Friday, February 01, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #5 - Bus route 558

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.
Today we head north, introducing the incomparable bus route 558. It runs from Reservoir to north-west Reservoir but is no simple there and back line. 558 is not even a simple round loop. Is it a butterfly, twisted underpants or some skywriting gone wrong? You be the judge.

Then there's 558's direction, or more accurately directions. An understanding of the city rail loop's midday reversal and different weekend pattern helps since the 558 does likewise. Both are best described as three-ring circuses past their use by dates. Our obsession with infrastructure over services means that neither gets fixed, to the chagrin of numerous misdirected passengers.
Where does 558 terminate? Nowhere in particular. But there is an occasional extension. That's also nowhere much. But it is approximately 1.2km short of the Campbellfield shopping centre and an occasionally proposed Campbellfield Station on the Upfield line. Instead 558's sole purpose is to ferry people to Reservoir shops. But not really to the station for reasons explained later.

With timetables you normally expect about the same number of trips in each direction. 558 is different. At first glance one might think it ran weekday mornings only, with no service at any other time. But that's because of the single directional running. The timetable the other way covers weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings. If you catch the bus on Saturday mornings you will need to wait on a different side of the road compared to weekday morning. Saturday afternoon is for sports, Sunday is for church and public holidays are for nothing really so the 558 doesn't run then. Yep, that's 2019 on the buses in North West Reservoir.
Also notable is the frequency. Approx every 25 - 40 min on weekdays (depending on whether it does the extension) and a flat 25 min on Saturday morning. Better than SmartBus! But not conducive to memorising times or connecting with trains (every 20 min).
The question is: What (if anything) would you do with the 558's timetable? Extra points if you consider wider area travel needs and other routes in the area.
Timetable Tuesday originally appeared as an article on the Urban Happiness Facebook group. Maps and timetables are from the old PTV website . 

You might enjoy these well-regarded books on transport topics

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

The Public City: Essays in honour of Paul Mees Gleeson & Beza

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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Anonymous said...

The biggest indication that 'planning' as such does not occur is the difference between the 558 and 552 (which is basically equivalent in North East Reservoir). The 552 is a normal, full time route with 15 min weekday service, 15-30 min on Saturday and so on.

There are not really any features that would explain why one side of Reservoir is much more poorly served than the other, it just seems that because it runs through to High St that North East Reservoir just gets a far superior (but still strange) level of service. Same as former tram line bus services getting an better service.

Peter Parker said...

Anon - I think a lot of the oddities come from the big service cuts of 1990-1. While many of the span cuts were more than reversed about 10 years ago, a lot of the weekday frequency cuts were not reversed and remain with us today.

Prior to 1990 there were lots of routes in established suburbs that ran at 12 - 20 min frequencies, particularly in peaks. Saturday am service was also frequent. They were then cut to nearer 30 min on weekdays with a lot of Saturday afternoon and Sunday service withdrawn completely. But every now and then you come across routes that retain close to their pre-1990 frequencies. 552 might be an example of this. Especially its Saturday morning timetable which is twice as good as a SmartBus.

It's as if the private operators were told to scrap everything on evenings and Sundays but that they could keep close to pre-existing frequencies on one of their preferred routes each. I'm guessing here but 465, 472, 506, 508, 552, 733, 800 could be examples.