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
Much around it has changed but the thing itself hasn’t. That’s a good summary of route 704 in Melbourne’s south-east. The route’s been going since before most people were born with minimal change since. It started as an industrial route and retains an alignment and timetable that reflects this, even though most of the industry packed up and left decades ago.
So what is the 704? It’s a fairly short route. It starts at Oakleigh, bearing in a south-easterly direction. After Huntingdale Station it serves some residential areas before Clayton Station. Then it crosses the rail line and runs along Centre Rd to its dead end terminus (map below). It's mostly in the safe Labor seat of Clarinda, held by Meng Heang Tak MP.
The terminus location makes no sense today. However it was a
very important manufacturing site. Firstly train carriages (Martin & King) then Volkswagen then Datsun/Nissan car assembly (marked on the 1971 network map). Areas further east developed
(mostly light industry and bulky goods retail) but the terminus remained
unchanged. The most significant change to the route in the last 50 years was its swap with Route 733 some time in the mid 1970s (before that 704 went via Golf Rd in Oakleigh South).
The area map shows the 704 in relation to other routes. The
portion west of Huntingdale is entirely overlapped by other routes (742 &
900). Then it gets some unique coverage in Oakleigh South. Then overlaps resume
(with major routes include 703 and 733) along Centre Rd until Clayton Station.
Unique coverage resumes for a couple stops east of the diagonal railway line
until the terminus. The remander of Centre Rd until Springvale Rd has no bus.
Neither is there a bus on the north-south Westall Rd despite large local
development (including an IKEA) now in the area.
When new stations in growth areas get built local bus networks are typically reformed to serve it. That doesn't happen when new stations are built in established areas (Southland being the prime example despite huge opportunities to tidy a complex network). Neither does it happen when road / rail grade separations make it easier to run buses from one side of a railway line to the other without excessive delays. This tendency reflects the current state government's transport priorities of 99% infrastructure, 1% service.
Possibly due to its overlap
with other routes and weak eastern terminus, the 704 isn’t useful for many
people. This is reflected in the boarding numbers. On weekdays (the only days
it runs) it attracts 13 passenger boardings per bus service hour. This is well
below the twenty-something normal for buses in Melbourne. It would not normally be considered a viable
route. This is despite Clayton's excellent demographics for buses and high patronage on surrounding routes.
Route 704 runs a basic
weekday 6am to 6pm service with nothing on weekends. The last full-length trip
from Oakleigh (5:40pm) is well before the finish of the pm peak. This shows its
timetable is oriented more towards local factory workers (who typically start
and finish earlier) more than as a train feeder for city workers (who would
need later operating trips).
Peak frequency is roughly 30
minutes. Interpeak frequency is typically 60 minutes. But not always. There are
interpeak gaps of 90 to 120 minutes, presumably to allow the driver’s lunch
break. Some trips at the end of the
day do not go the full way, presumably to allow starts and finishes nearer the
Ventura depot, which is only a short distance from the route. In more ways than one you could call it a Clayton's service; the service you have when you don't really have one.
As common with many non-7 day routes, PTV appends a crypic
note about operations and times. More confusing than clarifying, this is
intended to advise on public holiday arrangements (not all of which are yet a
standard pattern for buses in Melbourne). However as 704 runs weekdays only and
is not a university route (which may operate on certain state public holidays
that universities do not observe) there is no service on any public holiday.
704 demonstrates the atrophy you get when you don't reform a bus network. Its service has gently declined over the decades. Krustylink has old timetables here. Off-peak service in 1989 was roughly every 40 minutes with some larger gaps. There was also Saturday morning service (possibly a remnant of the old 44 hour work week). The Saturday service largely escaped the savage 1990-1 network-wide bus service cuts but got deleted some time in the 2000s.
What would you do with the underperforming 704? Does it need
to overlap other routes for so much of the way or could it be shortened? With the Centre Rd level crossing now gone, is there scope to extend it to a more useful eastern terminus, for example Westall
Station, Springvale Rd or, even better, Waverley Gardens Shopping Centre, to provide a direct connection to Clayton Station like suggested here? And should its timetable reflect the fact that
surrounding land uses have changed to include outlets that trade weekends?
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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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