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
State Transport minister Ben Carroll has a problem. Public transport is on the nose. Patronage has collapsed and fare revenue is down. City workers, now staying at home, no longer needed to travel. Closed schools removed another important part of demand. And shut shops, distance limits, curfews and stay home restrictions curtailed demand for almost all other types of travel. Melburnians complied well with the tough COVID restrictions. Case numbers have slowed to a trickle, with zero on some days. We are opening up as European countries are locking down. The curfew's gone. We can travel 25 rather than 5km and can leave home for any purpose. School is back, shops are reopening and restrictions on sport and worship are fewer. This revived activity has returned traffic to our roads. Sometimes at quite high levels, with congestion happening already.
The sorts of trips still not done (most notably CBD work trips) has meant that public transport usage is still depressed. And less rusted on passenger segments (eg safety-conscious car-owning middle class people with choices) will be driving themselves or their children for some trips that were previously made on public transport. Some will be walking or cycling but trip distances, unsafe infrastructure, over-protective parents and perceptions about relative safety will mean that the biggest increase is in driving.
To avert gridlock once activity fully resumes our cities and suburbs needs traffic-busting public transport to bounce back. And for active transport to be better than ever, especially with regards to space, safety and visibility against the demands of increasingly bigger and higher bonneted cars taking over our roads.
Here are my top ten tips for public transport to bounce back better.
1. Clean well and reassure people that public transport is safe to travel on
Public transport has suffered a reputational blow. It must overcome this to win patronage back.
That requires (i) a continuation of improved cleaning regimes (already put in place by the state government) and (ii) an assurance that taking public transport is safe.
The second point is particularly hard since perceptions can linger after initial problems have been addressed. IBAC's Operation Esperance has been recently hearing accounts of alleged corruption involving cleaning contractors and senior management at V/Line and Metro Trains. Secret payments were made and corners were cut.
Subsequent action has been swift. Yesterday V/Line has sacked its CEO James Pinder while Metro dismissed Peter Bollas. Both had been under suspension since August. Also V/Line's board has cancelled Transclean's contract while Metro is looking at how probity in procurement can be improved. With the affair making TV and front page news, more work is needed for the community to be assured that train cleaning is up to scratch and travel is safe.
Part of this communications effort could be about advising on the relative safety of different forms of transport. Sometimes what is perceived as safe varies from the facts.
For example if you were to ask people about the safety and security of various forms of transport, the private car will rank highly, especially when transporting children. Likely seen as superior to the risks of cycling or misgivings about what can happen on public transport.
Cars are however a major source of injuries and death. The public mind tends to downplay that risk, accepting the road toll as an inevitably of modern living. There is some pushback against 'vision zero' laws in some other countries. Given the actual risk of car travel, campaigns highlighting the true risks of various transport modes may help to restore confidence in taking active and public transport.
2. Promote across all modes, network wide
Some past bus-only marketing campaigns have been unsuccessful. These were often epheremal, piecemeal and single modal. Routes promoted were not always useful for many trips a person would make. And promotion was sometimes untied to service, for instance attempts to market an infrequent and/or five day bus route.
Any promotion initiative should be network wide, multimodal and carefully channeled.
3. Recognise that not all services are equal (or equally marketable)
A BMW does much the same job as a Toyota Camry. A bus vehicle on a route looks much the same whether it runs every 10 minutes or every 60 minutes. The same goes for most passenger information currently provided.
What those outside public transport (and even some in public transport management) don't always grasp is that there is a huge difference between a route that runs frequent with long operating hours and one that runs only occasionally. The former service is useful for many types of trips throughout the day while the latter is rarely useful. In addition connections become easier when high frequency minimises waits.
It follows then that most potential for a patronage return from marketing efforts will come from promoting the more frequent parts of the network with service all week. Interactive maps showing these are here, with an example presented below.
Doing this is a very different approach to that historically taken by PTV, which generally promotes buses like the frequent and direct 246 (every 10 min on weekdays) as well (or as badly) as the 609 (a few trips weekdays only).
4. Sell the system on the system
The public transport network has a great deal of space that could be cheaply used to promote increased usage. For example maps, posters and billboard at stations or bus shelters. People seeing this include existing passengers, former passengers and potentially new passengers.
Train and tram passengers, in particularly may have low awareness of the more useful (yet marketable) parts of the bus network. Meanwhile ads on bus shelters or on buses (avoiding the window space) could promote the service to car drivers. Marketing should concentrate on promoting the most useful part of the network for reasons mentioned before.
5. More information to promote multimodal usage
Current information at stations about buses and nearby trams is very limited. For example network maps are almost unknown. Great scope exists to promote multimodal 'useful networks' at points across the system, including at railway stations, bus interchanges, major destinations and locations where frequent routes intersect.
The PTV website isn't very good at drawing users' attention to multimodal area maps or promoting service upgrades. In some cases their new website has made things worse.
The change in travel patterns, including a trend away from CBD commutes to more localised travel over more of the day makes multimodal information increasingly important as travel patterns change . Even existing and otherwise knowledgeable passengers need to be 'retrained' to use the system for different trips if they are not to be lost to it.
6. Small infrastructure works to improve access and interchange
Improving access to stations is a cost-effective way to boost train patronage. Too many of our stations (even some of our busiest rebuilt ones) have a single entry point at one end of the platform. Adding more entry points increases the population within convenient walking distance of a station without having to add new stations or extend lines.
On-road access improvements can also boost usage of trams and buses and improve interchange. Example initiatives include adding stops where there are currently long gaps between them, moving stops nearer intersections, adding wombat crossings, closing slip lanes and roundabout removals. The latter, where large, are as significant impediments to walkers are train level crossings are to drivers. Many of these small road projects would assist cycling and walking connections as well.
7. Selected off peak and weekend service improvements
Public transport is going to have to assume a greater role in off-peak travel if the traffic congestion issues mentioned before are not to materialise. Fortunately improvements here can mostly just require the existing fleet to be worked harder. Upgrades should be targeted at routes that most need it, for example those justified due to their existing high usage or because they service major destinations.
Off-peak rail upgrades are also desirable where frequencies are half-hourly or worse. Particular priorities include Ringwood line services out to Belgrave and Lilydale (boost from every 30 to every 20 min), Sunday morning Metro train services, mid-evening trains and the Geelong line on weekends (at least as far as Wyndham Vale) on weekends (boost from every 40 to every 20 min), .
8. Simplify peak train timetables
Scope exists to use the current patronage lull to make decisions that might have been considered difficult when patronage was higher. Such decisions are particularly important on lines that have never had revised 'greenfield' timetables. An example is the Ringwood line which has numerous extremely complicated stopping patterns. A reformed timetable would make services simpler with fewer stopping patterns and more evenly spaced trips.
9. Special promotion offers
This is a bit of a side issue. Because if the main issue is cleanliness and safety then cheap fares won't necessarily lure people back to the system. Also the service has to be there and usable. Nevertheless, once these are taken care of, there may be scope to win people back to public transport for special days or events. 10. Start overhauling bus networks Again the times give an opportunity to do this. Overhauls include reviewing the worth of existing routes and examining scope for networks to be made simpler. more direct and more frequent with harmonised connections with trains. Many ideas in the Useful Networks index link below.
Conclusion Cities do tend to bounce back. Public transport must be fit and ready to play its part in this revival. Ten cost-effective tips to enable this have been given above. PS: An index to all Useful Networks is here.Melbourne on Transit bookshopFavourably reviewed books about transport and cities. Purchases via these links support this blog and its independent reporting (at no extra cost to you).
This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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