Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The high cost of bad design: Glen Waverley Station and buses

A trip last night on the Springvale Road portion of the Route 902 orbital provided some lessons on good and bad transport interchange design.

The good example is Nunawading, in Melbourne’s east. The rail was sunk (to remove a level crossing) and a new station built a couple of years ago.

The bad example is Glen Waverley, which was last redeveloped in the 1960s. This was lauded as a good example of a shopping centre / railway station development in the Victorian Railways staff magazine of the time. However, looking back, it serves as an example of what not to do.


What’s good about Nunawading? The station has exits directly on Sprinvale Road. The bus stop for the station is just another stop. The bus does not leave Springvale Rd. Passengers on it are not delayed. Hence it efficiently serves both passengers transferring from train and those making short local through trips, such as from Forest Hill to Doncaster Rd. Bus operating times are also reduced, making it possible to provide a direct, fast and frequent service for a given number of buses.

The ability to efficiently serve multiple trip types increases patronage and contributes to the success of the SmartBus orbitals. It also makes for a more versatile public transport network, better able to cater for the majority of trips that don’t involve CBD travel.

The old Nunawading

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Glen Waverley

About 30 minutes south of Nunawading is Glen Waverley. Unlike Nunawading, this is a rail terminus (though some would like it extended to Rowville, possibly via a tunnel). Most important for this discussion is the distance of Glen Waverley station from Springvale Road.

The 1960s redevelopment placed a large car park between Springvale Road and the station, with the intention that this be used by commuters and shoppers. However in doing so it severed the station from its main potential north-south catchment for buses, bicycles and pedestrians – Springvale Road.

This short-sighted design meant that buses serving Glen Waverley Station must divert off Springvale Road, pull in to the bus interchange, and then rejoin Springvale Road. The requires passage through several sets of traffic lights, lengthening the journey.

Glen Waverley

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How much is Glen Waverley’s delay compared to Nunawading? Comparing Route 902 travel times between stops immediately before and after each station provides an indication.

Southbound trips between the stop at Tunstall Av (before Nunawading Station) and West St (after Nunwading station) take about 3 minutes. This is about 1km distance and includes crossing the very busy Whitehorse Road.

Southbound trips between Landridge St (before Glen Waverley Station) and Ingram Av (after Glen Waverley Station) take about 8 minutes. Again this is about 1km with a busy road crossing, so is comparable to the Nunawading example.

For a 1km trip, the five minute time difference is quite stark. Having to leave and rejoin Springvale Rd slows the bus almost down to walking pace for the better part of ten minutes around Glen Waverley. This makes it unattractive for local trips not involving the station. Whereas Nunawading’s arrangement imposes no such delay.

Cost implications

As well as wasting passengers’ time, the operational cost imposed by inefficient off-road interchanges such as Glen Waverley’s is considerable.

Back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate substantial increases to bus running costs, which would be better spent on improving service. That’s even with a five minute delay, which would likely be higher during peak times. And the better the bus service, the higher the cost.

Route 902 has about 70 trips each weekday in each direction via Glen Waverley. A five minute penalty for each trip costs 700 bus minutes or over 11 bus hours per weekday. If a bus costs $100 per hour to run, the daily cost of the delay (not counting foregone ticket revenue from lost patronage) would be over $1000 per day, about $7000 per week or over $365 000 per year.

When multipled by the longevity of the project, the overall cost reaches into the millions. This does not include the effect on other bus routes. Nor the amount required to remedy, for instance to construct a redesigned railhead featuring a station fronting Springvale Rd along which buses would remain.

I think the main lesson from Glen Waverley is that some projects can seem a good idea at the time but impose high future costs and hobble future network development for generations.

Monday, November 28, 2011

New Epping and Thomastown stations

Today was the first day of a revised Epping line timetable and the use of rebuilt stations at Epping and Thomastown. The work is an important milestone in the extension of rail services to South Morang.

Both stations were substantially complete. Only landscaping and passenger information displays needed to be completed at Epping. Thomastown was slightly less advanced, requiring completion of a small section of roofing and the bus interchange.

The photos below were taken around 7am – just as the morning peak was building up. What the photos don't capture was the somewhat festive atmosphere - plenty of staff were handing out free coffee, 'showbags', brochures, and timetables.



Thursday, November 03, 2011

More frequent Sunday morning trams

One of the most enduring features of Melbourne's tram timetables has been their 30 minute Sunday morning frequency. Late morning and afternoon Sunday services were boosted to Saturday frequencies just over 10 years ago but earlier headways were left intact. Hence Sunday mornings and evenings were about the only times with a half-hourly service; at other times the rule has been 15 min or better during the day, and 20 minutes at night.

Recent morning service upgrades on St Kilda Rd routes have banished the 30 minute frequency to the first few services only; now frequencies are nearer to 20 minutes between about 8 and 10am. This is a significant improvement that recognises that people are often out and about at these times.

While it's still possible, check and compare old and new timetables for routes like the 67.