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One of the densest populated and least driving part of Melbourne is its inner-north. Trams and trains are closely spaced, all running north-south towards the city. Few people are beyond walking distance of a route that qualifies as being part of the Useful Network.
We're talking about suburbs like Coburg, Brunswick, Northcote and Thornbury between Brunswick Rd and Bell St. Although we will also touch on areas either side and south towards Parkville.
Unlike the inner east and south-east, inner-north trains and trams all run parallel. Occasionally they twist over one another, allowing connections. But by and large they're good for going to one place only - the CBD. By themselves they don't form a true network.
That's where buses come in. They run east-west. Add them to the trains and trams and you've got a network good for travel in all directions. Provided they're running when you need to travel and waits for connections aren't excessive.
Existing Useful Network
I explain the Useful Network concept here. It's those routes that are frequent enough and run over long enough hours to be useful for many trips. I've specified a 20 minute frequency on weekdays and 7 day service until 9pm. In other words the coloured lines on the Melbourne Public Transport Frequent Network map with the 20 minute frequency selected.
The map shows the existing Useful Network in Melbourne's inner north (click for better clarity).
Useful Network routes include the Craigieburn, Upfield, Mernda and Hurstbridge train lines and trams 59, 58, 19, 1, 6, 96, 11, 86. These all run north-south.
Useful Network buses include 513 and others on Bell St, 510 on Moreland Rd and 508 on Victoria and Blyth. Much further south is 402 in Parkville. 506 on Glenlyon Rd appears as a grey line but doesn't really qualify as it's only 6 days/week with limited hours. These all run east-west.
Some of these routes extend into the Northcote / Thornbury area. There's no trams east of the 86. But there are Useful Network bus routes like 250, 251 and 552 running north-south. I'll review these at another time.
Where are the gaps? The biggest gap is between Victoria/Blyth (508) and Parkville (402). In between are routes 506 (limited hours) and 504 (not frequent enough). Even if those were included there is still a large gap in Carlton North.
Smaller gaps are on Albion St and Brunswick Rd. These gaps are less than the multi-kilometre gaps found in areas looked at previously. However if the area is densely populated, has low car ownership and the cost of upgrading services is low (e.g. requires no new buses to be bought) then you might still improve routes that only just fall short.
Expanded Useful Network
A revised Useful Network map is below. It has three more lines. Two (503 and 504) are upgraded existing routes while one (502) is a new route. Others like 506 and 508 get new or improved service on weekends. There are also some minor reroutings (503, 504, 506, 510) and extensions (510) to make the network simpler or to serve more active termini.
In more detail suggested network upgrades, grouped by cost, are as follows:
No or negligible cost
* Simplify Route 503 and 510 near Essendon Station by removing cross-over
* Simplify Route 504 in Carlton North area
* Remove Smith St kink on Route 506 to operate directly along Dawson St
* Simplify Route 512 routing to be consistent for all trips in the Coonans Hill area
Low cost (service hours only)
* Upgrade Route 503 from every 25 to every 20 min weekdays off-peak to form a new Useful Network route. Extend operating hours to 9pm and provide a new Sunday service.
* Extend operating hours on Saturdays and provide a new Sunday service on the well-used Route 506.
* Upgrade Route 508 frequency to every 20 min on weekends and increase operating hours.
* Upgrade Route 512 to 7 days with longer operating hours.
Higher cost (likely to require buses)
* Upgrade Route 504 from every 30 min to even 20 min on weekdays
* Extend 510 from Ivanhoe to Heidelberg to improve connections to hospital precinct and connect with more bus routes eg the 903 Orbital.
* Upgrade major routes like 508 and 510 to operate every 10 - 15 min in peaks to operate as improved train feeders. Intended to provide faster travel and relieve pressure on station parking and tram services.
* Further upgrade Route 508 to run every 10 minutes during the day and 20 minutes at night to provide a SmartBus-style service operating over long hours. Examine options for a stronger eastern terminus.
* Consider a new Newmarket - Clifton Hill route (502) to provide an east-west service through a larger area currently without it.
Train service upgrades
* Upgrade evening services from every 30 to every 20 minutes or better on the Craigieburn, Upfield, Mernda and Hurstbridge (to Eltham) lines 7 nights per week between 7 and 9 pm (Stage 1) then 9pm to midnight (Stage 2)
* Upgrade Sunday morning services from every 40 to every 20 minutes on the Craigieburn, Upfield, Mernda and Hurstbridge (to Eltham) lines from 8am (Stage 1) then from 6am (Stage 2).
See the link to interactive map here if you need more detail. You can also view it below after selecting the menu (top left) to show whether you want to see existing or expanded Useful Networks. Top right opens it in another window if preferred.
I have presented a list of upgrades for buses in Melbourne's inner north. Together with existing train and tram services they would form a versatile network suitable for a wide range of trips.
What do you think about them? Do you think the suggested route 502 is worthwhile or will its limited catchment limit its success? And what should be done with the eastern end of Route 508? Please leave your comments on these and other local network topics below.
This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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