Saturday, December 15, 2007

Route 465: Melbourne's most successful rail feeder bus?

While it lacks the profile of some longer routes or the gizmos of a SmartBus, Route 465, operating between Keilor Park and Essendon could well be our most successful rail feeder route.

How can this apparently ordinary middle-suburban route do so well?

I can think of four reasons.

Firstly it is direct. 465 runs straight along Buckley Street almost to the end. Then it turns north along Milleara Drive before ending at Keilor Park.

Then there's the trip generators. Unlike any SmartBus route, the 465 serves no regional shopping centres or university campus. However Essendon, like Hawthorn and Mentone, is known for its range of schools. While they are not all on the route, most are less than 10 minutes walk away. There are other routes in the area but 465 is the most frequent and direct, so it would take a good share of this traffic.

The timetable is also very significant. Starting before 6am, peak service levels are the best of any bus route in Melbourne. 7 or 8 buses per hour run in the morning peak which is about the same as trains from Essendon Station. In only a few cases do intervals exceed 10 minutes, with some as short as 5 minutes. Both peak train and bus headways are irregular but service frequency on both makes exact harmonisation unnecessary and there is a welcome absence of 'exact time' arrivals.

Off-peak times see a 20 minute service on weekdays and Saturdays. Sundays receive a 40 minute service, matching every second train. While one might quibble at the Sunday service offered, it is at least headway harmonised, and there seems to be less Sunday trading in the northern and western suburbs than in the inner, bayside and eastern suburbs. Services finish early at night but train/bus connections for those that run are generally excellent.

As well as the generally train-matching service level, the fourth factor is information and connectivity. Train times are usefully listed in the timetable so passengers can gauge transfer times. Typically this is between 3 and 9 minutes and somewhat longer on Sundays. Given the 20 minute train headway, and a 10 minute average wait if no effort was made at connections, the 465 rates fairly well for connectivity in the timetable. Adding to this are the times when drivers wait (within reason) for late-running trains.

Leaving aside its finishing times, little old 465 is a genuinely smart bus in many ways. It could well be an example for other routes, especially where stations are experiencing parking pressure (peak periods) and connectivity is poor (off-peaks).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Improving access to suburban stations

With our current suburban rail network (and any conceivable extensions to it) the majority of our city's population will always be beyond reasonable walking distance from a station.

The question then is how do we bring fast public transport within reach of more people.

Possible solutions to consider include:

(i) More walkable streets for faster, more direct and safer pedestrian access
(ii) More cycleways and bicycle shelters at stations
(iii) Better feeder bus services with improved connections
(iv) Park and Ride

The first two will appeal to some passengers only. However as they are low cost and have other benefits noone can really argue with them.

Feeder buses and park and ride are more controversial. People see that station car parks fill early in the morning peak so consider that more parking spots equals more patronage, so is a Good Thing. They might also look at the loadings on nearby buses and conclude that in a car-owning society few people will catch a bus.

Users of park & ride seldom pay for this privilege. Opposition politicians go crying to the press if even the possibility of charging is raised in some departmental briefing. However free Park & Ride is effectively giving one groups of people use of some very expensive land for 50 hours a week. This might not sound so bad until it is realised that by locking away this land we are denying other people more profitable and socially useful uses for it.

Such alternative uses could include additional retail, which provides services and creates local jobs. Or residential, which puts more people near a station and retail centre, so increasing usage of both. The more land for parking, the is less available for these 'higher and better' uses for the land.

Hence Park and Ride, particularly in established high-value suburbs, has a high opportunity cost that is not always realised by its proponents. Before it gets the nod, it should be compared to alternatives (notably better buses and better uses for the land) since these are likely to bring about better outcomes.

Now even if some scrap of land is deemed unsuitable for an non-parking purpose, commuter Park & Ride is not necessarily a no-brainer for that either. Local retailers generally want more parking, but hate long-term commuter parking.

The reason? A park & ride passenger is going to be 9 - 10 hours away working. In contrast a short-term 2-3 hour parking spot is going to be used by shop customers throughout the day. Hence there's more people and more business spread over the day, which must benefit local business more than an absentee parker. Though there are issues with local traffic management, short-term parking is clearly financially better for local centres than long-term commuter parking.

Then there is the scale that park & ride requires before it can substantially boost suburban rail patronage. Park & Ride requires heaps of land to benefit comparatively few people. Most people who catch the train in Melbourne continue to walk to their station. Enlarging P&R might encourage more beyond walking distance to catch the train, but the increase isn't going to be that great. That is unless there is a huge (and expensive) increase in P&R space, which in established high land-value suburbs will usually be at the cost of more productive uses and urban amenity.

Improved buses have none of these disadvantages. A bus carrying 30-50 people arriving every 10 minutes makes far better use of its bus bay than the handful of people who'd otherwise be parking there.

An improved bus service isn't cost-free either, but when compared to the increased value and trade from the more productive use of land, it looks a lot more attractive. And there's some elements of improved buses that are extremely cheap that we haven't done that well in Melbourne to date.

An example is bus service information at stations. A bus timetable installed at a station might cost between $1 and $1000 (depending on if a timetable case is needed) yet may benefit 100 alighting passengers. In contrast, one extra parking spot might cost $8000 (similar to a secondhand car) and benefit just one passenger per day. These benefit ratios of ten to one thousand to one are too large to ignore and tend to favour improved buses.

Timetable co-ordination to slash waiting and overall journey times is another low-cost measure. Wider spans and frequency cost a bit more, but again if opportunity costs of P&R are considered then it might even work out cheaper, as well as bringing other benefits such as better access to the local centre, urban amenity and a better-used bus service with reduced per-passenger costs and carbon emissions.

An objection to better buses is that most people have a car and most will use park & ride. This may be true with current bus services and levels of co-ordination. However it it not inherently true with every transport system, even in affluent high-car ownership cities.

Perth is an example. It has higher car ownership than Melbourne and purpose-built park & ride facilities at railway stations. Despite this, the proportion of train passengers who arrived at their stations by bus is far higher there than here. While Perth's relatively smaller rail network may play a part, the main reason is that Perth has made some effort with passenger information and service co-ordination. There is nothing to stop us from introducing similar measures, and I believe good along these lines will come from the current bus reviews.

To summarise: Park & ride does have benefits for some passengers. Some passengers will always use P&R even if the buses are good. However big expansions of it in built-up high land value areas are not without considerable penalty, opportunity cost and foregone revenue that its proponents tend to ignore.

Bigger bus improvements will naturally cost more relative to smaller bus improvements. However they also offer other benefits since they do not contribute to the traffic and land use issues that reduce the attractiveness of P&R.

While a balanced site assessment of the pros and cons of each needs to be made, I believe that in most cases, at least for built-up areas, a 'better buses' option is likely to produce greater overall economic, social and environmental benefits than a purely park and ride approach.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Historical remnants or confusing clutter?

Looking up old articles in the State Library isn't the only way to find transport history in our fair city. If you're in the CBD, at least, it may be at a station or street corner near you. Old signs and maps can contain a wealth of information that enchant enthusiasts and bamboozle tourists.

Flinders Street Station, Degraves Street subway.

Flinders Street Station, Degraves Street Subway. The metropolitan transport map dates from the early 1990s and reveals a period in The Met's last few years when comprehensive passenger information was more commonly provided on the network.

For most of the last 15 years the maps have been in full view and only recently have posters been placed over them.

Elizabeth Street near Flinders Street. Though hard to read in the photo the signs provide information on routine tram services (some numbers have now changed) and show services.

Spencer Street Station subway entrance. This lonely sign to a disused subway entrance indicate two of the many brandnames used by Melbourne trains in the early 2000s. Today's rush hour passengers queueing up to cross Spencer Street must lament the loss of this useful albeit dingy way out.

Melbourne CBD station network map. Three right out of five ain't bad!

Bus stop near Arawatta St, Carnegie. Possibly the only trace of a route that ended 24 years ago.

Know of any more? Add them in the comments below.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Transport snippets from the past

Highlights from a stack of newspaper clippings given to me:

Unknown 13 August 1981: State Government decides to cancel off-peak train service to Altona. Service will be restricted to five trains in the morning and afternoon peaks. Government had previously announced the line would be scapped after the Lonie Report recommended its closure.

Unknown 15 August 1981: Advertisement from VicRail advising of reduced St Kilda and Port Melbourne train services from Sunday August 23. A 25 minute headway will operate with no service after 7:30pm or on Sundays. 100 people protest against the cuts at Middle Park Station.

Unknown 19 August 1981: Some peak hour rail services cut due to a shortage of guards.

Unknown 11 February 1981: State Cabinet approves 6 month trials of two new cross-town bus services. These include Nunawading - Glen Waverley - Springvale - Edithvale (current route 888) and Glen Waverley - Vermont - Ringwood (current route 742). Previously six bus changes were required to travel along Springvale Road. The 888 timetable includes service from 7am to 7pm weekdays and 7am to 7am Saturdays with a 30 minute frequency.

Unknown 13 November 1981: Transport Regulation Board advertises for operators to run Healesville - Lilydale, Stony Point - Frankston and Mornington - Frankston bus services (which replace closed VicRail services).

Unknown 8 April 1981: Article reports on patronage success of 888 and 742 cross-town bus routes.

Geelong Advertiser 17 March 1983: Reports on the success of the recently-formed Geelong Transit System. The key components included:

- A 60 cent flat 2-hour free-transfer fare
- Restoration of service frequency to 1968 levels (off-peak increased from 40 to 30 minutes)
- A CBD interchange (formed by giving up parking spaces in Moorabool St) with passenger information centre
- Through routing via the CBD
- Uniform livery, stops, passenger information and marketing

Ministry of Transport officials were sent from Melbourne to assist passengers and hand out timetables. Patronage was up 6% in the first month.

Unknown 1984: GTS patronage up 30% in past year. Reports on the success of the GTS model (which was a trial) and its proposed extension to Bendigo and Warrnambool.

Unknown 10 December 1984: Full-page newspaper advertisement promoting Bendigo Bus. 'Go Bus' features include a 60 cent flat free-transfer fare, improved services, new livery and better information.

Unknown 24 February 1987: Minister Tom Roper announces new services for over 100 000 outer suburban dwellers. Areas to gain service include Mitcham, Dandenong, Ringwood North, Cranbourne, South Morang, Mill Park, Craigieburn, Sunbury and Melton. Public housing estates in Craigieburn, Coolaroo, Gladstone Park and Westmeadows will also receive service.

Unknown 12 May 1987: Government press releases advising of bus service upgrades throughout Melbourne suburbs. These included a reallocation of services towards outer suburbs and new early evening services (mostly between 6:30 and 8pm).

Unknown 20 May 1987: Bus service review study and residents survey recommends improved routes, less duplication and extended service to new trip generators in the southern suburbs. Announced changes include improvements between Brighton, Bentleigh and Monash Uni, early evening services for train commuters and weekend services.

Unknown 4 December 1987: Government announces $9.5m bus expansion program. Includes (i) Additional weekend bus services from 5 December on 85 routes. Finishing time for major shopping centre services extended from 1pm to 5pm Saturdays to coincide with extended trading. (ii) Routes 693 and 732 extended to 11pm on Friday and Saturday nights for 6 month trial period. (iii) Six month trial of Sunday services proposed to start February 1988.

Unknown 3 March 1988: Supreme court setback for Minister Kennan's restructuring of the private bus industry ('The Waverley Transit' case where the government awarded a contract for a Box Hill route to Quinces).

Unknown 10 March 1988: In a large advertisement, MTA (The Met) calls for tenders for Melbourne private bus routes. Claims retendering will free money for service improvements.

Unknown 17 April 1988: Campaign sheet from Bus Proprieters' Association attacking the MTA bus tendering plans, claiming it is nationalisation by stealth (the Met bus routes were exempt from tendering).

Truck & Bus Transportation September 1988: Article from Kevin Norris giving the Bus Proprieters' Association discussing the Waverley Transit cour case and government plans to tender private bus routes.

Unknown 29 September 1988: Full-page advertisement from the Bus Proprieters' Association further attacking the MTA tendering plans.

Herald 15 December 1988: Full-page article describing the Waverley Transit/Driver case.

Sunday Age 20 December 1989: Plans for 15% cuts to Melbourne bus services across 100 routes, to come into effect in February 1990. Proposals for the abolition of 30 routes and the downgrading of 130 others, with no services after 7pm, after 1pm Saturdays or on Sundays. Some operators would have their main routes scrapped. Removed services include the Gardenvale - City bus route (605), Sunday coverage of Mornington, and a 60% reduction on the Moonee Ponds - Alphington route (508).

Ringwood Post 19 September 1990: Front-page article on 'The Bus Crisis'. Invicta and Ventura cancel services after 7pm weeknights and on Saturday afternoons after PTC payments were reduced. However Quinces services would remain unchanged.

National Bus Company brochure c1995: Introduces new NBC services after takeover from the Met. Promotes its more frequent mini-bus services that go off the main roads to serve residential streets. Aims to double off-peak service frequencies and promotes the company's own section fares.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Electrification to Craigieburn

Some pictures from this morning's start of electrified rail service on the Craigieburn line. A mixture of locals, enthusiasts, activists and media were present to see the Premier officially open the service.

Today's opening was the second extension of electrified rail service this decade and follows the Sydenham electrification on 27 January 2002. This compares to one electrification in the 1990s, when sparks were extended to Cranbourne (but removed from Warragul).

1. First passenger train from Melbourne at Craigieburn.

2. Front of Craigieburn Station. Crowds are gathering for a sausage sizzle and band.

Bus interchange at Craigieburn. Four bays are provided. The interchange is seperated from the plaform by two fences and transferring passengers enter via the main entrance near the car park.

4. The Minister's entourage alights from the train - cameramen first!

5. An overflowing crowd listens to hear speeches from Premier John Brumby and Transport Minister Lynne Kosky.

6. Entry to Roxburgh Park Station.

7. Walkway of Roxburgh Park Station.

8. Station sign.

9. View from the platform.

10. A view of the island platform.

11. Bus arrangements. Rather than having allocated bays (such as at Craigieburn), passengers board buses at a single location.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Transperth SmartRider: A user review

The last part of this Transperth special will test the SmartRider smartcard ticketing. This is very relevant for Melbourne as we will be getting a similar system called Myki.

Comments here relate to standard (full-fare) SmartRiders; different arrangements apply to concession SmartRiders issued to students and seniors. These notes are my impressions gained from three days of travel throughout the Transperth network. Background information and a user guide can be found on the Transperth website SmartRider section.

Obtaining SmartRider

SmartRider can be got from a Transperth InfoCentre (these are located in Perth CBD or retail sales outlet. With 40 suburban outlets, the SmartRider sales network is smaller than the old Multirider network which comprised most delis and newsagents. SmartRiders last indefinitely so passengers would need to make only one special trip to obtain one.

The minimum outlay for a standard SmartRider is $20. This comprises the $10 card cost and a minimum $10 of travel credits. The $10 card cost isn't completely 'dead money' however since it allows you to go into negative balance.

Tagging on and tagging off

Passenger obligations are stated on the Transperth website. Very simply you tag on at the beginning of your trip and tag off at the end if you pass a SmartCard reader. There are some minor exceptions and variations, generally dealing with train/bus transfers and interchanges where both the station and bus interchange are in the same fare-paid area.

You can walk through somewhere like Perth Station if you have a SmartRider - if you don't linger for too long you will not be charged a fare. Previously Perth Station was 'open' and anyone could enter and leave without a ticket.

There are trips where you don't tag off at the distant location. An example might be travelling to a suburban interchange (such as Warwick) for transport study purposes. You don't leave the fare paid area so don't tag off there. 20 minutes later you return back to Perth and tag off there. In this case I was charged a $1.50 default fare on return and there is no way of the system knowing how far I went.

In one case I tagged on/off too many times when transferring from a bus to a train. The result was that the barriers at Perth wouldn't open on my exit. This was cured by an attendant (which are at all barriers) tagging on so I could tag off.

Boarding and alighting

Bus boarding is fairly quick assuming two queues at the door. The left queue is for people who need service from the driver (purchasing paper tickets, topping up, enquiries). The right queue provides fast entry for those who just need to scan a SmartRider.

I didn't test this, but given that people adding value also need to go over to the reader to tag on, this might slow boarding.

Passengers were generally used to tagging off. However it was not possible to assess how many didn't tag off but should have. A possible risk is that people who misplace their wallet during the trip (eg put it in their bag) may delay the bus while the driver waits for them to tag off.

Ticket inspections

I was asked for my ticket once when using SmartRider (towards the end of a night train trip to Fremantle). Transit officers carry small card readers that scan tickets. These operate quickly and are probably faster than visually checking paper tickets and then asking about zones or concession entitlements. Inspectors don't need to physically see a SmartRider and are quite willing to scan through wallets, etc.

Adding value

The biggest discounts (25%) apply if you choose to have your SmartRider automatically topped up ('autoloaded') from your bank account. Adding value manually is meant to give a 15% discount on most cash fares - we'll discuss this in detail later.

Fourteen locations (twelve stations and two bus terminals) have 'add-value' machines. Payment is by EFTPOS only at twelve of these locations, with Perth and Fremantle also having machines that take notes.

Compared to Melbourne (where nearly all of its 200+ stations have ticket vending machines that take coins, selected notes and EFTPOS) this is a very small network with limited payment options. The assumption appears to be that most passengers will opt for autoload, internet/telephone payment or add value elsewhere.

Perth's less extensive rail system and generally better bus/train co-ordination means that a higher proportion of Perth train passengers arrive at the station by bus than in Melbourne. This and the limited station facilities makes the ability to add value on buses very important.

Bus drivers accept notes for the purpose of adding value and will add the full value of the note presented (ie no change given). This was my preferred method of adding value. It worked well.

The passenger puts their card on the driver's ticket machine and gives the driver a note. The card is then topped up and the driver gives the passenger a receipt (which is not a ticket).

The trap in this is that unlike buying a ticket on a Melbourne tram (which is pre-validated) topping up on a bus does not also tag on for you. Hence after topping-up you must still tag on. Failure to do so may result in you being charged a higher default (penalty) fare.

No use was made of adding value by telephone or internet. However having to register with BPay appears to be an unnecessary complication and makes use less convenient than dealing directly, as Metlink does with its phone and internet Metcard sales. The other disadvantage of BPay is that payment is not immediate and may take up to five working days to come through.

Registering SmartRider

Passengers buying Standard SmartRiders can elect to register their card. The benefits of this are twofold; (i) if you lose your card you can prevent others from using it and (ii) review your travel and fares charged online (more later).

Registering can be done online, by phone or by filling out a form and dropping it into a SmartRider outlet. This form requires your name, home address and a SmartRider password. The password is limited to a few choices such as your town of birth or a favourite colour, presumably so that you can be prompted if you forget it.

I lodged a paper registration form last Saturday but in hindsight this wasn't necessary as I registered online yesterday.

Viewing your travel patterns on the web

A major attraction of SmartRider is being able to view your travel patterns (and fares charged) on the web. To take advantage of this feature you need to:

* Register your SmartRider
* Register with TravelEasy on the Transperth website

Registering SmartRider has been discussed previously. Registering for TravelEasy requires you to provide a user name and password. There is a warning that the TravelEasy password is different to your SmartRider password but I used the same password for both with no ill effects.

Needing two passwords is a burden that contributes to user attrition and disengagement (especially if users are returning to a service after not using it for a while). It would be desirable if Transperth was able to combine these passwords and have only one for all its relationships with a customer.

A quirk was the address information required when registering for TravelEasy.

Strangely they only want your street name, not your house number and street name. This information requested is incomplete so they aren't going to need it to write to you; maybe it's a form of cross-checking against your full address provided when you registered for SmartRider.

When it comes to entering your suburb you can choose from a drop-down menu. This lists all Perth suburbs with an 'other' at the top of the list. This is good in that they made provision for country and interstate passengers. However selecting 'other' does not provide a space to type in your suburb, so again it can't be that important.

The first thing I tried was to enter my (Melbourne) street in the street field and selected 'other' in the suburb list. This didn't work and I couldn't register. I then exited and tried my (Melbourne) street in a Perth suburb (I picked Alexander Heights - the first on the list). Despite the fictional address it worked and I could successfully view my SmartRider records.

As a user-interface this is very buggy and raises more questions than answers. Why request only partial information such as addresses missing house numbers? Why allow an 'other' selection but neither provide a window to enter the data? Why allow an 'other' selection but not allow it to work? Why force the user to enter wrong data to make it work?

However once these foibles have been got around the SmartRider travel record display was very good and one can print or save the data.

Travel data

Shown below is a data extract for travel on September 3, 2007.

To make it clearer, the trips made were as follows:

* Victoria Park - Perth
* Perth - Rockingham
* Rockingham - Safety Bay (actually the same bus as the above but tagged off and on anyway)
* Safety Bay - Rockingham
* Rockingham - Rockingham Beach
* Rockingham - Fremantle
* Fremantle - McIver
* McIver - Carlisle
* East Victoria Park - Victoria Park

The formatting you'll see below isn't as good as on the Transperth website. The salient details are date, time, route number, location, zones and remaining balance. Data is presented in reverse order.

Sep 3 2007 5:49PM 000026 Normal TAG OFF - Stored Value BUS 177T 1 11730 ALBANY b Mcmillan 0 NORMAL Stored Value 6.83

Sep 3 2007 5:47PM 000025 Normal TAG ON TRANSFER BUS 177T 1 11727 ALBANY b Kent 6.83

Sep 3 2007 5:47PM 000024 Synthetic TAG OFF - Stored Value BUS 177T 1 11727 ALBANY b Kent 0 DEFAULT Stored Value 6.83

Sep 3 2007 5:00PM 000023 Normal TAG ON TRANSFER RAIL 1 2782 Carlisle 6.83

Sep 3 2007 4:45PM 000022 Normal TAG OFF - Stored Value RAIL 0 2777 McIver 0 NORMAL Stored Value 6.83

Sep 3 2007 4:44PM 000021 Normal TAG ON TRANSFER RAIL 0 2777 McIver 6.83

Sep 3 2007 4:44PM 000020 Normal TAG OFF - Stored Value RAIL 0 2777 McIver -1.53 NORMAL Stored Value 6.83

Sep 3 2007 4:11PM 000019 Normal TAG ON TRANSFER RAIL 2 2773 Fremantle 8.36

Sep 3 2007 4:08PM 000018 Normal TAG OFF - Stored Value BUS 126T 3 10431 FREMANTLE S4 -3.57 NORMAL Stored Value 8.36

Sep 3 2007 3:25PM 000017 Normal TAG ON INITIAL BUS 126T 5 16788 ROCKINGHAM S6 11.93

Sep 3 2007 12:18PM 000016 Normal TAG OFF - Stored Value BUS 113F 6 17217 KENT b Patterson 0 NORMAL Stored Value 11.93

Sep 3 2007 12:03PM 000015 Normal TAG ON TRANSFER BUS 113F 6 16784 ROCKINGHAM S2 11.93

Sep 3 2007 11:24AM 000014 Normal TAG OFF - Stored Value BUS 117T 6 16792 ROCKINGHAM S10 -2.20 DEFAULT Stored Value 11.93

Sep 3 2007 11:24AM 000013 Synthetic TAG ON INITIAL BUS 117T 6 21406 GR OCN a Tryall 14.13

Sep 3 2007 11:14AM 000012 Normal TAG OFF - Stored Value BUS 117T 6 17346 SFTY BY b Vista 0 NORMAL Stored Value 14.13

Sep 3 2007 10:41AM 000011 Normal TAG ON TRANSFER BUS 117F 6 21358 CHARTH a Coral 14.13

Sep 3 2007 10:33AM 000010 Normal TAG OFF - Stored Value BUS 117F 6 16792 ROCKINGHAM S10 -4.00 NORMAL Stored Value 14.13

Sep 3 2007 9:46AM 000009 Normal TAG ON TRANSFER BUS 866F 1 12228 BUSPORT A7 18.13

Sep 3 2007 8:55AM 000008 Normal TAG OFF - Stored Value RAIL 0 2776 Perth 0 NORMAL Stored Value 18.13

Sep 3 2007 8:51AM 000007 Normal TAG ON TRANSFER RAIL 0 2776 Perth 18.13

Sep 3 2007 8:50AM 000006 Normal TAG OFF - Stored Value RAIL 0 2776 Perth 0 NORMAL Stored Value 18.13

Sep 3 2007 8:49AM 000005 Normal TAG ON TRANSFER RAIL 0 2776 Perth 18.13

Sep 3 2007 8:38AM 000004 Normal TAG OFF - Stored Value BUS 211T 0 10087 ST GEORGES SM -1.87 NORMAL Stored Value 18.13

Sep 3 2007 8:20AM 000003 Normal TAG ON INITIAL BUS 211T 1 10067 SHEPPER a Axon 20.00

Fare calculation

"SmartRider is designed to always calculate the lowest fare applicable" Transperth SmartRider Guide, page 21.

The day started with $20.00 balance and ended with $6.83 balance, or a SmartRider fare of $13.17.

This compares with a cash fare of only $10.30. I calculate this on the basis of a $2.20 zone 1 ticket for the pre-9am travel then an $8.10 daily for the rest of the day.

My estimation is that the cap should have been reached during the Perth - Fremantle trip. This trip should have attracted a lower charge, with subsequent trips charged at $0.00.

Had everything worked properly, the correct total SmartRider fare would have been only $9.97. This is calculated by adding the daily fare of $8.10 to the pre-9am $1.87 fare (see Transperth fare table). This is a difference of more than 30% on the actual fare charged and leads one to doubt to quote above.

The proof of the pudding: Does SmartRider guarantee the best fare?

The short answer, based on my brief experience, is no!

While SmartRider may be acceptable for people making two regular trips a day, complex travel can confuse the operation of the fare cap. And the amounts concerned are not trivial, with the difference over 30% in the example above.

Passengers travelling a lot in a day are safer buying an $8.10 cash daily so there can be no chance of overcharging. This is even if they start before 9am and need to purchase an extra ticket for any early trips.

More testing will need to be done to confirm whether this is a one-off or a regular ocurrence with SmartRider; usage on the other two days approached but did not exceed the daily fare cap so was not a fair test.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Transperth observations - other

The following are other observations (mainly to do with passenger information) that were not captured in the pictures posted yesterday.

In-bus information

* Bus timetables racks were found to be well-stocked. These typically have timetables the route being travelled on plus several other nearby routes.

Buses include signs advising passengers to tag off.

Train announcements

* Train 'next station' announcements are as follows:
- Now approaching X
- Now approaching X
- This is X (and mention of termination if appropriate)

* Announcements at Glendalough Station advise passengers to transfer for the Scarborough bus. There was some movement to rename Glendalough a few years ago, but this was (wisely) rejected in favour of adding the Scarborough announcement.

* When a train reaches its terminus automated announcements ask that passengers take luggage with them and encourage people to report unattended luggage (if you see something say something anti-terrorism campaign). Signs warn that unattended luggage will be confiscated.

In-train signage

* Train network maps are provided above the windows. These include the soon to be opened Mandurah line in faint.

* Poster cases are provided on trains. These perform a similar role to poster cases at stations in Melbourne. Posters on-board trains typically include (i) fare information, (ii) service announcements, (iii) rail safety messages, (iv) advice that transit officers have similar powers to police, (v) promotion of TransWA country travel, (vi) recruitment advertising for transit officers and (vii) prohibited luggage.

Digital displays inside trains not only mention the next station but also point to the side of the train to alight from and finally 'Doors Closing'.

Trains - other aspects

* All trains boarded were on time.

* Trains are generally 3 cars for the Joondalup line and 2 cars for the other lines.

* Many carriages have longitudinal seating. It was not always possible to get a seat but at all times travelled there was plenty of standing room.

Station dwell times are typically 18 to 20 seconds (night travel, Fremantle line). This was measured from stopping to starting - doors would have been open for no more than 15 seconds.

* Scale of crowds and patronage is about 1/5 that of Melbourne. This is likely to rise to almost 1/3 once the Mandurah line opens.

* Strict rules apply to some aspects of on-train conduct. Unlike in Melbourne eating and drinking are banned. Posters advise that certain items that have potential to be used in acts of vandalism (eg screwdrivers, paint brushes and paint) cannot be carried.


* Some interchanges have buses within the same fare-paid area as trains. At Kelmscott buses run on to the train platform. At Warwick buses are a short escalator above the train platform.

* Escalators at Perth stations operate faster than those in Melbourne CBD stations (even during peak periods). Warning signs ask people to be beware of these 'rapid transit' escalators.

* Passenger information at a bus/train interchange such as Warwick includes:
- Area transport map
- Train departures
- Bus departures (listed in order of time)
- List of suburbs accessible from station and routes that serves it
- Directory of route numbers and stand departures
- Racks for timetables

The above are all located where people enter or leave the station. In addition multi-route timetables and schematic route maps are provided at each bus stand around the station. Information of a similar standard was noted at other interchanges such as Cannington, Clarkson, Esplanade Busport, Fremantle and WSBS.

* Rockingham Bus Station lacked the above comprehensive maps and information, but there may have been a reluctance to install facilities that will soon be removed when the railway opens.

* Perth Station currently has notices advising that there have/will be changes, some signs have become misleading and incorrect, and information will shortly be revamped and updated.

* Stations at which not all trains stop (eg East Perth) have announcements warning that the next train does not stop there and for passengers to stand clear.

Station access and surrounds

* Victoria Park has no access other than wooden stairs so is therefore inaccessible. Plans are afoot to build a new station south of the existing location.

* Stations are often well connected to buses but have poor pedestrian access to surrounding houses and shops. This is an inherent problem with freeway median transit systems but was also apparent elsewhere, eg Kelmscott Station (to the east), Carlisle Station (west of Shepparton Rd) and Curtin University Interchange (north along Hayman Rd).

* The removal of the unused walkway to Albert Facey House will improve visibility of Perth Station from Forrest Place.

* Joondalup cannot be considered a genuinely successful transit oriented development as the 'main street' is remote from the station. It also lacks the activity of many local centres in suburban Melbourne with less active banks, accountants and offices predominating. The Lakeside shopping centre near the station is currently being expanded, but, being a Sunday, there was little activity.

* Clarkson Station has good visibilty from the surrounding transit oriented residential development. This comprises townhouses of not particularly high density. Only one retail establishment was seen though more may be built as the development is still unfinished. Areas further from the station towards the sea are already developed as conventional suburban housing.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Transperth Passenger Information: suburban areas

More pictures, this time around suburban stations and bus stops.

1. Bus stop on Safety Bay Road. Stops are now uniquely numbered.

2. Bus stop in Albany Highway, Victoria Park. The front shows routes and a schematic diagram of routes. A multi-route composite timetable is provided on the rear.

3. Map of bus routes at Cannington Station. These maps are provided at all major suburban stations and bus interchanges.

Train times are shown on a similar board nearby, aligned to face passengers walking up to the station. Bus times are listed on the rear, intended to be visible to alighting train passengers.

4. Passenger information at Thornlie. Comprises area transport map plus a self-serve rack with local train and bus timetables. Larger racks, stocked with all metropolitan timetables, are provided at major CBD stations and interchanges such as East Perth.

5. Platform communications system at Joondalup. The four buttons are as follows L-R: (i) Talk to Transperth for travel assistance, (ii) time of next train from Perth, (iii) time of next train to Perth, (iv) Report emergency.

6. Next train display at Cannington. Stopping patterns are given a lettered code shown on these displays and paper timetables.

7. Train arrival information provided at the new Clarkson Station. These displays are installed at each bus bay.

8. Clarkson Station. The surrounding area is currently being developed for housing as part of a transit oriented development. The visibility of the station is enhanced by its street-end location and the prominent sign in front.

9. Taxi shelter at Armadale Station. This is located outside the station near the bus interchange. Contact numbers are prominently displayed.

10. The spotless pit at Cannington Station. Visible graffiti is rare and vandalism is generally in the form of window scratching (which is a severe problem on trains and buses). Train posters prohibit passengers from carrying items that could be used in acts of vandalism (including screwdrivers and paint brushes) while signs on buses warn that drivers are equipped with DNA test kits to identify spitting passengers.

Close-up of the station pit rail safety warning sign. These signs are provided throughout the network, with a campaign being run in the southern suburbs to coincide with the opening of the new Mandurah line.

Transperth Passenger Information: CBD area

Following are some pictures taken of passenger information facilities during a recent trip to Perth. In recent years Perth has made big strides in its passenger information and has done much that other cities can learn from.

1. Perth Railway Station. Passenger Information Displays are visible above the platforms.

2. Map at the Esplanade Busport. Includes network schematic and guide to facilities.

3. Close-up of the network schematic. This includes (i) the suburban rail network, (ii) Circle Route, (iii) the most frequent bus routes, and (iv) other important bus routes.

4. Detailed transport map at Wellington Street Bus Station. The one pictures is for the northern suburbs; nearby is a similar map for the south. These maps are installed at suburban railway stations in positions where they can be seen by alighting passengers.

5. A large composite multi-route timetable listing all passing buses in time order. This example is located at the Victoria Park Bus Station just across the Causeway from Perth CBD.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

You have three wishes: feedback from the workshops

First workshops for five of the announced sixteen Melbourne area bus reviews have now been held. Participants had to nominate their three most important wishes for improvement and vote accordingly. With few variations between areas, the following were most wanted:

* Longer operating hours
* Better connections and improved frequency
* More route coverage

Not unexpectedly, the order priorities varied slightly; outer suburban residents most favoured coverage, while those already served preferred better hours and connections.

Most pleasing is the extent to which the term 'harmonised headways' has become a buzz phrase, acknowledged as a pre-requisite for co-ordination. Even on new routes, this remains a live issue, as a local news report demonstrates.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Transport etiquette promotion around the world

This week Connex launched a campaign to promote passenger etiquette on Melbourne trains. The promotion, which uses a made-up self-help guru, aims to stamp out inconsiderate behaviour such as not letting others alight, playing loud music, hogging seats, slurping noisome takeaway, etc.

Bad manners potentially exist wherever two or more people gather in the one place. As the old 'Do not Spit' tiles at Flinders Street Station attest, the issue is neither new nor confined to 'the young people of today'. And neither are complaints about 'train etiquette' geographically limited as demonstrated by the following examples garnered from the 2 million Google hits on the topic.

from the BBC
The Moroccans are more chatty
From an angry subway passenger
Shanghai station escalator etiquette
Train Etiquette - the animation
in Victorian times
nail clipping on the train

Sunday, July 15, 2007

How to effectively double bus service frequency

Where bus routes serve two stations on the one railway line, there may be scope to provide 'every train' connections even though the bus is only half as frequent as the train. In Melbourne potential routes include Altona - Laverton, St Albans - Watergardens, Seaford - Frankston, Hoppers Crossing - Werribee etc. A local example is Route 425 between St Albans and Sydenham; this connects with every evening train from Flinders Street until 8:23pm.

Click for larger version

That brings us to the end of The Connections Series. I hope that these examples demonstrate the contribution that careful scheduling can make in providing fast and frequent service on a well-connected network.

Comments are welcome and can be left below.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Very long routes are a connection hazard

The more stations a route serves, the more connections are necessary and the harder it is to optimise each one. 'Knock-on' delays can also be caused where buses are held back for late trains. The effects of this can be minimised, and connections improved if long routes are split and their connections optimised.

click for larger version

Friday, July 13, 2007

Eight connections for the price of one

The timing of buses so that they connect at train crossing points can allow eight good connections from a railway line to a bus route.

click for larger version

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Where one bus can connect with two trains

Points on the rail network where trains cross are particularly useful for effective bus connections.

Click for larger version

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Optimised connections with harmonised headways

Once headways are harmonised and efficient route lengths have been designed, optimising off-peak connections become a matter of deciding which are the most important and adjusting times slightly. During peak times, factors such as delays due to traffic congestion and irregular train headways on some lines require may require additional consideration.

click for larger version

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Harmonised headways and journey lengths

The journey lengths chosen when planning routes can have a major bearing on the service quality possible.

click for larger version

Monday, July 09, 2007

More bus reviews

The pace is quickening, with submissions for Banyule/Nillumbik, Whittlesea and Frankston/Mornington Peninsula being invited.

Harmonised headways

Having routes to operate at mutually compatible intervals ensures easy interchange between services and reliable travel times.

click for larger version

Sunday, July 08, 2007

NEXT WEEK: The Connections Series

A short series on train/bus co-ordination through creative timetabling.

Topics to include:

* What's required for reliable connections

* Optimum lengths for bus routes

* Where can one bus connect with two trains?, and

* Effectively doubling local bus frequencies (without more buses)

One thought each day for the next week or so.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Submission to Hume/Moreland Bus Review

For those following the DOI bus reviews, listed below are the main points of a submission made for Hume/Moreland.

* Better east-west travel across the north by starting existing routes 513 and/or 527 at Pascoe Vale instead of Glenroy and Gowrie.

* New local routes from Broadmeadows/Glenroy to Coburg that are better connected with local trains and direct Broadmeadows services from Hadfield and Coburg.

* A revamped network for Melbourne Airport: Route 500 Trainlink to Broadmeadows (meeting every off-peak train & every 20 min peak), Route 501 to Watergardens via Airport West (meeting every second train off-peak), Route 502 to Sunbury (meeting every regional train).

* A new east-west service between Pascoe Vale and Airport West via the Essendon Airport DFO, Niddrie and part of the existing route 501.

* A local town link in central Broadmeadows to improve connections with the railway station making use of existing services.

* Extended hours and increased frequency on popular or strategically important routes (eg 532, 544 and 560).

* A rationalisation of bus service frequencies (eg from 25, 35 and 50 minutes to 20 and 40 minutes) to provide harmonised connections with trains and other buses.

* Improved services to Fawkner including better connections with the Upfield line and consideration of a short busway across the Merri Creek to Reservoir.

* A deviation of route 540 to serve parts of Dallas remote from existing services.

* An upgraded and renumbered 571A from Greenvale to Epping.

* Removing deviations and renumbering of some existing routes.

* Non-bus capital works such as a railway station at Campbellfield and easier pedestrian access to bus stops on bus roads.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Run it and they will come

No less than 23 people boarded the westbound 5:15pm Route 623 bus at Chadstone last Sunday. Route 623 runs between Glen Waverley and St Kilda via Chadstone Shopping Centre. Last Sunday was the first day of the new Sunday service; previously it (like most routes) ran six days per week and finished just after 6pm.

This success indicates the real demand for Sunday bus travel, a fact only recognised very recently. Indeed with an equivalent service, a route like 623 is the sort that could end up carrying more passengers on weekends than it does during the week.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

BYO boltcutters?

What do you take when you're planning a public transport trip? The following might be a reasonable list:

(i) Ticket (remember BATBYGOBSTOPL?)
(ii) Timetable
(iii) Timepiece
(iv) Street directory or other map
(v) Boltcutters



If you want to take Route 440 to get to Werribee Plaza from the houses pictured (Melway 205 G2 & H2), and don't wish to duck (or jump over) the chain you'll need to do a round trip of some 340 steps (west to the Purchas Street intersection) for a break in the chain. Or get out the boltcutters and make your own path.

It's only a bit better if you live nearer to Purchas Street. Although it runs through the middle of the established Riverdene subdivision (built c1980) and is a logical collector of pedestrian traffic, no bus stop has been provided for it at Heaths Rd. Instead passengers must either use the stop pictured or board near the Italian Club across the water channel. As is familiar to veterans of the tram stop debates, having stops midway between streets increase walking compared to if they are located at intersections.

The cul-de-sac layout of the area already doubles walking time for many local trips compared to a porous grid-style layout. Bad stop placement and poor foot access to them (eg having to negotiate chains or uninterrupted traffic) means that public transport isn't effective either.

The example demonstrates that road builders alone can't be trusted to do the right thing for either pedestrians or public transport. Hence it is important that plans for new and redeveloped subdivisions be checked for pedestrian and transit amenity. Fortunately for Heaths Rd, the solution is simple - some boltcutters and an extra stop.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bus review workshops held

Meetings for the first metropolitan area bus review were held last week. The review covered local bus services in the Hobsons Bay, Moonee Valley and Maribyrnong municipalities.

Most attendees were from local government, community, and industry groups, though others who had put in submissions were also there.

After a presentation on why route and service reviews were necessary and the process being taken, the meeting broke into groups to consider a map of the proposed alterations. The usual workshop props of table facilitator, butchers paper, coloured pens and Post-it notes were used. At the end groups reported their findings to the whole meeting.

Below is a summary of the proposed changes:

* Minimum hours/frequencies for most local routes (currently being
* Better co-ordination with other buses and trains
* Changes to route 223 to operate via VUT Footscray.
* Extension of Route 407 to cover new residential areas near Highpoint and parts of Yarraville.
* Removal of a deviation from Route 411/412.
* Renumbering of the Churchill Ave deviation of 410 to a new route
* Abolition of Route 409 and its replacement by altered 407 and 414 routes.
* Extension of 415 in Williamstown and consideration of a deviation in
Altona to serve a retirement home.
* An overhaul of services in the Newport/Yarraville area with local services running between Yarraville, Altona Gate and Newport and an end to different route numbers on Saturday in some areas.
* Co-ordination between 467 and 468 to provide better access to Highpoint.
* A slower timetable for 200-series routes in the Footscray area to improve timetable adherance (lateness being due to traffic congestion)

The next review will cover Hume/Moreland for which public submissions are currently being sought (deadline Friday 22 June 2007).

'Caught by suprise' or just sloppy sums?

A recent Age article contains a claim attributed to the Minister for transport that 'a rise in train patronage had caught the Government by surprise'.

'It has been over 18 per cent in the past two years, which is massive," she said. "We usually operate on the basis of 3 to 4 per cent increase since we have come to office.'

The government has also claimed a policy of achieving 20% modal share for public transport by 2020. Since modal share is currently around 10% it follows that a dramatic increase in patronage is needed to achieve the modal share aim. Assuming no population increase and no increase in motor vehicle trips per capita, a doubling would be necessary. With population growth and car usage per capita still increasing, the actual increase would need to be more - perhaps around 150%.

Let us assume that we have, in 2007, a city of 100 people. It makes 1000 motorised trips per annum per capita of which 100 by public transport (ie a 10% modal share). Doubling modal share would require a shift of 100 trips to public transport from some other motorised mode. So that makes 200 trips, assuming that there is no change in the volume of travel per capita.

Then there's population growth. Assuming 1.4% pa growth rate this would take us to 120 people by 2020. Perhaps 1.4% pa is a bit higher than the historical record, but note that the population is ageing and the number of people of driving age is increasing faster than the general growth rate.

Thus the total number of public transport trips would need to increase from 100 people x 100 trips (10 000) to 120 people x 200 trips (24 000) per annum to meet the target. That earlier 150% estimate is pretty close.

Compound percentages are tedious to calculate, but financial people do it every day and have developed handy calculators such as this. Luckily they are just as good for other uses such as passenger growth calculations.

For our purposes, we have an ending value of 24 000 and a starting value of 10 000. It's 13 years until 2020, so the number of periods is 13. This produces a required compound annual percentage growth of 6.97%. As it doesn't allow for driving growth, it understates the growth required, which in practice would be in the 7-8% pa region.

Of course this is an average across all modes. But given likely continued suburban development, one would expect that growth of trains and buses would need to be well above 7% while trams could grow slower (these generally only serving established inner suburbs and no major tram extensions planned).

To achieve 20%/2020 an average annual patronage growth of at least 7% is required. If the government banks on 3-4% growth then it can kiss the 20% by 2020 aim goodbye as the numbers don't stack up. Furthermore the annual growth requirements get more onerous and eventually almost impossible the later it's left.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The battle of the crossings

What is the best way of providing for pedestrian access across railway lines? Car drivers generally despise boomgates and want some sort of grade seperation. Train-car or train-pedestrian accidents at level crossings are usually serious and disrupt services for an hour or two. If reducing the number of level crossings reduces the number of accidents, a grade-seperation program should also help train reliability.

However other factors (as well as the cost involved) can come into play as the following from local newspapers demonstrate:

'Split Road and Rail'

Caulfield-Glen Eira Leader article

From the above it sounds that an underpass might be the go. If not for cars, at least for pedestrians. But the following article, along with some reported incidents, suggests that tunnels have safety issues of their own.

'Tunnel of Fear'

Dandenong Leader article

I have visited the Noble Park underpass. The residents are right; it's narrow, visibility is poor and it's cut off from areas of human activity. The wall and right-angled bend when heading south don't help either. Streets are usually safer than claimed, but the underpass as stands doesn't present a good impression or encourage people to use public transport.

Is the suggestion of an overpass any better? Apart from the long ramps required for an accessible overpass (which unduly delay pedestrians) these are not cure-alls, as the poor reputation of Kananook station attests. And whether they are over roads or railways, it is not unknown for people to throw objects or even themselves from them, so safety issues different to underpasses arise.

Every access method has benefits and risks. Pedestrian overpasses are merely ugly, while those involving roads can ruin half a station precinct, such as can be seen at Sunshine, Moorabbin, Oakleigh or Huntingdale. A rough table comparing the attributes of at-grade crossings with underpasses and overpasses is below.

No one option is clearly superior, but it's notable that the strengths and weaknesses of at-grade pedestrian crossings versus underpasses are complementary. Overpasses are a half-solution, normally inferior to other types.

My conclusion is that having both underpasses and at-surface crossings in the one area combine the benefits of both. For example, if poor safety is perceived, pedestrians can choose to use the surface crossing with good visibility. On the other hand, if a train is coming or there are large crowds, then the underpass offers convenient access.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Disruption communications

Many things must happen before a train can run. The service which forms it must arrive on time. Its driver needs to be in position. The line ahead must be clear. Points must be set. Boomgates must come down. Signals must work. The doors must be unobstructed so they can close. Pantographs need to make contact to supply power. Motors must work. There can't be any errant drivers or suicidal people across the tracks. Finally the brakes must work when the train reaches the next station. This process repeats itself twenty or thirty times on a single trip.

In reality there are many more steps than the sequence above. Even if the certainty of each step being successful was 99.999%, it does not take much for one not to happen and for delays to ensue. For all the heavy machinery involved, train systems are very fragile. That makeshift plank and string in the last post is robust in comparison. Trains differ from buses, which are self-powered, can overtake disabled vehicles and, subject to traffic, can be brought in easily.

Train disruption management has been in the news lately. An article in yesterday's Herald Sun has the Minister pledging improvements for passengers. These include better communication between train control and stations, platform staff and upgraded information systems.

The diagram below shows a typical disruption. Though an incident may have occurred at a particular location, trains are restricted how close they may operate to it. An accident at a single location may see trains replaced by buses for 5 kilometres or more either side.

With the lines marked with X out of operation, use needs to be made of buses. Depending on location, this can either be regular bus routes or special rail replacements called in at short notice. The time of day the disruption occurred can also be critical - buses are least available during the morning peak as many are used for school service. Buses are easier to get at other times, though at peak times traffic limits their speed and thus capacity. Regular routes are running anyway and if they are sufficiently direct, frequent and run to a station where rail services are operating then these can ease some of the load.

Staff coverage at as many stations as possible is important. This is easiest during the morning weekday peak where staffing is at its highest (including at some usually unstaffed stations).

The Herald Sun article suggested hand-held radios as a possibility. These may indeed have some use, but it depends on who staff will be able to talk to. Train drivers and Metrol use an analogue-FM communications system in the 400 MHz UHF band. Bus companies use similar systems on other UHF frequencies.

The cheapest UHF-CB radios operate on other frequencies again, so are incompatible with either Metrol or bus radios. These radios have a range of around a kilometre. Hence their primary function could be to allow communication within a station precinct (eg between a train platform and the rail substitute bus stop 200 metres away on the other side of the track). However where stations are sufficiently close and are unobstructed from one another they could also provide limited contact between them.

Before a decision is made on this, we need to consider communications needs in detail and other technologies that could be useful (eg better use of existing station PA systems or mobile phones). This will be the subject of a later post.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Excellence and ingenuity at Southern Cross

From today's Sunday Herald Sun.

THE controversial redevelopment of Melbourne's Spencer Street Station has been declared Australia's most outstanding example of construction excellence.


The awards were for construction excellence, not ingenuity. However if ingenuity was a judging criteria, Southern Cross would still have a chance, as this display of occy strap and wood resourcefulness demonstrates (Platforms 11/12)!


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Transit improvement top ten

Following is a list of what I consider are Australia's most important public transport improvements over the past 25 years.

1. Perth: Suburban rail electrification/northern suburbs line/service increases. Revitalised a dying rail system and tripled patronage. Made further extensions possible, most spectacularly the southern line currently under construction.

2. Victoria: Regional rail projects. A package of measures, including large service improvements on the five main corridors, restored trains on some lines, fare integration and new trains. Criticised for its expense at the time but the service improvements (particularly) have delivered patronage and benefits beyond the official 'fast rail' name.

3. Adelaide: 'Go Zones'. A service planning innovation where several overlapping bus routes are timed to provide a frequent even-headway combined service along a busy corridor and marketed as such. The Adelaide equivalent of Melbourne's trams. Recent improvements have increased the number of 'Go Zones' and extended service to Adelaide Airport. More recently the concept has been adopted by Brisbane in their 'BUZ' services.

4. Brisbane/SEQ: Translink fare reform and bus improvements. Brisbane is a late convert to fare integration (Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne had achieved it by 1983), but when it happened it covered a large region rather than a single city and greatly simplified fares and ticketing.

5. Perth: Bus route and service reviews. Main outcomes have included harmonised headways and better connections with trains, and service frequencies more aligned with need (especially around major trip generators where frequencies and spans were increased). Many service idiosyncracies and route duplications were ironed out, with resources transferred to service improvements elsewhere. The system was made less CBD-centric, with the highly-successful Circle Route being introduced. Other cities such as Adelaide and Brisbane now have their own Circle Routes and Melbourne is planning several similar.

6. Brisbane/SEQ: Gold Coast Railway. Included as it has brought rail services closer to the main population growth area in Australia without rail access.

7. Perth/Adelaide/Melbourne: Multimodal fare integration. Eliminated transfer penalties, so encouraged thinking of and use of public transport as a network (subject to adequate service integration).

8. Melbourne: Sunday service improvements. Network-wide improvements to Sunday trains and trams are an example of service reflecting changing living, working and travel patterns. As an example, train services during the day increased from every thirty or forty minutes to every twenty, which is similar to Saturdays. The success of this is demonstrated by rising patronage, further assisted by a discount Sunday ticket introduced several years later. Despite only very limited Sunday trading, Perth later followed suit, with almost all stations now receiving a fifteen minute service.

9. Various: Inter-peak service improvements. If good enough, these improvements change the concept of public transport from something that one must make an appointment to board to a more casual 'turn up and go' service. This is much like how one expects water as a tap is turned on. Though they may not result in full buses and trains, they are cheaper than peak service improvements since infrastructure and vehicles already exist. Fuel, labour and wear and tear are the main marginal costs, though cost-recovery can still increase since the fixed costs are spread across a larger passenger base who find the service more attractive.

10. Various: Public transport websites and online journey planners. Especially where the whole state is covered, this allows passengers to more easily plan trips.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Public Transport and the Victorian State Budget

Details here and here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Better bus stops

Your typical outer suburban bus stop, located in Heaths Road, Werribee.

What are five things that could be done to improve it? Thinking about the general environment a little beyond the stop is allowed.

Bus stop in Werribee

Bus stop in Werribee - closer shot

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Public transport: making a difference

In various discussions about public transport, it's easy to lose sight of what it's there for - ie moving people. Society would be much poorer if everyone sat at home all day and didn't go places to work, learn, shop, socialise etc.

As mentioned before, regional Victorians have been the main beneficiaries of improvements to public transport in this state. Examples include reopened and more frequent regional rail services, better local buses and fare reform.

An example of the difference public transport can make to people's lives was brought home today through a most unlikely source; an internet forum on property investing.

As you'll read, the family concerned (on a fairly low income) was able to sell their second car because of a new bus service that started near their Bendigo home. They can then invest the savings, strengthening their financial future and lessening their dependence on future age pension payments.

Read Somersoft Forum post

There would easily be thousands of similar stories that underlie the community benefits that well-planned and operated public transport provides.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Area bus reviews happening

Melbourne on Transit has long advocated regional route and service reviews to try to untangle the dogs' breakfast that passes for a bus system in Melbourne.

Bus reform is the cheapest and single most effective thing that could be done to improve public transport in Melbourne, particularly for the majority of residents whose closest transport service is a bus.

Hence it brings great pleasure that Metropolitan Bus Service Reviews have started.

The terms of reference are encouraging, including matters such as longer hours, more frequent services, new routes and better connections.

The first review area is the inner-west, covering suburbs such as Footscray, Sunshine, Williamstown, Altona and Laverton.

These sorts of comprehensive reviews doesn't happen very often. Participation is a good idea if you want better buses that run where and when you wish to travel.

Public submissions close on April 5.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Travel for cheapskates

Today's incorporation of Zone 3 into Zone 2 has given those with more time than money new opportunities to save. For the cost of a Zone 2 fare (full fare 2-hour $2.40/daily $4.30 and about half for concession) it will be possible to make some very long trips very cheaply.

Fares are calculated on the basis of the number of zones travelled through. Therefore if both your origin and destination is in Zone 2 you need a 1+2 ticket if your journey takes you through Zone 1. But if you're able to skirt around Zone 1 then you just pay for Zone 2 to go from (say) Broadmeadows to Frankston.

Hence long cross-suburban bus routes within Zone 2 are essential for the obsessive fare minimiser. In the eastern suburbs there are the SmartBus routes 700, 703 and 888/889, with others such as 630, 665, 830, 831, 790 & 791 also having some use. Between the east and the north, 291 and 293 are important. Across the north you've got the 560. And in the west, there's the newly-introduced 400.

Interchanges served by many Zone 2 routes include Chadstone Shopping Centre Monash University Clayton, Dandenong, Glen Waverley, Box Hill, Ringwood, Heidelberg, Greensborough, Northland, Latrobe University and Sunshine.

One problem is that whereas most long suburban trips made by the most direct means possible require just a 2-hour ticket, skirting around Zone 1 can add one or even two hours, thus requiring a Daily ticket. Now the difference between a 2-hour 1+2 and a Daily 2 is 90 cents - hardly satisfying even for the meanest scrooge. Admittedly though the numbers improve when it's a return journey or it's after 6pm (but before the buses stop).

Most people want to get from A to B quickly and the amount extra paid for Zone 1 is small in comparison with the hour or two saved. However there exists a minority for whom either (i) the journey is the end not the means and (ii) saving money has become a compulsion rather than merely good management and it is these people who will make such unconventional trips.

If you do plan such cheapskate excursions, whatever you do, do it soon, before fares rise 10 to 20 cents in June!