Thursday, August 06, 2009

What's in a route name? (Part 3)

While a particular description may work for an individual route, there are times when the route forms part of a 'family' of related routes. These are often scheduled together and provide a regular and frequent service along a particular corridor. In other cases routes may have little overlap yet have similar origins and destinations. Especially when one of the destinations is a major centre, it is desirable to highlight that passenges can use either route to make the trip.

The diagrams below show various types of related routes.

Example 1 are two routes with little in common apart from their common origins and destinations. (To split hairs one route actually continues further but is not relevant to this discussion.) There are no major trip generators along the route and Coburg, at the end of both, is the most important destination in the area shown.

As well as serving local travel needs, a benefit of these two routes existing is to provide a higher service frequency between Glenroy and Coburg. Information at both ends should highlight the fact that there is more than one direct service from Glenroy to Coburg.

Attention to this can be drawn by several measures, including station signage, the same or adjacent bus bays at interchanges and well-written route descriptions (preferably displayed above and below one another). At Coburg 513 could be described as 'Coburg to Glenroy via Pascoe Vale' and 534 as 'Coburg to Glenroy via Merlynston'. Alternatively, sequential ordering, eg 'Coburg > Pascoe Vale > Glenroy' and 'Coburg > Merlynston > Glenroy' would also be effective. In both cases use has been made of one intermediate point to highlight the differences for passengers only near one of the routes.

The second example is a suburb - CBD or freeway radial pattern. Unlike the first example origins are different but the routes come together closer to the city, overlapping to provide a more frequent service along the common portion. The dominant flow is peak direction trips, and for this purpose the main passenger information need would be a combined timetable (possibly printed as a seperate item) listing all services between the best served stops. Niche opportunities include 'reverse commuting' and after work trips via a shopping centre and then returning to a park & ride. However compared to the previous and next examples route via information is perhaps less important.

Most interesting is Example 3 above. This shows a family of routes that serve several major trip generators along the common portion between Chadstone and Monash. The routes then fan out to residential suburbs before combining again to serve another major trip generator at Dandenong. These routes have been scheduled as a group and provide a combined 15 minute service on weekdays.

Good route descriptions are an effective but under-appreciated method of simplifying the bus network and highlighting the corridors of frequent service in areas of real patronage potential. Instances of their use is given by two examples: a route map for Route 600/922/923 and an hypothetical totem-style sign at Chadstone Shopping Centre, both shown below.

Major destinations for each route are displayed sequentially for what I consider is a neater and more legible result. The large number of intermediate destinations and the desire to keep all descriptions on the one line has created a trade-off regarding print size. However keeping to one line per route highlights the 'stacking' advantage for related routes. Because route descriptions are immediately above and below one another it is easy for the viewer to identify the similarities between the four routes shown, provided that care has been taken in their writing (one route should not have Oakleigh omitted if it like all the others goes there) and their layout.

While the number of 'via' destinations may seem high, in this case all are quite substantial interchanges or destinations so deserve mention. Plus it and the service frequency offered (claimed 15 minutes, but it's as high as 7 buses per hour to some destinations) may cause some people not to bother with the timetable. In case there was any doubt, an extra note has been added advertising all routes' potential as feeders to trains and other buses at Oakleigh. As with the Coburg example one destination per route was reserved for where it was differs to the rest.

What would the 'intermediate stop' description at the Dandenong interchange end look like? It could be the same as the above but in reverse order. Or maybe not, with the space used for more local destinations instead. After all, from Dandenong Station there are better ways to get to Oakleigh Station than by a bus that is less direct than the train. On the other hand some passengers may wish to avoid transfers and those travelling from as far as Dandenong North might still prefer the direct bus option to go to Oakleigh (especially given the similar combined frequency on weekdays). This again underlies the point made earlier that space is finite and trade-offs may have to be made.

To conclude, the use of intermediate descriptions for routes has potential to make bus travel simpler and easier for passengers, whether it be on maps, bus destination displays, websites, timetables or signs. When used with related routes it can help to highlight network features such as frequent service corridors. This assists marketing by helping passenger develop a stronger 'mental map' of the bus network and its potential usefulness for more of their trips.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Good post.

Of course it all falls over if the information about the combined routes isn't conveyed to customers.

In the 600/922/923 example, the paper timetables and route maps are fine:

...but it's impossible to get the combined timetable on the web site.

Ditto the 802/804/862. Map:


The result is the careful co-ordination of timetables is undersold, and invisible to many prospective customers.

And as you noted, it also requires careful planning of stops. Witness the bus stops at Huntingdale to Monash University, where the two services (900 and 630) have stops around the corner from each other, rather than combined in one location.

(That pic is from 2007; I assume it hasn't been fixed yet.)