McGill's & Alexander Dennis
South East Transport Changes from 2 December
Featured Bus Route – October 2018
DATE FOR THE DIARY - 25th November - Finchley Bus Running Day
Alexander Dennis & Lothian
Buses on Parade
The non-Inner West bus routes to be privatised
Leeds Considering Hydrogen Powered Buses
New CEO for First Group & Results for Six Months to September 2018
Alexander Dennis at Euro Bus Expo 2018
In terms of improvements to public transport there are few areas more static than Melbourne's outer eastern suburbs. They got jibbed out of bus services when they should have gone in 30-40 years ago and remain neglected today. Even the minimum standards upgrades of 10 years ago stopped short and nothing's really happened since. It may be partly due to the outer east's slower population growth. Today's big growth is in the outer west, north-west, north and south-east. That's true whether you look at it in terms of migration or births. The life stories of English migrants who settled and raised families in Bayswater or Croydon in the 1960s are being replicated today by Indians in Tarneit or Point Cook. Given what wasn't done years back the outer east still needs fixes for its bus service backlog. Its train stations, like stations everywhere, have parking pressures. Parents can be choosy where they school their sprogs, with motorised transport often required. Residents say they would love to preserve the leafy character of streets and retail strips but their cars are clogging and suffocating them with local buses too rarely a reasonable alternative. Part of this is because bus networks have ossified and less reflect where people work and shop. And the lack of implemented service reviews has left a curious mix of over and under-servicing. Like the City of Wyndham, a similar distance west of Melbourne, the outer east has two railway lines. There are 12 stations east of Ringwood versus 7 for Wyndham. However the outer east lines see just two trains per hour off-peak - the same as a quiet stations in Adelaide or Brisbane would get and inferior to Geelong's 20 minute service. This leaves the whole of Melbourne's outer east with just one Useful Network public transport route extending much east of Ringwood. Use the frequent network maps here to compare this service with elsewhere in Melbourne.
Local buses have similar disparities. Semi-rural Emerald gets two buses per hour while large parts of Ringwood East and Croydon South get none at any time, or, at best, a part-time deviation. Mooroolbark station has no Sunday buses while Warburton, much further out, does. History goes something like this. The early to settle areas got trains. These got replaced by buses that often ended up being more frequent than the trains they replaced with improvements made over time. Later to settle areas got no or few buses 30 or 40 years ago, with only limited change since, despite now being at suburban densities. These areas are beyond the SmartBus orbitals and often missed out on the 'minimum standards' 7-day upgrades that were more widely rolled elsewhere over 10 years ago. Local bus networks were reviewed around that time (read the reports here) but little was implemented. Hence there is a multi-decade backlog in local bus services. Despite earlier comments about slower population growth and complications like bus-hostile street layouts, lower than average residential density and less than average patronage on the buses that do run, the outer east does deserve a bus network review and revamp. Existing network issues and opportunitiesThe map below gives a snapshot of issues with the current bus network.
Some can be fixed with a timetable change like completing the 'minimum standards' roll out of 7 day service on all residential area routes. Others need a rethink of the network including new routes. The map below shows an area with limited coverage between 'mile grid' main roads. Buses typically feed people to stations but may not directly connect local destinations. Key hubs include shopping centres like Chirnside Park and Knox City. There are also significant light industrial employment areas. These can be identified by the tin roofs near Bayswater and along Canterbury Rd in the photo below.
Some routes are short with the need for an inconvenient change of bus even for quite local trips. Scope may exist for more trips to be possible on the one bus with a revised network.
Reasons for short routes may be historical and no longer exist. For example years ago there were many bus companies running their own short routes. The companies have merged but the short routes often remain. With consolidated ownership it may be possible to join shorter routes for easier access to popular destinations such as Ringwood, Croydon, Chirnside Park and Knox City.
Level crossings is another cause. It may be desirable for a bus route to serve both north and south of the railway. However long boom gate down times can reduce reliability so bus planners have tended to shy away from this. However level crossing removals in areas such as Mooroolbark give fresh opportunities to rethink local bus networks with more through services.
What about the politics? Recent events have made predicting the 2022 state election result a mug's game. Budgets will be tight and the bold infrastructure promises by both major sides in 2014 and 2018 may not be so credible the next time around. The outer eastern suburbs, including areas like Croydon (David Hodgett MP) and Bayswater (Jackson Taylor MP), contain many seats that will be critical to who can form government next time. It might still just be possible to slip in bus upgrades to happen before the 2022 election, although a budget commitment will be needed soon.
Proposed Useful Network
A suggested Useful Network, of routes operating every 20 minutes or better, was described in Useful Network 32 which covered Bayswater and surrounds. Its key feature is upgrading Belgrave and Lilydale line trains to run every 20 minutes off-peak. This service level already operates on weekends. Extending the upgrade to include weekdays is relatively cheap as described here with benefits all the way into the city for stations such as Box Hill, Camberwell, Glenferrie and Burnley.
The train upgrades would then pave the way for the more important bus routes to be upgraded from every 30 to every 20 minutes yet still harmonise with trains. This is suggested for the 664 between Chirnside Park, Croydon, Bayswater and Knox City, especially if it is rerouted via Scoresby Rd as suggested in the Bayswater item.
Scope exists to upgrade other routes to every 20 minutes all day. A Ringwood - Croydon - Montrose Mt Dandenong Rd corridor could be the front-runner for a further Useful Network upgrade. That would fill a large service 'block hole' in Croydon South, Kilsyth and Montrose. Apart from that resolving the large coverage gaps and lack of 7 day service in some areas resolving these is considered a higher priority.
Opportunities for a revised local network
Here are five opportunities for better or simpler local bus routes in the Croydon and Mooroolbark areas:
1. Splitting and simplifying Route 380 between Ringwood and Croydon. This is about reversing a mistake made a few years ago. Those behind it failed to realise that people prefer simpler and straight routes. Circular bus routes make for confusing destinations on the front of the bus and confusion as to which side of the road you need to be on to go the most direct way to your destination.
Simplification would provide, as used to run, one Ringwood - Croydon route north of the railway and one Ringwood - Croydon route south of the railway. Operationally the buses could still through-route if thought convenient. The extra operational cost of this upgrade is zero unless it is desired to add some after 7pm Sunday trips to deliver an upgrade to minimum standards.
The above split makes the local network simpler but does not fix some wider issues. For example (i) Limited direct access to Maroondah Hospital, (ii) No bus to Ringwood Private Hospital, (iii) Requirement to transfer to an infrequent train even for short trips eg to Ringwood. Once circular routes are split scope exists to reroute or extend them to better serve local 'transit deserts' in places like Ringwood East and Croydon South. Some ideas later.
2. Extend Route 680 from Mooroolbark to Croydon. This extension would improve local connectivity to shops and schools. The new service on Lincoln Rd might obviate the need for Telebus Area 4. Service would be upgraded to operate 7 days with a 40 to 60 min frequency suggested (possibly more in the peaks).
3. A new Eastfield Rd route (Route 668). This area currently has limited bus access. The bus that runs south of Ringwood East Station (380) goes north instead of serving Eastfield Rd. A new route could connect the area to Ringwood and East Ringwood stations and replace Route 737's part-time deviation on Jesmond Rd to Croydon. It could run to Montrose via something similar to the current 689 alignment. Like the abovementioned 680 it would operate 7 days per week at a neighbourhood route style frequency. 4. Extend Route 675 south to Boronia (merging with Route 690). Some local routes are short. Trips longer than a few kilometres often require an inconvenient change. There are some historical reasons for this, such as routes previously being run by different companies or a busy level crossing making routes that cross railway lines less reliable than shorter routes that do not.
Mooroolbark is getting its Manchester Rd level crossing removed. The 675 bus that runs from there to Chirnside Park is the most productive in the area, especially on school days (33 boardings per hour school days, 22 boardings per hour non-school days). Route 690 also gets better use than other routes in the area. An extension south to Boronia, to replace the 690, could increase its appeal especially if service is improved to operate 7 days. Peak frequency upgrades and an extension to Knox City (taking in part of the 753) are also worth considering.
Potential may exist to integrate with the level crossing removal and new Mooroolbark station. Ideally this would be done in conjunction with reforms to Route 688 to retain service levels along Mt Dandenong Rd. More on this next. 5. Simplify Route 688 and extend to Ringwood. Mount Dandenong Rd is a key corridor in the area. It is quite heavily settled between Ringwood and Montrose. However it lacks simple bus services all along it. Parts (such as near Ringwood Private Hospital) have no buses while others have two routes. There is a reasonable case for a Useful Network corridor (ie buses every 20 minutes or better all day), particularly after off-peak trains are upgraded to be every 10 minutes to Ringwood and 20 minutes at Croydon. Areas east of Montrose do not need this frequency due to lower density. However they do need a simpler network. Currently about half the Route 688 trips run via Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd while the other half run via Ridge Rd. Combined off-peak frequency on weekdays is roughly 40 minutes which is probably acceptable given the low density. However the current timetable is uneven, not helped by the incompatible 30 minute train headway at Croydon. A suggested simplication is to operate Ridge Rd trips as 689 and Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd trips as 688. Each would be every 80 min, with a 40 min frequency on the combined section (ie about 80% of the route). Instead of terminating at Croydon these routes could extend directly to Ringwood via both hospitals to replace much of the southern part of the 380 (the rest being served by the 668 suggested above). As this is a main road a better than 40 minute frequency is desirable on the Montrose - Ringwood section. Adding short trips to boost combined frequency to 20 minutes is suggested as a means of extending the Useful Network here. A map summarising these and potentially other beneficial network changes is below.
Surrounding areasI've tried to keep discussion to the Croydon - Mooroolbark area. Other measures not discussed include: (i) Whether Route 679 should be straightened in the Lilydale area, (ii) service levels, with 663 and 679 being poor performers that may not justify their current off-peak frequency, (iii) better connections to jobs on Canterbury Rd from the north and south, (iv) better connections to jobs in business parks at Bayswater, (v) service on more of Colchester Rd and (vi) whether the 664's alignment in the Mooroolbark area is the best possible or whether a revision to replace the 675 is desirable as per the local bus review from 10 years back. ConclusionAs always thoughts are appreciated and can be left in the comments below. PS: Want some simple quick wins for the next election? See these 2022 marginal seat upgrades. PPS: An index to all Useful Networks is here.You might enjoy these well-regarded books on transport topics
Better Buses, Better Cities: How to Plan, Run, and Win the Fight for Effective Transit
Steven Higashide The Public City: Essays in honour of Paul Mees
Jarrett WalkerTransport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age Paul Mees
(Sales links: I get a small commission if you buy via the above - no extra cost to you)This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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