Friday, September 20, 2019

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 21: South-West Sunshine


It's helpful to study network maps and timetables if you want to make a local bus network better. Demographic data is also helpful. For example population densities, car ownership, average incomes, where people work and so on. 

This week we'll look at south-west Sunshine. Even though it's not that far from Melbourne CBD, its patchy development makes it quite difficult to serve. For example instead of the continuous road grid that places of equivalent distance in the eastern suburbs have, there's freeways where you'd expect arterial roads and gaps where one might expect a bridge across a creek.

Also housing development was not on the progressive front that steadily rolled from the inner to the outer. Instead it happened in bursts over five or six decades, leaving quite a few industrial areas, open space and disconnected road networks.

There's fewer local shops than what one might expect (possibly due to the limited population catchment of the above pattern). Also, due to the cul-de-sac fashion of much of the time, we have been left with impermeable street layouts that impair pedestrian access to local facilities and transport. 

Sunshine West is a large suburb. The Glengala Rd area (which we won't discuss much here) is dominated by 1950s and 60s weatherboard and cream brick homes. Parts are near Ardeer Station. Because it was laid out before the cul-de-sac rot of the 1970s had set in, its road layout is both walking and bus friendly. Advantage was taken of this in 2014 when the new Brimbank bus network introduced two-way bus services along Glengala Rd from Sunshine to Deer Park and Watergardens (new route 420).

Before then Glengala Rd had the Route 454. It got more complex over time. For example in 1971 it went in a single direction. In 1972 the 454 got an AM/PM reversal, with the 437 route to Laverton also in the area. By 1978 the 437 had gone (likely due to low patronage) but the 454 kept its AM/PM reversal.  By 1992 the 454 had reverted to a single direction, but going the opposite way it did in 1971.

Then in the 2000s, as the area to the south developed it got an extension with much bigger one-way loops to serve areas to the south (which we will soon talk about more). The extra coverage was nice but some people had to go three times the required distance just to make what should be a short trip to Sunshine. 2006 saw some service improvements including new Sunday service (which had long existed in other parts of Sunshine). 

A little later the Red Orbital (903 SmartBus) came. This overlapped parts of the 219 west of Sunshine. This was at one time very complicated. It went one way 5.5 days/week, another way 1.5 days/week. It could be justified as a way of providing a full weekend service when Route 471 didn't have it. However the deviation lingered long after the 471 got upgraded (Melway map below). 


Most of the complications, particularly in the west, were tidied up in the 2014 Brimbank network review. Its centrepiece was the Route 420 which gave Glengala Rd a two-way service with new connections to Deer Park and Watergardens.  The southern area got two new routes from Sunshine. The 427 approached from the north (via Forrest St) and the 428 from the south (via Hampshire Rd). 

You can see the local network on the PTV map below. 


What it (and all other) PTV maps don't tell you is the frequency (and thus usefulness) of each of the routes. In summary these are (on weekdays): SmartBus 903: 15 min, Metro trains at Sunshine: 20 min, 420: 20 min, 219: 30 min, 400, 427 and 428: 40 min.  

Some, such as the 219 and 903 don't harmonise with train frequencies so offer uneven connections. The network is quite complex in some areas such as around Wright St. And there are neighbourhoods, such as the eastern end of Warmington Rd, with no coverage. 

Existing Useful Network

I explain the Useful Network concept here. It's those routes that are frequent enough and run over long enough hours to be useful for many trips. I've specified a 20 minute frequency on weekdays and 7 day service until 9pm. In other words the coloured lines on the Melbourne Public Transport Frequent Network map with the 20 minute frequency selected. This map shows the sparsity of Useful Network routes in most fringe areas, despite their sometimes high population densities. 

Below is the existing Useful Network for south-west Sunshine.  Unless you can walk to the 420 or 471 it's quite sparse. But it might be possible to simplify things to extend it to more people. 



A detour via Warmington Rd

Before we'll expand the Useful Network, it's worth visiting Warmington Rd. Detours like this are sometimes desirable because sometimes there are cases where you end up benefiting more places than the original aims of your network revamp. And if the cost is nil or low then why wouldn't you do it? 


Warmington Rd is the sort of isolated low-income neighbourhood that would benefit from public transport. However it was the 1970s and it got built at a time when they 'forgot' to locate and design suburbs that could be economically served with buses. 

While its western part could be served by a bus on the main road, this is too far away for reasonable coverage of the east. Warmington Rd is effectively a dead-end peninsula. The only way you could serve it is to run a dedicated bus route. Which is expensive. And it might not get many passengers unless it could be made more broadly useful, eg by building a road bridge and routing north via Hampshire Rd to Sunshine.  


The area was built in the 1970s. The primary school opened in 1976 (Glengala Park Primary). Note the footbridge from Boreham St, which would have helped kids walk to school (something taken more seriously then than now). No bus routes are shown but this was because Melway directories did not show them until about 1980. 

Fortunately we do know, from the 1978 map, that Warmington Rd had a bus not long after the school opened and people moved in.  Before that they would have had to walk from Boreham St over the bridge (if it existed then), which had the 452 from Sunshine (which goes back to at least 1971). 

In the 1990s a few things happened. Not many good. This being one of those declining neighbourhoods that keeps getting things taken away. The Boreham St bridge, shown in the 1989 Melway, became an ambiguous yellow line in 1990 and then nothing in 1993.  


The 455 bus remained up to 1991/2. But it was only shown as an extension, implying not all trips went up Warmington Rd. By the 1993 Melway even that had vanished, with the 455 terminating on Fairbairn Rd. 

By 2000 the service had become the 471, having been extended from Newport. This extension made sense. But it meant that even if you wanted to serve Warmington Rd again you would have to divert it in, inconveniencing through passengers. Hence the importance of being on the way, otherwise you might not get a service, however deserving your case might be.  

The school changed from being a general to a special development school in 2000. And sometime around 1980 a Catholic school had opened nearby. But apparently neither warranted the footbridge remaining. Instead kids were being driven or bused in, while their parents complained about traffic. 

This is how Warmington Rd went for a decade or so. It is quite possible that few who don't live there (apart from those who study street directories) realise how cut off it is, with no shops or services of its own. 

Good news came when Brimbank Council built a playground and redeveloped Buckingham Reserve. Most notable (from a transport access point of view) was a new footbridge across from Cannon St. The 2013 map below shows how close it was to the then alignment of the 219 bus. This  bridge would have brought some (but not all) of the area within coverage of buses. 


However this improved access was not to last, with the bus removed from Cannon St soon after. This increased the distance of Warmington Rd from buses and reduced network coverage. Bear that thought in mind as we'll return to it later. 


Expanded Useful Network

Here's an expanded Useful Network. Routes are simpler, more frequent and connect better with trains. And coverage is efficiently returned to parts of the Warmington Rd area. 


The big change is a doubling of Route 428's off-peak frequency. Instead of being every 40 minutes, connecting with every second train, it goes to every 20 minutes, connecting with every train. 

How could this be funded? Route 219 (every 30 minutes) is shortened to start at Sunshine. The portion south and west of Sunshine is absorbed into the upgraded 428. 428 is much longer than the western portion of 219. However only one trip every 40 minutes needs to be added to get the required 20 minute overall frequency. 428 already has a 25 minute service during peak periods. Also, when I've been on it, 428 has significant mid-trip dwell time that might allow scheduling efficiencies. 


You'll note the kink in the 428. This is to retain coverage (within 300m) to the area that loses the 219. Also routing via Cannon St should help Warmington Rd access via the bridge. This is probably one of those cases where you'd tolerate a slightly less direct route in exchange for better coverage and frequency. 

428 finishes at around 9pm. 219 stops much later. To compensate for 219's withdrawal you'd improve 428's span, with earlier weekend starts and later evening service. If you had resources left over you might do the same for 420, at least east of Fitzgerald Rd. At the ends of the day it might be efficient for outbound trips on the 428 dead running a short distance along Fitzgerald rd to form inbound trips on the 420 and vice versa. 

What about the 219 east of Sunshine? Its shortening makes it identical to the 216 (which got shortened when the 426 was introduced). Therefore 216 and 219 can be merged into one frequent route which, at most times, operates at a SmartBus level of service. This should improve the legibility and appeal of the network through areas like Sunshine, Braybrook and Footscray.

Not essential to happen with this change (but desirable for efficiency) is the replacement of the poorly used Route 903 beyond Sunshine with an extended local route (modified 412) from Altona. This is shown on the map above. A small (largely industrial) area would lose the service until midnight. However the longer hours on the 428 would help those on Hampshire Rd, compensate for the 903's removal and provide a service that connects evenly with trains. This initiative, which delivers a new direct SmartBus-type service for the Footscray, Kingsville, Altona North areas, is described in more detail in Useful Network Part 5

With every change there are swings and roundabouts. This is no exception. Some would lose their one seat ride to the city. However it's a slow trip and a connection to a train would be faster, especially if connections are optimised and buses are more frequent as suggested. There are also significant improvements in coverage and frequency that people who are poorly served now would get.  

Conclusion

What do you think about this network? Would it be an improvement? What other things would you do? If you have ideas please leave them in the comments below. 


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #40: Route 503 - the "last mile" bus


If you're a Brunswick hipster and like doing things the inefficient old way that your parents ditched, riding the route 503 bus might appeal. And you won't need to go far to catch it. 

Linking two train lines and five tram routes, the 503 is your typical inner northern suburbs bus route. Starting at Essendon Station in the west it intersects trams 59, 58, 19 and 12 before terminating at the start of Tram 96. It also passes near Anstey Station on the Upfield line. Its catchment includes Brunswick (Tim Read MP) which has a lower than average proportion of homes with cars. The area's densifying too, with multi-storey apartments full of students and young city workers replacing houses. 

You can see its map below. Benefiting from our grid streets and the tendency to put railway stations near cross-roads (something that motorists may curse but aids public transport connectivity) the 503 follows a very direct path apart from a bulge north of Essendon.

The photo above shows the 503's catchment a mile east of Essendon and a mile west of Anstey. The 58 tram is about 600 metres east but that's slow so a good rail feeder bus has a lot of patronage potential. Especially given the population density. However, as you'll see later little has changed about the 503 in most people's living memory, despite the changing surrounding land uses. 


What's the dotted line on Fletcher St? This is an odd after 3pm Saturday deviation. It's included in the timetable on the new PTV website but for a description I went to the (superior) old PTV website.


The network map is below. The scrapped and then resurrected 509 eats into a little of its catchment to the south. As does the occasional Coonans Hill deviation on the 512 to the north. The 503 has higher frequency than both. However it misses the big activity centres like Moonee Ponds and Coburg. Essendon is helpful for connections to schools, trains and other public transport. However it isn't much of a destination in itself. Nevertheless 503 is one contributor to making Essendon station one of the busiest on the Craigieburn line, especially when it comes to people who got to the station by bus.

Going the other way the 503 neatly feeds into Anstey Station and several tram routes. That's potentially efficient, allowing bidirectional peak period patronage. The main impediment here is low peak frequencies on the Upfield line (barely better than off-peak, with a single cancellation causing a 20 minute delay). 


Timetable

As is common with many northern suburb bus routes (eg 526, 538, 552, 558), 503's timetable is stuck in time. This is because, like Greater Dandenong, Melbourne's inner north largely missed out on the evening and weekend bus upgrades most other areas got. So the timetable you see in 2019 might be much the same as that of 30 years ago, when Saturday afternoon trading was new and Sunday trading only something that rebel traders did under threat of a penalty.

On weekdays Route 503 runs a constant 20 minute frequency during peak periods. Interpeak frequency is 25 minutes. Intersecting trams are normally at turn-up-and-go frequencies but intersecting trains, at every 20 minutes, are not. 503's 25 minute frequency is unharmonised with trains and is hard to remember so users need to look up a timetable and/or do a journey plan every time they travel.  Finish times, like the typical pre-2006 pattern for buses in Melbourne, is around 7pm. Also its morning start times remain later than the 6am standard. Overall there have been negligible changes to 503's timetable since at least the 1980s. Current 503 timetables are below. Click for a larger/clearer view. 



What about weekends? Again a traditional timetable applies. That is an early Saturday am start (a good thing), an intensive Saturday morning service (to cater for the old morning rush) at the same 25 minute frequency as weekday off-peak, followed by an afternoon fall-off (to 30 then 40 minutes). The finish time is very slightly earlier than the finish on weekdays.



There is no Sunday or public holiday service. Route 503 is run by Moonee Valley Buslines. With the tendency of bus operators to merge, Moonee Valley is the smallest one left. The only other route MVBL runs is the 506, which, despite its higher patronage, also operates to limited timetable.

Run times

Large bus operators analyse actual run times and use advanced software like HASTUS to optimise bus scheduling and driver rostering. Because they have so many routes and drivers even small efficiencies can result in big savings in reduced dead-running and vehicle layovers and driver slack times. Also measuring actual journey times can assist with altering trip schedule times to better suit traffic conditions and aid punctuality.

All that seems overkill for a small operator running a couple of routes. However some attempt has been made to vary 503's run times to suit traffic. For example, weekday travel times are a flat 28 minutes, except for the first and last few trips, where it's 25 or even 20 minutes. Saturday trips are slightly quicker, with more 23 and 20 minute run times.

A historical timetable

A 1986 timetable via Krustylink is below. It had a better early morning peak frequency than now. However there were hour gaps on Saturdays, presumably to account for drivers' lunch breaks.


Conclusion


The 503 has huge potential. Running existing buses on it for more of the day and week could make it a useful and popular bus route for diverse trips. It could support the density increases that are already happening. It's the sort of route that needs an upgrade if public transport is every to be useful for more than a small proportion of  trips.

I've already had my say on it; the 503 features in this Inner North Useful Network feature. But what do you think? Should the route be extended to a busier destination or is it just right as is? Does its timetable meet modern needs or are improvements required there as well? Should the nearby 509 be deleted to enable more 503 trips for little cost? And how important is connectivity with trains anyway? Your comments are welcome and can be left below. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

[Event] The 'Urban Happiness' Northern Urban Explore (Sat 5 Oct 2019)

This is an event that Melbourne-based readers might be interested in. Especially if you're into urban geography, housing, transport and suburbs. Doesn't cost you anything except a myki and money for lunch. 


Here's a bit more about it: 

A bus and walking tour of 60 years of suburbs, from the 1950s to the 2010s. Everything from postwar prefab houses to new project homes. Visit fast-disappearing milk bars, '60s shopping strips and the latest town centres. Wander through the heart of Australia's old protected manufacturing precincts and fill up with delicious middle-eastern fare. See how we've gone almost full circle (or rather full square) with our street patterns via rabbit warren culs de sac and Radburn layouts. Consider and discuss the economic and social forces that have widened class divisions and degentrified our northern suburbs. And last but not least, watch, listen and think as we walk the streets and ride the buses.

The Northern Urban Explore is hosted through the Urban Happiness Melbourne Planning and Design Ideas Facebook page. I'd recommend you join UH for discussion on all things urban planning and access to the event page. But if you're not on it you can still come, with numbers only limited by who can fit on the regular route buses we'll be riding. Just RSVP in the comments below. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 20: Fixing 302/304 crowding, Box Hill and Templestowe


Those who write to politicians advocating public transport service upgrades soon become familiar with the standard form-letter replies. The answer is generally a diplomatically-crafted “no”. The government may “have no current plans”. They may say that they “continually review services”, “service provision reflects available resources”, or that “proposals must be considered against state-wide priorities”.

The 'expectation management' reality in which these replies are drafted includes fixed funding for service kilometres. In other words a decline in public transport service per capita due to a growing population and stagnant services (graph below).


One might think that this relative decline would increase interest in getting the most from what we do have. However it's been the reverse, with less network reform occurring now than five years ago.

The paucity of reform means that department staff who answer correspondence can't say much. Regardless of their private views, the reality they inhabit rarely admits the potential of doing better by redistributing service kilometres from poorly used or duplicative bus routes to services that need it. This is despite (i) buses being easier to reform than rail networks with numerous precedents here and elsewhere, and (ii) the current network falling well short of the best possible, even assuming unchanged service kilometres.

Current official wariness to bus reform risks the perverse outcome where more departmental time is spent writing to people explaining that they can't have a network improvement than reforming the very service that is the subject of much correspondence received.

Political risks

On a crude 'political economy' calculus, not reforming can be justified on the basis that 10 voters disadvantaged by a reduced service make more noise than 1000 voters who would have gained under a reformed network.

It's asymmetrical: losses carry more weight than gains. And actual losses carry far far more weight than potential gains. Hence, despite the large gains in Transdev's aborted 2015 network (eg frequency upgrades on the busier eastern parts of the SmartBus orbitals), the then new Labor government lost no political capital in dropping the whole thing (though we have yet to see the promised 'more balanced bus network plan').



In fact Labor probably gained goodwill as Transdev's proposed network (i) had substantial cuts in some populated areas with no offsetting gains and (ii) it had little legitimacy as public consultation was very limited (Protip: Presentations to stakeholders like local and state government officials, who are generally quite privileged people who drive cars do not count!).

Before you think that politics closes off prospects for bus network reform, consider what else happened in 2015. Regional Rail Link. This was accompanied by reformed bus networks in Geelong and Werribee/Tarneit planned under the Liberals but implemented by Labor. Both networks successfully brought more service to more people and have had trips added since. Factors allowing these networks to succeed (with general public support and few problems for the government)  include (i) a multi-operator/multi-modal approach and (ii) better public consultation.

Then there's another type of political risk. The risk of doing nothing. Especially when service is known to be mediocre and existing passengers are either being delayed or left behind by full buses.

Labor paid that price in 2010 when it lost five marginal seats along the Frankston line (Frankston, Carrum, Mordialloc, Bentleigh and Prahran) and thus government. Transport service delivery was a major issue, with people no longer able to rely on trains to get them to places on time.  Because service provision lagged patronage growth crowding became chronic, further exacerbating delays (graph below). 


John Brumby and Co realised this late in their last term but for them it was too late. Even a train timetable change requires a good lead time. Train drivers can't be got off the street at a moment's notice. And we needed more trains to fix the peak hour problems.


For the rest of us though, late far beats never. A new and more frequent Frankston line timetable delivered a turn-around in performance from 2012. This improvement has been largely sustained since.

It thus confounds me why the government hasn't delivered a similar new timetable for the Ringwood train line, which, since the 2018 election, has replaced the Frankston line as the central artery of Labor's marginal suburban seats. When good politics meets good service planning, why wouldn't you do it?

The seat of Box Hill is in that Ringwood line belt. This includes the eastern ends of today's topic - the crowded and unreliable bus routes 302 and 304. As well as some major education, shopping and health destinations like some major but poorly connected hospitals. We'll try to help those out as well. 

An expanded reality

Luckily sometimes one sees replies that open rather than close possibilities to deliver services people need. 

A recent Timetable Tuesday discussed bus routes 302 and 304 in Melbourne’s inner eastern suburbs. These were the routes whose riders (sick of being left behind) established a support group on Facebook to advocate for better reliability and more service.  This advocacy included writing to local politicians like Tim Smith MP (Kew) and Paul Hamer MP (Box Hill). 


The reply from the latter was better and clearer than average. It concisely mentions the two ways you can improve bus services – more funding and more efficient network design.

The 'additional funding' approach needs to go through the government's budgetary process. That's a complication in itself. Whereas the 'operational changes on other routes' might not require extra ongoing funding so in this sense is simpler if everything can be found within the transport portfolio.

On the other hand, pruning other routes adds complication and  political risk. Luckily we're three years from the next election. So upgrades could be running before then if planning starts now. Also, if you're imaginative with network reform you can spread the benefits wider than just the routes we're planning to boost for no or little extra money. For example hospitals at Box Hill or routes that enable improved connections to La Trobe University.


Addressing crowding 

Like all commuter-heavy CBD-bound routes, 302 and 304 are not cheap routes to run. A morning peak trip into town takes over one hour. Short trips from Balwyn take about 40 minutes. A single extra bus could really only do one am full length trip during a 2 hour peak window. But it could possibly do two short return trips if one is early and one is late in the peak. There's already one morning short trip from Balwyn. Depending on the loading profile maybe more short trips could be added to relieve pressure on the other trips.

Afternoon peaks are a bit longer so you might be able to have the one bus contributing frequency in the early and late parts of the peak, even on full length trips. In both the morning and evening retiming other trips would even out frequency and lessen crowding. I don't know if you'd run short trips in the evening. As people may wish to travel beyond a terminus, short-finishing trips are less user-friendly than short-starting trips. However you'd consider them if there are large loads alighting early as they may allow a more intensive service. 

I haven't gone into the detail but something like three or four more buses should provide noticeable crowding relief and capacity boost. Other things worth considering include articulated buses (which would add capacity but not frequency) and cheap evening upgrades (particularly 304) to bring services up to minimum standards (ie 9pm or later finish on both routes).

Similar comments with regards to route lengths, peak crowding and requirements for extra buses may apply to the 200 and 207. Keep this in the back of your mind as one of the potential benefits of some of the more radical network changes discussed later.

Where's the overserviced routes? 

So much for the 'give'. That's easy.

What about the 'take' to free up resources for the upgrades we want? That's harder.

And potentially controversial. But necessary if we want fast, cost-neutral gains.

Otherwise, we'd have to take a ticket and wait behind dozens of health, education, housing and welfare interests also wanting money from the budget process.

So buckle in and prepare for this quick fly over local routes and corridors. To speed things up we'll group related services together. We'll discuss their potential for reform by group.

Bad news first. There are routes we can't drain resources from. Either because they are major and busy (that if anything need more rather than fewer trips) or are already infrequent and give needed coverage.

Those with better prospects include routes that (i) have low patronage, (ii) sparse catchments and/or (iii) overlap other routes. Where they serve sparsely populated areas the number of people affected could be far smaller than those who a reformed network could benefit. And even losses can be mitigated if we extend some existing routes to new and useful destinations. It's easier to win acceptance of a service reduction if some silver linings can be shown as well.

Most routes discussed here are operated by Transdev (who also run the 302/304 that we want to boost). This makes reform easier as it means that any resource transfers between routes can be handled internally.

* Various inner east routes (284, 285, 548, 609, 612, 624): Only the first two are run by Transdev. None run very frequently. Five of the six are daytime only with little or no weekend service. Some of these routes have potential for upgrade as strong north-south routes with stronger termini, as discussed here. At the very least they need reform as part of a local area review including stronger termini and 7 day service. For this exercise I'd leave them alone unless a change is necessary to make an alteration to another route work.

* Routes 279 and 295: Both routes run north-south along Victoria St. The trunk portion of 279 enjoys a good peak service and a 15 minute off-peak frequency. It has confusing deviations (eg to Blackburn) and multiple termini (eg either Shoppingtown or Templestowe Village). Also it finishes unusually early on Saturday evening despite frequent weeknight service until midnight. Despite these handicaps it's well used. More about the 279 in Timetable Tuesday #15. A local review would simplify the route but likely retain its frequent service.

295, in contrast, is more of a local shopper type service between Shoppingtown and The Pines. Much of its catchment is not very dense (rich people with lots of cars) and patronage is, as a result, low. It probably doesn't even justify its half-hourly off-peak service.


* DART routes (905, 906, 907, 908): These are well used routes, operating to Melbourne CBD, at least in peak times. They have had crowding problems of their own (and some may still do). However, unlike 200/207 and 302/304 some have recently had service upgrades. I'll leave these alone for this exercise though some may justify further service upgrades if cuts (discussed later) release sufficient resources. I'd also improve off-peak service on busier routes like 907, including 15 min weekend frequencies and Sunday service until midnight.

* High St corridor (Templestowe): Parts are served by routes 281 (limited service), 309 (even more limited service) and 908 (SmartBus). I talked about economical upgrades to this corridor back in July (UN 12). Again there's nothing to take from this for 302/304 but there may be interactions with other network changes. An upgrade here would be a byproduct of giving the hospitals at Box Hill a better 7-day service to Doncaster and Templestowe and make other network changes more palatable.

* 280/282 ("Manningham Mover"): This is a very large circular route whose aim is to provide coverage of many areas between the main routes. However it connects to no train stations, can be indirect and sometimes overlaps other routes, even in sparsely populated areas. Operating hours are limited, with start and finish times not quite suiting commuter hours. In brief it is a dog of a route that is everything that buses shouldn't be.

There's some history here. The Manningham Mover only started in 2008 as a result of local advocacy and a state government, unwilling to build Doncaster Rail and not yet ready to roll out the DART SmartBus routes, wanting to be seen to be doing something for transport in Manningham.  While it gave some areas improved coverage, the route's length (near enough to 90 minutes) makes it expensive to run (6 buses for a 30 minute frequency). Unfortunately it was not reformed when DART and orbital SmartBuses were introduced two years later. The result is a lot of duplication and extremely low passenger boardings per kilometre. Reform of this route may free up resources to boost more heavily used routes, extend operating hours and potentially provide some asked-for connections.


* Route 309: This route runs from The Pines Shopping Centre to the CBD via Reynolds Rd and Foote St. It is largely a peak only route though a few off-peak weekday trips also operate. It has little unique coverage. Almost all of it has overlaps with multiple routes including the 280/282, 281 and 901 SmartBus. Route 309 has no evening or weekend service.


* Route 901: This is a very long orbital route from Frankston to Melbourne Airport.  Of most interest is the portion between The Pines Shopping Centre, Foote St, Fitzsimons La, Greensborough and South Morang.  As a SmartBus service levels are relatively high - every 15 minutes on weekdays and 30 minutes on weekends. There is also service until midnight Monday to Saturday. The route has little unique coverage and goes through very low density suburbia on Reynolds Rd (map above) and rural areas around Yarrambat. Consequently patronage is low, especially for its high service level.

While governments have been reluctant to break up the SmartBus orbitals (Transdev tried in its unsuccessful proposed 2015 network), the north-east part of the 901 traverses areas that would hardly justify a regular route, let alone a premium service operating until midnight. How many buses are we talking about? I get about six.


Six buses is too many to ignore if we're on the hunt for a few of them to help the people left behind on the likes of the 302 and 304. While changes to Route 901 are complicated they are almost certainly necessary if you wish to deliver cost-neutral service upgrades to the Manningham area.

* School services: Depending on the operator's peak bus fleet usage some low-cost means to provide service with existing buses may be possible. For instance 6-7am and 5-7 pm commuter trips may be possible by adding regular route shifts to school runs. There may also be potential to revise school routes in conjunction with local network reviews if the latter develops routes that better serves schools.   

In 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' exercises like these you need to be careful to prevent new problems being created. You need to provide enough 'goodies' that the overwhelming majority of people get a better service. And, as with any change, we need to be better at explaining why network reform is necessary, especially for those whose travel would change. But there's huge possibilities given we're often not currently running service where the people are or where needs are greatest.

What one might do

* Manningham Mover reform. Split 280 and 282 to two simpler linear routes mostly along existing alignments but extending to Heidelberg Station.

Southern portion (282) could start at Heidelberg Station, operating to The Pines via Shoppingtown.  Span could be extended to better suit commuter times. Off-peak frequency could drop to every 40 or 60 minutes to reflect usage and harmonise with trains at Heidelberg.

The northern part of Manningham Mover (we'll call this the 280) would also start from Heidelberg and terminate at The Pines. However it would go via Templestowe Village, Foote St and Reynolds Rd. Service levels could be as above for the 282.

The Heidelberg terminus will be beneficial for both routes due to access to a train station, hospitals and, via a bus connection, La Trobe University. This extension could also compensate Reynolds Rd for the shortening of Route 901 (described later). Overall this change increases rather than reduces the route kilometres of 280 and 282. However adjusted off-peak frequency may reduce service kilometres. And the Heidelberg extension may make other network reforms, such as we'll discuss with 901 acceptable.


* High St corridor (Templestowe): A low cost reform to provide a new 15 minute weekday corridor with 7 day service through a consolidation of Route 281 and 293. This is low cost, greatly simplifies the network and provides a major boost to 7-day service to the hospitals at Box Hill. It would provide a service boost for Elgar Rd passengers near the eastern ends of the 302/304 as well as those on parts of the 309 (discussed later). A map is below with more detail at Useful Network 12.



* Route 901: Reform to this SmartBus route is key to whether you can get cost-effective improvements or not.  The more you do here the more crowd-busting improvements you can buy on 302/304 and potentially other routes.

'Do something' options (in declining order of 'radicalness') include:

1. Delete Route 901 between South Morang and The Pines completely. No change to existing network.

2. Delete Route 901 between South Morang and The Pines. Changes to existing routes to compensate populated areas considered to be underserviced by this change.

3. Delete 901 between South Morang and The Pines. Add a new route, operating approximately every 30 minutes weekday/60 min weekend to connect with every second 901 at both ends (reduced service level would better reflect catchment though is arguably still excessive).

4. Only delete Route 901 for a smaller section - ie either South Morang - Greensborough or Greensborough - The Pines (both due to low population density of overlap with other routes). 

My bias is toward the second option. The compensatory measures in themselves could deliver benefits. For example Foote St/Reynolds Rd would lose the 901 but gain the 280 extended to Heidelberg with better operating hours than now. Similarly the current Greensborough - Epping connection  could be retained if the 566 is extended the short distance to Epping to compensate for the 901's removal. These and other measures are summarised below.


* Route 309: The High St portion of this route would gain a large service increase with buses every 15 minutes between Templestowe Village, Doncaster and Box Hill thanks to the 281 upgrade mentioned before. Foote St/Reynolds Rd would gain an alternative (though somewhat indirect) connection to the CBD via the 280 extended to Heidelberg Station. Given Foote St's low population density this route might drop back to a peak-only service if off-peak usage is low.

Conclusion

I have sought network efficiencies so that routes like 302 and 304 can be upgraded for low or no expense. As mentioned before this was made difficult because close to an operator's full available fleet would already be deployed during peak periods.

Even though the Manningham Mover uses a lot of buses, I wasn't able to squeeze much from it. One might free a couple of buses by cutting peak frequency to (say) 45 minutes. However the Heidelberg extensions add kilometres. Also the Manningham Mover is one of the routes that would compensate  some areas affected by the 901 being split and removed.

Which gets to the nub of the matter. Apart from minor economies that might be possible from routes like the 295 or even 309, it seems to me that reforming the 901 orbital is key to delivering bus reform in Manningham and nearby areas.

Am I right, or are there other potential savings not mentioned? And if there are do you think they would be publicly acceptable?

Please leave your comments below. And, even more importantly, due to the current political interest, let local MPs know your views if you use these routes.

Afternote

The above has kept service reform to a fairly tight area. But if you wanted to free up bus resources to provide additional peak service boosts for crowded routes one might wish to cast the net wider. Eg 906 has all morning trips starting at Warrandyte bridge, with a 5 min frequency operating. Could some of those be shortened to start at The Pines to free up a bus or two? 216/219/220's southern section and 232 are other quieter routes you might be able to find spare buses on. 

PS: An index to other Building Melbourne's Useful Network items is here

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #39: The ever-expanding Route 561 and its temporary timetable


Some bus routes thrive. They get extended to useful places or have trips added.

Others just wither, terminating where factories used to be, or stuck with timetables that reflect 1970s working and trading patterns. Melbourne has too much of the latter because the Department of Transport (or more accurately its political masters) does not value bus network reform highly enough.

One of the few routes in the Reservoir area to have escaped this stasis is the 561. It started out as one of many shortish bus routes run by the old East-West Company (a joint venture between Dysons and Reservoir before they merged).

Initially it ran from Macleod to Reservoir via La Trobe University.   Then its service got upgraded and extended westward in multiple stages, first to Coburg, incorporating the old 525 (a good way to do bus reform), and later to Pascoe Vale (this time partly overlapping some unchanged local routes).


A frequency upgrade from 30 to 20 minutes harmonised it with trains. Better operating hours and weekend services were added. Now it forms an important link across Melbourne's north, connecting many areas with La Trobe University. It's been a success, with usage tripling in ten years as the extensions and upgrades happened.


From last month it got even longer, but not for reasons that you might expect. The Reservoir level crossing removal has necessitated closures of roads including those used by the 561. This has led to the route being diverted around the work site as per the map below.


Timetable

Route 561 operates to minimum standards for a neighbourhood bus route in Melbourne. That is 7 days per week with an hourly or better service until 9pm. Service starts around 6am weekdays, 7am Saturdays and 9am Sundays.

Up to last month the service was a fairly regular 20 minutes on weekdays and 40 minutes on weekends. Both of these frequencies harmonised with trains (every 20 minutes on all lines the 561 serves). That didn't used to be the case; in 1986 the (shorter) 561 ran every 30 minutes on weekdays with no weekend service.

Before and after timetables (in one direction only) are below. Or you could download them from both new and old PTV websites. (It's good the latter remains as it has features, like publicly accessible geocoded coordinates for each stop linking to a Google street view, that the new site lacks). 

Weekdays


Weekends


Most notable are the reduced timetables that are currently running. The diversion around Reservoir has added about 10 minutes run time.

Whereas train services that are replaced by buses get a substitute bus at least as frequent as before, bus routes disrupted by train works are given no help with more buses to retain frequencies.

Instead trips are cut and waiting times extended. In this case Route 561 is reduced from every 20 to every 26 minutes on weekdays and every 40 to every 50 minutes on weekends. The temporary timetable stated in late August and will run for pretty much the rest of this year. Route 555, also serving Reservoir, is similarly affected. 

Department of Transport aims

We'll veer off the 561 to discuss broader matters. The recently restructured Department of Transport is describing itself as new and integrated. About elaborates this (parts below with comments added).


Let's see how they're travelling, using Reservoir and Route 561 as an example. That's fair given that grade separations are major planned projects and the 561 is an important service across the north, serving areas far from the grade separation site.

Last comment first. Discussed before. Middle comment: Often raised here, especially on Fridays. First comments on information? Worth elaborating. Unlike for spontaneous disruptions, big projects are known and are planned months in advance. Thus the information can be as well.

Below is a post on the PTV Facebook page about the changes involving the 561 (whose changes started the next day). As you can see from the comments there were some quality issues with the data presented.

Again bus passengers come off second best; train and tram operators are bound by their franchise agreements to give much greater notice of planned disruptions. And with intervals of up to 50 minutes (on weekends), accurate timetable information is a necessity, not a luxury.

Is it too early to judge the newly restructured department? Maybe. But we've been doing works that necessitate diverting bus routes for decades. And if we used 'restructuring' to explain away poor performance we'd never conclude anything due to how often they and sometimes associated renamings/rebrandings happen. 

Conclusion

What do you think about Route 561? Should it extend even further to Greensborough to give it a stronger terminus? Or is it better to look at the whole network in the area to minimise duplication and boost frequencies? Are regular route bus passengers getting a fair go during major works, or do you think the Department of Transport and PTV should do better to manage planned disruptions? 

Monday, September 09, 2019

Tenth anniversary of announcement of Melbourne Metro Tunnel

Today is the 10th anniversary of the technical tender announcement for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel. You can watch then premier John Brumby here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gkcHq52MwU


News of its construction is now carried on the Big Build website

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Local government transport strategies - where councils are at


Public transport in Australian capitals is generally a state/territory government responsibility, with occasional federal government funding for major infrastructure projects. This is sensible and works well. 

South Australia and Tasmania ceded their regional passenger railways to the federal government in the 1970s but ended up with none surviving. Brisbane's urban network is a mess with two extensive but infrequent and duplicative rail and bus systems (managed by state and local government respectively) instead of a developed integrated network like Perth's. Then there's overseas experiences, such as the transit networks in some North American cities that stop at municipal limits even though settlement has since spread beyond. 

Our local councils don't run mainstream public transport but what they do still has an impact. For example policies on suburban centres, parking, building densities, roads, cycling and walking can support or detract from public transport operation and patronage. While main roads are a state responsibility, local roads, including many traversed by buses, are a council function. 

The wrong types of over-zealous traffic calming can restrict bus movements. A neglect of pedestrian access needs can stymie passenger access to stops. And it's important for bicycle paths and lanes to link with  railway stations to support access by bike and provide alternatives to driving. 

Another role for councils is political advocacy. State and federal governments have access to funds that local governments lack. Councils are vocal in advocating for road, rail and bus projects that benefit their area. Their transport strategies may have good things in them but state and sometimes federal government support is critical for many to happen. 

Local governments discuss transport matters at groupings like the Metropolitan Transport Forum

Councils typically have or are writing their own transport strategies. Of interest here is what they're advocating with regards to public transport. As I write some plans are in draft stage so you can have your say on them (if you're quick). 

This is a list of Melbourne suburban councils and their known transport strategies as at September 2019. Advocacy campaigns are also noted. 



Boroondara Integrated Transport Strategy 2006 Vol 1 Part 2 Part 3 Complete

Cardinia ?

Darebin Transport Strategy 2007 - 2027 Complete 


Maribyrnong Maribyrnong Integrated Transport Strategy 2012 Complete

Maroondah ?
Melbourne Transport Strategy to 2030 Draft 


Moonee Valley Integrated Transport Plan Complete
Advocacy under development

Mornington Peninsula ?
Bus advocacy campaign


Yarra ?
Through Metropolitan Transport Forum

Yarra Ranges ?
Advocacy agenda
   
Have any been missed? Are any corrections required? Please leave any comments or updates below.   

Friday, September 06, 2019

Building Melbourne's Useful Network: Part 19 - Mornington Peninsula buses


The Mornington Peninsula Shire Council recently launched a campaign calling for better buses on the Mornington Peninsula. They've got a point. Bus service per capita there is way lower than almost anywhere else, and many residential areas are without coverage. 

It's not as if the buses there are poorly used. The area's main and busiest route is the 788 (covered in detail here). This runs every 40 minutes on weekdays and 60 - 80 minutes on weekends. This level of service is more consistent with a neighbourhood back-blocks bus than a trunk route that is the peninsula's only connection to the outside world. It gets so crowded that kids can't reliably take it to school as they might not be able to fit on. Similar crowding also happens on weekends. The 788 serves the marginal seat of Nepean, currently held by Chris Brayne MP - click to email. This is why an upgrade of this route features on my list of marginal seat transport upgrades


Then there's the route 787 around Rosebud. It tries to do too much so is very very complex. It runs via more streets than any other bus route in the state and has a different service on Saturdays compared to Monday to Friday. And there are only a few trips timetabled, limiting its usefulness. 


Especially in the years before affordable air travel the Mornington Peninsula was a holiday destination. The upper-middle class often had holiday homes there. Rich retirees and those freed from the constraints of commuting made places like Sorrento their home. And those who have acreages in the hinterland for their vines or horses, aren't usually short of a buck either. 

However that's not all who live in these areas. Outer coastal areas like NSW's Central Coast, Brisbane's Deception Bay, WA's Rockingham or Adelaide's far south have some distinctive class and ethnic demographics. These include high numbers of age pensioners (often postwar UK migrants) and a younger set that is more likely to be unemployed and less likely to be tertiary educated than the metropolitan average. As gentrification and immigration changed the face of inner and middle suburbs, fringe coastal and regional areas are the last areas where those who might identify as 'working class white Aussies' are numerically dominant.

Race doesn't matter but other socio-economic factors probably do. What this means for transport planning is that areas of the Mornington Peninsula, such as Capel Sound, Hastings and parts of Mornington have high social needs and are more likely to use buses.

While pretty much every adult in these parts aims to own a working car, and ownership is indeed high, vehicles may be in for repairs, on blocks in front of the house or awaiting the next time the owners can afford to refuel. Owners may have been disqualified from driving. They may have an injury or disability that lessens their mobility. Or, more prosaically, there are the one and (less commonly) no car families, people too young to drive and those whose circumstances would make owning a car hazardous for their personal finances.

These factors (while sometimes negative for the people concerned) can encourage bus usage. Such higher propensity should be rewarded with better service locally and to key hubs such as Frankston (including its health and education facilities). On the other hand those who are working tend to be retail and tradespeople who drive to local jobs. While their extreme commutes sometimes make media stories about poor transport, few who live in Rosebud would commute to the CBD each day. And speed isn't everything; frequency and fares are also important as demonstrated by the failure of a premium fare express coach from Rosebud West tried in 2008

People often mention that Peninsula Link and East Link have brought population growth to the peninsula, with a new demographic moving there. People with jobs in Carrum Downs or Dandenong South who wouldn't dream to live there now can thanks to better road access. This is an example of the 'city shaping' impact of road projects. They change the travel not only for existing drivers, but encourage more people to make life decisions that involve them driving longer and further. Hence induced traffic and the building of 'bypasses to bypasses' when promised congestion relief proves only short-lived. The proposed Mordialloc Freeway will likely have a similar effect as it encourages those who work in the Moorabbin or Clayton areas to consider peninsula living. As most workers have free parking and public transport won't be time competitive these commuters will be difficult to attract to public transport. Whatever transport mode you improve will attract trips to it until it reaches capacity. So we need to think about whether encouraging more people to drive further is the most sustainable approach. 

Existing Useful Network

Getting back to public transport, I explain the Useful Network concept here. It's those routes that are frequent enough and run over long enough hours to be useful for many trips. I've specified a 20 minute frequency on weekdays and 7 day service until 9pm. In other words the coloured lines on the Melbourne Public Transport Frequent Network map with the 20 minute frequency selected.


No individual route in Mornington Peninsula Shire has a Useful Network level of service. Buses are typically hourly with only the 788 more frequent (every 40 minutes on weekdays). However a Useful Network level of service operates on one corridor from Frankston through Mt Eliza to Mornington due to the coming together of three related routes (781, 784, 785) that each operate hourly.

An expansion of the Useful Network to cover more densely populated parts of the peninsula will likely require more bus resources, such as being requested by Council. 

What the council wants

The council's wish list is below: 


You can see them in pictorial form below: 


To summarise, the council wants an upgrade of Route 788 (to an unspecified frequency) and some express peak trips on it. Some routes around Mornington are made longer but less direct, although they would get some  unspecified frequency increases.

Apart from minor extensions there is little substantial network reform even though $10m is being asked for. Network reform is necessary to provide the best value for money, especially if routes overlap or there are large areas without coverage. At a minimum this could involve the confusing 787, the highly duplicative 887 and possibly also the 788. Routes around central Mornington are also quite confusing with significant backtracking. The maps above don't appear to include substantial simplification.

The shire does however place faith in 'on-demand' bus services (with buzzwords like 'smart technology' or 'microtransit'). These have generally proved to be of limited usefulness and less efficient than fixed route services. However because of bus-hostile local street layouts and a lack of through roads there may be a case for them in parts of Rosebud and Mt Eliza to provide basic coverage. More on that later.

Speaking of 'microtransit', any network review should consider the continuing role (if any) of paratransit-style routes in the area. Examples include the former Penbus (now the Route 887), occasional youth-based services or the dial-up community routes that the council itself runs.

Then there is the role of school buses, especially from the more sparsely populated areas. Could some midday trips be run to provide basic access from parts of the shire (eg Red Hill) that don't justify a full urban bus service? I think this is something that the council's list could have explored.

Mornington Shire's array of niche bus services appears quite large. It is likely a consequence of it not being considered fully metropolitan and (like Knox) never receiving a full regular bus service even in its populated areas. Instead public transport in the Mornington Shire resembles that in many smaller US cities with sparse 'catch-all' public transport networks but significant 'para transit' service for niche client groups provided as a welfare service. Moving to a more versatile and inclusive network would result in a more useful service that serves more trips and (likely) involves less subsidy per passenger carried. 

An expanded Useful Network (the big picture) 

What if we were to be more radical than council and rejig the whole network rather than upgrading  or slightly extending existing routes?

We'll start with a big picture - ie the more frequent Useful Network corridors that we normally talk about on Fridays. These are routes with 7 day service including every 20 minutes or better from morning to night on weekdays.

Three corridors are suggested below. Frankston to Mornington already exists (781/784/785). The Frankston - Rosebud/Rye and Frankston - Baxter corridors require service upgrades. Existing weekday frequencies on these are 40 and 60 minutes respectively (Route 788 and 782/3).


You'll notice that the ends of the Useful Network corridors split. This is because all Useful Network corridors comprise multiple routes. Population density and patronage tends to drop near their ends. However everyone wants a single seat ride to key centres such as Rosebud, Mornington and Frankston.

A reasonable service response then is to operate all three trunks as carefully timed two or three route corridors with them diverging at Mornington, Rosebud/Rye and Baxter (or Somerville) respectively. I have not included the Stony Point train in the latter as it's insufficiently frequent to be useful for a lot of travel, particularly that which is local in nature.

The map is deliberately vague on the alignment of these routes, particularly those to Rye.  Potential options for Route 788 include the current alignment (best for Mt Eliza), a Moorooduc Hwy alignment (good for the university and hospitals) or a (fast) Peninsula Freeway alignment. Alternatives within these broad options are also possible. However all affect what you can do with other routes, particularly around Mornington.

Isolated or hard to serve pockets / flexible or demand responsive routes

These areas are the direct opposite of the major corridors (or even their direct branches) mentioned above. However services to less populated areas need to be considered as part of the design of an integrated network. The normal approach is to operate a low frequency fixed route via the alignment that is within a reasonable walking distance of most homes in a neighbourhood. Examples of currently poorly served areas that suit fixed route services (even if isolated) are below.


Unfortunately poor road layout sometimes makes fixed routes difficult because reasonable coverage is not possible without significant backtracking. The maps below show examples of this in Rosebud and Mt Eliza.


In other cases pockets might be isolated or have only sparse demand. Here one might divert an existing route if people book first. However booking can be a barrier to usage compared to regular fixed routes that don't need booking or advance notice to use. 


These are the sorts of areas where you might run a flexible route service to provide a scattered population with safety net coverage. This is the concept behind Telebus in outer eastern suburbs like Rowville and Lilydale and the 490 in Gowanbrae. These isolated or hemmed in areas have some similarities to those on the map above.

Flexible route services tend to have low boardings/bus hour and therefore high costs per passenger carried. You might accept this to achieve network coverage aims. However many flexible route services have not lasted. They have either been discontinued where poorly used or, if popular, converted to a fixed route. The latter is sensible because the more passengers a flexible route gets the slower the trip due to all the diversions  required (unlike a fixed route which just needs to stop rather than also divert). Whereas fixed routes are more easily scaleable if patronage grows.

There's more on flexible route services here. Leaving aside efficiency concerns, they can work for 'homeward bound' trips as arrival time is not critical. However, because travel time is affected by the number of diversions and pick ups they have, arrival times can vary widely. This variability makes reliable coordination difficult with other services, especially if they only run every 40 to 80 minutes like all of Mornington Peninsula's main routes. Unless you are intending for the flexible routes to be purely local shopper services, a revised network would not feature them unless the trunk routes they're feeding are made more frequent. This is why Telebus routes like the 672 operate to a fixed route during peak periods and a flexible route during off-peak shopper hours.

Regular routes

These services, normally operating hourly, comprise the bulk of bus services in the shire. Key issues include:

Weak termini (eg 781, 784, 785 and many in adjoining Frankston South): Route does not finish anywhere useful so is made less useful for connectivity between services or access to major destinations. Sometimes (eg 781) the route is too short to end where it should, leaving a major coverage gap.

Frequencies and operating hours: Only a few routes (781, 784, 785) operate 7 days per week to minimum standards (ie hourly or better until 9pm). Routes not to comply include the trunk route 788.

Duplication: There is substantial overlap between routes in cases where they don't form a frequent corridor. The most notable example is the 887's overlap with parts of the 781 and 788.

Indirectness: Some routes are indirect and have poor legibility.  Most notable is the 787, which apart from it having more turns than any other bus route in Melbourne, has different arrangements on weekdays versus Saturdays. 784 and 785 are also quite complex near their ends with significant backtracking around Mornington.


A (not exhaustive) summary of some of these network issues is below.


A new network

It is inescapable that more routes, more driver hours and likely more buses will be needed to simplify and improve this area's network. This is because each route tries to do too much, especially around Mornington. Apart from the largely duplicative 887, the Mornington Peninsula does not suffer from an excessive number of bus routes as is the case in some areas (like Greater Dandenong) whose network mainly comprises multiple hourly routes with often overlapping catchments.

Fixes range from easy and obvious to very difficult and not obvious. Solutions depend on what you wish to do. For instance a network optimised for fast commuter travel to Frankston station will have differences to one that prioritises good local access to local destinations.

I'll start with the easier steps, ending in some that are harder but necessary to make buses genuinely useful to larger numbers of people. Provided their order is retained they can be phased in, with one or two steps introduced at a time.

STEP 1: Frequency upgrade on Route 788. The most urgent upgrades are weekday peak periods and on weekends. While an upgraded summer weekend timetable operates its month-long duration is too short, especially if the existing 80 minute weekend frequency is retained for the other 11 month of the year. Upgrading weekday peak service from 40 to 20 minutes and off-peak service to 30 minutes (including weekends) would not be excessive. Sunday morning service starts too late and there are very poor connections when coming off trains arriving at Frankston, especially on Sunday mornings. Operating the Route 970 Night Network service as 788 trips could further simplify the local network.

STEP 2: Upgrade of both 782 and 783 to operate hourly 7 days, with 783 operating via West Park to allow 782 to be straightened. Both would be evenly offset to provide a 30 minute combined service. Some weekend Route 782 trips could extend to Flinders to provide a 7 day service.

STEP 3: Southward extension of 781 to Safety Beach to cover coverage gap in Mt Martha and connect with 788.

STEP 4: Reform of Route 787 to form direct route from Sorrento to Rosebud via Melbourne Rd, Rye, Alma St and Rosebud Hospital operating 7 days per week. It could then extend to Frankston via Route 788 alignment. 787 and 788 would form a two route corridor operating every 20 minutes between Rosebud and Frankston. A 40 minute frequency could apply on each leg west of Rosebud.

Because of 787/788's increased frequency and the extension of Route 781, 887 would no longer be needed. Instead its driver resources could be used to provide a new (possibly flexible) 7-day route 797 between Rosebud and Dromana serving isolated areas south of the freeway between Jetty Rd and Rainier Av (now served by the eastern part of the current 787).

STEP 5: Rerouting the upgraded 787/788 between Mornington and Frankston to operate via Bungower Rd and Moorooduc Hwy to serve Monash University and the hospitals. This further obviates the need for the 887 as its original rationale (in the PenBus days) was to provide a university connection. This could be accompanied by reforms in the Mornington area involving 781, 784, 785 and likely a new route 794 to retain coverage and connectivity while increasing directness. Special care should be taken to retain a simple 20 minute frequency corridor between Frankston, Mt Eliza and Mornington. Upgrading 784 and 785 to being every 40 minutes each could allow the 20 minute corridor to be run with just those two routes. This could allow greater flexibility for 781 to go a different way to Frankston, for instance via Mornington - Tyabb Rd and Frankston South.

STEP 6: Resolve coverage gaps in the Mt Eliza area south and west of the shops. Options include extending a Frankston South route (eg 773) to Mt Eliza and/or introducing a new (possibly flexible) local route 793 to serve Kunyung Rd, The Peninsula School, Mt Eliza village and the Eliza Dr area. If 773 is extended opportunity should be taken to tidy the complex network in Frankston South involving routes 772, 774 and their many variations.

There are two things remaining I haven't discussed.

The first is a cross-peninsula service from (say) Rosebud or Mornington to Hastings. Trials have been run in the past. However I have not discussed them here. This is because so many people are currently without service that providing coverage is top priority. Along with resolving overcrowding on existing routes. In any case higher frequency on existing radial routes and (potentially) different alignments will speed travel even without a dedicated route.

Secondly I haven't given much attention to city commuters. Instead I've prioritised access to local destinations such as universities and hospitals (including those at Frankston where people can connect to a city-bound train). However, especially if Baxter electrification proceeds there may be a case for some peak trips on Route 788 to operate there, a change that would also assist cross-peninsula travel (due to potential connections at Baxter). However I'd do this only once local routes operate at a good peak frequency because of the large effect that long waits have on overall travel time for all trips, not just city commutes.

Conclusion

I have described (but not mapped) a potential reformed bus network on the Mornington Peninsula. What do you think? Are they better or worse than the Council's proposals? And if you live in the area, why not also let Council and local MPs your thoughts?