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Key transport professionals have jointly written to the Victorian Premier urging the Government’s Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce to focus on upgrading bus services and active transport to improve mobility for Melbourne and build jobs as part of recovery from COVID-19.
The 5-point plan seeks a new vision for buses. This includes fast tracking local bus reviews, delivering bus priority and ten new or enhanced Smart Bus corridors operating every 10 minutes. Also sought, is boosting domestic jobs in bus building including electric buses to replace polluting diesel fleets.
The signatories include many people and groups familiar to Melbourne on Transit readers including Monash Professor of Public Transport Graham Currie, University of Sydney Business School Adjunct Professor John Stanley, Eastern Transport Coalition, PTUA and the Metropolitan Transport Forum. They emphasise that bus and active transport upgrades are quick to implement for immediate impact at a fraction of the cost of large scale infrastructure projects. Such measures are also highly cost-effective and deliver results before larger and longer term projects can. This is especially to the 70% of Melbourne which is beyond train and tram services.
The transport groups, writing under the Transport For Everyone (T4E) banner, are united in the view that the current period of reduced patronage due to COVID-19 provides the opportunity to revise poorly performing bus routes to work the bus fleet harder to make it more useful, more productive and efficient.
Successes of frequent and regular direct Smart Bus services and University bus shuttles demonstrate
the potential to substantially upgrade poorly performing bus routes to improve access and efficiency
in services, build patronage and create jobs.
What's in the plan?
The plan's five points are as follows:
1. Expanded 10 minute frequency bus network
The centrepiece of the plan is a rebooted SmartBus program (map above). The last SmartBuses were introduced in 2010. Since then Melbourne has added a million people but no new SmartBuses. The enhanced SmartBuses, to operate on a mixture of existing and new corridors, would deliver 10 minute all-day service on ten key corridors. Major destinations to benefit include Deakin, Monash, Victoria and La Trobe Universities, shopping centres at Chadstone, Box Hill, Doncaster, Northland and Highpoint, and many middle suburban train stations such as Clayton, Mt Waverley, Holmesglen, Mitcham, Heidelberg, Preston, Coburg and Sunshine.
Some routes would be a precursor to the proposed Suburban Rail Loop, delivering almost immediate mobility benefits. A major route from Caulfield to La Trobe University via Camberwell and Heidelberg would fill a missing link in Melbourne's east, connecting seven of Melborne's rail lines, including the Metro Tunnel. Doncaster and Rowville would gain turn-up and go service with major frequency increases. Also the Highpoint/Footscray/VU cluster in the inner west would be better connected with simplified local services operating every 10 minutes. Some routes would operate every ten minutes seven days per week, superior to existing SmartBuses which are mostly every 15 minutes off-peak, 30 minutes weekends.
It's worth mentioning that although the ten minute network proposed is vastly expanded compared to what runs now, parts of it could be introduced cheaply without buying new buses. These comments apply for the 220, 406, 900, 903, 904, 907 corridors and possibly also 201 and 411 as well. The key to some of these is the local network reviews as mentioned next. Another benefit of boosting services is the large number of bus driver and support staff jobs that could be created, often just by working the existing bus fleet harder over more of the day.
2. Fast tracked local area bus reviews to simplify local networks
These would support the above ten minute network and deliver more direct services every 20 minutes or better in many other areas. Revised networks could reverse patronage decline in some areas and improve utilisation of our bus fleet (which also creates driver jobs). Along similar lines to Useful Network upgrades presented here.
3. Better bus priority to boost road capacity 'people movement'
More on-road bus lanes and traffic light 'head starts' at intersections to deliver faster and more reliable services on well-used trunk routes (presumably including the ten minute network above). This is an economical way to increase road capacity in a more space-effective manner than if everyone was in their own car.
4. A new electric bus building industry for Victoria
Boosting domestic bus building and fit-out. Setting a target of moving to all-electric buses by 2030 to reduce diesel emissions from buses. This would contribute to better air quality and emissions reduction. The skills and job opportunities such an industry would provide is also attractive.
5. Supporting active transport such as walking and cycling
This would deliver on current commitments to walking, cycling and to create
jobs in bike sales and repair, including of E-bikes.
This is a quick run through the T4E proposal to boost buses and active transport. There's some great initiatives. Let's hope the government sits up and takes notice!
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This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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