Thursday, January 26, 2006

Wellington Road SmartBus

An A4-sized project update from Vicroads on the Wellington Rd Smartbus was an insert into this week's local rag. Services will start late this year.

More on the Vicroads website.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

454 sets an example

Numerous service changes and new bus routes will come into effect from 30 January. These are currently being discussed over on ATDB.

The changes include a new route here and some service extensions there. Most changes extend much-needed services to outer suburbs. Though necessary for equity reasons, their limited frequency won't suddenly attract hordes of choice passengers, curb car-dependence or improve cost-recovery. Car-owners only ever see a meandering, near empty bus every hour or so and imagine that public transport can only ever be like this and is thus not for them.

This is why another type of service improvement, which cuts travel time and builds patronage through better frequency and co-ordination with trains, is so important. The best example from this round of service changes is the upgrade of Route 454, which links the residential West Sunshine to the transport, commercial and retail hub of Sunshine.

For the next couple of days both 454 timetables are available:

Current

Proposed

Just in case the old timetable becomes unavailable, the main points of the current 454 will be familiar to most Melbourne bus passengers. These include Monday to Saturday running only, last service departs before before 7pm, unharmonised train connections (buses 30 min, trains 20 min), etc.

The new version contains worthwhile measures that will slash waiting times and speed overall travel. They are the product of a great deal of thought and not a mere tinkering. The more significant improvements include:

* Wider service spans, with the last departure after 8:00pm on weekdays and Saturdays

* The basic off-peak weekday headway improved from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes. This permits consistent and reliable connections with every train. Peak services were reduced from 15 to 20 minutes, but people can now stay in the city until after 7pm and still get a bus home!

* Saturday services have been reduced from a non-connecting and clockface 30 min to a non-clockface 40 min but again benefit from a wider service span and better connections.

* Service extended to Sundays, with connections to every second train.

While longer operating hours would still be desirable, the new 454 timetable remedies many of the shortcomings of the old service and is a credit to all concerned. It should make public transport in the area more convenient for more people.

Most heartening is that it gives confidence that despite an entrenched pattern of numerous slow, inefficient and non-coordinated bus routes across Melbourne, decent service planning can still happen.

Alongside a grid of frequent cross-suburban trunk routes between major interchanges, low-cost 454-style improvements to all local routes are the sorts of changes needed to bring usable public transport to the two-thirds of Melbourne who currently lack it.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Different approaches to summer timetables

This coming Monday marks the return to normal weekday timetables for Melbourne's trains. Trams finished their summer timetable a week earlier.

Except for the last two years both modes finish their summer timetables on the same date. Last year the resumption of normal services was delayed a week to cope with a driver shortage. This year the same happened, but this time to provide extra driver shifts for the enhanced Commonwealth Games timetable.

Train and tram have taken vastly different approaches in their summer prunings of services. It is these variations that I'll discuss here.

In summary, the train reductions were milder but prolonged, whereas the tram cuts were deeper but were over quicker.

Summer train timetables left off-peak services unscathed, which I count as a big benefit. On each line it withdrew a couple of peak hour services each way (on average) and changed stopping patterns for a few more.

The majority of passengers could still use their old timetable, and in most cases the services would run at the printed time. So it's easier to communicate the changes for passengers by just saying that services X, Y and Z won't run but everything else would be as normal.

The disadvantage of simply removing services is the big gaps this leaves between services. At some Frankston line stations, for instance, intervals during the height of peak hour were up to 24 minutes; more than off-peak weekdays (15 min) and weekends (20 min). Because a service with 24 minute gaps does not constitute a 'turn up and go' service (which requires a 10-15 minute frequency or better) passengers must learn to become time conscious to avoid long waits.

Trams were done differently. As well as less frequent peak services, off-peak weekday services were reduced, with a modified Saturday timetable applying. On my route this was a fall from every 12 to every 15 minute, or a reduction of about 16 percent. This pruning was heavier than for the trains, but 'turn up and go' is still practicable as services were rescheduled to cover timetable gaps.

The liability of the tram approach is that it affected nearly all services (and not just a handful as with trains). However due to frequent services, the consequences of not knowing are less and a change from 12 to 15 minutes is relatively minor. The exception are those depending on a particular tram service to meet a train or bus, who may have had their journey time extended due to the lower frequency of the latter. But even here service frequency covers a multitude of sins, and the extra travel time is never more than 15 minutes, and will usually be less.

Buses were a mixture of the train method (take out a few peak service only) and the tram method (reduce peak and off-peak frequencies). Still others have had no summer timetable at all, and have run full weekday services all through January.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Melbourne most vulnurable to oil price shocks

A Griffith University study indicates that outer and poorer suburbs are most vulnurable to rising oil prices.

The report Oil Vulnurability in the Australian City recommends a shift from road funding to public transport service quality to make communities more resilient to oil price fluctuations.

Dodson & Sipe also found that Melbourne contained a greater proportion of vulnurable suburbs than either Sydney or Brisbane. Areas of highest vulnurability include the outer western, northern, south-eastern suburbs and the Mornington Peninsula. All these areas combine low incomes with sparse public transport service provision.

Download the full report (pdf 922k) here: http://www.gu.edu.au/centre/urp/URP_RP6_OilVulnerability_Final.pdf (right click to save)

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

A real live composite timetable

Regular readers will know this has been one of my hobbyhorses for a while. Despite their usefulnes for passenger information, marketing and service planning, composite timetables seem to be little used here, even for overlapping services along major roads.

Warrigal Road between Oakleigh and Chadstone is one of Melbourne's most bussed road. The table below is a composite timetable for all buses from Oakleigh to Chadstone along this stretch. Times shown are for Saturday, the busiest shopping day at Chadstone.

5:28 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

5:55 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

6:25 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

6:55 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

7:25 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

7:53 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

8:08 AM 800 Chadstone

8:15 AM 742 Chadstone

8:23 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

8:27 AM 627* Chadstone - Carnegie - McKinnon - Brighton East

8:32 AM 804 Chadstone

8:50 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

8:50 AM 742 Chadstone

9:08 AM 800 Chadstone

9:17 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

9:20 AM 742 Chadstone

9:27 AM 627* Chadstone - Carnegie - McKinnon - Brighton East

9:32 AM 804 Chadstone

9:48 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

9:50 AM 742 Chadstone

10:08 AM 800 Chadstone

10:15 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

10:25 AM 742 Chadstone

10:27 AM 627* Chadstone - Carnegie - McKinnon - Brighton East

10:32 AM 804 Chadstone

10:50 AM 742 Chadstone

10:52 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

11:08 AM 800 Chadstone

11:15 AM 742 Chadstone

11:23 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

11:27 AM 627* Chadstone - Carnegie - McKinnon - Brighton East

11:32 AM 804 Chadstone

11:48 AM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

11:50 AM 742 Chadstone

12:03 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

12:08 PM 800 Chadstone

12:15 PM 742 Chadstone

12:18 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

12:27 PM 627* Chadstone - Carnegie - McKinnon - Brighton East

12:32 PM 804 Chadstone

12:33 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

12:47 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

12:50 PM 742 Chadstone

1:02 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

1:08 PM 800 Chadstone

1:22 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

1:27 PM 627* Chadstone - Carnegie - McKinnon - Brighton East

1:32 PM 804 Chadstone

1:41 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

1:50 PM 742 Chadstone

2:00 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

2:08 PM 800 Chadstone

2:20 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

2:27 PM 627* Chadstone - Carnegie - McKinnon - Brighton East

2:41 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

2:50 PM 742 Chadstone

3:01 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

3:08 PM 800 Chadstone

3:20 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

3:27 PM 627* Chadstone - Carnegie - McKinnon - Brighton East

3:32 PM 804 Chadstone

3:38 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

3:50 PM 742 Chadstone

3:58 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

4:18 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

4:27 PM 627* Chadstone - Carnegie - McKinnon - Brighton East

4:38 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

4:58 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

5:10 PM 742 Chadstone

5:08 PM 800 Chadstone

5:19 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

5:27 PM 627* Chadstone - Carnegie - McKinnon - Brighton East

5:38 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

5:58 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

6:15 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

6:15 PM 742 Chadstone

6:48 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

7:18 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

7:45 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

8:17 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

8:47 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

9:18 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

9:46 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

10:16 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

11:16 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

11:46 PM 700 Chadstone - Holmesglen - Burwood - Box Hill

(*) Service departs from Kangaroo Rd (near Warrigal Rd)

Travel time to Chadstone: 10 minutes approx

Train times at Oakleigh - day: :13, :33, :53 (to city), :12, :32, :52 (from city) Train times at Oakleigh - night: :01, :31 (to city), :02, :32 (from city)

The most impressive feature about this list is the sheer number of services provided. A lot of buses, drivers and dollars are being thrown at serving this corridor. During the day it's an average of a bus every 7-10 minutes.

Thus waiting times should be pretty short, and provided services depart from adjacent stops it should not even be necessary to consult a timetable.

However closer examination tells a different story. During the day there are 'holes' of 18 to 20 minutes due to irregular scheduling. This seems to be particularly the case around 9am (a popular starting time for many retail workers). At other times there may be two half-empty buses following one another, so fleet utilisation and service as seen by the passenger may not be optimum for the (not inconsiderable) resources expended.

Information from exercises such as this can be useful for service planning, co-ordination and trying to make the best use of available resources. For the Oakleigh to Chadstone corridor it's not a lack of services but passenger information and their timing that are the main obstacle to improved patronage, at least during the day.

UPDATE 12 Jan, 2006: 742 and 800 times corrected as per Craig's post and train departure times added.

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