Saturday, December 03, 2011

The end of Melbourne's least legible bus route

Melbourne bus passengers will get less lost after the cessation of Melbourne's least legible bus route after end of service today.

Route 672, in Melbourne's outer east, sometimes runs between Croydon Station, Wonga Park and Chirnside Park Shopping Centre. I say 'sometimes' because at certain times of the day almost each trip goes a different way.

672's proliferation of timetabled deviations meant that buses often missed stops, finished at unpredictable locations, went down other streets and even went on the opposite side of the road to what maps showed.

As attested by the number of footnotes, Route 672 had no standard pattern. Footnotes appear on timetables at stops. But if you're not up for a trip to Croydon, you'll be able to read them online for the next few days.

Current 672 timetable

The first thing to read is the route description. Note how the variations take up more space than the route route itself. If you're game, try to follow these on the map. Finally inspect the timetables themselves (either the pdfs under download route timetables or individual stop timetables). One direction has no less than nine footnotes and the other no less than six.

Compare it with Monday's timetable below.

672 timetable from 5 December 2011

The description, map and timetable for the revised 672 are vastly simpler. Except for the Telebus deviate-on-demand service which remains, fine print footnotes have been almost eliminated. There are later finishes on weeknights and many more Saturday trips.

Other changes

The 672 isn't the only route that will be simplified on December 5. A good summary appears here.

Key cases where occasional deviations and extensions were removed include 691's Bayswater and Monash extensions (the latter now covered by other routes) and 664's Sunday deviation to Lilydale (a hangover from when 664 and 691 were about the only Sunday bus routes operating east of Stud Road). Other routes eg 671, 680 and 693 also lose occasional deviations or are straightened.

Span and frequency

As well as legibilty gains, there have also been span and frequency improvements.

The most common span improvements include one or two later weeknight trips and a fuller Saturday afternoon service. Frequencies have been made more regular on several routes. The largest changes include (i) a doubling of Route 693's off-peak service to 30 minutes, (ii) 664 becoming a 30 minute service along its full length (it was previously a split 20 / 40 minute service, unharmonised with trains every 30) and (iii) some weeknight frequency improvements between the pm peak period and last service around 9pm.

Overall the changes in the Invicta network reflect the biggest improvement since some routes in the area got minimum standards upgrades. They deliver substantial legibility gains without greatly changing the existing network. It's an example of a 'greater good' upgrade that should result in a net overall benefit.

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