Friday, March 03, 2006

A small improvement to Meltrip

One of the most popular pages on Meltrip is the bus routes index.

As well as updates due to recent service expansions, I thought it was time to overhaul the way routes were classified according to running times. For those new to the site, these are the letters (A, B, C, etc) after the route description.

Because there are many possible service variations, this has always been a balance between information content and simplicity. Up to now letters were added to tell if a service ran Saturdays, Sundays, evenings or whether it was a peak-only service.

Under this method, some routes were difficult to classify, and I used a cut-off time of 8 or 9 pm to determine whether a route qualified as 'full time' (no letters) or 'no evening service'. The problem with this was that it was too coarse, and routes that had a service at (say) 8:30pm were in the same group as full-time services, some of which run as frequently as every 20 or 30 minutes until midnight.

Because it includes part of the evening peak period (especially in outer suburbs) the 6 to 10pm period is critical for many travellers. Not all workers have full control over their finishing times, and the risk of missing the last bus is ever-present. Along with weekends (on some routes) 6 to 10pm is the period where there is the greatest mismatch between modern travel needs and service provided.

For this reason I have altered the codes to better suit travel patterns. A and B cover Saturday and Sunday services and are unchanged. However routes marked 'C' are those where the last service departs before 7pm. Allowing 30-60 min travel and transfer times, 'C' routes do not fully cover the evening peak hour, so are more suited to day travellers (eg shoppers and pensioners) than commuters.

Routes marked 'D' routes offer early evening service, with the last service departing at or after 7pm. On most, service ended before 7:30pm, though a few continue until almost 9pm. Most people on these routes should be able to work until after 6:00 or even 6:30pm and still have transport home. Some 'C' and 'D' routes have extra services on some nights (either Thursday, Friday or Saturday), but for simplicity I excluded these.

Peak-only routes that were marked 'D' are now shown as 'P'.

Unmarked routes are considered 'full time' as they include weekday service until 9:00pm or later along with weekend service. Reference to timetables is important as these later service may not apply on all sections of the route or on weekend evenings.

The changes will not cater for everyone, but they should allow most people to eliminate unsuitable routes quicker without needing to see the timetable.

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