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
What happens when an area doesn't have public transport? Everyone who can drives, walks or cycles. Those who can't do either of those things, possibly due to limited mobility or housing location, rely on family, friends or the occasional taxi.
All are limited, either by the indignity of continually asking people for favours or the high per-trip costs of personalised modes like taxis or Ubers. Personalised modes are expensive not because their drivers are well paid (they're not) but because they are low productivity modes. That is one taxi driver normally only serves one paying passenger at a time, unlike bus, tram or train driver who can serve dozens if not hundreds.
The other option, is simply to live a socially isolated life, rarely venturing from home, years before we all had to do it. This has substantial health and social policy implications in areas such as mental health,personal relationships and connections with community.
Sometimes the neglect by governments (who fund public transport) combined with high local needs is so acute that local solutions have to be found. You see this a lot in the United States. While city centres may be served by common-carrier bus services, decades-old transit district boundaries can mean that quite populated suburbs remain without coverage. Targeted transport services may instead be provided as part of welfare, health and job programs as partial compensation to specific groups.
They are not quite public transport as eligibility may be limited. Their schedules and destinations are often tightly tailored to the program's objectives. Several programs may overlap in an area leading to an array of niche services for youth, seniors, jobseekers, disabled etc. These services assist particular client groups but do not have the versatility of even an hourly local bus running seven days a week that one can board without booking. And there can be significant inefficiency and duplication as there is just a collection of disparate routes without common information and ticketing systems.
The situation is similar on the Mornington Peninsula (network discussed here). Population density here is not quite suburban but not rural either. There are scheduled fixed routes but coverage and timetables are limited, even in some more suburban parts of the peninsula. This is despite some routes having to refuse passengers due to overloading as discussed here. The Peninsula is not considered sufficiently 'Melbourne' to get minimum standard bus coverage that a growing outer suburb might (admittedly after a 5 or more year wait).
The location of schools and TAFE colleges can support, detract from or overload a regular bus network. Ideally schools and colleges should be on main routes so that these can operate without deviation. If services get crowded frequency can be increased, benefiting both school and non-school travellers. Poor location either means an expensive-to-provide extra route must be run (such as operates to the TAFE) or a dedicated school network is needed. Dromana Secondary College is in a particularly remote location as you can see on the map below.
These poor location choices make the regular bus network not useful for many school trips. This is especially important in lower density areas as regular public transport can only get good usage if its routes can be used for a wide range of trips over the day.
School buses fill possibly the biggest niche that the regular routes do not satisfy. Some local transport initiatives have emerged to fill some other gaps.
About ten years ago the then Brumby Government had a 'Transport Connections Program' comprising small scale community transport projects in outlying areas. These were often short-term trials. Sometimes they would be continued. There was a Transport Connections Coordinator based at Mornington Peninsula Shire. You can read their newsletters here and here. The program introduced a degree of fragmentation in transport, not least because it was being run by a department other than Transport. The Auditor-General criticised the TCP for being unable to demonstrate its benefits. The TCP was not continued by the Baillieu / Napthine government.
Students and jobseekers found it so difficult to get to TAFE and university that, for a while, the commonwealth government funded a service called 'PenBus' (which the state eventually made a regular, though limited stop, route).
At the other end of the age scale is the extensive community bus network the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council runs. I briefly mentioned these buses two weeks ago in this item on Melbourne's flexible route buses. Today is a more detailed look at the network.
Unlike a regular bus this network is not true common carrier public transport. This is because eligibility is limited to over 60s and those with a disability (and their carer). However, with regularly scheduled services it is possibly the most geographically extensive network of its type near Melbourne and serves areas that regular route buses do not.
Buses most be booked. They pick up from passengers homes in the morning and drop off in the afternoon with substantial flexibility with origins and destinations (but likely not in times).
They operate on a weekly timetable with buses to somewhere operating four days per week. Some trips appear to be possible twice a week. Below is a rough schematic diagram of services. Some of the lines appear to parallel PTV routes like 788 and 782. However bear in mind these are flexible route buses and many areas are away from PTV services, especially for the less mobile. Red Hill is the main area where the community bus goes but regular routes do not. The Hastings to Mornington service is also a trip that isn't catered for on the regular network except via an indirect transfer at Frankston.
More information on these services is provided on the council website. This leads us to another point; information and fares tends to be fragmented. For example you can't use a myki card to pay for a shopper bus. And there are cases where rough alignments of routes may overlap but there isn't necessarily coordination with regular services.
To summarise, this network is somewhat flexible with regards to the places it serves but not in relation to times, offering just one return trip per week. However it provides an important 'last resort' mobility to those who may have no other means. This is particularly important given the area's settlement patterns means that some people are well beyond walking distance of local shops and services.
What are your thoughts on this network? Does it need to be as extensive as it is? Should the regular network be extended so that community buses can focus on the areas that remain without coverage? Conversely, is such a network expandable to other areas or would it run into the inevitable problems that face flexible route bus services for all but very small operations?
You might enjoy these well-regarded books on transport topics
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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