I spent two days doing research in Melbourne last week. In between sessions I made some observations:
Distractions make time fly
On the way to Melbourne we were on a Qantas A330 which appeared very fresh, shiny and new. At my seat I got to play with “Q” (the Qantas audio and video on demand system) for the first time. My “Q” decided to crash during the safety demonstration and proceeded to take a few minutes to reboot. Once it was running again I poked and prodded it for a while and despite some touch-sensitivity issues, I found a large selection of content (music, videos, games, information) and settled in to watch a short documentary about Ikea.
“Q” provides a lot of options for a range of interests and I felt spoiled for choice and could quite easily have kept on flying to watch and play some more. It would be nice to see the system on more domestic flights.
Bike share scheme
There are a few issues with the Melbourne bike share scheme, one of them being the law that people must wear helmets when riding a bike. Originally the scheme expected people to bring along their own helmet when hiring a bike which was a deterrent for the casual rider (why would you own a helmet if you don’t own a bike?) and for the tourist rider (packing or buying a helmet is not usually part of the holiday regime). In October 2010, the city started selling subsidised $5 helmets at stores near the bike racks which appears to have increased the take-up of the bike scheme however longer term provision of the helmets requires more government money.
I watched the bike racks as a pair of girls spent a bit of time checking out the bikes and deciding to use them. One of the bike share scheme assistants spoke to the girls briefly before they finished their preparation and rode off with their hair blowing in the wind.
A usable town square
I didn’t understand the space when, a few years back now, I first wandered in to Federation Square. Perhaps I saw it on an off-day, or it has just needed some time to find its feet, but I find it promising and beautiful that in a city the size of Melbourne this open space is so casually used by people.
I saw people sitting down to watch the Australian Open tennis on the big screen, others were eating at the cafes, drinking at the bars, waiting for friends, wandering to the galleries, working away in the SBS offices, and some were doing a photoshoot for handbags while others lounged around them.
The Australian Open’s customer convenience
Late in the evening I went for a wander in the streets around the Australian Open tennis.
Taxis are cheaper in Melbourne
During our travels I noticed that the price of taxis seemed to be cheaper than in Sydney. Based on information I’ve found since then for NSW taxi fares and Victorian taxi fares, day-time fares without the use of tollroads are indeed lower in Melbourne:
Sydney: $2.20 booking fee + $3.30 flag fall + $1.99/km
Melbourne: $2.00 booking fee + $3.20 flag fall + $1.617/km
For a phone-booked day-time taxi journey of 20km, you’d pay $45.30 in Sydney and $37.54 in Melbourne. That’s a fair difference in my eyes.
Qantas helped us get home faster
I checked-in online for our return flight but without a printer we had to use a check-in kiosk at the airport to get our boarding passes. Rather than simply spit-out our boarding passes, the kiosk suggested that we could switch to an earlier flight and even prompted me that my requested vegetarian meal might not be available if we change flights. Getting home earlier was a higher priority than getting a meal so we were happy to take that option.
When the boarding passes came out, mine even included the note about my meal (and no, due to the time between the switch and the flight boarding, my meal didn’t make it, but there was enough vegetarian food on the dinner meal tray to keep me happy).