Frequent service Map 1: Melbourne's south-east
Via Jarrett Walker is advice that Vancouver’s TransLink is seeking ideas from the public for a frequent network map, to highlight high service routes and corridors.
We have never had such a map for the Melboune network. More than any other Australian city frequency here has been a function of mode. Trams are most frequent, offering ‘turn up and go’ service every 5 to 15 minutes, at least during the day. Trains are next, on 15 to 30 minute frequencies. Buses were last, typically operating every 20 to 60 minutes, with varying spans and operating days.
Although there were exceptions, if you wanted frequent travel and an assurance of being able to travel on Sunday or get home at night you would almost never catch a bus. Hence train and tram system maps (normally mode rather than area-based) were our de-facto frequent network maps.
In the last five years we have seen the extension of many bus services to 7 days and the commencement of SmartBus services, which, at least on weekdays, operate at or better than train frequencies. The generalisation that buses run less often than trains remains valid but decreasingly so. However because our network maps treat all bus routes as being equal (just like if a street directory showed local streets as thick as freeways and distributors) the higher service on the better routes and corridors is uncommunicated to passengers.
The solution is a multimode frequent service map to highlight the high-service parts of the network that can reasonably be navigated without a timetable (at least on weekdays). It would be in a simple schematic form, showing only the high-service corridors, interchange points and major trip generators. At major interchanges it would supplement but not replace metro-wide single mode network schematic maps and local multimode geographically-based street-level maps.
A possible frequent service map for the south-east suburbs of Melbourne is shown below. Interstate or international readers should note it's approximately one-third of the metropolitan area and excludes the CBD (beyond the top left of the map). The areas covered are approximately 4 to 40 kilometres from the city centre.
This map is an attempt to simplify a fairly complex network that has diverse service levels and operating spans. I have set a cut-off related to SmartBus service levels, ie a 15 minute frequency on weekdays and 30 minutes on nights and weekends. Less frequent individual routes are not shown unless they parallel other routes to form a high combined frequency along a corridor.
Line thickness is related to service frequencies for individual routes or route families, with two levels used; thick for 15 minutes or better, and thin for inferior to this. Routes or corridors with 'full-time' operating hours, ie daily service until 11pm (9pm Sunday) got solid lines. Routes offering lesser spans got dashed lines. Hence a thick dashed line would be a frequent weekday service with limited or no service at other times. Conversely a thin solid line would indicate lower frequency but wide span (like outer suburban trains). A thin dashed coloured line would typically be a 'minimum standards' route, with 7-day hourly service until 9pm. Routes offering less than this (only drawn if they added frequency to a corridor) are shown with a grey line.
Melbourne typically colours its train information blue, tram information green and bus information orange. The map above adopts these colours for train and tram lines. However because there are more bus routes legibility requires the use of several colours. The orbital SmartBus routes were identified by colour in the planning stage (eg red orbital, green orbital, yellow orbital) so I have used these colours on these routes.
Some frequent service maps concentrate on daytime frequency and offer little assistance to passengers travelling at other times. However to provide assurance that night travellers won’t get stranded, it's desirable for maps to show approximate operating spans as well (especially finish times), in an unobtrusive form. I believe this map succeeds at both, without introducing too much clutter.