Saturday, October 23, 2010

New Frankston line timetable and bus connectivity

The major feature of the October 2010 Metro train timetable was the upgrade of the weekday Frankston interpeak frequency from fifteen to ten minutes. As frequencies increase dependence on timetables lessen. And many passengers would be treating ten minutes as a ‘turn up and go’ service.

Intersecting tram routes would also be considered ‘turn up and go’, at least on weekdays. However for buses reference to a timetable is still important to ensure short journey times.

Connectivity and effective service frequency are maximised if train and bus headways are harmonised. The extent of frequency harmonisation varies across Melbourne as each mode is often independently scheduled.

This survey shows the effect of the Frankston line train frequency boost on bus headway harmonisation for each bus route serving stations between Caulfield and Frankston.

Station – Route – pre Oct 2010 – post Oct 2010

Caulfield – 624 – yes – yes
Caulfield – 900 – yes – no

Ormond – 630 – no – yes
Ormond – 625 – yes - yes

McKinnon – 626 – yes – yes

Bentleigh – 701 – yes – yes
Bentleigh – 703 – no – no

Moorabbin – 811/812 – yes – yes
Moorabbin – 823 – yes - yes
Moorabbin – 824 – no – yes
Moorabbin – 825 – no – yes

Highett – 827/828 – no – yes
Highett – 708 – yes – yes

Cheltenham – 600/922/923 – yes – no
Cheltenham - 811/812 – yes - yes
Cheltenham – 822 – yes - yes
Cheltenham - 827/828 – no - yes

Mentone – 708 – yes - yes
Mentone – 811/812 – yes - yes
Mentone – 825 – no – yes
Mentone – 903 – yes - no

Parkdale – 708 – yes – yes

Mordialloc – 705 - n/a - n/a (peak service only)
Mordialloc – 708 – yes – yes
Mordialloc – 709 – yes – yes
Mordialloc – 903 – yes – no

Aspendale -

Edithvale – 858 – yes – yes
Edithvale – 902 – yes – no

Chelsea – 857 – yes – yes
Chelsea – 858 – yes – yes
Chelsea – 902 – yes – no

Bonbeach –

Carrum – 708 – yes – yes
Carrum – 780 – yes - yes
Carrum – 857 – yes – yes

Seaford – 780 – yes – yes

Kananook – 778 – yes – yes
Kananook – 779 – yes – yes
Kananook – 832 – yes – yes
Kananook – 901 – yes – no

Frankston – 770 – no – no
Frankston – 771 – no - yes
Frankston – 772 – yes - yes
Frankston – 773 – yes - yes
Frankston – 774 – yes - yes
Frankston – 775 – no - no
Frankston – 776 – no - no
Frankston – 779/780 – yes – yes
Frankston – 781/784/785 – no – yes
Frankston – 782/783 – yes – yes
Frankston – 788 – yes - no
Frankston – 789/790/791 – no - yes
Frankston – 832/833 – yes - yes
Frankston – 901 – yes – no

Total before: Yes 39 – No 13
Total after: Yes 39 – No 13

Notes: Routes with irregular headways (eg 703, 775, 776) are counted as non-harmonised. Only routes with off-peak weekday services are counted.


While the move to a ten minute frequency has not changed the number of bus routes that can claim to be harmonised with Frankston line trains, to conclude that there has been no change oversimplifies the effect on individual routes.

The most significant harmonisation gain was that restored to 20 minute frequency bus routes. I say ‘restored’ because they were previously harmonised when Frankston interpeak trains ran every 20 minutes (before the 1990s upgrade to 15 minutes). Some of these routes (eg 630 and 824) were the busier services that escaped the bus service reductions in the 1980s and 1990s (which saw some weekday frequencies reduced from 20 to 30 minutes). The other harmonisation gain has been in the Frankston area, where routes to Karingal (789/790/791) and Mornington (781/784/785) now combine to provide an even connection to every second train.

The main loss to harmonisation has been to the SmartBus and near-SmartBus routes (600/922/923, 900, 901, 902 and 903). Their 15 minute frequency matched the previous interpeak train frequency on the Frankston line. The effective frequency (ie the interval between when optimum connections repeat) has increased from 15 to 30 minutes for trips involving a transfer. However many passengers are likely to treat this as a ‘turn up and go’ connection, especially if changing from the bus to the train.

Metro’s Andrew Lezala favours the introduction of ten minute interpeak train service frequency on more lines, along with similar frequencies on tram and major bus routes. The latter obviously involves the orbital SmartBus routes, which currently run every fifteen minutes.

This pattern provides a legible ‘one-size fits all’ pattern where almost every interpeak orbital service runs the full route, despite greatly varying patronage along it. However if bus patronage continues to rise and more train lines are upgraded to run every 10 minutes interpeak, a future change to a 10/20 minute frequency pattern (lower service on the quieter portions) could provide needed gains in capacity and connectivity. Efficiency would also rise as services more closely match demand. There would be some decline in legibility, as alternate services would terminate short, but this may be outweighed by the consistent connectivity achieved by matching bus and train frequencies and the higher service on the busier portions.


While the numbers show no change to the proportion of bus routes that are frequency harmonised with trains during the weekday interpeak, the higher train frequency has improved overally connectivity by reducing maximum waiting times. It is for this reason that the gain of a 20 minute headway service becoming harmonised is greater than a 15 minute frequency service losing it.

Nevertheless to enhance their potential as strong feeder services, the principle that SmartBus services should be headway-harmonised with trains is worth keeping, and an approach to enhance this for our orbital routes is suggested.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Employment concentration and public transport service quality

Just over six months ago Alan Davies of the Melbourne Urbanist reminded us that the majority of jobs in Melbourne are (1) outside the CBD and surrounds, and (2) outside what Melbourne 2030 calls 'Major Activity Centres'. Outside the top four areas where employment is highly concentrated, is a 'long tail' of smaller centres which employ between about 1 and 2 percent of suburban centre jobs.

In descending order of significance the top four centres were Clayton, Tullamarine, Kew/Hawthorn and Box Hill.

I thought it would be worth comparing the availability of high-service public transport routes to and within these areas. This could help answer questions such as whether the largest employment centres had the best public transport, or whether historical factors, such as the era of development and presence of tram routes were more important.

Criteria used to assess service quality to these employment areas were as follows:

a. Service levels. The number of directions from which high service routes to the area is provided (at least SmartBus spans and frequencies). Lower frequency routes and branches are not counted, even though some approach SmartBus standards.

b. Travel speeds. As measured by the number of directions with services that operate on their own rights of way (eg railways, busways and segregated light rail).

c. Connectivity. Number of intersections between high-service routes.

d. Coverage. Extent to which the highest service routes are within walking distance of the highest concentrations of employment in the area. Assessed as low, medium or high.

Only regular Metcard/Myki ticketed routes were counted in this survey.

The overall rating comprises a Service, Speed and Connectivity score ( a + b + c) plus a coverage estimate for high service routes (described as low, medium or high).

Assessments by centre, starting with the largest, are as follows:

Clayton (includes area around Clayton Station, Monash University and Blackburn Rd)

a. Service levels

High service routes are as follows: Bus 900 (2 directions) and Dandenong line train (2 directions).

Total number of directions with high service routes: 4 (increases to 8 if the lower service 703 and 802/804/862 routes are included)

b. Travel Speeds

Number of directions with ROW route: 2

c. Connectivity

Number of intersections between above high-service routes: 0

d. Coverage

Train serves areas near Clayton shopping strip and Monash Medical Centre. Route 900 serves area near Monash University. Business parks and light industrial in the area are not served by the above routes. The area is pedestrian-hostile.

Overall: SSC score 6 with medium coverage.


a. Service levels

High-service routes are Routes 901 and Routes 902. Route 901 offers service in one direction and Route 902 operates in both directions.

Total number of directions with high service routes:3

b. Travel Speeds

Number of directions with ROW route: 0

c. Connectivity

Number of intersections between above high-service routes: 1 (Mickleham Rd)

d. Coverage

Route 901 offers medium coverage of airport (stop is away main passenger gates). Both routes serve Mickeham Rd. Melrose Dr, Sharps Rd and Keilor Park Dr not served by above routes. The area is extremely pedestrian hostile.

Overall: SSC score 4 with low-medium coverage.

Kew/Hawthorn (area east of Princess St and from Swinburne University and north)

a. Service levels

High service routes are as follows: Tram 16 (1 direction), Tram 48 (2 directions), Tram 109 (2 directions), Bus 200/201/207 (1 direction), Ringwood/Alamein trains (3 directions).

Total number of directions with high service routes: 9

b. Travel Speeds

Number of directions with ROW route: 3

c. Connectivity

Number of intersections between above high-service routes: 3 (Kew Junction, Cotham/Glenferrie Rd & Glenferrie Stn)

d. Coverage

Most major trip generators are served by trains and trams that quality as high-service routes. Coverage is therefore high.

Overall: SSC score 15 with high coverage.

Box Hill

a. Service levels

High service routes are as follows: Tram 109 (1 direction), Bus 903 (2 directions) and Ringwood line trains (2 directions).

Total number of directions with high service routes:5 (increases to 9 if the lower service 270/271, 286, 281/293 and 281/767/768 corridors are included)

b. Travel Speeds

Number of directions with ROW route: 2

c. Connectivity

Number of intersections between above high-service routes: 1 (Box Hill Station)

d. Coverage

Good coverage within Box Hill Shopping centre and surrounds. Hospitals and TAFE colleges are near at least one high-service route. Overall medium – high.

Overall: SSC score 8 with medium-high coverage.


This analysis has many limitations. For instance area boundaries and job densities could have been established and the proportion of jobs within pedsheds of high-service stops should have been examined to obtain a more accurage coverage statistic. And the different local network topologies, from parallel non-intersecting routes (eg Clayton), to a single interchange point (Box Hill) to a multi-centred network (Kew/Hawthorn) could have been explored.

However the information gathered should be robust enough to show that that public transport service levels are not necessarily matched to a suburban centre’s employment significance. In particular the two largest centres (Clayton and Tullamarine) have high-quality services from fewer directions and not as many interchange points as the two smaller (but still large) centres.

Nevertheless service levels have become more equal between centres over the last five years, as tram service levels remained largely unchanged, new SmartBus routes commenced and local routes gained 7-day service. Five years ago, for instance, Clayton, the largest employment centre, had only one high-service route (the train), which missed the suburb’s biggest employer (Monash University). And less than one year ago Tullamarine, our second largest, had only occasional services. Both now have at least one high-service bus route serving the largest employer in each area.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Urban plans, density and the middle class

Noel Pearson's 2010 John Button Oration (highly recommended - listen here) got me thinking about the relationship between urban plans (such as Melbourne 2030) and the relationship between it and various economic classes (especially the middle class).

To summarise, the intellectual middle class says what ought to be built and the capitalist landowning class goes off and builds, taking a risk in return for a possible profit. While planning regulations (largely drafted and interpreted by the middle-class) have some influence, the capitalist can apply the ultimate sanction, ie choosing not to build if they see no profit. This puts a limit on the strictness (or 'unworkability') of planning regulations, otherwise undersupply will be the result.

Urban planning can be seen as a tussle between a portion of the middle class (either as bureaucrats, academics or activist residents) and the capitalist upper class. The working class has a role as consumers through housing and shopping preferences. There is thus a consumer-producer relationship between the working class and the capitalist (if buying a project home for example), but the relationship between the working class and middle class is very limited.

I previously described Melbourne 2030 as a plan that favours the grouping of certain land uses (cafes, galleries, educational establishments and higher density housing) around transport hubs.

Favoured land uses represent the interests of the humanities-educated portion of the middle class plus some perceived working-class wants (or should haves). The latter being desirable to foster 'diversity' and 'inclusion'. Certain other land uses, such as bulky goods retail, fast-food and (especially) light industrial, are not part of the academic's world so tend not to feature prominently in their plans. Ignoring them does not make these uses go away, instead they go to the periphery without public transport or pedestrian access (Tullamarine and Laverton North spring to mind).

Lacking capital, the interested middle classes (especially academics, bureaucrats and council planners) use plans to advance what they see as the public (or is it their?) interest against the capitalist landowning class. To the extent that they are implemented they advance the former group's quality of life and aesthetic sensibilities. A Marxist analysis would also see city planning as part of a broader contest between intellectual and capital, with each group wanting their strength to prevail.

The middle class, even its humanity educated portion, is not homogeneous. As often played out in The Age, it is deeply split on the question of housing density.

There is what I would call the 'technocratic' or 'urbanist' middle class which favours higher densities for a more compact, less sprawling city better able to be served by public transport and other services. A substantial proportion of this group would have lived in or visited overseas cities with higher densities than ours. Some may work in planning. Their arguments are both environmental and economic, with the economic one being an echo of Le Corbusier's vision of cities as being 'machines for living in'. While it is another debate, this group may be quite relaxed about the city's capacity to house a higher population (though being quite well paid they will always be able to afford to live in the city's 'better' areas).

There is common ground between this group and developers (whose profit increases with density, since fixed costs can be spread across more units). The developers need this group to argue their case, while the urbanists need the developers to allow their preferred city form to be built.

Opposed to densification (at least in their backyard) is another faction of the middle class. 'Suburban protectionists' are less enamoured with high-rise and go by names such as 'Save our Suburbs'. This group professes a wish to preserve their neighbourhood's quiet streets, leafy verges and an always-free parking spot in front of the house. High-density is also thought by residents to be associated with crime, especially if 'outsiders not like us' (eg public housing tenants) move in. Hence NIMBYs ('Not in My Back Yard') are vulnurable to accusations of xenophobia or selfishness. While another (though related) debate, protectionists often question the benefits of continued population growth in our big cities, and may propose decentralisation (for others of course) to lessen pressures on our bigger cities.

As homeowners,suburban protectionists' key economic interest is their house value.

This is especially so for the middle-class.

The biggest determinant of wealth in Australia is whether you live in your own home or rent (those who both rent and invest are a small, savvy minority). Poor people are by and large not homeowners, so values are irrelevant to them. Then there's the rich. While they may live in nice homes the genuinely financially independent hold most of their wealth (80 - 99%) in other assets, such as their own businesses, rental properties, shares and the like. In contrast the middle-class person's home is their biggest asset, with most of their other wealth (superannuation) being untouchable until retirement. Hence concern that a development may lower house values is quintessentially a middle-class concern.

The relationship that high density leads to better public transport is also disputed. 2004 - 2008 for instance saw a train patronage boom but no commensurate service increase. And if higher traffic slows buses and trams, their efficiency will fall without priority. Academic support (in the sense that successful public transport is more a function of service planning than density) is offered by Paul Mees of RMIT.

To conclude, planning and the argy-bargy that goes with it, is a game between a protectionist middle class and a capitalist class (legitimised by a technocratic middle class). The middle class has brains but no capital. The capitalists have money and can co-opt as many middle-class minds as necessary. The middle-class itself is divided. Hence we generally get a largely market-oriented plan with some urbanist features such as denser activity centres and protectionist features such a (movable) urban growth boundary.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Behind the clocks: Sights and sounds of Flinders Street Station

Thousands pass through Flinders Street Station each day. However most try to spend as little time there as possible. And hurried daily users have little reason to go beyond the platforms they need.

Flinders Street Station turned 100 this year. Its condition has also been raised as an election issue, with the Liberal opposition promising a design competition to redevelop the station.

It's worth taking a leisurely wander to appreciate this grand old building. Walkers are exhorted to keep right - indicating that pedestrian congestion was high. 'Do not spit' tiles are testament to the early 20th century hygiene movement and influenza plagues. And carved signs indicate a single-function permanence absent from newer buildings.

Sounds are equally important. Water run-off, the varying character of manual announcements and the horns of trains indicate movement or intended movement. The steps of commuters provide a dull, uneven beat to buskers, whose notes bounce off hard subway walls.

See and hear all this and more in the video below.

Some high quality historical pictures of Flinders Street Station appear at Melbourne Curious.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Connectivity mapping and the interisland ferry

To date Melbourne on Transit has not covered ferries. This is because, unlike Sydney, Brisbane or Perth, they are not an established part of city public transport. And while proposals for commuter ferries are sometimes made, all trials of them have been unsuccessful.

This may be because Melbourne has an extensive rail network that largely follows the populated coast, serving areas such as Williamstown, Brighton, Frankston and Geelong that might otherwise support a ferry service. In addition the narrow Yarra does not divide the city like the much wider Sydney harbour, so land modes dominate travel to every suburb, with ferries strictly for tourists.

Outside Melbourne

However outside Melbourne there are two ferries that provide a service more direct than is possible by road. These are Portsea to Queenscliffe across the mouth of Port Phillip and the Interisland Ferry between Stony Point, French Island and Phillip Island. The operators of both these services are granted an exclusive licence to serve these routes by the Department of Transport.

The Interisland ferry serves three locations; the mainland outpost of Stony Point, the uninhabited nature reserve of French Island and the tourist and motor racing hub of Phillip Island.

The timetables are presented in tabular form on the Interisland website, with tables for each island. Only departure and travel times are shown, so arrivals must be estimated. Trips mostly operate beween Stony Point and Phillip Island via French Island, but sometimes the order is different, or services only serve two locations.

Transport operators normally provide a tabular timetable and separate map to help passengers plan their trips. This suits the whole range of service levels; from a weekly bus to an intensely served tram line.

However if only a few trips run per day and route variations exist, as is often true for country services, it’s sometimes more informative to combine the map and timetable on the one sheet. Each trip would have its own line between locations, like a train graph. And instead of being on a table the arrival and departure times would be written near the end of each line.

As well as being good for spacial thinkers, a graphical timetable tells much more about how the service works. The user can follow each vehicle around its run and identify relationships between trips, such as what forms what or how many vehicles are used, that are not disclosed on a table.

Below is a timetable-map made from departure lists on the Interisland ferry website.

I have arbitrarily seperated trips into six runs (not all daily) operating from Stony Point. These show how one ferry can run a variety of trips around the islands from morning until night.

The most common trip is between Stony Point and Phillip Island via French Island. However there is also a direct Stony Point – French Island return service and a trip from Stony Point direct to Phillip Island and then French Island.

Other transport

The only other public transport serving Stony Point is the train to Frankston. This is a country-style diesel service that connects with electric trains to Melbourne. Both the train and ferry have uneven intervals between trips; in the train’s case due to a single track, and for the ferry because the operating pattern includes several trip variations.

The ferry runs a basic 7-day timetable, with extra or deleted services depending on the day of the week. In contrast, like most land transport routes, the train has different times for weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

As well as the ferry, Phillip Island (whose east is joined to the mainland by road) has a coach service operating to several locations including Melbourne CBD. Although longer as the crow flies, this involves fewer changes than the two trains and ferry route via Frankston and Stony Point.

Showing connectivity

A full multimodal timetable-map for the area would have at least three versions – one for each day pattern. This would show connectivity in a more graphical form and make analysis of it easier. Each train and ferry trip could be shown graphically, with waiting times given for each connection.

The map above takes some short-cuts including showing all days on the one map and listing rather than drawing train arrivals and departures. Connectivity from Melbourne CBD is also not shown; potentially an issue on Sunday mornings where the service that feeds the first train to Stony Point is not a Metro train but a NightRider Bus.

Nevertheless having all times on the one sheet allows easier comparisons of connections. And by being able to see where a train or ferry is at a particular time, including dwell times, a graphical format should make it possible to check if any proposed time changes would increase or lessen connectivity.


Even the best timetable presentation method may not necessarily correspond with how services are actually run. An example is the habit of some schedulers to round travel times down in the early part of the trip but add the minutes back between the second last and last timepoints. The benefit here is that though the service may appear a couple of minutes late when passing some timepoints, it arrives at the destination on time. This may lessen early running and waiting at timepoints. Early running, in particular, is objectionable, and performance standards treat it more harshly than minor late running.

In the case of the ferry, the first Sunday train arriving at Stony Point (arriving 8:01am) would appear to just miss the ferry (timetabled departure 8:00am). However my understanding (gathered when researching this piece) is that although pasengers are asked to be at Stony Point well before the departure time, in practice the ferry will wait for the train, making an apparently impossible connection work.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Our first ten minute line

Sunday marked the start of a new timetable for several Melbourne suburban rail lines. The revised timetables feature increased weekday peak services on some busy lines and six car rather than three car trains on others to lessen crowding.

However the most important change in terms of how passengers will view and use the train network is the new Frankston line off-peak weekday timetable. This sees train frequencies increased from every 15 minutes to every 10 minutes. And weeknight 7 - 10pm headways are down from 30 to 20 minutes, reversing most of the 1978 evening service cuts.

Even though government transport plans normally stress infrastructure over service levels, there is no question that the October 10 timetable is significant for several reasons:

Firstly it makes Frankston the first railway line to operate at a tram-style 'turn up and go' frequency (Werribee's 6 trains/hour doesn't really count due to its uneven headway). In doing so it challenges an oddity where trams run more frequently than trains, despite rail's larger catchment area, coverage of major suburban centres and greater importance of connectivity with buses.

This upgrade provides a service at least every ten minutes for the 26 stations from Frankston to Richmond. Beyond Richmond the service frays into two patterns - one via the City Loop and the other direct to Flinders Street. Like the current Werribee operating pattern, these alternating services reduce legibility and effective frequency in the CBD, so are hopefully an interim transitory step before a single operating pattern can be introduced.

Secondly, while not marketed as such, it is understood that these trains form a direct Werribee service, allowing a one-seat ride from Frankston to stations such as Footscray, Newport and Laverton. Through-routing like this was typical before the Loop commenced, so this change represents an element of 'back to the future'. Linking the Werribee and Frankston lines could improve travel speeds for cross-city trips, but care will need to be taken to avoid Werribee's reliability being dragged down by Frankston line problems (and vice versa).

Thirdly is the decision to choose the Frankston line. If you were choosing which lines deserved a higher off-peak service on the basis of likely patronage increase, the Frankston line would be unlikely to figure. Instead the lines to Ringwood, Dandenong and probably Sydenham might have a greater call. These lines have all have large middle suburban trip generators, including universities, that generate off-peak and counter-peak travel. The very high concentrations of low income earners around Sunshine - St Albans and Noble Park - Dandenong (Sydenham and Dandenong lines) also tend to generate high off-peak demand outside commuting hours.

Nevertheless the Frankston line off-peak is not what you'd call a quiet line like Williamstown, Alamein or Sandringham. It has operational advantages such as the ability to run through to Werribee. And as an experiment certain changes (eg to loop running patterns) might not be as controversial as one conducted on a busier line.

Fourthly, the change is reversing a significant decline in overall Frankston line service, both in absolute and relative terms.

The absolute decline has been in reliability. While this has occurred across the network, factors such as Siemens trains (and their speed restrictions), the number of level crossings (and consequent disruptions) and it being part of the busy Caulfield group, the Frankston line is particularly prone to delays. In rough figures, Frankston passengers experience twice as many late trains than the Melbourne average, and nearly three times as that on reliable lines such as Glen Waverley.

The relative decline can be measured against the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines, Frankston's sister lines on the Caulfield group. In the 2004 - 2009 period Frankston tended to miss out on additional services. Those that were added went to the busier and faster-growing Pakenham and Cranbourne lines instead.

June 2010 saw renewed interest in the Frankston line, with a new timetable adding peak services. While there remain timetable 'holes' of 15 minutes or more, most Frankston line stations got at least a 10 minute service, with busier stations at a five minute peak frequency approximately. The trade-off was that most of its express trains ran direct to Flinders Street instead of via the loop - speeding some but slowing others.

This interest is continuing, with this week's 50% off-peak frequency increase for all Frankston line suburban stations. The significance of this can be measured by reviewing previous service changes of similar magnitude. The last would have been back in the 1990s, where off-peak weekday services on some south-eastern suburban lines went from 20 to 15 minutes. Subsequent increases tended to favour Sundays, late evenings, peak periods or parts of lines only, leaving basic Monday - Saturday off-peak and evening service levels intact up to now.


The Frankston line presents both challenges and opportunities for Metro.

Challenges because its low on-time performance consistently drags down the metropolitan average, and thus the ability to meet targets.

And opportunities since the October 10 Frankston timetable is the first test of Metro's vision for a frequent-service metropolitan railway.

Monday, October 04, 2010

DART’s first day

Without the speeches, balloons and sausage sizzles that normally accompany a railway extension, today marked Day One of DART, or Doncaster Area Rapid Transit.

DART is a four-route SmartBus network serving Manningham (Routes 905, 906, 907 & 908). It’s the government’s response to calls for a railway, which would have been dearer to build and directly served a smaller catchment area.

Poster in bus


Manningham is predominantly middle to upper class. There is a high representation of professional two-income families. Housing is predominantely detached with parking for two cars. Nevertheless new townhouses are also popular in the areas nearer the CBD (being larger than a flat or villa in the nearby blue-chip suburbs of Kew and Balwyn).

Like other north-eastern suburbs Manningham lacks a large body of low income earners. These mostly settle in other parts of Melbourne which are better served by cheap rental properties and (up to now) better public transport. It does however have a substantial immigrant population (particularly from Asia) who tend to share (if not exceed) the middle class incomes and educational aspirations of the general population.

Manningham has no substantial industrial base, with most local employment being retail and services. There is also significant commuting towards the CBD, made possible by a freeway and express buses.

It also has no university campuses, though education levels and aspirations are high. This would tend to indicate significant commuting for education puposes.

Like many other parts of Melbourne, the baby boomers who settled Manningham are ageing. However average life expectancies and health standards are above average, so the majority are likely to be active and mobile well in to their seventies and eighties.

Doncaster Park & Ride


In the late 19th century a short-lived tramway ran between Box Hill and Doncaster, and the road between them retains that name. Market gardening was a dominant land use and the area did not become heavily urbanised until after WWII. However comparative closeness to the CBD, proximity to the Yarra, elevated views and the rise of the motor car (which made the lack of a railway less of a hindrance) contributed to Manningham’s growth in the 1960s and 1970s. It was part of a large belt of emergnig eastern suburbs between the railway lines and beyond the tram tracks including suburbs such as Forest Hill, Glen Waverley and Wheelers Hill. Traces of Templestowe’s rural past are evident today in its acre lots and lack of kerbing on some roads.

The Doncaster railway was part of the 1969 Metropolitan Transport Plan, which set the agenda for road building over the ensuing 40 years. Recent rail extensions have all been electrifications of existing rail corridors rather than new lines. And where new lines are proposed, they are either for growth corridor outer suburbs or underneath dense city land uses. And so all of Manningham’s public transport task is handled by buses, operating either to the city via the freeway, local shopping centres or railway stations in adjacent corridors.

Before SmartBus and DART, major bus routes in Manningham typically operated every 30 minutes on weekdays and roughly hourly on weekends (though some routes had two hourly or no service). This network was augmented by peak hour freeway express services and a fairly new circular shopper route.

DART represents a doubling of service frequency and later finishes on major routes. The four DART routes and two orbital routes (which started earlier in 2010) offer a SmartBus level of service (15 minutes weekdays/30 minutes evenings and weekends). This frequency is similar to suburban trains on weekdays and less on weekends. DART spans are broadly similar to trains except for the early finish on Sunday. The upgraded routes also had their numbers changed (from 300 series to 90x series) to reflect SmartBus route numbering.

Some existing routes were changed to reflect DART’s coming, but others were not. Hence there are some overlaps between regular routes and the upgraded SmartBus services.

City terminus near Southern Cross Station

The DART Test

The introduction of DART (and intersecting orbital routes) present opportunities for examining what happens when you (effectively) double transit service, especially in an area that lacks some of the demographics conducive to usage and starts with some handicaps for this.

Manningham’s limited public transport, low population density (especially in Templestowe) and high car ownership has historically resulted in a modal share lower than suburbs served by rail.

Demographics such as high workforce participation and lack of a local university tend to lower average occupancies in between the peaks. This produces a commuter pattern more like the Sandringham line (quiet interpeak) than the Dandenong or Sydenham line (busy day and night).

Secondly, unless regional centres such as around Shoppingtown and The Pines are built up patronage is likely to be unidirectional, lessening efficiencies, even if services in the peak direction are well used. This is different to (say) an orbital or cross-suburban bus between two railway lines which will attract patronage in both directions at any time.

My hunch is that DART will bring a substantial patronage increase, as it deserves to do so. However due to less favourable demographics (ie wealthier with more choice), I suspect that patronage elasticity per service kilometre added won’t be quite as high as we've seen on the three orbital routes and certain local upgrades.

Doncaster area frequent service map