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Most Useful Network items are about building simple corridors running every 20 minutes to be within reach of as many homes, major destinations and transport interchanges as possible. Implementation would give a much better network than what's there now, where indirect buses every 22 to 40 minutes are common.
Every 20 minutes however does not constitute a turn-up-and-go service. Connections still need to be planned. And if a bus is cancelled or severely delayed then there would be 40 minutes between buses so it's not very robust. And if you want huge numbers of people to ditch their cars or accept paid parking in suburban areas then a 20 minute service isn't a saleable substitute for driving. Neither should it be a trigger for suburban housing density higher than townhouses or villas or major employment hubs.
All that requires a ten minute frequency in not one but multiple directions from a site. Where does that exist now? This extract from the Melbourne Public Transport Frequent Network Map shows where we currently stand.
Basically the ten minute service exists on just over half the tram lines and a few train corridors (mostly in the south-east). Its occurrence on buses is scattered as shown below. Just two seven-day routes in all of Melbourne (246 and 402) run a basic 10 minute frequency off-peak on weekdays. That number increases to five when the three qualifying university shuttles (301, 401, 601) are added. It's still only seven when the two main route pairs with 20 minute service each are added. There are also almost no suburban places where frequent routes intersect, and thus allow a reliable 'turn up and go' interchange.
This is for a city of over five million where most are beyond walking distance of trains and trams and there are over 300 bus routes. The point is that frequent service on Melbourne buses is rare, forming a tiny proportion of the network and missing most key suburban attractions.
Towards a larger 10 minute network
The ten minute network obviously needs to be bigger. Where would you start if you wanted to enlarge it? After all we don't need buses every ten minutes to the paddocks of Yarrambat or wilds of Warrandyte (though we already have fairly close to that). And it makes no sense to run them parallel to a tram or train line with closely spaced stations.
This list is my ten picks for new ten minute corridors. Selection criteria are a mix of whether the upgrades would be cheap to do, the catchment quality including major destinations and patronage on existing services along them.
#1 406 Footscray - Victoria University - Highpoint A simple corridor at least every 10 minutes to replace the current complex 223 and 406 pair. Resources used on Route 223 would be folded into a more frequent and straightened Route 406 between Footscray and Highpoint. Some trips would extend beyond Highpoint to Keilor East as per the existing route. More about this almost no cost upgrade in Useful Network Part 11.
#2 201 Box Hill - Deakin University All Melbourne's main university shuttles operate every 10 minutes or better, enabling use as a turn-up-and-go service. The Box Hill to Deakin University service on Route 201 is the main exception. It has a 20 minute service with poor connections to the basic 15 minute off-peak frequency on the Ringwood line. As explained here it's a product of poor planning if ever there was one; the 201 was introduced alongside an existing Box Hill - Deakin shuttle running approximately every 40 minutes (the 768). Folding that into the 201 should enable an improved 15 minute frequency. A further upgrade to ten minutes is both desirable and possible. The cheapest approach would be to fold the resources of Route 281 south of Box Hill into it. Alternatively an extra couple of buses would allow an upgrade to ten minutes or better and relieve the busy Route 767 in the area.
#3 903 Coburg - Preston - Northland - Heidelberg - Doncaster - Box Hill - Chadstone - Mentone. Currently all of this route is run by the 903 SmartBus orbital. Weekday service is every 15 minutes. Large portions between Coburg and Northland are overlapped by Route 527 operating every 20 minutes. Amalgamating both routes east of Coburg permits a 10 minute service between there and Heidelberg for negligible cost, connecting numerous health, education and shopping destinations. Assuming no change to services east of Heidelberg the main trade-off is splitting the route at Heidelberg, which is why I've numbered the western portion 904 as explained in Useful Network 28.
Parts of the 903 east of Heidelberg operates every 7.5 minutes in the afternoon peaks due to short trips being added between there and Oakleigh. An interpeak frequency upgrade could put these buses towards upgrading from a 15 to 10 minute interpeak frequency between Heidelberg and Mentone. The main trade-off is that the mostly quiet Mordialloc to Menton portion would fall to a 20 minute frequency. This upgrade would work the fleet harder and require more driver hours. But it would require few if any additional buses.
#4 411 Millers Rd SmartBus between Footscray and Altona Currently Millers Rd, Altona North has a large number of less frequent bus routes that combined to operate at irregular intervals, although the seven buses per hour overall is very high. These include the 903 every 15 minutes, the 232 every 20 minutes and the 411 every 40 minutes. Both the 232 and 903 are relatively poorly used, especially off-peak with the overlap not helping.
A ten minute upgrade of this corridor is the most complex discussed here due to the need for local network reform to do it economically. Such a reformed network could involve folding Route 232, 411 and 903 services into a single frequent Footscray - Millers Rd - Altona SmartBus. Connections from Altona to Sunshine could remain as a local route that is optimised for local needs such as school bell times. Overall cost depends on the extent to which one is willing to reduce overlap and simplify the local bus network. More on this in Useful Network Part 5 here.
#5 900 Caulfield - Wellington Rd - Stud Park The 14-year old Route 900 is a good performing route with Monash University Clayton and Chadstone Shopping Centre generating larger passenger numbers. Its peak service was upgraded from every 15 to every 10 minutes a little while ago. An interpeak frequency upgraded would mean employing more drivers and running those buses during the middle of the day as well as during peaks. A weekend upgrade would also be highly desirable given its shopping centre patronage.
#6 220 Sunshine - Footscray - CBD Another top performing route. Similar comments apply as for the 900 with peak buses being used in the middle of the day to increase service from every 15 to every 10 minutes. Further options exist to further strengthen the route - more on the 220 Megabus plan here.
#7 907 Mitcham - Doncaster Rd - CBD Possibly the most productive of Melbourne's four DART routes serving the city of Manningham. Well used during both peak and interpeak times. An upgrade from every 15 to every 10 minutes would be well received and used by passengers on this busy corridor.
#8 733 Box Hill - Mt Waverley - Monash Uni - Clayton This is a heavily used but underserviced route on its Box Hill to Clayton portion. Peak frequency is roughly 15 minutes, dropping to every 10 minutes interpeak. The strength of the trip generators along it justify at least a 15 and preferably a 10 minute all day frequency. In contrast interpeak service drops to just 30 minutes on weekday with only an hourly service offered on Sundays. Some new buses would be needed for a 10 minute frequency but purchase would be worth it given the area's strong passenger catchment and the 733's existing success. The quieter Oakleigh to Clayton portion might initially remain on its current service level with a future reform to reduce overlap with the 703 along Centre Rd. More on the 733 here.
#9 508 Moonee Ponds - Brunswick - Northcote - Alphington This is the premier east-west route across Melbourne's inner north, linking numerous train and tram lines. As a first step interpeak frequency could be boosted to 15 minutes to reflect the current peak service. However a 10 minute service is highly desirable as it would provide a turn up and go service in concert with the trams along with meshing in evenly with train lines every 20 minutes.
#10 La Trobe University - Heidelberg - Camberwell - Caulfield Most of this route doesn't exist yet, even as a low frequency service. But it should. Despite the expense involved with new buses and driver hours. This is because it would plug a larger gap in Melbourne's east and south-east where there are no strong north-south routes through a densely populated area near universities, homes, shops and transport junctions (Kew East, Camberwell and Caulfield). Longer term this corridor has potential as southern (first) and northern (later) extensions of the Burke Rd tram but the bus should start much sooner.
A map for all these upgrades is below.
The cheapest corridors to upgrade simplify the network by consolidating multiple routes into fewer with higher frequency. They require no or negligible increases in service kilometres, driver hours or bus fleet.
The next cheapest corridors are on routes where buses run frequency during peaks but not off-peaks. They need more driver hours and have additional fuel and maintenance costs. But the peak fleet requirement is not increased.
The dearest corridors are on routes where more buses need to be purchased and accommodated. More driver hours, fuel and maintenance costs are also involved. However these are still a tiny proportion of the capital costs that get spent, sometimes almost without question, on transport projects. And all those here are major routes that a ten minute service would boost patronage on.
The cheapest upgrades appear first in the list above.
The above ten bus upgrades provide a ten minute network to many of suburban Melbourne's biggest destinations. However it's not yet complete. This is because most train lines have only a 15 or 20 minute off-peak frequency. So while it's an easy change from a train to a bus the reverse would not necessarily be the case unless you are lucky.
The cheapest line to upgrade, and the one that would intersect with the most number of ten minute buses, is the Ringwood line. Currently trains have a basic 15 minute frequency, with each line east of there having only a 30 minute headway. This is poorer than the Geelong line (basic 20 min interpeak weekday frequency) and even itself on weekends (trains every 10 min on weekends to Ringwood, Belgrave and Lilydale every 20 minutes). The Ringwood line also serves many now marginal seats so an upgrade to every 10 minutes weekday interpeak as per the weekend timetable makes good politics as well.
Other important lines that need 10 minute frequency upgrades include Mernda (due to the continuous development to and beyond the end), Craigieburn, Sunbury (to Watergardens) and Hurstbridge (to Macleod). The 411 upgrade mentioned above would be strengthened with a reopened Paisley Station and Werribee line frequency upgrade.
Listed are ten corridors that could benefit from a 10 minute all day frequency upgrade. What do you think? Should others be added or should some be removed. Please comment below if you have a view.
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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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