Sunday, June 28, 2009

Our Top 50 Bus Routes - Part 2

Part 1 compared bus service levels by number of services per day. Such statistics are essential for scheduling and rostering purposes but have little meaning for the passenger. They are, in bureaucratic jargon, an 'output'.

Maximum waiting times, or service frequency, is far more useful for passengers. These are shown for each day of the week underneath the graphs in tables below:

Both the graphs and frequency tables allow some interesting comparisons.

The university-oriented feeder routes (401, 630 and 703) tended to have low ratios of weekend running. This is caused by the frequent weekday service and no or local-style weekend schedules. Fairly low weekend ratios are also found on outer eastern routes like 789/790/791 and the 888/889 SmartBus. Weekend services are particularly limited in the Manningham area, where service is concentrated on weekday commuters.

Trams are generally more frequent than trains, with the greatest differences during off-peak, evenings and weekends. This explains why the Knox Transit Link 732 (which connects to Tram 75) has a higher weekend service ratio than 571 and 896, which both feed trains.

Routes where weekend service levels are most similar to weekdays include 781/4/5 (where the basic combined frequency is 20 minutes 7 days a week) and 223, where only the Sunday timetable is significantly less.

Weekend services are important for some people but not for others. Good 7-day service makes the choice to live without a car more practical for more people, increasing loyalty and patronage. As an example, a change from 12 to 9 services per hour during a peak period would probably not dramatically change patronage (unless capacity limited) but the same change (from 4 to 1 trips per hour) on a weekend will likely influence a decision to drive. In other words, if you did not wish to buy a car, one would prefer a continually frequent route like Route 223 to one that offered a more 'peaky' service (even if more buses ran per week).

Another interesting pattern is the difference between Saturday and Sunday service frequency. Again this varies from small to great. Small differences are common with previously low-service routes where timetables were upgraded to a flat hourly frequency for each route for both days. Examples include the constituent routes of 781/784/785 and 832/833.

Large Sunday to Saturday ratios have two causes – either very low Sunday service levels or unusually high Saturday service levels that depress the Sunday ratio. An example of the former is 201/202/302, which has a sparse Sunday service compared to similarly ranked routes (refer 11-20 graph).

The author has observed that Sunday trading in the older northern and western suburban shopping strips is less prevalent than in the inner southern, eastern and bayside suburbs. Coversely the 'Saturday morning rush' tradition has probably also prevailed longer in the non-Sunday areas (in contrast Saturday afternoons are busier at 'destination' shopping malls).

Either it is demand driven by such patronage or a historical accident, but it remains true that Saturday daytime bus frequencies in the type of northern and western suburbs mentioned above approach weekday services and even trump SmartBus service levels. In all these areas Sunday buses were almost unknown until 2 or 3 years ago, when most routes got an approximately hourly service.

Examples of local routes that have a comparatively intensive Saturday service include 216/219, 220, 223, 406, 465, 467, 552 and 781/784/785. And to possibly confirm the above, all but one are in the northern or western suburbs.

Part 3 will present the frequency tables above in a different order and conclude with the benefits that combined frequency information can provide to both passengers and planners.


Vic Rail (Riccardo) said...

I'm going off route numbers - I think they encourage limited thinking.

I'd go for the branded pulse connection eg Vermont to Knox, Lilydale to Healesville etc, or putting in a sophisticate electronic journey planning system

In terms of legibility - you've got the rail network - fine. It gets worse from there.

They really shouldn't have built the tram tracks the way they have in so many cases - Lygon St north having trams but Lygon St south (the retail bit) not. And with buses, just keep them to the grid pattern on major roads, and name the route after the road.

If I'm standing in Dandenong and want to get to Chadstone and I know there is a simple bus shuttling back and forth from Oakeligh or Hughesdeale without fail, every time a train arrives, through ticketed and clearly labelled - it works for me. Anything else turns PT into a marginal proposition for losers.

Vic Rail (Riccardo) said...

Peter, so you haven't explained why the North has less Sunday services. Is it the Mediterranean Basin effect? Are all the good little Catholics and Orthodox adherents busy adhering - then going home for their Nonnas to cook up a big feast and therefore not out and about doing the promenade?

I'm not sure where you're research is leading...if you wanted evidence that off peak bus services were poor I think we had that already in abundance. Can you use this info to input into future bus route planning?

As I said in my previous post, time has come to get rid of bus route numbers - they become an artefact when what is needed is service.

I don't care which of 10 trams will take me from Flinders St to Domain interchange - not like they can overtake is it?? I'll catch the next one. The info doesn't even become useful until the junction - before that it is just a tram. And I don't know why the destinatons have everything useful except which of the St K Rd junctions the tram turns at.

And same with buses - I could stand at Box Hill and bewildered with 273 and 301 and all these numbers coming at me and they mean nothing to me.

And it's no good saying they are for the regulars - the regulars can survive with a lot less information than is provided but newcomers can't manage with what is provided.

Does your research aim to address this situation?

Peter Parker said...

Ricc, I'm not sure why the solid 'blue collar' Labor areas seem to have less Sunday trading (not just buses) than either the hip Green-leaning inner areas or the blue ribbon Liberal seats.

In relation to the more marginal seats, my guess is the bayside areas probably have more Sunday trading than those inland.

Whatever the cause, until just 3 years ago we had the perverse situation where Sunday trains served dead strip shopping centres three times an hour, while buses (which ran to packed car-based shopping malls) rarely ran.

I had this discussion with someone else - he was asking about the reasons for some forgotton bus route quirk.

I replied that his question contained the presumption that there was a rational reason for bus routes running as they did.

When one looks at such anachronisms as Route 479 departing the city for Sunbury on Saturdays and Sundays, the operations of some routes owe more to history and inertia than planning or logic.

Subsidy has meant that such anachronisms have continued, only (hopefully) to be challenged by the current bus reviews.

In relation to route numbers - now that frequent service corridors have been identified (OK, not all, but in most cases like 527 and 903 these routes make it into the top 50) it would seem the next step is to (i) document the areas of frquent service and then (ii) put them on a 'frequent service' schematic map (along with trains and trams).