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How long should a one-bus route be? One answer is however far out you can go with one bus and return to the terminus by the time the next departure is due in 30 or 60 minutes time.
Or, if you already know the route that's needed, is to run the highest frequency possible with a given number of available buses. Whether the frequency chosen aligns with trains and/or is an even clockface figure is secondary.
Instances of both are found around Melbourne. They are remnants of old-style scheduling which in turn reflect history of small family bus companies running a few routes each. Bus companies have got fewer and bigger but old practices remain, even on relatively new routes.
Today's route, the 431 from well-served Yarraville to lesser-served Kingsville is an example. It runs roughly east-west. It runs from Yarraville, where there are shops and a station, to a residential area otherwise remote from facilities and services. Its western end forms a loop that it goes around before returning to Yarraville.
The map is below:
This is not to scale. You can see how it fits in with other routes on the network map below.
Because there isn't anything at its western terminus the route is strictly a Yarraville station feeder. Counter peak patronage would be very low. This is unlike more efficient routes which run between two stations where peak loadings exist in both directions at both ends of the day. Usage is about average for a Melbourne bus route on weekdays (24 passenger boardings per bus service hour) but low on Saturdays (13 boardings per hour).
Route 431 is a product of a bus review around 10 years ago. Before then the bus network was even more complicated than it is now and it was difficult to reach major shopping centres like Altona Gate or interchanges like Newport. The review led to some routes (eg 432) getting minimum standards upgrades while the shorter 431 missed out. Before the 431 there were other (also short) routes like the 429 and 430 serving the area. Route 431 operates in the electoral district of Williamstown, held by public transport minister Melissa Horne MP.
Despite its relative newness, Route 431 has operating hours reflecting the pre-minimum standards 1990s era which was a low point for bus services in Melbourne. That is finishes at 6 or 7pm and no Sunday service. However unlike many other 6 day routes there is service on some public holidays.
Service frequency is a flat 30 minutes from first to last trip at all times the bus runs. Run time is also flat. There appears to be no layover time in the public timetable at either end but in practice the bus might arrive slightly early.
The timetable below shows trips from Yarraville only. A similar service level applies for inbound trips.
What about coordination with trains? When the 431 first started there wasn't any. This was because Yarraville just had trains every 20 minutes off-peak and the 431 was every 30 minutes. Then Yarraville gained a 10 minute off-peak train service interpeak on weekdays, harmonising with the 431. However connections only repeat hourly on Saturdays as trains then are still on 20 minute headways.
What do you think about Route 431? Is it a good route or should it be straightened to feed a terminus like Tottenham Station or even Highpoint via Ashley St so it becomes useful in both directions? Should its timetables be harmonised with trains, even if it means dropping to every 40 minutes on Saturdays? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments 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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