Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Postcard from Tasmania: Catching the 'flea'?

‘The People Movers’, a history of Melbourne’s private buses, had an account describing the multiple operators who plied busy routes in the early days. In those days, when urban route buses were profitable and regulation was light, anyone with a converted truck could skim an established operator’s patronage by trolling their route a few minutes before the scheduled times. These scavengers of the bus world were known as ‘fleas’.

The practice ended as more people bought cars, lowering profits. Governments legislated to remove ‘wasteful competition’. Later still public subsidy came with increased control of the bus industry, which consolidated into fewer hands.

An exception, where buses still pay their way without subsidy, is airport to city bus routes. Typically these are either not provided by the city’s main transport authority (Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, Perth International) or are all-stops regular routes (Adelaide, Perth Domestic). In Sydney and Brisbane premium fare trains fulfil this role. Because of the requirement to recover costs, fares are typically several times higher than an equivalent length trip on a regular bus or train.

Melbourne’s Skybus, for example, charges $16 for a 20-25km trip to the airport. Skybus has an exclusive contract with the State Government to operate this busy service. Service levels have risen greatly and are now at ‘turn up and go’ frequencies over more hours of the day than any other transit service in Victoria.

At least for its contract term, Skybus is a monopoly. Skybus pays for this right and runs without public subsidy.

Monopolies (in many fields) often get a bad rap for poor service, high prices or both. However Skybus can claim an impressive record of service improvement (frequency boosts from every 30 to every 10 minutes are typical) and strong patronage growth, so the poor service argument cannot be sustained here.

Possibly easier to argue though is that competition can lower prices, Although bear in mind that even here Skybus is not a complete monopoly since there is competition from alternatives eg taxis (especially for couples), airport parking and even the (slower) Metro train + Route 901 trip.

To see competition in practice, lets look at the Hobart to Hobart Airport service. Like Melbourne there is no rail link and no direct regular public transport service.

The big difference with Melbourne is that Hobart has several City – Airport express bus operators.

The Airporter is run by Redline – one of the island's largest regional operators. The fare is $15 for a 20 minute trip, making it similar to Skybus. Hobart has far fewer flights than Melbourne and commensurately less frequent airport buses. Unlike Redline’s other routes, timetables are not published and passengers need to phone up and book.

Challenging Redline is the Ten Buck Bus, which offers a simlar service for 33% less. Service is from nominated city locations (mostly hotels) and a timetable is published. This has services every 60 to 90 minutes and there is no need to book. Possibly this saves the need to take many calls or manage online bookings. Unlike Redline, Ten Buck has no public CBD-based bus terminal, and, as can be gauged from their website and business card, the cheapest possible promotion.

Due to my preference for printed timetables (unless services are very frequent), I opted for the Ten Buck service. I fronted up at the main city stop about 20 minutes early and was surprised to see a Redline bus – also going to the airport – pull up shortly later.

I asked the fare and it was only $8 – about half Redline’s usual rate and 20% lower than the Ten Buck fare (not bothering to ask the question posed on Ten Buck's stop flag – ‘If it’s not $10 ask why’).

Since ‘a bus in the hand is worth….’ and I had plenty of time, I boarded the Redline. A largely unsuccessful lap around the city netted only 2 further passengers and we were off.

It was only after boarding that I realised that I might have ridden a ‘flea’. But on further consideration, was Redline’s sending of a bus to its rival's stop less that of a flea and more that of a troll, seeking to stomp on its ten buck upstart rival? Thoughts from Tasmanian readers welcome!

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Postcard from Tasmania: No spirit for the Spirit

In keeping with the season’s holiday mood, following are two snapshots of transport outside Melbourne. The first discusses ferry passenger connectivity facilities at Devonport, as encountered last week.

There couldn’t be any more contrast between transport facilities at each of the ‘Spirit of Tasmania’ termini. The Spirit is a large car and passenger ferry with daily night sailings with day sailings added during peak season.

Melbourne’s Station Pier is at the end of a major tram route, running every few minutes mostly on its own right of way. Pedestrian access is short, direct and legible, with excellent walking and cycling paths. A convenience store and restaurants are within sight. While less prominent, Bay Street’s shops and services are also comfortably walkable.

Devonport is Tasmania’s third city, smaller than only Hobart and Launceston. It is Tasmania’s northern gateway, welcoming backpackers and tourists to surrounding mountains, trails and farms.

The city is divided by the River Mersey. The CBD, accommodation, entertainment, tourist bureau and most housing is on the west bank. On the east is light industry, some housing and the Spirit of Tasmania ferry terminal. The ferry terminal is a stone’s throw across the water from the city centre, with land access via a bridge approximately 2km to the south.


View Larger Map

The Spirit of Tasmania and the people it brings is important to Devonport’s life and economy. Childrens’ murals on the showground’s wall often depict the ferry. The council office names Devonport as the ‘City with Spirit’. And the ship’s daily horn, what is to Devonport as church bells are to a medieval city, removes any doubt.

If the ferry is such a big thing in this town, let’s see how well the transport needs of its passengers are looked after, especially those who came without cars.

The photo shows the first impression arriving passengers get after leaving the ferry and collecting luggage.

Following are seven observations made following the day sailing on December 22, ie close to peak season.

1. The Spirit of Tasmania is scheduled to arrive at the 'out of town' East Devonport terminus at 6pm. However the Torquay ferry, which could provide a quick trip into town, only runs from 8am to 6pm, unsuitable for Spirit passengers arriving after six. The local tourist bureau confirmed services are not extended an hour in peak season to cater for the day ferry’s arrival.

2. The Merseylink town bus service operates to East Devonport via the aforementioned bridge. Route 60's nearest stop is about a five minute walk east of the ferry terminus (see map) so is potentially useful. That is until one checks the timetable, which had the last weekday bus leaving at 5:46pm. On Saturdays the last bus is at 4:00pm, while no service runs on Sundays. Again this service finishes too early to be useful for ferry passengers. In addition few town bus stops inspected had timetables, maps or route information so these service only really cater for residents, who through trial and error, already know where the bus goes.

3. Despite the absence of conventional public transport (ferry or bus) there appeared to be no shuttle bus to take alighting passengers to central Devonport, which would be a key destination for those staying or touring locally.

4. No taxis were seen in the area, despite the likely brisk business, due in part to the above limited transport options. There also appeared to be no visible taxi rank or signage indicating same.

5. Some ferry passengers had bicycles – presumably for touring. There were no defined cycle routes or wayfinding signage to guide their 4km ride into town, although the Council's Cycling Network Strategy identifies their need.

6. The tourist bureau correctly advised that the ferry terminal is about an hour’s walk from Devonport CBD. Again there was no map or wayfinding signage at the ferry terminal to assist those walking into town. Hence the sighting of of lost backpackers in an industrial area’s intersection not far from the ferry terminal.

7. The locals know their town has lousy transport, and sometimes offer tourists seen walking a lift. Although haphazard, this appears to be the most effective transport option that Devonport can offer day sailing passengers.

Conclusion

Melbourne has more than 100 times Devonport’s population. The big-city facilities at Station Pier are neither expected nor appropriate at East Devonport.

Nevertheless Devonport’s failure to provide low-cost facilities such as street maps, pedestrian and cycle wayfinding signage and taxi ranks surely reflects poorly on its support for a ferry service that Australian taxpayers subsidise (cars, not passengers, mind you). Extending either the Torquay ferry or Route 60's hours so it meets all Spirit sailings would also help connectivity.

Until then Devonport is worth visiting only to learn what not to do when it comes to connecting various transport modes or looking after disembarking passengers. As discussed last year southern Tasmania offers riper pickings for the transport tourist.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Route 837's clever weekday timetable

A previous look at the new Casey-Cardinia bus network (which started last week) indicated that the new timetables improved local route coverage and span more than train connectivity, often because of incompatible bus and train headways (table below).

Cautious passengers in Casey/Cardinia should assume non-connectivity unless otherwise known, especially on weekends.

However one still sometimes finds exquisite examples of good planned connectivity. These are even more remarkable given the difficulties of planning buses around trains every 30 to 40 minutes (compared to 15 - 20 minutes on other Metro lines).

A good example is the weekday timetable for Route 837 between Berwick Station and Beaconsfield East.

Train times

Let's start by checking the area's train times.

Off-peak weekday trains to the city from Pakenham leave Berwick at :20 and :50 past the hour.

Going the other way, off-peak weekday trains from the city to Pakenham leave Berwick at :01 and :31.

Trip generators and passenger flows

Route 837's main trip generators are clustered at the Berwick end of the route. They mostly either in the main street or near the station. Hence peak passenger flow would be towards Berwick in the morning and away from Berwick in the afternoon/evening. This peak flow is only amplified by the route's service of Berwick Station, with a similar peak flow, but this time towards the City and Dandenong in the morning and away in the afternoon.

Analysis

Let's see how Route 837 meets these travel needs, especially train connectivity.

The route runs hourly on weekdays, so could potentially meet every second train if well planned.

And it does. In the morning off-peak Route 837 arrives at Berwick Station at :45. This allows a five minute connection to the train leaving at :50, which is near-optimum.

A closer look at the 837 timetable indicates that the hour spacing does not apply throughout the day. Most notable is the 75 minute gap around noon (arrivals at Berwick are 9:45, 10:45, 11:45, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00 etc).

It's similar leaving Berwick; in this case departures to Beaconsfield East are at 8:56, 9:50, 10:55, 12:06, 13:06, 14:06, 15:06 etc.

This initially looks bad; it's not a pure clockface or memory timetable, which lessens legibility.

However let's review train connections before rushing to judgement.

The morning train connections so praised in the to city direction aren't as good the other way. For instance, the ex-City train that meets the 10:55 bus arrives Berwick at 10:31am. This is a 24 minute wait. 24 minutes is nearly as long as the entire bus trip and is high compared to the train's 30 minute frequency.

But look at what happens in the afternoon, when the altered midday spacing puts the bus departures at :06 for afternoon off-peak trips towards Beaconsfield East. With train arrivals at :01 the connection time is once again down to a near-optimum five minutes. This time, in the afternoon, it's the trips towards the city that are not so well connected.

Timetabling always involves trade-offs. It is unlikely that good connections will be consistently possible in all directions, although exceptions can exist where trains cross.

Nevertheless it is possible to select which interchange points and travel directions are most important and schedule buses accordingly. The bad connections don't go away, but they do mean that most passengers most of the time do not encounter them. And given the low train frequency, it is more important to have a bus timetable that connects than one with a perfect clockface schedule but just misses connections.

Conclusion

To conclude, Route 837's good bus/train connectivity in both weekday am and pm dominant directions is precisely the sort of good service planning that we need more of. It is made even more praiseworthy by the area's lesser train frequencies that makes the job harder yet more important for the services in the area to function as a genuine network.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

A season for pruning? Part 2: Options for the Sunshine – Melton corridor

Part 1 identified some ‘dead wood’ routes; that is bus routes that had a purpose when started but now largely parallel others. They would be the first place to start if looking for efficiencies on the bus network.

Redundant routes survived because new bus funding outstripped planning capability, which had atrophied in the 1990s ‘bus drought’ when there were few new services to plan. By the time expertise returned (often consultants hired for the bus reviews) money for their full implementation was running out, at least in established areas.

Scrapping redundant bus routes in favour of upgrading others a further round of improvements, but this time without large additional funding. Unfortunately there is only so much you could do with simply axing ‘dead wood’ routes as they amount to no more than a few percent of total service kilometres.

Larger change requires defter hands in which the skills of the artisan, composer and economist are at least as important as those of the axeman. Artisan because the hand requiress a careful eye and trained mind that sees the network as a whole. Composer because it is within the beat set by train arrivals that buses are best planned. And economist because they value efficiency and understand opportunity cost.

A bus corridor makeover

I will present an example where rethinking a pair of routes may improve overall service levels and connectivity. The routes chosen include the western portion of Route 216 and all of Route 456. Together they form the main bus coridor between Sunshine, Caroline Springs and Melton. Two alternatives to the current timetables are discussed. Each has its own pros and cons. Hence there is always a need to consider the ‘greater good’ since it’s difficult to make any change without disadvantaging somebody.


View Larger Map

The area and services

Sunshine is an established rail-based centre populated largely by low-income migrants who use buses heavily. Its shopping centre and timetabled crossing of trains in both directions make it an ideal interchange hub. Caroline Springs is a 1990s housing estate built remote from the railway with only a basic bus service. Melton is served by country trains and has an older core surrounded by new housing. Unlike Sunshine, Melton is polycentric, with the railway station, main street shopping strip and enclosed shopping centre beyond easy walking distance from one another. Suburban trains operate every 20 minutes to Sunshine. Two bus routes, run by different companies, leave there for Caroline Springs; Route 216 (which has come from the city) and Route 456 (which extends to Melton). Both bus routes run approximately every 30 minutes, so do not connect with trains every 20 minutes. And neither do they mesh with one another, so they do not form an even 15-minute service. In addition Route 216 terminates just short of the Caroline Springs Town Centre so its coverage is very limited.

How many buses?

It’s useful to know how many buses are used on current routes so that changes can be costed. The number of buses depends on route length and frequency. It can be estimated from the timetable, either numerically or graphically.

During weekday off-peaks Route 216 takes 20 minutes to get from Sunshine to Caroline Springs. The 30 minute service provided would need 2 buses if run as an independent route. Due to the efficiencies gained by continuing this service beyond Sunshine, the actual requirement may be slightly less – let’s assume 1.8 buses to be safe.

Route 456 takes 55 minutes to do the trip to Melton. Hence a single bus can go there and back every 2 hours, meaning that the existing 25-30 minute service would need 4 buses.

Any resource-neutral service improvement would need to use no more than 6 buses. If it could be done with 5 buses it may be possible to free a bus for a route that needs it more.

Summary of the existing service

The departure list below shows existing weekday off-peak services and their connectivity with ex-City trains arriving at Sunshine.

The above shows that each train is followed by at least one bus. However connection times can be up to 20 minutes. Being significant compared to travel times (approximately 25 minutes to Caroline Springs and similar by train to the city) connection times have a large influence on end-to-end travel speeds and the relative attractiveness of public transport.

I did not examine connections for other travel patterns (eg city-bound train to bus & bus to train, but the uneven bus service intervals indicate likely similar results.

Here’s some key numbers:

Estimated number of buses used: 5.8 approx
Connectivity with train: no
Services per hour (Sph): 4.25 (measured over 4-hour period)
Average Bus frequency (Favg): 14 min (=60/Sph)
Maximum Bus wait (Wmax): 21 min
Maximum Train-Bus connection: 20 min
Service efficiency (ie Favg/Wmax) = 67%

Although the average bus frequency is 14 minutes (between Sunshine and Caroline Springs), maximum waits can be up to 21 minutes as the routes are not scheduled together. Worst case train connections are a similar figure, although most are better.

In the sample time period there are six more buses than required to consistently connect with each (off-peak) train. Connection quality varies due to unharmonised bus headways. Just missed connections are common; on six occasions the bus departs within two minutes of the train arriving. And effective frequency is lower than the 14-15 minutes it would be if services were evenly spaced.

This represents both potential inefficiency and opportunity. For it may be possible to deliver more consistent connections and/or higher effective frequencies with the same or fewer buses.

Scope for improvement?

Some ‘back of the envelope’ attempts to improve schedules are presented below. Not being a professional bus scheduler there will be aspects missed, but the general concepts, borrowed from timed transfer networks worldwide, should still be sound. The complications posed by multiple operators serving the corridor are not discussed. There may be scope to improve efficiencies by swapping routes between operators, or routes could be shared between operators, as already sometimes occurs (eg Route 400 between Sunshine and Laverton).

Option 1: One frequent route to Melton, meeting every train.

Achieved by deleting Route 216 past Sunshine and using saved resources to boost Route 456’s frequency to 20 minutes all the way to Melton.

Approximate bus times are shown on the graph below.

Graphs like these are commonly used by train schedulers. They show how many vehicles are required to run a service and indicate connectivity at interchange points.

Time is shown across the horizontal (x) axis and location on the vertical (y) axis. The steeper the slope of the line, the faster the travel. A horizontal line means the bus is stationary, for instance waiting at an interchange. Each coloured line shows the path of a bus; in this case six are required. The dots near the top signify train times in both directions.

Some numbers below:

Connectivity with train: yes (3 to 7 min in all directions)
Services per hour: 3 (entire corridor)
Average Bus frequency (Favg): 20 min
Maximum Bus wait (Wmax): 20 min
Service efficiency (ie Favg/Wmax) = 100%
Estimated number of buses required: 6

Several points are worth noting:

* The timetable aimed to create a timed-transfer network at Sunshine. Buses arrive, trains arrive, trains depart and buses depart. Passengers can simultaneously transfer in any direction with minimal waiting.

* Sunshine station presents special opportunities for service co-ordination since trains both to and from Melbourne arrive within a few minutes of one another. This doubles the number of good bus-train connections possible. Hence a bus there and back can connect with no less than 4 trains.

* Connection times are between 3 and 7 minutes. Given the standard for on-time train running is within 4:59 minutes, anything under 5 minutes is arguably too tight. It may be possible to adjust bus times by a minute or two to increase the probability of successful connections in peak travel directions.

* Recovery time is nearly all spent at Sunshine rather than Melton (where it is only 1 minute). Spending it at Melton would mean that the bus would arrive at Sunshine too late to make train connections.

* A nine minute recovery time at Sunshine has been scheduled. Buses arrive at :57 and depart at :06, to exchange passengers with trains in both directions around the top of the hour, repeating every 20 minutes. Such dwell times heavily use interchange space, with the bay being occupied nine minutes out of every twenty. However the best measure of bus bay efficiency is passenger throughput, and it is possible that despite the dwell time this could be quite high given the large number of connection combinations possible (4 per 9 minute occupancy, not including bus-bus transfers).

* Measures that could free space at bus interchanges and/or reduce dwell times while preserving connectivity have not been explored. One example is a layover area. Here the bus empties at a drop-off only bay near the station entrance, moves to a nearby layover area and returns to the designated pick up stop in time to leave on time. Another possible tool is ‘active transfer management’ which would also speed buses, especially routes carrying through passengers, such as orbital routes. Here the bus would be scheduled to leave just after the train is scheduled to arrive (say h:04 instead of h:06), but would be held back to at least h:06 if the train is late.

* The tightness of the some bus/train connections and the very short layover at Melton may mean that this timetable might look good on paper but be fragile in practice. It is in these marginal cases where cutting running time by 2 to 4 minutes per direction can greatly improve reliability, connectivity and bus utlisation. Removal of close stops, more direct routes and bus priority at intersections are the sort of cheap projects that could make the difference here.

To summarise, Option 1 is the highest service choice, providing effectively a TrainLink service between Sunshine and Melton. It scores well for frequency, consistency and connectivity. However it does not save buses (compared to the present arrangements) and poorly serves Caroline Springs. It also removes the ability for Caroline Springs residents to catch a direct bus to the city.

I would also wonder whether the service is overkill, and if there are more deserving routes for the resources. Much of the route is sparsely populated and may not justify a 20 minute frequency (this being transit hostile development where the greatest population densities are off the highway). While it is some distance away, the corridor is also served by diesel trains, which offer a much faster (but currently less frequent) service between Sunshine and Melton.

Melton’s population growth is likely to support either a more frequent diesel train or electrification, both of which would further lessen the need for a 20 minute bus service to Melton, since changing to a local bus at Melton Station may be faster than the direct bus from Sunshine.

Option 2: Connection with every train to Caroline Springs, with every second trip extending to Melton.

This option reduces Route 456 to a 40 minute frequency, carefully timed to meet every second train. Route 216 west of Sunshine Station becomes an independent route every 40 minutes to Caroline Springs, timed to provide a 20 minute frequency over the combined portion between Sunshine and Caroline Springs (to meet every train).

The graph below shows how this service might run: (click to enlarge)

It’s messier than Option 1 since two types of service are offered. Three buses provide a 40 minute frequency to Melton with similar times to every second trip of Option 1. In between are Sunshine to Caroline Springs trips, again every 40 minutes, arranged to provide a 20 minute frequency along the common portion. The existing timetable allocated about 25 minutes to do this trip, so two buses are required to operate this service.

Some numbers:

Connectivity with train: yes
Services per hour: 3 (to Caroline Springs), (1.5 to Melton)
Average Bus frequency (Favg): 20 min (40 min Melton) Maximum Bus wait (Wmax): 20 min (40 min Melton)
Service efficiency (ie Favg/Wmax) = 100%
Estimated number of buses used = 5 (Melton 3, Caroline Springs 2)

There are several points worth noting:

* This is a lower service option for Melton, with the non-clockface 25-30 minute Route 456 service reduced to 40 minutes (also non-clockface). However unlike the current arrangement it provides a consistent connection with every second train. And if introduced in conjunction with an improved Melton train timetable the frequency cut may not be missed.

* The Sunshine – Caroline Springs portion (216) would have fewer buses and lose its direct link to the city. However it would gain better train connectivity and a less lumpy timetable. Reliabilty should also improve as delays affecting the Sunshine-City portion of Route 216/219 would be quarantined. Travel to Footscray and the City would remain possible through better train connections or changing to Route 216/219/220 bus (a combined 7.5 minute frequency) at Sunshine.

An initial draft had evenly spaced departures from Sunshine towards Caroline Springs and Melton. However return trips had two arrivals every 40 minutes at Sunshine. This is an effective frequency of 40 minutes or a 50% service efficiency – both unsatisfactory for a corridor with a current 14 minute average frequency.

A way around this is to hold each Route 216 return journey at Caroline Springs by 20 minutes. This gives us a 20 minute effective frequency and a 100% service efficiency, which are both good. However having buses lay over for about as long as they are moving is inefficient.

How could the idle time at Caroline Springs be better utilised? A look at the existing Route 216 terminus indicates it terminates in housing, distant from local trip generators. A short (2km) extension to Caroline Springs Town Centre would lessen idle time, serve a local trip generator and connect with other routes.

This arrangements may save nearly one bus compared to the current arrangements. Possible uses for this resource in the Sunshine area could include: Boosting frequency of Route 471 from 25 to 20 minutes to connect with trains, extending Route 451 north to Watergardens Station, extending Route 454 southwards to the industrial area, extending Route 417 northward to Sunshine to better cover industrial areas, later trips to Derrimut (Route 400), or extended coverage in Sunshine North are all contenders. I will not pick which is the highest priority, but some are likely to attract more patronage than economising parts of 216 and 456 would lose.

Option 3. Melton to Caroline Springs via Sunshine.

This can provide a service outcome similar to Option 2, depending on the treatment of buses at Caroline Springs. Instead of the routes being independent they are interlined, ie buses from Melton do a short trip to Caroline Springs via Sunshine and then return to Melton via Sunshine.

Due to the backtracking and dwell time at Sunshine there are no advantages in this for the passenger. It would only be considered if it allows the service to be run with fewer buses.

Conclusion

The above examples indicate the potential for service planning to improve bus network legibility and connectivity. Two options for the Sunshine – Melton corridor have been presented.

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

After the Election

Last Saturday Victorians voted for a change of government. Below are a few observations on the campaign and the challenges facing the new government.

Rail’s rise

Public transport was prominent in the campaign, with the main topics being railway service delivery, security and staffing. Feasability studies for new lines and revised arrangements for service planning were also on the agenda. On election night the Opposition’s David Davis said that passenger discontent contributed to victories in Bentleigh, Mordialloc, Carrum and Frankston, all on Melbourne’s least punctual rail line. In contrast, buses hardly figured, except as alternatives to a Mernda railway.

Transport plans reflect rail’s growth in political importance. The 2006 ‘Meeting our Transport Challenges’ was largely about buses, especially upgraded local services and new SmartBus routes. Whereas the 2008 Victorian Transport Plan was basically a road and rail infrastructure plan, proposing the Regional Rail Link and Melbourne Metro projects.

Successive ministers heaped blame for disruptions on the rail operator. The former premier promised ‘improvements from Day One’ when the new franchise operators took over last year. Politically this hurt more than Bob Hawke's famous 'by 1990, no Australian child will be living in poverty' promise. Labor learned the hard way that the railway is a fragile and fractious beast whose reliability reflects past maintenance, errant car drivers and straying pedestrians more than political niceties. After a brief honeymoon, the new government, with its 'fix it' mandate, will be held to account as surely as the previously one was.

Quiet on the buses

In its last term the defeated Labor government made buses run on Sundays and after 7pm but failed to remind voters of this gain. The consensus on both sides was that buses were not politically significant, despite their extensive coverage. Accordingly the major parties promised either no or minor improvements for buses. This is one of those cases where the past record exceeded the promises; 2010 saw a record number of SmartBus routes added to the network.

The key message for those wanting better buses in 2011 is that most if not all improvements must be cost-neutral. In other words nothing much will happen unless resources can be found by withdrawing or shortening existing routes.

The choice is between a passive approach to bus service planning and few improvements, or a more active approach (including deleting or reducing services on some routes if necessary) and freeing resources for a more important route. After some time where the pursuit of economy was laid aside, transport planners will need to reacquaint themselves with concepts such as ‘opportunty cost’ and the sometimes unpleasant job of rationalising redundant services for a greater good.

All this is a big change from 2006 – 2010 where there was significant new money for bus service upgrades. Planning efficiency probably suffered because services tended to be boosted before being reviewed. And there was sometimes a reluctance to rationalise services, even when overlapped by new routes. Bus reviews came later, but by then funding had run out for wholesale implementation, especially in established areas.

Getting along on the roads

The relationship between road users was an issue in certain seats. Inner-city Liberals campaigned against extended clearway hours on roads served by trams. Clearways sped traffic flow but were vocally opposed by shopkeepers.

Bus lanes on Stud Road were also topical in the electorally critical south-east. These were seen as taking space from motorists and giving them to buses. Bus lanes can be deceptive – a relatively quiet bus lane can carry as many people as a lane full of single occupant vehicles. Nevertheless to moderate community opposition they need to be seen to be used, and this may require a more intensive service than currently runs.

Governance

First the Greens, then the Liberals. Both advocated some form of public transport authority. Labor saw no need, citing the existing functions of the Department of Transport and operators. Whether something gets done (eg bus-train co-ordination) is more important than who does it.

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