Should I start blogging again?

What do I have to say?

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From a subsystem perspective

There is an argument of whether ecology is a subsystem of economy or whether economy is a subsystem of ecology. This argument reminds me of an ancient argument whether the earth is the centre of the universe. Along the line of a human centred thinking, it is easy to look at the stars and think they are subsystems of the earth. However, that’s a false perspective.
I admit economy is a subsystem of ecology. Recognising this relationship between economics and nature science is a foundation of interdisciplinary study. I believe it is about putting things back to where they naturally belong. I do not think being a subsystem in anyway undermines the importance of economy. Could anyone argue that the earth is less important just because it is a subsystem of the universe? Not from a human perspective.
There is an argument whether money makes the world go around, or it is energy makes the world go around. From a subsystem perspective, energy is “money” in the nature system, whereas money is “energy” in the economic subsystem. Both statements are true for their respective “world”. But overall, if there has to be only one universe, I’d say energy.
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Walking Managment

To make people shop, you need to make people stop. People behind wheels hate to get out their cars. But they are willing to stop and shop if they were already on their feet. Therefore, if anyone could make people walking under management they are a big step forward toward their goal.
In a sense, the shopping centre business is walking management business. A shopping centre is a piece of engineering designed to be walked. How to make the mass population walk under control? Two things: Make sure you walk here. Make sure you do not walk anywhere else.
The foremost thing shopping centres do is providing carefully crafted walking routs and makes them attarctive enought to be the shopper’s destination. Shoppers are willing to come in and feel good about the pedestrian environment. The key attractor includes providing plenty of parking spaces for you to stop. You are attracted here and you stoped here, then you will walk here. You can freely choose your rout as far as it is in the boundary they prepared for you.
If shoppers park their car as programmed they are more likely to walk as programmed. And you will not walk away, until you leave by wheels and become unstoppable again. To achieve this, they need to make sure you do not need to walk out. The developments supply everything a shopper need: shopping, eating, banking and entertaining. You would shop till you drop. You should never feel a need to leave the development.
To trap you inside,  they also need to make it inconvenient for you to walk out. A purpose-built shopping complex should be stand-alone. They must be the closest things to your parking. Driveways should be used as nature barriers for walk out of controlled boundary. The shopping complex can be more exclusive surrounded by car parks, separated further from competitors by driveways, major arterial roads and local roads. 
These brilliant plans of walking engineering work, the great majority shoppers visiting Westfield shopping towns went in and never walked out! But they also have their limits. If there is a train station, the developer will always lose control.  There will be a huge percentage of people do not make it their destination, and too many people walk out of their controlled boundary.
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Adelaide VS Melbourne (8)

Urban planning
The layout of a city has major impacts on the livelihood of its residents. Behind any planning, a city’s streetscape is essentially shaped by the pattern of population movement.
Suburbanisation and reurbanisation are happening together in both places. Suburban sprawl stretched both places by far exceeding human scale. On the other side, both cities are consolidating and not sprawling at anywhere near the same rates of recent decades. In both city, urban growth boundaries are planed, and city centres are attracting more residence.
The suburban streetscapes become a great draw card for Melbourne largely because of public transport inputs. Public transport has played more important role in shaping the streetscape of Melbourne.
Suburban centres in Melbourne often offer an abundance of amenities in a pedestrian friendly outdoor environment. They are developed along the radiating strings of train stations or tramlines. Public transport nods in Melbourne are usually also places where commercial activities concentrations, which make it easy for people to locate and access amenities of a suburb.
A typical Melbourne train station business precinct is a street cross the train line near a train station. It often has only one lane of traffic and one lane for parking for each direction. Speed limit for the section is likely to be 40 or 50. Along the shopping strip, for every 100 meters or so, there would be a pedestrian crossing, where the slow traffic could be hauled at the press of a button. Often, there will be a pedestrian footbridge or a under pass for the train line. Heavy pedestrian traffic and heavy train traffic do not disrupt each other. Heavy passing by traffic and certain type of auto centric businesses are often diverted by urban arterials. The street was preserved for pedestrian and local traffic.
Even the Melbourne model has demonstrated advantage in concentrating more pedestrians with relatively less car traffics. Ample parking space is still indispensable. Most parking spaces are hided behind the developments along the main street. The concentration of many shop parking spaces formed a bigger parking pool within a human scaled area. Train commuters to and from city often park their cars at nearby streets, sometimes the only long time parking option available. Shoppers and passengers share those pooled parking spaces in the area. As a result, parking spaces are more efficient utilised at all hours.
In Adelaide, certain auto depending commercial developments along urban arterial with heavy car traffic, such as caryards, is similar to those in Melbourne. The giant shopping complexes, such as Westfield, are similar to those in Melbourne. But the street shopping type is generally less developed.
Adelaide does not have high traffic public transport nods. Without the pedestrian traffic distributed by mass public transport, few places would have sufficient people walking. Only in the CBD or shopping centres, there are enough people walking. Jetty Road, Glenelg and The Parade, Norwood are the only two exceptions.
Businesses between CBD and those leaking proof shopping centres were bypassed. Few Adelaide suburbs have concentrated high-level dynamics. This also means certain types of local business environment some small independent businesses depend upon were bypassed.
In Melbourne, pedestrian friendly environments are not exclusive to CBD and Shopping centres.   Consequently, there are more business opportunities leaking from the CBD or shopping centre. In a Melbourne shopping strips, independent businesses including restaurants, boutiques, butchers, fruit shops, pharmacies, opportunity shops and professional services clustered together, survive and thrive. There are often a lot more than those brand businesses you would expect from any giant shopping centre.
With an extra one million population due, Melbourne streetscape is under challenge. In its policy paper Melbourne 2030, the Victorian state government promote an “activity centre” concept. It is expected a number of existing suburban centres will be further enhanced to activity centres. They will absorb population, create employment and provide resident more services. It is all too early to be assertion how will such developments alter Melbourne streetscapes or the business climates.
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Adelaide VS Melbourne (7)

Public transport

Public transport plays a part in defining a modern city from an oversized country town. In recent two years, there has been a resurgence of public interest in transport policy all around Australia. The demand for improving public transport has never been stronger. In just finished 2006 Victoria state election, public transport has been one of the political battlefields.

A common myth is that people expect smaller places would be easier to explore. Not always so. The perception is generally true if you explore with a car, where moderate scale and more relaxed traffic are very helpful. However, it may not be the case if you were to explore by public transports. Frequently, MRT systems in bigger metropolis are easier to use for explorers. Public transports in smaller towns may not be as convenient.

Of the two places concerned, public transport assumes a more important role in Melbourne. Melbourne has a multi-mode public transport system consists train, tram, bus and taxi. 10% of all daily travels in Melbourne were made by public transport. The backbone of such a system is an extensive urban rails network. The tram network is also extensive, and is better placed to meet short travel needs in inner suburbs. Bus network serves where the rail network is absent. On a typical working day, Melbourne public transport system attracts just over a million patronages.

It seems to be a consensus of Melbourne public transport users, that since the public transport operation was privatised, the service standard has gone downhill. Commuters have suffered more frequent delays, cancellations and over crowding despite the year on year price increase.

Looking back a hundred years, except for the city loop, Melbourne rail network map today has not changed greatly with the rail map of 1900. None of the major train line was added in the last century. The train services in Melbourne today have less frequency and attract less patronage compare with 50 years ago, even Melbourne now accommodates a much greater population, and per capital travel increased.

Adelaide has all above modes of transport. Not bad for an Australian city of this size. The backbone of the public transport is bus. Adelaide rail network is much less extensive than what exists in Melbourne. Adelaide only has 5 train lines and they are not made to good use. Melbourne commenced electrification in 1919. Adelaide’s rails have not been electrified until now. Talking train services alone, I would not be surprised if daily patronage on Melbourne train system turned out to be 100 times more than that of Adelaide.  

Tram is my favourite mode of public transport in Adelaide. They are more frequent than the train. Because they do not share road with cars, they are more reliable than the bus, and run faster than most trams in Melbourne. The trams in Adelaide could get longer than their trains. Most trams have two carriages, while some train has only one. Adelaide’s public transport system has gone downhill even further. Adelaide uses to have a more extensive tram system. Sadly, most tramlines have been wiped out. Glenelg line is the only line survived. Now people start building a tramline extension in the heart of city.

The upside of Adelaide is obvious: The transport is less crowded. You are more likely to have a seat, thus make the trip more comfortable. It may stop closer to your destination. And because the size of the city it may take shorter time for entire trip, if you plan ahead. The downside is frequency, ease of use and full time availability

The “100 times” patronage difference for train makes differences. In many Melbourne suburban streets, you will find signposts showing direction of nearby train stations as well as distance. Except the signs on the platforms, there are generally no road signs direct you to a train station in Adelaide. In Melbourne there are about a dozen standard sized signs showing the name of the station on every platform. That is a lot of signs for muti-platform stations. And they are all well lit at night. Most train stations in Adelaide have only one or two signs showing the name of the station. They can be small and may not be well lit at night. It could be a struggle to find them at nighttimes. After 7 pm, there is only one service per hour on each line, and most stops will have no more passengers than the number of signs. 

For total travel experiences comparison of the two places, the comparison of train riding in Melbourne with bus riding in Adelaide might be more appropriate. While all modes of public transports have their own characters, studies show train is the only mode that can beat private transports over long distance. Personally, I am also in favour of train riding experience. In a train station you can sit down read something or just relax, if anything shows up you cannot miss it. At a bus stop, you have to keep scanning the busy traffic for something may or may not turn up on time. You risk missing the bus if you start reading. Also, when you are onboard a bus you need to judge when should you press stop. As bus stops passing by so quickly, you risk missing your stop, even lose concentration for a few seconds. It is more common to read onboard a train.

Ticketing in Adelaide is not zoned. That makes some long distance travelling in Adelaide cheaper than in Melbourne. On the other hand, Adelaide does not have unlimited monthly or yearly tickets. Heavy users do more than 400-450 trips per anum will be better off with Melbourne’s capping tickets. The higher marginal cost in Adelaide, discourages the use of public transport as a complete car replacement. For people have access to private transport, public transport will more likely be used as complementary solution, when long-term parking is costly. Look forward to 2007, Melbourne is expected to abolish zone 3 and introduce smart card ticket.


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A Wild Encounter

She was a kind of beauty. I knew that at first sight.
There she was, sitting on the grass, expecting my approach as I walked toward her. That was
a silent moment where we looked at each other and let the eyes do the talking. Panic quickly
passed, trust established. Through her big bright eyes, I saw a tender heart beneath her
wild appearance. There was something more in her eyes. She was hoping.
I got close, went down, offered a hand. She put her nose close to my hand, sniffed my both
hands and my camera. I felt compassionate, and petted her head.
Four eyes were looking at me. A playful little fellow in her pouch also gave me a curious
look from time to time.
The sky was getting dark. I knew the camera would probably flash without proper set up, and
scare her was the last thing I wanted to do. She sat patiently, watched me working on my
camera to set the auto flash off, and then cooperatively looked at the camera as I requested.
It was a culminating highlight of a drive through native forest. It has to be one of my
wildest encounters.
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Adelaide VS Melbourne (6)

Urban Transport
Adelaide is more auto-centric than Melbourne, driver friendly but car dependent.
The old cliche was Adelaide only has “rush minutes” as opposite to “rush hour”. I’d like to add a note that the minutes could be more than 60. But if Adelaide gets a rush hour, what Melbourne gets would be a “none-rush” hour. Because the peak time traffic in some inner suburbs is so congested no one can rush. With the mental preparation, I was still shocked how badly the road congestion in Melbourne has become in just a few years.
At the mean time, Melbourne has the second most congested road in this nation. Projections show things will get worse at all places, and should current trend persists, Brisbane is expected to overtake Melbourne as the second congested Australian city in ten years time. For the foreseeable future, Adelaide will remain its title as the least congested major city in Australia.
Bluntly speaking, Adelaide is no longer a 20 minutes city. The Adelaide city (CBD) sometimes takes 20 minutes to get across. To make the urban crossing within 20 min without speeding, you would need to carefully choose the road to cross and do it in mid-night. The bottom line is, it still easily beats Melbourne for average commuting time. For the sheer size of their city, Melbournians have to devote more time into daily commuting than their average Adelaidian counterparts. The average commuting time in Melbourne is second longest in this nation.
Of similar driving conditions, Victoria trend to set a lower speed limit than SA. Any road marked at 100k in Victoria, would probably have been set at 110k if they were in South Australia. But then it is more common for Melbournians to do a little over marked speed limit. Driving in Melbourne may involve more incidences of congestion induced kind give ways.
It could be because of the more generous road and parking conditions, there is a higher proportion of Australian big six on Adelaide roads. And a lower proportion of them are LPG converted. The passion for a power car seems stronger in Adelaide. A V8 SS commodore is still considered most iconically Adelaide. 
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