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
Anyone can make lists of potential bus service upgrades. More than a small number has appeared here. Today though we’ll look at one developed a while back by the Public Transport Users Association, our main passenger advocacy group.
Combined with rail and tram extensions you can read it here: https://www.ptua.org.au/policy/network/
It was written in 2016 so bear that in mind when you see it. Since then we’ve seen continued fringe growth and government announcements on projects including Airport Rail, the Suburban Rail Loop and a Caulfield to Rowville tram. These can affect bus network planning, both if you want buses as a precursor to rail projects and later when improved transport is needed to feed rail.
The preamble talks about the ‘network effect’. Basically if you improve frequency on one route you not only assist travel along it but also connectivity to intersecting routes. If the intersecting routes are also frequent then you multiply the number of destinations that are accessible via a short wait and transfer. In theory that can deliver patronage gains by a higher percentage than the service added. This concept was presented in various academic papers, manuals and books, notably by the late Paul Mees (who was PTUA president in much of the 1990s).
Below are the PTUA’s 2016 bus service priorities. My comments on them follow.
1. Inner-suburban “blue orbital” Smartbus connecting Footscray, Moonee Ponds, Brunswick, Clifton Hill, Richmond, St Kilda and Elsternwick (incorporating routes 246 and 472) enabling more inner-cross-suburban trips without having to travel via the CBD.
As background, the government proposed the ‘Blue Orbital’ about 15 years ago to run from Sandringham to Williamstown. It (and the western part of the Green Orbital) was dropped from plans a few years later. The 246 in the east is already 1.5 to 2 times as frequent as a SmartBus. The 472’s western end does not serve any major destinations that its parallel Williamstown line train doesn’t, although it does have some unique residential catchment. Similar weaknesses exist at the Sandringham – Brighton end. Nevertheless there is a major need for frequent east-west buses across Melbourne’s inner north as far west as Highpoint that would suit a SmartBus. However Footscray to Highpoint justifies a superior service to a SmartBus, particularly on weekends. And it already has 7 buses per hour on existing confusing routes so just needs reform to deliver a simple 10 minute frequency.
Although a simple concept, this proposal would overservice some areas while underserving others. Therefore I cannot recommend it. The 246 is best left on its own with its current enhanced frequency. Highpoint is better served with a rerouted 903 along with simpler reformed buses to Footscray. And Williamstown Road can be upgraded much cheaper with more service hours on the 472 south of Footscray (particularly on Sunday). It would be more useful instead to ditch the orbital idea in favour of one or preferably two existing routes upgraded to SmartBus across the inner north (eg Route 508 and likely 506 plus the very economical 904 MegaBus concept).
2. High-frequency connection from Broadmeadows to Melbourne Airport, supplementing existing route 901, to provide better connections from the northern suburbs to the airport precinct
The existing 901 already runs every 15 minutes on weekdays. Its main issues include (a) its 15 minute frequency does not harmonise with trains at Broadmeadows, (b) the poor 30 minute frequency on weekends and (c) an early Sunday night finish (9pm).
A case could be made for a couple of buses to run between existing trips to provide a 30 minute weekend service but connections with trains (that can be as infrequent as every 40 minutes, eg on Sunday mornings) will remain an issue until these are upgraded.
Overall though I’d spend the money instead on numerous smaller upgrades, eg running all Broadmeadows/Campbellfield/Glenroy buses seven days, higher bus frequencies at Craigieburn (which we're getting in April 2022), better coverage in growth areas like Attwood and network reform to make buses simpler. If improved airport connectivity is required I’d instead suggest a fast Sunshine – Airport bus (the Route 500 concept) as a precursor to Airport Rail.
3. Extend shuttle 401 to North Richmond station, enabling better connections from the South Morang/Mernda and Hurstbridge lines
This has merit as Melbourne sorely lacks east-west bus connectivity across CBD fringe areas to the north. To some extent it has been overtaken by events as the government introduced the frequent 202 shuttle from Parkville to Victoria Park earlier this year. However the very frequent 401 will not need to be run as intensively (or at all) after the Metro Tunnel opens in 2025 so this might be the trigger for a rethink involving a longer route between say North Melbourne and Victoria Park..
4. Mornington Peninsula route 788 upgrade to at least every 30 minutes, to better connect with trains and cut waiting times on the principal public transport route on the Peninsula
Supported. And mostly implemented with major service upgrades in late 2021. Services now run every 30 minutes weekday and 40 minutes weekend, with a 30 minute service running during summer peaks. Further network improvements happened in February 2022 but 7 day service and longer operating hours (some routes finish before 4pm!) remain a pressing need on the peninsula.
5. LaTrobe University to Glenferrie station bus route to provide high-frequency bus services across the Yarra (via Chandler Highway), serving multiple universities and major activity centres such as Northland
Has merit but should require general bus reform in the area for most benefit. A connection south to Caulfield is arguably of even stronger patronage potential, filling a huge network gap across the east and south-east.
Key steps in such a revamped network involving two upgraded La Trobe University routes might include:
1. Split the 903 at Heidelberg with portion west operating as different route (904) and merged with 527 to deliver a 10 minute frequency at least to Coburg. Extend eastern part of 903 to LaTrobe University (via Heidelberg and replacing 551 bus).
2. Merge 548 and 624 into a single route (620) operating directly between La Trobe University and Monash Caulfield, passing quite close to Swinburne at Auburn. An additional local route would run in the Springthorpe area to replace straightened 548. And 624 would be simplified and shortened, with parts west of Chadstone being replaced by a rerouted 623 and 734 extended to Caulfield.
The PTUA has come up with some useful bus service upgrades. It's good that a couple can be considered substantially done. Also if you had to revisit the exercise in 2022 you may have other priorities, especially where they could complement major projects including the Metro Tunnel, Airport Rail and the Suburban Rail Loop. Your thoughts are appreciated and can be left below.
More Building Melbourne's Useful Network items here
This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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