Sunday, June 19, 2005

Composite timetables: Where they're needed

In a previous entry promoting composite timetables, I mentioned that their presence has the potential to unlock the potential of many existing underused bus services.

In contrast, their absence makes bus services appear poorer and more confusing than they actually are. As a result, patronage and revenue are both lower than they should be for the service level offered.

Multi-route composite timetables are most useful for major suburban shopping centres and universities. Typically these destinations are located slightly beyond walking distance of trains and trams (typically 1 to 4km distant), so public transport inevitably means buses.

On their own most bus routes are not particularly frequent. However several may overlap, providing a worthwhile (but not always widely known) feeder service along their common portion. Particularly where the overlap includes a direct link between a major trip generator and railway station, there is great potential for better information (such as composite timetables) to boost patronage.

Practical applications

Examples of major links that would benefit from composite timetables in the Oakleigh-Clayton-Chadstone area include:

* Oakleigh - Chadstone

* Oakleigh - Monash Uni Clayton

* Chadstone - Oakleigh

* Chadstone - Monash Uni Clayton

* Chadstone - Holmesglen

* Chadstone - Glen Waverley

* Chadstone - Box Hill

Other combinations of major trip generators and railway stations amenable to composite timetables (sometimes already provided) include:

* Cheltenham/Southland/Moorabbin

* Footscray/VUT/Highpoint

* Preston/Northland/LaTrobe Uni/Reservoir

* Frankston/Karingal/Monash Uni/Mt Eliza

* Dandenong/Doveton/Dandenong North

* Narre Warren/Fountain Gate

Oakleigh - Chadstone demonstration timetable

Yesterday I produced a demonstration composite Saturday timtable for the busy Oakleigh to Chadstone link. My observations of it were as follows:

* From Oakleigh to Chadstone there are 88 Saturday services, running from approx 5:30am to 11:30pm (note that late evening services are excluded from entering the shopping centre).

* There is an average of one bus every 12 minutes over the 18 hour service span. Service between 7am and 7pm is approx one bus every 10 minutes.

* Because of varying headways on different routes, intervals between buses can vary from 0 to 20 minutes during the day, and are typically 30 min at night.

* The maximum wait anyone would have during the day would be 20 min, but in the majority of cases is less than 10 minutes. Had the passenger relied solely on the timetable for the best-known Oakleigh-Chadstone route (Smartbus 700) they would have had waits of up to 30 minutes on Saturday mornings.

* Because of the high combined service already provided (at least during the day), the likely low level of passenger awareness due to limited passenger information including absence of composite timetables), and the fact that both Oakleigh and Chadstone are in shared fare zones, the opportunity to secure increased public transport patronage in the Oakleigh-Chadstone corridor is exceptional.

* A composite Sunday timetable was also produced, but was of limited value as only two of the ten Saturday routes run and do not share a common route.

Chadstone departures demonstration timetable

A more ambitious project, to produce a timetable for all Saturday services leaving Chadstone, was then completed. I found that:

* Chadstone has approximately 224 bus departures on Saturdays, with service from approx 5:30 am - 12:30am (note previous comments on late night services).

* This is an average of 11.8 buses/hr over those 19 hours. That's one departure every 5 minutes. Between 7am and 7pm, 197 buses run, giving over 16 buses per hour, or better than one every 4 minutes.

* Because of varying headways of the different bus routes, waits can be higher than indicated by an average bus/hour figure.

* Buses from Chadstone pass at least 13 railway stations, with Oakleigh, Holmesglen, Box Hill, Carnegie and Glen Waverley most visited, probably in that order.

* Frequent connections are provided to both the Cranbourne/Pakenham and Glen Waverley lines, though not necessarily at the same stations. Provided people travel between 8am - 6pm waits of 10 minutes or more for a bus travelling to these lines are rare.

* Some instances where bus companies had co-ordinated routes were noted. For instance 800 and 804 both run hourly but provide a combined 30 minute service to some destinations.

* Despite Saturday afternoons being peak shopping time, some timetables reduce frequencies after noon.

* The 224 services were divided into northbound and southbound. 58% were outhbound and 42% northbound. (note that some are both north and south, eg a service that runs to Holmesglen before finishing at Oakleigh, while others go north east or north west so these percentages aren't quite accurate)

* At least during the day on Saturdays current service levels are already adequate to justify expenditure on innovations such as passenger information, composite timetables and marketing, at least for passengers near stations on Cranbourne/ Pakenham and Glen Waverley lines. Sunday services remain subject to previous comments on co-ordination with trains and clockface scheduling.


These examples demonstrate the value of composite timetables in improving passenger information and boosting patronge.

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