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
The 31 January 2021 train timetable changes were so big that supporting bus recoordination changes were introduced over three stages. The first lot started, with the trains, on 31 January. The second round started on 28 February. The third and final tranche starts on 11 April. It is these I'll discuss today. The first thing is we need to set our expectations. These changes are not full timetable reviews. If the old timetable finishes early at night and doesn't run Sundays then these changes won't fix it. If bus frequencies didn't harmonise with trains because they ran at different frequencies to them then in only one or two cases is that fixed. In all but a few instances these are minor tweaks as there have been next to no service hours resources added. It is because of this that where trains have been made more frequent the buses were not, such as discussed before in Ballarat and Werribee. Thus, whereas the train timetable was, if anything, undersold by PTV, the bus recoordination has been oversold by them. That's been for the first two tranches anyway. Having said that they have been able to sneak in one or two bus route simplifications (such as to 512) along the way with knock-on benefits to the timetable. There's many more like this they could do but the recent record shows that cost-effective bus service reform has been a low priority for the Department of Transport. So that's the scene. Don't expect too much but be mindful that they can slip in one or two goodies that represent progress. This tends to indicate that the problem is not so much that the Department of Transport can't do good things in service reform, but it's that they are too seldom allowed to by their hierarchy and that internal systems don't provide capacity for it to happen at nearly the pace it should. Next month's changes are mostly in the south-eastern suburbs and the Mornington Peninsula. Most are operated by Ventura or CDC. There are also some around Epping and Bundoora, operated by Dysons. I haven't scanned all 90-odd timetables but here's some comments on a few noteworthy ones that change: 556 Changes here are minor. 556 is a popular route that retains its unharmonised 22-24 minute frequency. Also keeps its complexity and extreme indirectness on northern part. Background here. 577Two buses per hour but to harmonise with trains it keeps its rough irregular 40 / 20 minute pattern weekday interpeak. This is quite common in the Epping area with routes 564 and 569 retaining similar patterns. 624Not mentioned in PTV's list of routes getting new timetables. But it is getting a straightening through a residential part of Chadstone.
First made public by local MP Will Fowles, it simplifies the route with five fewer turns. Compare before and after below.
The 624 is one of Melbourne's most complex and convoluted bus routes. It's an amalgamation of several simpler routes. Its current complexity is a relic from the 1980s-2002 era when it was fashionable to save on buses by amalgamating routes (and often make them illegible to preserve coverage). April's change is the easiest (though least important) simplification that could be done to it. 732732 could be considered two routes, as follows: 1. a long Box Hill - Upper Ferntree Gully route running to minimum standards with an ordinary weekend frequency. 2. Short trips from Vermont South to Knox City intended to meet every tram (the called-at-the-time "Knox Transit Link") to replace a politically promised extension with high frequency and long operating hours. This segment of the 732 is one of just fifteen truly full-time bus routes in Melbourne. The Knox Transit Link has not been a very good patronage performer. If you wanted to run wide span routes to the Knox area this might be better done with other routes that connect to nearer train stations or larger activity hubs. Anyway it's getting cuts with the last hour's service being removed. 732 will remain with longer hours and higher frequency than any other bus route in the area but it will no longer meet all trams late at night. Though to be fair this precedent of not meeting trams at all hours was first set when the 75 became one of the six routes that got 24 hour Night Network service in 2016 but the connecting 732 missed out. This is like a 'death of a thousand cuts' approach to bus reform. If a route is poorly used you let it fade away over several timetable changes, with resources going to routes that justify upgrades. This is the Perth approach discussed here. You eventually get your network vision but it may take longer than a wholesale change. It compares with the 'big bang' whole network reform approach like that which failed in Adelaide. They may not get any reform for a while given the political backlash when tried. So it might actually end up slower and less sure than the Perth approach. However for the Perth method to be credible here the capacity of the Department of Transport to implement minor bus route and timetable changes needs to be about five to ten times greater than it currently is. 733Can't see much change here. If you were going to cut services on the 732 (as done above), the route you'd logically add trips to is the busy 733 at least between Box Hill and Clayton as a first step to it becoming an SRL SmartBus. It's the same bus company too, which makes it administratively easier (not that this should be a significant consideration when determining service priorities). This appears not to have been done. 742742 has stopped short of Ringwood Station for decades. Anyway the April 11 timetable finally extends it to Ringwood Station which is good news. This complex bus route, again pieced together from others, has a lot of history, many variations and several quirks. For instance when the old 3 zone fare system operated it allowed a trip from Zone 1 to Zone 3 with a single, cheap, Zone 2 only ticket.
Like the 624 mentioned later, the 742 has many other issues that make catching it a complex exercise. The 11 April changes don't address them. A special essay devoted entirely to it would be needed to describe its route and timetable quirks. That is exactly what I do with an item describing it in more detail appearing on a future Tuesday.
Here's a very good coordination improvement that largely fixes a problem I've raised several times. For a long time if you wanted to spend a whole Sunday on the Mornington Peninsula you had to get a super-early train to Frankston and wait for nearly an hour. This is because buses were planned to connect with trains in the inbound direction but not outbound. The 31 January train timetable improved things a little but there was still a 46 minute wait at Frankston (train arrived 8:23am, first 788 left 9:09am). And if you were on the next train (arrive 9:24am) then your wait to the 788 would be similar with it leaving at 10:09am.
The new 788 timetable resolves this issue by spreading trips out to improve span. Hence the first Sunday 788 departs Frankston at 8:33am. That cuts interchange time to a more reasonable 10 minutes. Hence the new timetable makes visiting the Peninsula on a Sunday much more practical.
The 10:09am bus remains as before. That provides a connection off the 10:04am train arrival. Personally I regard that as too tight. The Frankston line is not that reliable and the slightest train delay will cause the bus to be missed. That's a big consequence for an infrequent and long distance bus. Even though DoT bus route specifications often call for 5 to 10 minute connection standards my inclination is to prefer 10 minutes for longer distance or less frequent bus or coach routes. Still this problem is not as big an issue as it was pre-January 31 as cautious passengers have the option of catching the train that arrives Frankston at 9:44am thanks to that line's 20 minute maximum wait.
Frankston's other key long distance bus routes are the 781 and 782. These have kept their first outbound trip as being just after 9am. That's a poor fit for either the 8:23 or 9:24 am train arrivals. Ideally a future train timetable change would shift the 9:24am train arrival to approximately 9:03am to provide a more even spacing between the 8:23 and 9:44am train arrivals.
888 & 889
Not part of the April timetable changes these are two new routes that will be starting later this month. More here. My write up here.
The Caulfield - Rowville SmartBus serving Chadstone Shopping Centre. It has very high usage despite its half-hourly weekend frequency. Thus it would be a top priority for a frequency upgrade, particularly on weekends. Did it get one in this new timetable? Sort of.
Instead of the 30 minute Saturday frequency the new timetable boosts frequency to every 20 minutes between approximately 2pm and 5pm in both directions. This coincides with peak shopping times at Chadstone. There may have been an attempt to do something inbound, with intervals between some morning trips arriving Caulfield varying between 20 and 36 minutes. It's an improvement but a very parsimonious one achieved by cutting weeknight inbound frequency between 6:10 and 7:10pm. And with intervals sometimes exceeding 30 minutes it arguably does not meet SmartBus minimum service standards at certain times.
925Gets minor timetable changes. Continues to stop a few hundred metres short of the station. ConclusionStage 3 of the recoordination is a similar pattern to before. Mostly minor changes but some that are worthwhile. Most notably the 788 and 900 along with the minor straightening of part of the 624. If you spot any other changes of note please leave them in the comments below.
See all Timetable Tuesday items hereThis item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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