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
Eynesbury, in the middle of a green wedge west of Melbourne, should never have been subdivided for suburbia. Yet it was. The developers are even trying to kid buyers it was inspired by pre-suburban Australian country towns because houses have eaves (a good thing) and picket fences. It's almost like they were trying to pitch it to a certain proud provincial putting demographic, a bit like Sunbury. Anyway, admittedly slower than developers would have liked, people moved in. Naturally they wanted to do what people do. That is work, shop and go to school. Because Eynesbury has almost none of these services internally there needed to be roads and transport services to the outside world. So Eynesburians (as some call themselves) started demanding buses. First for their children and then more generally. The Department of Transport, not known for speedily rolling out new bus routes at the best of times, has refused such requests for many years. The problem isn’t that Eynesbury is particularly far from Melbourne. At 44km, it’s not. Growth areas like Pakenham, Cranbourne, Melton and Clyde North are roughly similar distances but got buses sooner. The difference is that all the other places are designated growth areas or corridors. They have main roads close and railways (mostly) somewhat near. New developments may abut housing that was built only a few years prior. If that is the case then it may be possible to economically provide coverage with a short extension of an existing bus route. Alternatively you will need new routes but because these are large planned growth areas with lots happening there will be the residents, shops and schools needed to make their running worthwhile before too long. And with favourable demographics buses in contiguously built growth areas can rank amongst Melbourne's most productive with extra frequency justified. In other cases a new route may be slow in coming but there may be a bus to an older estate a kilometre or so away or on a nearby main road between two larger established centres that can sort of cover the area (with extra walking). That's the benefit a development gets by being on the way to somewhere else as there is already some demand that can support service even before people move in.
None of this applies for Eynesbury. Firstly it is not on any significant road or rail corridor, whether it is radial towards Melbourne or circumferential between two suburban centres. Secondly it is in the middle of the Western Plains South green wedge not intended for housing. Thirdly Eynesbury abuts no other developed area and nothing passes anywhere near.
Hence if Eynesbury was to ever get a bus it will need to be its own route or a more expensive extension of an existing route. Even then its patronage will be stymied by the large empty area it must pass through. Because of this the only people who will use the bus are Eynesburians and if they are not sufficiently numerous then patronage will be poor.
If there was a bus it would only be one route. Eynesbury's layout around a golf course makes it difficult to be direct if you want reasonable coverage. The most likely outcome would be one with a large loop at the bottom, like a hangman's noose. Single direction could work for a feeder to Melton but does not consistently connect with any local destinations. Bidirectional might do that but would dilute the frequency and be confusing. Eynesbury wasn't designed with buses in mind, people bought in the area with no transport service yet now apparently they want it. The DoT's competing prioritiesA transport department with 100 good ideas but funding for only 5 will have to make some tough choices. Let's say that they could find about $400 - 500 k per year which could fund the purchase and operation of one bus for a new service. Even that is too rare but let's be optimists. A single bus on a local route in a suburban area with favourable demographics and geometry can attract around 100 000 passengers per year . It might do better in growth areas like Craigieburn or Tarneit which have great density and demographics for buses. But, for reasons mentioned before, if you ran the bus to Eynesbury it is unlikely to do even half as well (although a bus to Weir Views is overdue as part of growth area development). What if you were to use non-patronage measures like social inclusion? Even then I fear that Eynesbury’s case would be weaker than say Glenroy/Hadfield, Springvale South, Dandenong North or Campbellfield. All these are low income areas with limited service. They were built 50 or 60 years ago and have had a 30 years plus neglect of its local routes. Their social needs are compelling. Eynebury, in contrast, is a latecomer whose residents, typically on higher incomes, moved from more serviced areas of their own free will. The present under-resourcing of bus services means that the Department of Transport currently says no to too many good ideas. But even if more funding was available, Eynesbury’s case for a comprehensive bus service would still be weaker than for many other places without one due to its isolated ‘off way’ green wedge location. So the answer, for the foreseeable future, is No!
Should we pay for others' lifestyle choices? Eynesbury residents will contend that they pay taxes and should get government services (including buses) that they would consider universal. Government is building a primary school that should relieve the need for at least some parents to ferry their children to Melton schools or rely on the current developer-funded school bus. A school bus with concentrated demand patterns is one thing but their suburb’s remoteness and internal geometry makes a public bus service dearer per passenger to provide there than elsewhere. Should other Victorians pick up the tab for this or forego wider benefits from buses elsewhere? While the principle of a metropolitan to regional cross-subsidy is widely accepted (eg V/Line versus Metro Trains for subsidy per passenger) as supporting equity across the state, the principle of subsidy within a metropolitan area is perhaps less supported. People who buy houses in Eynesbury are adults. They made a lifestyle choice to buy in an unserviced area (fewer than 10% rent). Presumably this choice was made after weighing pros and cons including transport. Should they bear the consequences as private costs (given most are on above average incomes with a higher capacity to pay) or is it reasonable for the wider public to kick in as part of providing a universal service? Especially as circumstances can change and some may no longer be able to drive. These sorts of arguments come up in discussions between inner and outer suburban people, or more precisely those who have trams & trains and those who have only infrequent buses. The inner suburbanites will point to the sacrifices they made with regard to space to afford their accessible location. Meanwhile outer suburbanites will say that they are driven by home affordability and space, with the increased driving a necessary evil, especially inevitable with a family. The difference with Eynesbury is that everyone there, if they wanted to, could have paid less for a home that had superior transport accessibility if they chose Melton. Why didn’t they? Obviously factors other than affordability and transport were critical and drove their choice.
The next suburb north of Eynesbury is (until the suburbs got renamed) Melton South. It has schools, shops, and a train station. And the cheapest house prices in greater Melbourne. The problem is that the Melton suburbs have a social stigma with likely anxiety over crime and schools etc. Eynesbury, in contrast, has a very different demographic. It's not unlike comparing Point Cook with Werribee or Caroline Springs with St Albans. Interestingly though house prices have appreciated faster long term in older Melton South than newer Eynesbury. Those who bought in Eynesbury hoping to get a foothold to trade up later might be disappointed by weak capital gains. Buying in new estates, particularly those with poor access, can be a wealth hazard. The stalemateEynesburians have paid a premium to be away from Melton to live an idyllic anti-urban life on the fairway. But now some are wanting the very services that they moved away from. Like buses. Up to very recently there’s been a stalemate. On its own volition the Department of Transport probably won’t move, preferring (reasonably) to channel limited bus resources to where they are more widely beneficial. DoT is imperfect on this, with many existing inefficient services operating unreviewed for years and some dubious choices being made with regards to upgrades. But prioritising almost anything over Eynesbury would stack up better on patronage and equity grounds. To give one example, Route 511's service level at Donnybrook is an embarrassment. The only way Eynesbury will likely get a route bus ahead of higher priorities is if any semblance of rational planning is put aside. That means a directive from the minister to the department to reassess priorities. If that means that a more beneficial upgrade somewhere else is scrapped then the overall result will not be for the public good. None of that fazes Eynesbury people who still want buses. Planning matters like a subdivision's geometry and its ability to support efficient buses could not be further from their mind when they bought. But personal circumstances can change. For instance (as commented in one of the petitions) people can get injuries that means they can no longer drive. Without a bus service they are pretty much stuck. Especially somewhere with a Walk Score of just 7 (car dependent). In an answer to a question, the developer describes the town centre as still being in the early stages of planning, ten or more years after people started moving in. Petitions on new bus services are easy to get signatures for. Many people like the idea of a bus but not necessarily use it themselves. They may consider it as something that would be good to have for when they get old. There have been cases where buses have been petitioned for, got introduced but then attracted only disappointing usage. This is most likely in isolated developments like Eynesbury where owning a car is virtually a pre-requisite for living there. What about the developer? After all Eynesbury is still a developing estate. Developers aren't normally in the business of running buses. Although there is an (imperfect) process through GAIC where they can fund them for a while. Normally developers want to get in, subdivide, sell off, get out and move on to the next project. And with massive population growth including on our fringes, developers have had some bumper years recently. Nevertheless Eynesbury has had troubles with the project being mired in dispute and it passing between several developers. It's as if the general area was never meant to be successfully developed - see Marcus Wong's post regarding the 1950s English migrant land scam at nearby Chartwell (Rosewood Estate). Developer busesWith the DoT uninterested, the developer was the first to blink. Possibly to help sell their notoriously inaccessible blocks, they put on some token bus services from at least 8 years ago. The public component was tried for a month in 2013 but had insufficient patronage so converted to being purely a school service. Referred to in this Change petition it apparently has insufficient capacity for all students. You can see its 2021 timetable here. Then, last month, the developer added trips and resumed service for non-school trips. The announcement is here. It's described as The Bus For Us on a local community Facebook group.
It is a
commuter service on weekdays and a day shopper service on Saturdays. No service
runs on Sundays or public holidays. A quick video and resident comments appear here.
three weekday morning peak services to Melton station, spaced an hour apart.
That is about the best service possible with the buses’ uniform 25 minute run
time. The passenger is left to consult train timetables to check connections
and arrival times.
afternoon three trips appear to operate from Melton Station to Eynesbury.
Scheduled run times are longer at 30 minutes. Departures are at irregular
intervals (up to 75 min gaps) and again planning train connections is left to
The pm timetable
is confusing to read. It would appear they have tried to economise on space by
labelling the stops only once. People are used to reading timetable times from
left to right or down to up. Also they do not expect to jump columns unless
it’s a different trip. Unfortunately,
the afternoon timetable fails on both counts and it is difficult to read. Also
adding train connections and any late train waiting policies would be a nice
touch for a commuter oriented service.
Saturdays the bus extends beyond Melton Station to Woodgrove Shopping Centre. The
timetable is easier to read because stops are better labelled in both
directions. Having said that it is only after thorough examining that you
notice that there are actually two trips from Eynesbury to Melton with the
afternoon trip terminating at the station. Scheduled run time from the Pro Shop
to the station is 20 minutes, with another 10 minutes allowed for Woodgrove.
timetable allows 4 ½ hours at Woodgrove and nearly 5 hours at Melton Station.
Thus it could potentially be useful for short trips elsewhere, such as to
Sunshine or even the CBD.
Eynesbury terminus for all trips is the Pro Shop. This is at the far east of
the estate and beyond reasonable walking distance of most homes which are to
the west. There is no mention of other stops in Eynesbury. Some bus users would
get a lift to the stop but the limited local coverage will not be helpful for
many others. The nearest to there being a route map is this stylised version posted on Facebook.
developer provided bus may attract some commuter usage but service frequencies
are likely too low to make it a persuasive options for most. The lack of midday
service on weekdays and flexibility on Saturdays make the bus you’d only take
if you had no other option.Melton is
expanding south to Weir Views which likely justifies a regular PTV bus route.
This is about half way to Eynesbury (and not in the green wedge). It is possible that some trips on that
route could extend south to Eynesbury. However frequency is unlikely to be high
unless much more of the area is urbanised such that Eynesbury residents lose
the ‘away from it all atmosphere’ they hoped for when they moved in.
All this is fine if you don't want services now or ever. But if you do then expectations should be tempered accordingly. Always think before buying and move where you won't regret . Timetable Tuesday indexThis item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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