Sunday, June 18, 2006

Email to a bus company


On Saturday 17/6 I attempted to catch Route 479 from Flinders St/Olivers Lane at 1:15pm. This is an unmarked stop, but I had previously been made aware of its location. I arrived at the stop at 1:00pm, so made ample allowance for any early running.

The bus arrived on time but sped past the stop, picking no one up. This is despite being hailed by myself and others waiting. When the bus turned the corner into Exhibition St and was waiting at lights he was again alerted, but refused to open the doors.

Since both Metlink and your own website confirm that these are revenue services, I am puzzled that this lapse could have happened.

This delayed me by over an hour, but eventually I got there via train and a change at Moonee Ponds. Thus I could only spend 30 minutes at Sunbury instead of the planned 1 1/2 hours.

I count myself lucky compared to others. The City to Airport section of Route 479 features in Metlink's online journey planner and in Monash University's MSA Airport Travel pamphlet. I shudder to think of the number of people who have naively relied on your 'service' and been left stranded in a strange city as a result.

Therefore I seek your assurance that (i) the driver concerned has been appropriately disciplined and (ii) all other drivers have been reminded that they must operate their full route as per the published timetable and pick up passengers accordingly.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards, etc

This letter raises several issues that demonstrate that Melbourne is a first-world city with third-world buses. The main difference is that in third world countries people have no alternative to use the bus so they're packed, whereas in Melbourne most people have alternatives so buses run empty. Especially if drivers don't stop!

Issues with the 479 are as follows:

1. That there are unmarked bus stops with not even a bus stop sign (479 stop in the city on Flinders St between Russell St & Olivers Lane).
2. Where there are stops timetables are missing (479 stop in the city)
3. Where there are timetables route signs are missing (479 bay at Sunbury interchange)
4. Timetables are old and covered in graffiti (479 at Sunbury Interchange)
5. Numerous variations to routes (on some 479 runs passengers must request certain deviations, but only at certain times)
6. Very poor service frequency (479 departs the city just twice a week)
7. Wasteful duplication with other services (there is little justification for 479 to serve the city at all given trains and trams to locations such as Essendon and Moonee Ponds). (But if it does, then stops should be marked and drivers stop.)
8. Picking up passengers requires stopping the bus and delivering timetabled services in full and you can't have that!

Note that even if the driver did stop and the letter above wasn't written, 7 of the 8 points above would still be valid. Admittedly the 479 is an extreme example of a route badly planned, run and signposted, but many of the above points apply to other routes, only to a lesser extent. In such cases waste and intertia combine to deliver an inferior service to the public and poor value to taxpayers.

UPDATE 22/6/06: Nice reply received today. Amongst other things it mentioned that the driver concerned was new and this was his first run (though I'd have though other drivers would have taken him on 'route familiarisation' runs first).

1 comment:

James said...

Hey Peter, sorry to hear about your route 479 misadventure. That email should keep the bus company on their toes. Keep up the good work.