Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Yellow Orbital's first day

The first trip

Today I was part of a small group who rode the maiden full-length journey of Route 901 Yellow Orbital SmartBus. We took NightRider and Skybus to reach the airport by 0600.

Our aim to catch the first bus at 0630 nearly didn't happen since the bus did not pass the location indicated as its stop by a temporary sign. Luckily one of our group had the foresight to wait elsewhere and could hail the driver who stopped around the corner so the rest could board. This appeared to be an early glitch; subsequent trips were observed by others to use the marked stop.

Not suprisingly we had the bus to ourselves for the first hour or so; it was still too early for most Sunday engagements and many facilities along the way were under construction. Patronage increased greatly on the established Ringwood to Frankston portion, with the section south of Dandenong carrying a fully seated load nearly to Frankston.

The driver paced his speed well and the bus ran to time for the entire route. There was a short recovery time at most timepoints, but this should lessen once patronage builds and extra time due to ticket sales is factored in (travel is free for the first two weeks).

Along the route

Scenery varied between light industrial (most of the route until Epping and around Dandenong), bulky goods retail (around Nunawading) to residential (around Gladstone Park, Epping, Templestowe, Knox and Frankston North). There were also forested and semi-rural pockets around Yan Yean, which by any standard now has an extremely generous bus service for its population density.

Patronage potential

The existing Ringwood - Dandenong - Frankston section of Route 901 is now established as a high patronage section. It's everything a successful bus route should be - a direct line between trip generators of regional and even metropolitan significance.

Though its environment is pedestrian hostile, the sheer size of retail trade (and workforce) along Nunawading's 'Golden mile' along Whitehorse Road should assure reasonable patronage along this section as well.

My guess is that the north-eastern portion of the route won't be so popular; its feeder role to Blackburn Station will be somewhat lessened by the DART routes which will soon offer SmartBus-standard freeway express city services to much of Manningham. It also passes through areas of suburban (but low) population density at Templestowe and rural levels of density around Yan Yean.

South Morang to Epping should be moderately used as a rail feeder, though this task will be performed by Route 571 which will operate until suburban rail reaches South Morang.

There is some industrial jobs between Epping and Roxburgh Park (especially after the Market opens) that should attract some patronage. It is also from Epping (or even Greensborough) that 901 becomes a faster service to the airport than catching a train to the city plus a Skybus.

Route 901 duplicates local routes between Roxburgh Park and Broadmeadows and Route 902 between Broadmeadows and Gladstone Park. Hence in under a year Gladstone Park has gone from having very low to high levels of transit service.

I would expect the airport portion to be extremely successful - provided that the stop is in a handy location (for both travellers and airport workers) and people know about the service. The airport precinct is a huge employment area and the route will be a big lift for the area, which until today had extremely low service levels.

Photos taken on the first trip

Promotional billboard on entrance to the airport

The old stop for the regular routes (478/479/500)

The new (temporary) bus stop sign


Roxburgh Park


The Pines Shopping Centre (Doncaster East)

Finishing touches at Blackburn

Arriving Frankston

Timetable at Frankston

One passenger who won't be needing a service to the airport

Departing Frankston for Melbourne Airport

1 comment:

Paul Nicholson said...

Excellent report Peter.