Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #11: Melbourne's Cinderella tram - Route 82

The most important factor that determines the usefulness of a public transport service is not whether it's a train, tram or bus but its timetable, route and stops.

This is the first week we've featured a tram route. That's for several reasons. They are relatively few. They are generally direct and rarely deviate. And there aren't huge disparities in their operating hours or minimum service frequencies.

But there is one significant exception. Tram route 82 between Footscray, Maribyrnong and Moonee Ponds. It's different from other trams in Melbourne for three main reasons.

First of all the 82 doesn't look like your average direct tram route with one or two turns. Instead it has something like eight bends. A bit like a local bus route.  Although there is one of those (the limited-service route 404) that is faster and more direct between Footscray and Moonee Ponds than the tram.

Secondly, particularly between Footscray and Highpoint, there's significant route overlap between the tram and buses. Often the destinations are the same as well.

Thirdly Route 82's history is different, part being the only surviving remnant of the Footscray tramway system. The rest closed in 1962, to be replaced by buses (Routes 216/219, 220, 223) whose frequent service and long operating hours reflect the Tramways Board heritage.  This history also largely insulated these routes from the severe evening and weekend service cuts that pruned many privately operated bus services from the 1960s through to the 1990s.

What's along Route 82? Footscray is its southern terminus, with gleaming new towers poking above gritty shops that would be condemned if anywhere else. The station was rebuilt as part of Regional Rail Link. Through-routing of Metro trains to Frankston improved access to the south-eastern suburbs while new and upgraded regional lines better connected it with the western and northern half of the state, Geelong and the city of Wyndham.

A few wheel screeches later and the 82 is at its nearest point to Victoria University's largest campus. However it's not outside the campus and there's a bit of a walk across a large car park to get there. Bus route 406, in contrast, gets you to the door.

The story is repeated for Highpoint Shopping Centre. The tram goes near but turns off just before the centre's centre.  Buses again go closer. Maribyrnong is a rapidly developing and densifying area without fast links to Melbourne CBD. And due to the decision to route the 903 SmartBus along Buckley St, Essendon (where it duplicates an existing bus route) it lacks high quality access to Essendon and Sunshine as well.

82 then heads east, overlapping the 57 tram, crosses the river, north to Ascot Vale before terminating at Moonee Ponds Junction where it meets other tram and bus routes, including Routes 404 and 472 from Footscray.

Due to Footscray's isolated tram network legacy, Route 82 is one of two daytime tram routes that, even if you stay all the distance, will not get you to Melbourne CBD. Instead city connections are made by changing to a train at Footscray. There is also a same-stop transfer to the (slow) tram route 57 or a short walk to the (fast) train at Ascot Vale. Its suburban-only operation is why the 82 (along with the 78) does not normally receive  extra service when big CBD events are held such as White Night.

What other special things are there about Route 82's timetable? Its weekday daytime service is most obvious. People are used to regarding trams as a 'turn up and go' service. They don't always look at the timetable as they know there will be one shortly. Scheduled weekday daytime maximum waits are between 8 and 12 minutes on most tram routes. 

That's not the case with Route 82. That comes only every 20 minutes (timetable below). Nearby bus routes have a similar or better frequency. E.g. 223 (every 15 min), 406 (every 20 min) and 472 (every 15 min). If you want to make short local trips, such as between Highpoint, Victoria University and Footscray these waits are a significant proportion of total journey time. While average combined frequency of all routes is high, the uneven spacing, different modes and different stop locations reduce the benefits of this compared to if a smaller number of routes at higher frequencies ran.

Weekends are different. 82's Saturday (and Sunday) timetable has a 15 minute daytime frequency. That makes it like other tram routes. 82's quirk is that it's the only tram route that has a better service (15 min) on weekends than on weekdays (20 min). The other main metropolitan example is the Belgrave/Lilydale rail line at every 10/20 min weekends versus 15/30 min weekdays.

 How about evenings? 82 is similarly short-changed Monday to Saturday. Here the basic service is every 30 minutes versus 20 minutes on the other routes. On Sunday evenings the 82 operates to the 30 minute headway usual on tram routes.

As for Sunday mornings, these are a mix of 20 and 30 minute frequencies with a slightly later start than found on other tram services.

To conclude, Route 82 has had a different history to other tram routes in Melbourne. This includes part being the only survivor of the separate Footscray tram system. The Footscray Tramway Trust was dissolved 99 years ago this month. Service commenced in 1921 under Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board control. Nearly a century on, in terms of service levels, the 82 remains the 'poor cousin' relative to other routes that the entire Footscray network was before it closed.

The question is: What (if anything) would you do with the 82's route and timetable? Extra points if you consider wider area travel needs and other routes in the area such as the 223, 406 and 472.

Timetable Tuesday simultaneously appears on melbourneontransit.blogspot and as an article on the Urban Happiness Facebook group. The timetable extract was from the old PTV website . 

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Better Buses, Better Cities: How to Plan, Run, and Win the Fight for Effective Transit Steven Higashide NEW!

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A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, Institutions (Access Quintet Book 4) David Levinson

Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives Jarrett Walker

Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age Paul Mees

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Tom said...

The closure of the section of line between the current Footscray Station terminus and what was then the Nicholson St campus of Footscray Technical College (now Victoria University Nicholson Campus) seems likely to have been a mistake.

Consideration should be given to extending the 82 along the existing route of the 59 along Pascoe Vale Rd and Fletcher St, allowing the 59 to be diverted along Mount Alexander Rd. Possibly with the 82 terminating in Russell St, outside Essendon Station.

Peter Parker said...

That would make the 59 more direct, and save a few minutes on-tram time. Though if they were going to the city such people would almost certainly walk to either Essendon or Moonee Ponds stations for an even quicker trip. And some on Pascoe Vale Rd would not like having their CBD tram withdrawn in favour of one going to Footscray. Maybe it won't make a different to some as they'd be taking the tram to go to Essendon station, but there could be a drop in frequency since even if 82 was upgraded to 10 min it's still less frequent than the 59 is now.

So I can see a lot of cost for not much gain.

But I do see a lot of merit in a good connection between Essendon Station and Highpoint. That exists in a limited part-time form with the bus route 468. And if Maribyrnong/Highpoint isn't going to get heavy rail (as per some airport rail options) it deserves really good buses and upgraded trams. So I'm warm to the idea of rerouting the SmartBus 903 from Essendon to Sunshine via Highpoint to replace the current 468 and part of 408. It could be done at almost zero cost and remove duplication with 465 on Buckley St. Although you would still want some Sunbury line connection from the Buckley St/Milleara Mall area which you could do by extending Route 406 west to St Albans.

Alan said...

Between Footscray and Highpoint, route 82 and bus 223 are almost duplicates of each other. The two services share the same route along Droop St, and only take a slightly different route north of Ballarat Road. It's almost as if route 223 was devised to replace the tram service, much like routes 216 and 220, but the tram was saved at the last minute.

The question of what to do with route 82 becomes clearer if you consider a potential extension of route 57 to Milleara SC. In this scenario, bus route 406 is deleted and replaced with a tram service from Milleara SC to Footscray Station. Route 82 is also deleted, and route 223 is rerouted to serve Victoria Uni and the areas west of Rosamond Road currently served by route 406. Route 223 would then potentially be extended from Highpoint to Moonee Ponds - although this section of the tram route sees low patronage, so the 15 minute frequency might be excessive in off-peak times.

Jeff N said...

Another quirk of the 82 tram, was that back in the 1960s and 70s, and possibly later, it was replaced by a tramways bus on Saturday afternoons and all day Sundays.

Even this had it's quirks..

The bus would basically follow the tram route from Moonee Ponds to Rosamond Road, Maidstone, but would then continue along Rosamond Rd to Ballarat Road, servicing a stretch of road that during the week had no public transport (pre-Highpoint West).

It would then turn left onto Ballarat Road and follow the 223 route to Footscray and Yarraville.

The neighbouring 57 tram, from memory, was operated by tram all day Saturday, but was also replaced by a tramways bus on Sundays.

In the 1970s. they tried some cost cutting measures with interesting results.

These involved the 57 bus from the city terminating at Ascot Vale and transferring it's load onto the connecting 82 bus which would then only miss the final West Maribyrnong stop, as it continued on to Footscray and Yarraville.

The ultimate quirk occurred in the late 1970s, when they, in effect, through routed the bus from Yarraville to the city!

This was done by reversing the load transfer arrangement at Ascot Vale, by having the bus from Yarraville and Footscray traverse the 82 route to Ascot Vale then continue along the 57 route to the city. A connecting tramways bus ran between Ascot Vale and Moonee Ponds.

So, in effect, the one bus would cover three routes in the one trip, being the 223, the 82 and the 57.

They had fun, back in those pre digital desto days, trying to put all that information onto a two roll destination sign!

At different times during that period, the buses could be seen with various route numbers such as 57, 82, 223, 357, and 382, particularly between West Maribyrnong and Ascot Vale.

The drivers would routinely be seen, mid route, pulling over and changing the old manual destination rolls to reflect the change of route.

A said...

@Jeff N, 57 and 82 had Tramways Buses running in lieu of trams between 12 November 1961 and 8 August 1993.