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
Cranbourne got a new bus network on 13 November 2016. Routes got straighter, extended into new areas and were often made more frequent. For an outer suburban area a surprisingly high proportion of its population received a bus every 20 minutes or better, even on weekends. Read the brochure here. One of the four new routes introduced was the 890. Operating from Dandenong to Lynbrook, its purpose was to meet local demands for public transport access between the Cranbourne area and the Dandenong South industrial area. The former had lots of residents while the latter has lots of jobs. Starting at Dandenong Station, you can see its path here:
The map below shows the 890 relative to other routes. From Dandenong it overlaps part of the 857 but with far superior frequency and operating hours. Then it heads east, providing some unique coverage of jobs that did not previously have a bus. Then south, east then south to terminate at Lynbrook.
The concept sounds good. But its alignment makes the 890 almost entirely an industrial route. A change to it will almost certainly be required for all but the small proportion of likely users living near either Dandenong or Lynbrook stations. Others will either need to take a train or bus to these interchanges. Dandenong has many potential feeder routes but Lynbrook has just three - buses 891 and 897 and the train from Cranbourne. As will be mentioned later the almost entirely industrial catchment kills 890's usage at certain times. TimetableRoute 890 operates to minimum service standards for local buses in Melbourne. That is a 7 day service until approximately 9pm. More precisely it runs every 40 minutes during the day (including weekends) and every 60 minutes at night. The most notable feature of the timetable is the early weekday start. The first bus leaves Lynbrook at 4:25am and Dandenong at 5:09am. This is a good feature due to the tendency for industrial areas to have early starts. Its inclusion displays a good understanding of the service requirements in industrial areas. In contrast the presence of weekend service every 40 minutes is atypical for what is close to purely an industrial route. For example routes in industrial areas like Laverton North or Fishermans Bend have either no or a lesser weekend service. Also 890's 40 minute daytime weekend frequency is not much less than most SmartBuses which, despite their active weekend destination catchments, are typically half-hourly. Is this justified? Keep reading! Patronage Industrial bus routes sometimes have a poor reputation in some CBD-based planning circles. The latter, with their postgraduate degrees and homes within earshot of a tram ding, could not be more socio-economically different to 'working poor' suburbanites on the buses. It is sometimes thought that with some jobs requiring drivers licences, high car ownership, and universal free parking it would be futile to run buses to industrial areas. At best a few apprentices might use them, quitting as soon as they can afford a car. 890's weekday patronage productivity numbers show otherwise. It gets 25 passenger boardings per bus service hour on weekdays. This is higher than the 20 boardings per hour minimum that Infrastructure Victoria regards as constituting a viable route. And it's very close to average for buses in Melbourne, nearly all of which serve residential areas. Non-school days is only slightly less at 24 boarding per hour on weekdays. Hence you can run buses through industrial areas and have people use them. The weekday numbers indicate 890's worth. I said more about 'job ready' public transport networks with improved service to industrial areas here. Weekends though are different. 890's usage drops to just 6 boardings per bus service hour on Saturday and a paltry 2 per hour on Sunday. Given that Dandenong to Lynbrook takes half an hour, these numbers mean that the average trip would have 3 boardings on Saturday and 1 boarding on Sunday. And some trips would operate empty. Usage this low is rare anywhere on the Melbourne bus network. Compare that to some of the most important routes in the south-east, serving centres like Chadstone and Box Hill like the 733 and 800. These have up to 30 times the per-hour weekend boardings yet receive a generally lesser service than the 890. The same applies for local part-time routes like 802, 804, 814, 815 and 885 that serve neighbourhoods near Dandenong with a high propensity to use buses.
What about a route somewhat comparable to the 890 but on the other side of Melbourne? Take the 400 between Sunshine and Laverton. Like the 890 it has a basic 40 minute 7 day frequency (over most of the route). Although most of the 400 is industrial catchment there is service of residential areas in Laverton, Sunshine West and Derrimut (though the first two have overlaps with other routes). Route 400 on weekdays is slightly quieter than the 890, with 21 boardings per hour. However 400's weekend usage is a much higher 15 boardings per bus hour on Saturday and 12 on Sunday, with the residential catchment undoubtedly helping.
Another possible comparison, also in the Laverton area, is Route 417. Its weekday frequency is roughly similar to the 890 though its hours are shorter. It gets 16 passenger boardings per bus hour, handicapped because it serves one station in a loop and not two in a straight line as the 890 does. However 417, unlike the 890, has no weekend service.
I now interrupt this post for a counterfactual. My hypothesis is that weekend usage could have been several times higher had another network configuration that better served popular destinations been chosen.
Consider what would happen if, instead of the new 890, Dandenong South received service on Route 895 extended from Hampton Park to Dandenong (in conjunction with a tidying of indirect or duplicative routes in the area).
Multiple areas could have gained as the extended route would be usable for diverse trips throughout the week. Eg western parts of Hampton Park would gain a new 7-day connection to Fountain Gate. Some areas to the east would get a bus to Dandenong, again useful for a variety of trips.
Even though Dandenong South itself still might not get many weekend boardings, there could at least be more through travellers to Dandenong. And during the week many more homes would get a direct bus to Dandenong South jobs, reducing the need to change. Plus there's potential to extend to Keysborough or Noble Park for better connections to Dandenong South jobs from the west as well.
This approach is very different to that taken when the 890 was planned. The 890 is really good for one role only; connections to industrial jobs in Dandenong South. That depresses its use at other times, particularly on weekends. In contrast the extended 895 above, while retaining Dandenong South coverage, has usefulness for many more residential feeder and shopping trips. Unlike the 890, that should ensure patronage is more consistent over the week and 7 day service remains justified.
There is a point where you tolerate low usage on a bus route on the basis of it providing a comprehensive service as part of a social obligation. On the other hand there must also be a point where usage is so low that you discontinue the service. Especially if there are nearby underserved and low income areas (like Greater Dandenong) where you could redirect resources and benefit maybe ten times the people. That sort of change would stack up on both patronage and social equity criteria. Perhaps more interesting than an industrial route getting a generous weekend service in 2016 is why, nearly 4 years later, its service level remains unaltered despite exceptionally low usage. This leads one to ask why the state government can tolerate 'ghost bus' inefficiencies for years, with minimal interest in fixing them, despite abundant opportunities for cost-effective 'greater good' service improvements nearby.
Having said that, what is overlooked today is unlikely to compare with the 29-year inertia that befell the 479 bus. For years that had a 2pm City - Sunbury weekend afternoon trip, apparently to serve a long-closed asylum that closed in 1985. It wasn't until 2014 that this duplicative trip was removed with resources redirected to other generally beneficial network changes and simplifications.
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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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