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).


Josh said...

The 465 is my local, and I must say it is a good route. The thing I appreciate most is the driver's willingness to wait for a late train; the drivers on the 475 - which I also use - don't do this under any circumstance, apparently because they have a tram to meet at the other end of the route, and presumably also because they have no idea how/if late trains are running.

The 465 is always well frequented, sometimes to the point of being excessively overcrowded.

Moonee Valley council recently looked a traffic calming and disuasal measures for side streets around Buckley St, and proposed getting VicRoads to establish Clearways along Buckley St. I believe these plans collapsed under local objections, except for the Clearway, which I suggested ought to be a bus lane - unsurpisingly, this suggestion was ignored.

Anonymous said...

If you ask me, a bus line is unpopular because of its root. Buses that wind around the suburbs in a 'zigzag' fashion are totally useless (as if they'd heard of network planning) if you think about it. The straightest line between two points is the most efficient.
Time to go back to the drawing board, Kosky.

Alex Stephenson said...

Allied to this the drivers are the most delightful people. Always willing to acknowledge the regulars and have a yarn with the elderly.

I think the contractors are Ryans ( no self interest here.

Anonymous said...

you say 465 has best peak service.
well 220 also 7/8 mins in peak