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
Twenty years ago Melbourne had only a rudimentary bus system. Operating hours catered for school, and some shopping and commuting trips but little else, with almost nothing running after 7pm or on Sundays. What service improvements occurred in the 1980s were more than reversed in savage 1990/1991 cuts. Then networks and timetables largely sat idle for ten or fifteen years as the rest of society changed its living, shopping, working and travel patterns.
There were some small upgrades a few years prior but the 'big bang' was the arrival of the 2006 Meeting our Transport Challenges plan (MOTC). It promised seven day service and longer operating hours on 250 existing bus routes. At the time there were about 300 routes, with most of the difference being industrial, peak-only or university routes that did not need weekend service.
Something like 100 (maybe 150) routes did get upgrades by 2010. However it wasn't the 250 within the four years promised. Consequently there remain many routes with six day service, including some quite busy ones. Those that were most in need of upgrade were identified in Thirteen Melbourne bus routes that most deserve Sunday service back in August.
A smaller but still significant number of bus routes lack Saturday as well as Sunday service. This is today's topic. The total would be close to fifty if you included weekday only routes such as various peak industrial, commuter and university routes. Leave those out and the number comes down to about thirty. That is roughly ten percent of the remaining bus routes in Melbourne. However that number still includes some fringe area and interpeak shopper routes that typically attract very low usage.
Here's the list with top priority first. I'll discuss how I arrived at it later.
#1. Route 802 Chadstone - Dandenong. The 802 serves major train stations at Oakleigh and Dandenong. As well as the massive Chadstone Shopping Centre and Monash University bus interchange. Weekday patronage is good. It has a low income catchment that heavily uses buses. 804's main unique catchment is in Dandenong North. While the 802 overlaps other routes like 804 and 862 introducing Saturday service would allow a higher combined frequency on a major bus corridor and improve service consistency. Hence I've made the 802 high priority. Costs of an upgrade could be reduced by doing it in conjunction with a local network restructure that simplifies routes.
#2. Route 821 Southland - Clayton. This is a cross-country route that connects Clayton Station to the larger Southland shopping centre. It has some similarities with the 631 (which does run Saturdays) but goes a different way. Also Clayton, being home to many university students, has excellent demographics for high bus usage throughout the week. Much of the route is industrial but an upgrade would improve connections to Southland from the residential area of Clarinda.
#3. Route 675 Chirnside Park - Mooroolbark. The 675 is the second busiest route on weekdays that lacks Saturday service. It also serves a lower-middle income catchment with limited weekend public transport and connects a major shopping centre with its nearest train station.
#4. Route 551 Heidelberg - La Trobe Uni. This is a short route connecting some residential areas to Heidelberg Station and La Trobe University. The latter is probably why its weekday usage is good. The route would likely disappear or be incorporated into another but for the interim a Saturday service would assist students who go to the university library to study on weekends.
#5. Route 531 Upfield - North Coburg. Weekday patronage on the 531 is fairly weak due to overlap with other routes. However a social case for an upgrade exists as it serves the low-income Somerset Estate, Campbellfield which is unwalkable from other areas and has only the Saturday morning Route 538 operating. Saturday (and Sunday) service would be most economical if the upgrade was introduced along with network reform in the area that would amalgamate routes 531 and 538.
#6. Route 774 Frankston - Delacombe Park. The 774 is the busiest route on weekdays that lacks Saturday service. Some of its weekday patronage comes from Frankston High School which it passes. However even on school holidays productivity is still an above-average 30 boardings per hour. This strengthens the case for Saturday service even though it's a short route. Addition of Saturday service would also improve frequency in the area and potentially assist simplification of the loop routes and occasional deviations that plague the area's bus network.
#7. Route 783 Frankston - Hastings. This route parallels and partly overlaps the 782. However the 783 provides better coverage of parts of Somerville and West Park Estate, a low income area near Hastings with little other service. Adding Saturday (and preferably Sunday) service could simplify buses in the area with other network reforms.
#8. Route 546 Heidelberg - Queen Vic Market. This is a moderately used route that almost but does not quite run to Melbourne CBD. It provides unique coverage to parts of Eaglemont that currently only gets 5 day service. 546 also serves a densifying and developing area including that around the old paper mill at Fairfield. Other local network reforms discussed here.
#9. Route 680 Lilydale - Mooroolbark. Weekday patronage is only average (or slightly below) for the area. However Saturday service is recommended because the residential area it serves has coverage from no other bus route.
#10. Route 823 North Brighton - Southland. The 823 is an hourly weekday route with limited operating hours and not much of a train feeder function. However it has greater potential on Saturday thanks to its ability to provide a direct connection to the busy Southland shopping centre. A northward extension to Elsternwick should strengthen its currently fairly weak patronage. More on the 823 here.
#11. Route 758 Knox City - Knoxfield. Much like 680, this is a route that is the only one in its neighbourhood. Monday to Friday patronage is weak due to its limited frequency and operating hours. Saturday service would add service to an area where a substantial walk would otherwise be required.
#12. Route 757 Knox City - Scoresby. A very similar route to 757 except it's on the other side of Stud Rd. Comments are as for 758.
#13. Route 842 Endeavour Hills - Fountain Gate. Currently a thrice daily weekday route with low patronage. However its operation between well-populated Endeavour Hills and the larger Fountain Gate shopping offer some potential if it operated on Saturday.
How did I arrive at that list? I think its contents are OK but every time I look at it I have different thoughts about the priority order. You might also have opinions on what is more or less important.
Anyway to make the list I started with a list of routes without Saturday service. Peak only, industrial and special university routes were removed.
I then ranked them in reverse order of weekday passenger boardings per bus hour (highest first).
Admittedly this is a poor measure for a couple of reasons:
(1) Peak and school trips can make numbers irrelevant for what you might get on a Saturday.
(2) One can argue that you can't estimate demand for a bridge by counting the number swimming across (ie the service isn't there to start with).
Anyway the list is below. (*) indicates inclusion in the top 13 list above.
774 suburban residential and school 37 *
309 suburban residential mainly peak 36
675 suburban residential 33 *
821 suburban residential 32 *
551 suburban residential & university 31 *
802 suburban residential 29 *
783 suburban residential 26 *
546 suburban residential 21 *
886 fringe & TAFE 20
680 suburban residential 18 *
609 special 17
343 special (duplicative) 14
704 suburban residential 13
531 suburban residential 11 *
758 suburban residential 11 *
757 suburban residential 10 *
823 suburban residential 10 *
686 suburban residential 9
842 interpeakpeak shopper 9*
795 fringe semi rural 8
TB9 suburban residential 8
838 fringe semi rural 7
TB7 suburban residential 7
706 interpeak shopper 6
887 special and university (partly duplicative) 6
777 interpeak shopper 5
TB8 suburban residential 5
687 fringe semi rural 2
673 suburban residential (duplicative) 1
696 interpeak shopper 1
511 suburban residential ?
Other factors used included whether the route provided much unique catchment, catchment demographics and attractions like large shopping centres that boost Saturday patronage. For example routes like 309 and 343 are entirely overlapped by other bus or train routes so did not feature. And most interpeak shopper and fringe routes have too limited unique coverage or sparsely populated catchments to justify inclusion in the top 13.
Special mention must be made of 511 to Craigieburn. This currently has a token one weekday trip each way to a far flung but fast growing estate. That almost certainly could do with a Saturday service but not until there is a proper weekday service.
Half-day Saturday service
Another quirk with Melbourne's buses is that some routes remain with half day Saturday timetables. Melbourne got Saturday afternoon trading in 1987. Many routes gained Saturday afternoon trips. However not all did. And many timetables were subsequently slashed by the Cain/Kirner axe a few years later.
Today at least eight routes reflect old times with only Saturday morning service. In reverse order of Saturday passenger boardings per hour they are as follows:
814 suburban residential 29 (larger area reforms discussed here)
559 suburban residential 27 (discussed here)
815 suburban residential 21 (larger area reforms discussed here)
512 suburban residential 17 (discussed here)
844 suburban residential 16 (3pm finish - discussed here)
538 suburban residential 14 (discussed here)
558 suburban residential 13 (discussed here)
697 suburban residential/fringe 11
857 suburban residential/industrial 9
699 suburban residential/fringe 5 (discussed here)
The main concentrations are in Melbourne's established northern suburbs, around Dandenong and in the outer east. Some have high weekday usage. The existence of these oddities owes not to low demand but because bus timetables are rarely reviewed and outdated service arrangements can endure for decades.
Other short operating hours on Saturday
Even more numerous than routes only with Saturday morning service are routes with Saturday afternoons but not evenings. These are legacies of the bus network that never got MOTC upgrades. Back then the standard bus finished before 7pm on weekdays and about 6pm on Saturdays with no Sunday service. MOTC upgrades were skewed towards bus routes on regular contracts; those franchised out to operators like Melbourne Bus Link and National Bus rarely got a look-in.
This 'path dependency' influences today's timetables, even where routes got reformed or upgrades. For example some results of Transdev's 2014 revised network in the eastern suburbs still have pre-2006 Saturday finish times and either no Sunday service or only two hour gaps between services. Reflecting divisions between operators, most of these are found in the eastern suburbs, most notably around Doncaster and Ringwood (where services are run by Transdev) and in some northern, outer-eastern and south-eastern suburbs that have routes passed over by the MOTC upgrades.
There's a complex relationship between Saturday timetables and public holidays. The standard arrangement is that bus routes with a weekend service operate on public holidays (either a Saturday or Sunday timetable depending on the holiday). However there are many 6-day and even some 7-day routes that have no public holiday service. Read an earlier post at The public holiday gamble on Melbourne's buses or a detailed treatment of the topic here: http://bcsv.org.au/vm/public-holiday-inconsistencies/.
What do you think? Should more buses get Saturday service? Is the list of 13 selected fair? Should other routes be included. Or should some not be. Please leave your comments below if you have an opinion.
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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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