Sunday, February 03, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #7: Bus route 506

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 week we venture to the Green heartland of Brunswick. History has bestowed it a rich offering of closely spaced radial train and tram routes. The coverage issues that dog public transport in outer suburbs just don't exist here - everyone can walk to one if not several routes. Many get by without a car, with active or public transport dominating work commutes.

Sure it looks good on the map, but how well does the network work in practice? Jarrett Walker, of says: "The inner north of Melbourne, immediate north of the CBD, should be a public transport paradise. It's historic, very dense and has a grid street pattern for easy walking to transit. It has frequent north-south trams on all the major streets, but it lacks the frequent crosstown services that would make a complete east-west grid for everywhere-to-everywhere travel."
Just to clarify the above - the problem is not that the east-west crosstown routes don't exist. They do. As buses. It's just that none of them are sufficiently frequent over enough of the day to provide a useful network grid. Consequently buses simply do not feature in the mental maps and daily lives of most Brunswick residents, even those who frequently use trams.
Bus route 506 is one of those potentially useful but low-profile east-west bus services. It runs from Moonee Ponds Junction to High Street Westgarth via Brunswick West, Brunswick and Fizroy North. No other bus intersects with more trams than the 506. It also goes near but not quite to stations on four lines.
Route 506 is fairly direct. It runs along almost the entire length of Dawson St / Glenlyon Rd. The most notable exception is the dogleg via Smith St in Brunswick West. Unjustifiable on coverage grounds, it may have been due to an archaic rule about buses not overlapping trams. Whatever its reason it slows through travel by introducing four unnecessary turns on the route.
Who runs Route 506? Mergers between bus operators have placed most routes in the hands of large companies like Transdev, Ventura, Dysons, CDC and Sita. 506 is a hold-out. It is run by Moonee Valley Coaches. Nearby Route 503 is their only other route. Moonee Valley is a hold-out for another reason; it is the only remaining metropolitan bus company that does not work on Sundays and public holidays.

How often does 506 run? 506 was one of a few routes to survive the 1990-1 service cuts to retain its 10 to 15 minute peak weekday morning service. It has also been fortunate enough to retain the 20 min weekday daytime frequency. However the afternoon peak timetable is irregular with intervals varying between 10 and 30 minutes, with frequency collapsing after 6pm, especially from Moonee Ponds.
As alluded to before, Route 506 does not run on Sundays. Neither is there public holiday service. Saturday service reflects old patterns including a morning factory and shopping peak. Hence the early start to Saturday services (compared with many other routes). Morning service is mostly every 20 minutes with some annoying 40 minute gaps. Saturday afternoon headway is a regular 30 minutes. Because it missed out on last decade's minimum service standards upgrades, Route 506 retains an early Saturday finish, with last buses departing around 6pm.
Does 506 have potential to be more useful? Is its current timetable a museum piece? What would you do? 

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

(Sales links: I get a small commission if you buy via the above - no extra cost to you)


Tony said...

When I first moved to Bundoora in 2012 I used 506 to connect with the 86 tram and get me to Moonee Valley races. Then I discovered that 508 did exactly the same thing, more often, for longer hours and seven days a week. So I simply stopped using 506.

Anonymous said...

I use the 506 to get to Brunswick Baths, and also get across to Moonee Valley to connect with 82 tram to get to Highpoint. The combination is incredibly slow but my only option. Also the 506 doesn’t run Sunday’s, which is frustrating for both purposes. Susan