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
Without public vigilance things tends towards entropy (or is it apathy?). We saw that when the Department of Transport shut the 'classic PTV' website last week. Some useful features in the old site were lost without direct replacement. It's not the first time DoT, or its predecessors, stopped caring about good passenger information. Its state at the rebuilt Frankston station is an embarrassment. Our sight hasn't changed but train network maps in the City Loop have been shrinking for decades, making them less useful. And several years ago they pulled local area maps out from thousands of bus stops. What's next to go? Timetables from bus stops? I wouldn't be surprised. Stay vigilant! What does this have to do with Timetable Tuesday? The degraded maps and online timetables now available will affect this feature's format. For example the lack of a main stop timetable option makes it harder to illustrate certain points about service levels. Ditto for the lack of stop specific timetables. I'll still endeavour to describe oddities but some points will be harder to show and substantiate. So you can expect fewer whole timetables (they're too big). But I'll still present extracts to illustrate salient points where practical. 542's route Anyway what is Route 542? It's a north-south bus route from Pascoe Vale to Roxburgh Park. It calls in or passes near all intermediate stations and never strays more than a kilometre or so from the line. Hence it's very much a coverage route for those beyond walking distance from a station. Two or three things happen when you go north on the 542. The first is that housing gets newer. Southern areas around Pascoe Vale, Oak Park and Glenroy may have postwar houses (and earlier near the stations). Coolaroo and Meadow Heights is more 1970s while Roxburgh Park is 1990s. Secondly incomes drop. Pascoe Vale is solidly middle-income while parts of Glenroy are gentrifying. Coolaroo is low income. Meadow Heights is also low income but with bigger houses. Roxburgh Park started off middle income but degentrified (as can happen with new housing estates). Thirdly the use of English as falls while the population mix changes from European to Middle-eastern background.
Route 542 runs through the electoral districts of Pascoe Vale (Lizzie Blandthorn MP) and Broadmeadows (Frank McGuire MP). Broadmeadows is considered safe Labor. Pascoe Vale has historically also been strong for Labor. However despite 2018's landslide Labor's share of the primary vote there is in long-term decline. Future wins in Pascoe Vale cannot be assured, especially with an adverse preference flow from a popular independent candidate. The map below is what visitors to the new PTV website see of the 542. Although if you're crafty with Google you'll find their server still hosts an unlinked pdf route map (as detritus from the old site) still visible at the time of writing.
It's not all bad with the new website. The 542's new-look map is zoomable so you can see individual stops. This was something you couldn't do on the old map. However there are complications just west of Glenroy Station. These do not clearly show where the bus goes as you can see in the close-up below.
You can get other depictions of this by looking at the Hume and Moreland local area maps (below). The Hume map is simple. The Moreland map has a complex route pathing that varies by direction. The reference to Oak Park is that the 542 once terminated at Oak Park and not Pascoe Vale. It was extended in 2012 but the reference to Oak Park was missed when the map was updated. These issues indicate the difficulties DoT has with consistently showing the same thing across multiple maps.
Maps can indicate the biases of those who commission and publish them. Most notable is that the new single route maps misses showing stations. Instead you need to know your local government area and look up multi-mode local area maps (oddly titled 'bus map' in the new ones) like the above for a network view. The Department of Transport, like some of its predecessors, can still has a single-modal mindset when it comes to presenting information. It does not consider that people may need to change modes to complete their trip. So much for its mantra of simple connected journeys! Without firm action to recognise and counter internal biases, what the Department does may be shaped by what it is. Or more precisely its people. Its workforce could not be more demographically different from people who ride buses, especially routes like the 542 north of about Glenroy. Apart from massive geographical and income differences, many, especially senior management, rarely see the inside of an in-service bus. This was all too obvious during a major lapse in operator contract supervision and safety a few years back. And, more prosaically, it can shape decisions like authorising revisions to online route maps that remove multimodal information. A better view of the 542's relationship to the network is on the area map. Thankfully they're still online though they got removed from stops about 7 years ago, as mentioned before. I've highlighted the 542 to show its role as a radial route passing near multiple stations. Key areas it serves remote from stations include Meadow Heights, western Glenroy and Oak Park. The 542 also provides relief from climbing a steep hill on Gaffney St east of Pascoe Vale Station. Before the 542 was extended there no bus ran there (the 561 extension was to come later).
Broadmeadows is its key centre. Medium sized centres exist at Roxburgh Park, Meadow Heights and Glenroy. There are shops around Oak Park and Pascoe Vale but they have seen better days. The latter is considered a weak terminus apart from some neighbourhood and feeder trips.
At first glance the 542 is your average Melbourne suburban bus route. Buses operate every 40 minutes Monday to Saturday with an hourly service on Sunday. These frequencies harmonise with trains during the day (every 20 minutes) except on Sunday mornings where the hourly bus does not consistently meet trains every 40 minutes.
Buses finish too early to meet minimum service standards (ie a 9pm finish). This is particularly for northbound trips on weeknights. Instead of being after 9pm the last bus leaves Pascoe Vale just after 7:30pm and Broadmeadows about 30 minutes later. The timetable is more generous on Saturday with Pascoe Vale getting its last north-bound bus nearly 80 minutes later and Broadmeadows about 40 minutes later. Even Sundays has a later evening finish than weekdays on the Broadmeadows - Roxburgh Park section with the last bus about the same as Saturdays.
Southbound trips also finish early, especially on the section south of Broadmeadows. Nothing operates after 7pm on weekdays and slightly after 8pm on Saturdays.
The same applies on Sunday but for all day. This means that 542 is a 7 day Roxburgh Park to Broadmeadows service but only a 6 day Broadmeadows - Glenroy - Oak Park - Pascoe Vale service. This is one of these unfixed oddities that makes buses so confusing in Melbourne.
Parts of Route 542 can trace its history back to 1950s. There were many extensions as the area suburbanised, especially in 1970s.
Krustylink shows a 1987 Met era timetable for the 542. Its 25 minute frequency did not evenly meet trains every 20 minutes. That problem was to continue for 35 more years. Also notable was the pattern of less evening service in the Glenroy - Oak Park area, a pattern that remains with us today. Route 542 and the almost parallel 541 had some major changes in 2012. These tidied up service levels (to harmonise them with trains) and realigned the routes so that 541, which served more territory further from stations, was more direct and got a better service (upgraded to every 20 minutes, which matches trains). 542 then became the local coverage filler route, with a 40 minute base frequency, except on Sundays where it runs hourly. There was also an extension to Pascoe Vale. Unfortunately the change did not extend to 'minimum standards' operating hours on the 542 and a full 7 day service on the entire route. PatronageThe 542 is a little below average as far as bus patronage goes. This is to be expected given its southern terminus is weak and a large proportion of it is within 10 minutes walk of a station. However the route has justification on coverage grounds because without it some areas would be too far from a station not to have a bus. Usage in 2018 was 18 passenger boardings per hour on weekdays, dropping only slightly to 16 on Saturdays. Sunday service is quieter at 11. This indicates a continuing trait of Melbourne's working-class north not to open much on Sundays, unlike the activity seen around inner areas, bayside areas, outer daytrip areas and major shopping centres. ConclusionWhat should be done about Route 542? Should all of it get 7 day service despite its low usage? Is there is need for a stronger southern terminus, or isn't the expense worth it? Maybe it's best left as it is and its relatively low usage accepted as a 'mop up route' that provides basic coverage so that other more direct routes can excel without leaving people without coverage? Your thoughts are invited and can be left below. PS: An index to all Timetable Tuesday items is here.
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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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