except taxis) go. I could see parts of Queen or King Street West turned into a dedicated streetcar/pedestrian hub similar to Swanston Street Walk.
Rachel / March 6, 2014 at 01:42 pm
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As a Torontonian who lived in Melbourne, I think the biggest thing we can learn from the transit system is that they have a flexible and subsidized fare system. When you hop on the tram, you simply buy your ticket then, which eliminates the TTC's absurd demand to buy a single fare each time you ride, as well as having to run to other vendors like TTC to grab a day pass, especially if the TTC itself is closed or if you don't live close to a station when you start your journey. The single ticket is a two hour unlimited transfer, which has been debated here in Toronto. If you know you'll be riding occasionally, you can get a 10x ticket and just validate it every time you ride. Student and pensioner passes are 50% full fare. The trams are also integrated into the regional transit.

It also is worth noting that Toronto and Melbourne are similar sizes physically and population-wise, are gridded, have similar developments of streetcar suburbs, and slightly different seasons. Come on, BlogTO, basic journalism!
iSkyscraper replying to a comment from Rachel / March 6, 2014 at 01:54 pm
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Actually, they no longer let you buy tickets on board. It's all smartcard off-vehicle now:

http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2012/s3661861.htm?site=adelaide

But you are dead on about the 2-hour ticket -- that's a major point I should have listed. For short errands it cuts the fare in half and is a major draw.

By the way, fare to ride Zone 1 (which is almost the entire tram network) is $3.58 AUS, essentially the same as $3.58 CDN.
Hang on a minute replying to a comment from Rachel / March 6, 2014 at 01:58 pm
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Toronto and Melbourne similar size and population? When was the last time you checked out your information? Back in the '60's? Don't lecture others about basic journalism when you seem out of the loop yourself.
iSkyscraper / March 6, 2014 at 02:37 pm
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I neglected one more important lesson:

- Melbourne runs a free tourist tram in a circle around downtown. Since the trams are practically tourist attractions in themselves, this is a brilliant move. (SF has something similar along Market St). Toronto could easily put together a City Circle line using trackage along, say, Spadina, King, Church and College. Had the TTC not sold its refurbished PCC cars to Kenosha, Wisconsin in the 1990s they would have been ideal for this but I suppose some soon-to-be-surplus CLRV's could do the job. Deserves serious consideration for tourist development while being useful for residents and office workers at the same time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Circle_Tram
Angus / March 6, 2014 at 04:00 pm
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I visited Melbourne last October, and was impressed with the tram system. We rode the lunch trip on the Restaurant Tram, and it was a real treat. Delicious three course meal with bottomless wine included. They know how to do it with class. I remember riding the Peter Witt 1920s TTC Belt Line Tour Tram in the 1970s, which made a large loop through the downtown Toronto. But that was a different time, city and TTC. Read about it here:

http://stevemunro.ca/?p=7583

Here is a link to photos of Melbourne's trams - this is a city that celebrates them. They are an icon like San Francisco's cable cars.

Google: melbourne real time tram images



Boris / March 6, 2014 at 05:42 pm
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I was really impressed by Melbourne's transit system. It's surface train network is far and wide-reaching, having at least 5 or 6 lines. Then you've got the trams, which cover most of the CBD and beyond. Payment system with Myki is also very convenient. You can refuel your card at any 7-11, and just wave it when entering/leaving the network. The machine does all the fare calculation for you, so no stress is involved. My only complaint is that the trains stop running relatively early, and night busses do not operate on many major streets - something that Toronto is slightly better at.
NativeTorontonianAl replying to a comment from whiners / March 6, 2014 at 06:31 pm
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Careful, your small-townness is showing. You gave yourself away with your "pack up and move" comment. It's outdated and NAIVE. The reason why there are those who criticize is because they CARE and know the potential of the place. They are protective of it and just want what's right to happen instead of being shortchanged. So people with your weak comments are out-of-place. If you have passion for something and care, you will speak. If you just tell people to just leave, then you don't understand and should just remain in your level to yourself. A part of progress and action is in admitting. And no, my name is NativeTorontonianAl.
Moaz Ahmad / March 6, 2014 at 07:07 pm
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Melbourne works. Toronto works but would work better without the politics. Both cities are crying out for transit investment. Neither city has a rail link to the airport but they are being planned.

They wish they had our subways and we wish we had their trams and 'Metro' (which is somewhere between subway and commuter rail as compared to the 'V' Line which is more like GO Transit). Our GO rail will one day offer services (GO REX) like their Metro, and their 'Metro' will become more like a subway with higher frequencies.

Their buses are confusing and their transit system is not seamless. Our transit system is seamless (if you stay in Toronto and don't mind 1-2 transfer) but forces everyone towards the subway.

Some things we can definitely learn from Melbourne: 1. Transit malls don't kill streets. Let's get going on King St. 2. Buy streetcars regularly instead of once every 30 years. 3. Buy streetcars that work in other cities instead of insisting on purpose-built streetcars for Toronto. 4. Casinos aren't automatically destructive. 5. If you are lucky to have a waterfront/harbour/bay embrace it and share it with everyone.
Ninoshka / March 6, 2014 at 09:10 pm
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If there's such heavy traffic on King street, why doesn't St. Andrews station have a Presto service yet? WHY DON'T A LOT OF TTC VEHICLES NOT HAVE IT YET. SERIOUSLY IT'S SUPER EFFICIENT
Michael Harris / March 6, 2014 at 09:23 pm
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As a Torontonian presently in Melbourne who is quite familiar and fond of both cities, I would caution against unreserved admiration for the public transport system here.

First of all, the automated fare system they began implementing here about five years ago (Myki card) has been riddled with problems and is widely and constantly criticized. Just a few days ago The Age newspaper ran an article with the headline “Mad myki stops logic in its tracks”, which posed the question: “Is it possible to make a transport ticketing system more user-unfriendly?” The BlogTO commentator iSkyscraper who made a good point about including streetcars on TTC maps should read the excerpt from the article below.

Melbourne also lacks a subway system, although their commuter train network passes through three or four downtown stations.

I would mention as well that Melbourne’s transit system in widely perceived as fairly dangerous, with a noticeable police presence at train stations that has been beefed up in recent years as a result of a number of stabbings and other violent incidents.

There are all kinds of things I could list that Toronto could learn from Melbourne and vice versa. They are remarkably similiar cities in any number of ways. But I think it very unlikely that anyone familiar with both cities would argue the fact that overall, Toronto’s public transit system is much superior. I know, I know...that’s anathema to the low self-esteem, self-loathing crowd that makes up a portion of the TO’s population. As was pointed out by comment writer ‘whiners’, this group is committed to seeing their home town as an insignificant backwater notable only for how poorly it fares compared to everywhere else. This I believe is simply a reflection of their own insecurity and lack of sophistication, not Toronto’s.

Excerpt from The Age newspaper re: “Mad myki stops logic in its tracks”:

What's that you ask? What happens if you leave your myki card at home? The Public Transport Victoria myki website suggests you go home and get it (no, really) or buy another one.
Even myki seems confused about myki. Here is the second paragraph on the myki website: ''The reusable smart card is easy to use. Simply top up before your journey and then touch on and touch off at a myki reader as you travel.''

However if you read the section on touching on and touching off it says: ''[On a tram journey] you only need to touch off if your whole trip is in Zone 2.'' Well, do you or don't you touch off on a tram?

At the Southern Cross myki booth I was told: ''No, you don't touch off on a tram because it's all in Zone 1.'' Back to your website directions: ''If you travel by tram within Zone 1 only, you do not need to touch off to pay the lowest fare … If your trip is entirely in Zone 2, you must touch off to pay the Zone 2 fare.''

Hang on, is there, or is there not, a Zone 2 for trams? The ever-helpful myki website carries a ''tram network map'' that provides the answer. There is a ''Zone 1'' on white background; a ''Zone 1 or 2'' identified in striped grey; and yes, there is a ''Zone 2'', shown in dark grey. But can you believe it? Not one tram stop falls within the map's Zone 2!

Honestly, was someone from Monty Python's Flying Circus involved in designing this system?

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/mad-myki-stops-logic-in-its-tracks-20140221-337ed.html#ixzz2vEc5LM8D
Michael Harris replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / March 6, 2014 at 11:02 pm
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I was riding the free Circle Tram just yesterday in Melbourne and wondering to myself once again why Toronto hasn’t adopted a similar program for tourism. One of my thoughts was the Queen Street streetcar route – the longest streetcar route in North America. I think it would give a great flavour of the city from end to end, as well as contributing to the unique branding of Toronto as a city with streetcars.

Likewise, I have always thought the Restaurant Tram concept should be introduced in Toronto. Although I have personally never been tempted to dine on the one here in Melbourne, it’s potential as a popular tourist attraction for TO is obvious.

With a mayor who’s familiarity with world cities seems confined to North America, perhaps we need to form a Melbourne/Toronto Coalition lobbying group to alert decision makers in Toronto to the fact there is a ‘Toronto-esque’ city that has already successfully tested and implemented ideas such as these!
Martine replying to a comment from Michael Harris / March 7, 2014 at 02:36 am
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Good points, Michael. I moved here two years ago, and wonder if anyone really knows why there is such widespread insecurity and lack of confidence here? People seem hell-bent on convincing me what a failure this city is, when I see it clearly as a success. To be honest I find it somewhat off-putting when I meet people like that.
Australian Rail Maps / March 7, 2014 at 04:42 am
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A Melbourne/Toronto Coalition lobbying group. What an excellent idea! That's the sort of thing that sister city relationships ought to enable - Melbourne is already sistered with Osaka, Tianjin, Thessaloniki, Boston, St Petersburg and Milan. Surely that's an August and cultured bunch of cities into which Toronto would fit snugly? In fact I see that Toronto is already a sister of Milan - so we're half way there already.

For those interested - here is an integrated map of all Melbourne Tram and Train routes. www.railmaps.com.au/melbourn.htm We think it's a better map than the official one published by the transport authority.
Mark Brown / March 7, 2014 at 07:25 am
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone's comments. My Torontonian mate, whom I befriended in Japan ( he is doing some great stuff musically with some Japanese guys in a band called Tomy Wealth - sorry, couldn't avoid a plug for a great guy ) sent me this article. I loved Japan's rail network - amazing efficiency and world class customer service ( that is everywhere in Japan ). However, outside a few seasonal 'specials', it is very expensive and generally 'sectionally, single fared'. Arriving back in my hometown of Melbourne mid January ( after 15 wonderful years in Japan ), I find it very easy using the public transport system here but do agree wholeheartedly with Michael Harris' comments above. I loved Boston when I lived in the States and it reminded me so much of Melbourne - the sister-city tie-up seemed very logical to me. Without deep knowledge, a sister-city arrangement between Melbourne and Toronto would be mutually beneficial. I must get to Canada someday - lots of natural outdoor beauty and of course being a sports nut, I would love to see your passion for (ice) hockey first hand
the lemur replying to a comment from Hang on a minute / March 7, 2014 at 09:07 am
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Metropolitan area population

Melbourne: 4.2 million
Toronto: 5.5 million

Metro area

Melbourne: 9990 km2
Toronto: 7125 km2

I would say that's not *totally* beyond comparison. There are big differences in terms of density, built form and local government, among others, but let's not fall into the trap of thinking nothing can or should be compared to Toronto.
Actor vs. actions in sentences / March 7, 2014 at 10:23 am
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The sentence that begins with, "Speaking over the phone with Liyanagedera, the challenges faced by Australia's second largest city..." is very grammatically incorrect. The sentence is saying that "the challenges" themselves are speaking over the phone with Liyanagedera.

A fix would be, "Speaking over the phone with Liyanagedera, I discover that the challenges faced by Australia's second largest city are familiar ones." This makes clear that the author is the person talking on the phone to Liyanagedera.

Otherwise, this is a very nicely-written and informative article.
iSkyscraper replying to a comment from Michael Harris / March 7, 2014 at 11:13 am
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Great points -- and one wonders if the Myki struggles are similar to the teething pains of smartcards everywhere, or have something to do with the awkward (I assume awkward? Or not?) interface between public and private operators. Looks like it was also as much of a mess in terms of selecting an operator and building the system as Presto - the other most expensive smartcard in the world. Toronto and Melbourne arm in arm on that one.

By all means I would agree that despite that drool-worthy rail map, Toronto's transit system is in practical terms superior because of its seamless one-fare multi-modal setup (seriously, the fact that our buses go underground to meet subway trains blows the mind of most transit planners and is more a subject of envy than any shiny new rocket train). Ridership share is higher in Toronto to prove this point. But the streetcars have long been treated as 1940s relics in Toronto and there is a strong need to modernize the system. The new vehicles and payment system will only go so far -- like it or not, the city needs to use streetcars better as a means of moving more people more distance and places like Melbourne are great spots to study for how to do this.

I've been an ex-pat now for 14 years. No question that Torontonians don't realize how good their city is until they leave it, but at the same time they have long been insulated from learning from other places. Recall that for many decades Toronto was surrounded by crumbling messes (Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo), while big brothers Chicago and New York were hellholes of crime and blight. Montreal was no picnic during the a-louer era and since half of Toronto had just moved from there there was no reason to look back. But there is a lot to learn now when it comes to revitalized waterfront and transit and sometimes you have to hammer the point a little to break through the fog.

Great comment! replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / March 7, 2014 at 12:06 pm
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I really like your comment, iSkyscraper. I find that Torontonians are always at two extremes: either they don't know anything about any other cities and don't want to hear about them, or they have travelled to New York, Paris, London, etc. and then constantly berate Toronto as a second-class city, going on about transport shortcomings or how you can't drink wine in our parks, etc. etc.

You seem to be in a happy middle on this, and so am I. There are many things than can be improved about Toronto and examples can and should be taken from other fine cities. But at the same time, Toronto is certainly the most live-able city I have lived in, and I am always shocked by the number of amenities and comforts available to its citizens, from variety of food, to opening hours of businesses, to the multi-modal transportation, to the literally hundreds upon hundreds of parks.

:)
Pedant replying to a comment from Actor vs. actions in sentences / March 7, 2014 at 01:04 pm
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Well, if we are to split the proverbial hairs then one shouldn't use the term "very incorrect". Either something is incorrect or correct; "very" is superfluous.
Wicked replying to a comment from Great comment! / March 7, 2014 at 01:13 pm
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Is anyone here naïve enough to believe that citizens of other cities know any more of the rest of the world than Torontonians? ALL cities are composed of knowledgeable and poorly educated or uncaring folk. That is not something specific to Toronto, despite the low self esteem here that has been pointed out elsewhere. And those who think that they are the only Torontonians who know the world because they once had a two week vacation to Ewrrp should have a quiet little reality check. Other people are probably more well travelled than you assume.
Ignatius replying to a comment from the lemur / March 7, 2014 at 02:12 pm
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I think it's a bit of a stretch to compare Melbourne to Toronto. In the figures you cite, metropolitan Melbourne has 25% fewer people in an area 30% larger than "metropolitan" Toronto. If you look instead at the core of the Golden Horseshoe, which is a contiguous urban area and happens to have an area almost identical to that of metropolitan Melbourne, you get a different picture: 7,000,000 people in 10,000 square km, 66% more people than Melbourne.
iSkyscraper / March 7, 2014 at 03:25 pm
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Not the perfect proxy for whether or not cities are comparable, but always fun to look at skylines:

http://skyscraperpage.com/diagrams/?cityID=18
http://skyscraperpage.com/diagrams/?cityID=12


Alert replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / March 7, 2014 at 04:12 pm
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Nice to see some new proposals and the Pearl Tower actually going up in Melbourne! The skyline would look better with some more current architecture. Good news!
the lemur replying to a comment from Ignatius / March 7, 2014 at 05:05 pm
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Well, yeah, but overall wouldn't you say the two cities are more comparable than not?

What exactly is a city that is comparable to Toronto? I always expect people who says 'Toronto can't learn anything from X because X is completely different' to volunteer a better example. They never do.
Michael Harris replying to a comment from Martine / March 7, 2014 at 07:30 pm
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I agree Martine. It’s very off-putting to encounter people who feel obliged to inform you about how wrong you are about liking their city! I can’t think of another way to describe it other than boorish and unsophisticated. It makes you wonder about the psychology of people who can’t abide compliments about their home town.
Michael Harris replying to a comment from the lemur / March 7, 2014 at 07:43 pm
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Friends from Melbourne were visiting Toronto last summer. About a week into their stay I asked what they thought about the city. The reply: "It's a bloody long way to come to see Melbourne"!
Dan / March 8, 2014 at 10:16 am
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Forget Sheppard line, we need a subway on king or queen that runs from Pierson to Scarborough.
One of the worst things about streetcars is the way they stop all traffic in one direction every time they stop. And they stop often. It's very hard to travel east-west in town.
We'd be better off with buses that can pull over and take all the time they need without shutting down the road.
Ignatius replying to a comment from the lemur / March 8, 2014 at 11:06 am
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I agree with you that it's more comparable than not. I was just calling attention to the difference in size. I think Toronto could learn a lot from many cities, including Melbourne and smaller, cool climate cities like Stockholm, Copenhagen, etc.
Up Over replying to a comment from Michael Harris / March 10, 2014 at 12:36 am
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Oddly enough, that has always been the reason why I've never seriously considered going to Australia. It is a long way to go to a country that is so similar to Canada, albeit warmer.
David Chan / March 14, 2014 at 09:19 am
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As a Torontonian that has lived in Melbourne for years, I'll also echo the sentiments of people who have actually know both cities well. If you actually lived in both cities you would actually know that the Toronto system is superior to the Melbourne Tram and rail network in spades. Crazy, I know and hey I'm not one to complement the TTC since as we all know the system is riddled with it's own issues. But as an inhabitant of both cities I would easily choose the TTC system over Melbourne's any day.

I've heard the comparisons between Toronto and Melbourne many times before but any one that truly knows but cities would know that despite what appears to be similar population numbers, Melbourne is actually a much smaller city (in scale and traffic). The Melbourne CBD is a fraction of Toronto's downtown and outside of business hours is pretty quiet. When these comparisons come up and they are often compared to one another. I can't help but think that it's a totally mismatched comparison. Toronto would grind to a halt if it had Melbourne's system.

Like other knowledgeable people in the comments I will agree that we can learn from the 2 hour transfer system. The TTC transfer system is down right primitive and excessively confusing.
the lemur replying to a comment from Dan / March 14, 2014 at 10:14 am
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'One of the worst things about streetcars is the way they stop all traffic in one direction every time they stop'

That's why we need separated streetcar/LRV lanes, platforms and signal synchronization.

'We'd be better off with buses that can pull over and take all the time they need without shutting down the road'

Whenever buses do that near corners, they end up blocking the curb lane. Then when they pull out into traffic, drivers fail to yield to them.
Dudley Horscroft / March 20, 2014 at 01:11 pm
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Both Toronto and Melbourne have very good points, but the question was "What do you think Toronto could do to improve streetcar service?"
Point 1 - Provide level boarding at all stops to suit the new low floor trams. In wide streets these should be platforms close to the tracks so other traffic can go round them, in narrow streets use "Vienna" stops. (These have the kerbside road lane raised for the length of the stop for traffic to go over, all traffic stops when the tram stops). At platforms the traffic can go past.
Point 2 - Don't bother with hook turns, just prohibit left turns on tramway streets. Will help all traffic.
Point 3 - On wide roads place a low barrier just outside the tracks to keep other traffic off the tracks except in emergency.
Point 4 - prohibit parking on narrow (four lane) tramway roads.
Point 5 - Shorten signal cycles so that trams are delayed less when they are caught by a 'red'.
Point 6 - If patronage is high on any route consider converting it to tram - capital expensive but operationally much cheaper. Will balance out soon and then be financially better.
And one more - keep the single ended trams with loops at the ends of the lines and intermediate turnbacks - far more efficient than crossovers and double ended trams. Single ended trams can have a seating capacity 33% greater than that of a double ended tram - think of the seating area omitted to provide extra doors and driving compartment.

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