Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #16: Route 410 - Hourly via Churchill

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.

The Footscray / Sunshine area includes some of Melbourne’s busiest bus routes. This is due to several factors.  The most important of these include (i) a long history of frequent 7 day bus service (itself a legacy of the Footscray tram network and subsequent government operation), (ii) grid streets with fairly high residential densities, (iii) favourable demographics including low car ownership and (iv) trains that only skirt the edge of the residential area and operate less frequently than buses.

Four east-west routes run between Sunshine and Footscray.  Three (216, 219, 220) are ex-government routes extending to Melbourne CBD until late at night Monday to Sunday (the latter a rarity that not even SmartBus routes feature).  The other, route 410, is a privately-operated service terminating at Footscray.  This is what we will feature today. 

Compared to some others featured, route 410 is fairly simple. Its only complexity is the Churchill Av deviation showed in the dotted line above.  This deviation runs hourly during the day, Monday to Saturday. Because it overlaps Route 408, it does not add coverage. However it provides Churchill Av with an occasional direct service to Footscray Hospital and station.

You can see how 410 fits in with other routes on the map below.  Only about one-third of it offers unique coverage. Parts overlap Route 220 along Ballarat Rd.  The overlap is due to more routes than parallel through roads existing in the section west of Duke St (216/219, 220, 408, 410 via Ballarat, Churchill, South).  

What about Route 410’s timetable? Its operating hours broadly reflect the minimum service standards introduced about a decade ago.  But more than most other routes frequencies abruptly vary throughout the day and over the week.  This is a consequence of the hourly minimum standard being applied to a route that, when it ran, operated more frequently.  In contrast the 200-series routes have longer operating hours, more even frequencies and no deviations.

The weekday timetable is below. 410’s off-peak daytime headway is 15 minutes. This means it does not harmonise with trains, which at Sunshine, operate every 20 minutes.  Footscray receives many more trains, with these operating on 10 and 20 minute patterns.  Peak frequency is approximately every 12 or 13 minutes.  Weeknight frequencies drop smoothly from 15 to 20 to 30 minutes.

The hourly Churchill Avenue deviation operates between approximately 10 and 6pm.  This causes 410 frequencies on part of Ballarat Rd to be an uneven 15-30-15 minute pattern as the ‘missing’ bus is serving Churchill Avenue instead.  While some might regard 15 minutes as a turn-up-and-go frequency, this service level does not apply along the whole route due to the deviation.  Consequently if one wanted to make a frequent network map only part of the route would be eligible for inclusion.  

Saturday daytime frequencies are an even 20 minutes. This harmonises with Saturday train frequencies (every 20 minutes on all lines).  The hourly Churchill Avenue deviation means that 410 trips on Ballarat Rd follow a 20-40-20 minute pattern.  

Unlike on weeknights, route 410 on Saturdays has no smooth frequency transition in the early evening. Instead it drops abruptly from 20 to 60 minutes before 7pm.  While demand drops at night compared to during the day, it is unlikely that it has fallen by so much in such a sort amount of time.  

Sunday service is a flat 60 minute frequency, ie the minimum standard.  The Sunday service is one-quarter the weekday service and one-third the service on Saturday.  410’s Sunday cut is a sharper cut than SmartBuses (half as frequent on weekends as weekdays) and local trains (mostly 20 minute frequency 7 days).  As mentioned before this reduction is likely because it is the application of the minimum standard to a more frequent Monday – Saturday route that did not previously operate on Sundays. 

What would you do with the 410? Should the hourly Churchill Av deviation be scrapped to simplify the route? Or would it be better if all trips were run via Churchill Av to provide a connection to Footscray? Is there scope to merge 410 with other east-west routes in the Braybrook/Sunshine area and upgrade frequencies on each to 10 minutes to provide turn-up-and-go service?  Or would you retain 410 as is given it is quite popular?  And if the latter do you consider that the hourly Saturday evening and Sunday frequency fairly reflects demand given the route’s Monday – Saturday daytime service?

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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Tom said...

If Churchill Avenue does need its direct Footscray service, then run it as a separate route (with evening and weekend services and a frequency increase) and make the 410 an even 20 minute service with greater evening and weekend frequency.

Presumably the 410 provides something useful for its shared section of Ballarat Rd with the 220, that the 220 does not, meaning there is reason to keep that section (unless another bus route is diverted). It also allows for a potential diversion of the 220 via Tottenham and Sunshine Rd and Buckley St, to provide a feeder service, with either the 216 or 219 potentially diverted via Barkly St to compensate.

Me said...

If the Churchill Ave deviation is needed, keep it. But give it a different route number to avoid confusion.
The Ballarat Rd route is quick, efficient and popular. Much faster than its 220 counterpart.
I think the system works despite the irregular timetabling. I can only assume that's because lots of the route overlaps suit lots of the travelers (fills in the gaps)