Sunday, July 05, 2009

Our Top 50 Bus Routes - Part 3

The third and final part of this series is to show a frequency guide for major Melbourne bus routes and route corridors. Similar to the information in Part 2, it removes the graphs for a more concise format in route number order.

If the guide is too small to read, click for a larger version.

When accompanied by a multimode network map, information presented in this format can more easily communicate the areas easily reached by public transport. For combined routes it successfully condenses information that would otherwise require recourse to a number of timetables or a website journey planner. Hence the absence of combined service information can severely undersell the level of service actually provided.

Until very recently, what bus service planning there has been in Melbourne has been route or operator based (as opposed to suburb or network based). Where a single operator has been in charge of a corridor or area the distinction is not great. Examples where routes have been co-scheduled to provide an even headway include some 200-series National and MBL routes and some 700 and 800-series Grenda routes.

However where different operators run parallel routes (eg 216 and 456) we see wasteful service duplication, poor connectivity and low overall service (two buses arrive in a few minutes and then a long gap until the next bus). Frequency guides and maps like the above can identify these service deficits (and operational inefficiencies) and be a useful tool to optimise service.

Frequency comparison charts can also allow one to examine the allocation of resources between routes. In some cases these may be rational and meet demand or connectivity requirements. However in others they may identify an unmet need. As an example, one 15-minute weekday route runs every 120 minutes on Sundays while others run every 20 or 30 minutes. Are users of the lower service route really 4 or 6 times less likely to travel on a Sunday, or do the differences relate to historical accident and have no good reason today?

Then there are the routes that offer consistenty high service, sometimes exceeding SmartBus (particuarly on weekends and Sunday evenings). These are mainly ex-Met routes, though they include some newer train and tram link services as well. From a marketing and passenger information standpoint, should they be treated the same as a standard 'hourly to 9pm' local service, or do they deserve to have their superior service levels emphasised and promoted through maps and the like?


Vic Rail (Riccardo) said...

So how would you integrate this info into PIDs?

I have my thoughts for the StK Rd trams - but you first.

Peter Parker said...

My personal opinion is you probably wouldn't.

All you need is a big sign saying buses to X Y Z every *insert frequency here* between *hours* that every exiting train passenger would almost bump into on the way out.

If you were going to go the PIDs route, you'd make sure that they are real time or near enough (like TramTracker). You wouldn't make them subject to a static timetable, since the expectation of PIDs is that they are real time and this should be fulfilled.

PIDs do provide some reassurance that the system is running. But if the system is super reliable and super frequent (so that signage and trust is adequate) then I'm not a big fan of them if they involve much expense.

There's far higher priorities, eg improving service legibility and providing decent service standards.

But there will almost certainly be bus tracking and eventually there will be some sort of bus PID system, even if only delivered through a mobile phone rather than at every stop, so I regard it as inevitable, though only of moderate importance.

As for tram PIDs, current CBD ones seem to list them by route number order. I'm agin this - I reckon they should be in arrival time order instead, and I don't see why this should not also apply if bus PIDs were provided.

PIDs could be a big list of the next (say) 10 departures to all destinations. But note that PIDs would needs some really good via text as the final destination is often not the most desired one.

Major trip generators (eg Chadstone & Monash U for Oakleigh and Monash U for Clayton) could have their dedicated PIDs incorporating a subset of the above info, but if the displays in the former are long enough (I'd make provision for final destination and 3 intermediates) it won't be necessary.