Monday, April 20, 2009

Route 903's first day

Route 903, Melbourne's first orbital SmartBus route, commenced operation today. The 86 kilometre route links a wide belt of Melbourne's middle suburbs, including Altona, Sunshine, Essendon, Coburg, Preston, Doncaster, Box Hill, Holmesglen, Oakleigh, Mentone and Mordialloc.

Services typically run every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes on evenings and weekends. Route 903 incorporates routes 291 and 700 in the eastern suburbs and provides new coverage across the north and west.

It takes about 4 hours to do the route from end to end. No one except the curious would travel the entire route. However it serves numerous large suburban centres and it is already proving popular for many local and semi-local trips that would otherwise require a detour via the city.

The following pictures show aspects of 903 on its first day of operation.

Promotion at Mordialloc Station

Notice at Sunshine bus stop

Passenger information display at Mordialloc advising the first service

First full length service from Mordialloc stopping at Box Hill

Staff assisting passengers at Altona terminus

Features

903 is the first of three orbital bus routes for Melbourne. High-quality cross-suburban and circle routes address a common criticism of traditional public transport networks; that they cater well for travel towards the CBD but are less effective for cross-suburban trips.

Other functions for 903 include as a rail feeder (especially on those parts of the route where peak frequencies are as high as 7-8 minutes) and to serve shopping centres that previously had limited transport, particularly on weekends when they were busiest.

Route 903 offers passenger information displays at stops and on board the bus. Bus lanes near intersections, more detailed timetable displays and 100% low floor operation are other features available on this and other SmartBus routes. The paper timetable is a bound 70+ page book with different expanded/compressed timetables for each route section.

Because of the interruption of Port Phillip and the distance between Altona and Mordialloc, 903 is not a full circular route (where buses return to their origin). Also the same bus runs the entire trip from end to end; the route is not split into sections. These two characteristics pose challenges for efficient scheduling, rostering, timekeeping and connections compared to the shorter, simpler routes that 903 replaced.

Other cities

Other cities with circle routes include Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Christchurch.

Route 903's span span compares favourably with the other cities. Its frequency is superior to Adelaide and Brisbane and approximately comparable to Perth. Christchurch's 'Orbiter' is smaller than the Australian examples but is an intersting case of very high service levels in a small city.

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