Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #18: Route 420 - the L of the west

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 look at Route 420 between Sunshine and Watergardens via Deer Park. This is an L-shaped main road route.  It serves three major train stations and three main shopping centres. Its large population catchment has demographics favourable for bus use.

Established less than five years ago, Route 420 was the centrepiece of the Brimbank area bus network review in 2014.  Annual patronage in 2016-7 is 540 000, making it similar to that of the more established Route 471 between Sunshine and Williamstown. 

Route 420 serves diverse catchments, with a skew towards low income older people, particularly in the route's south. The timetable reflects the strong all-day patronage it experiences. It serves three stations with Sunshine being the most popular for bus to train connections. When the Melton  railway electrifies Deer Park is likely to become a major interchange point for the 420. This is currently handicapped by inconsistent regional train frequencies (especially on weekends) and the lack of a bus interchange that forces passengers to cross busy roads and walk long distances to connect.

420's main change since inception has been to deviate it off Station Rd to serve the Brimbank Shopping Centre bus interchange. This slows passengers making through trips. However the original stops on busy Station Rd were not in the most convenient location for shoppers. And the new stop location is better for those interchanging to local routes 422, 423 and 424. 

Predecessor routes included Route 454 (Sunshine – Sunshine West via Glengala Rd) and Route 451 (Sunshine – Brimbank Central Shopping Centre). Both were moderately frequent but had sections that were either indirect or overlapped other routes.  They date from when Sunshine was the only large centre in the area, electrified trains terminated at St Albans and nothing existed at Sydenham except for a quiet V/Line station.

Sydenham received electric trains in 2002.  A new station, called Watergardens, was built south of Melton Highway. Bus routes from St Albans served the new station.  All were indirect and infrequent and there was no direct service to Watergardens via Kings Rd.

Proposals for SmartBus orbital routes included a service from Chelsea to Werribee via Airport West, Watergardens, Kings Rd and Deer Park Station.  However only the Chelsea – Airport West portion was implemented.  Kings Rd had to wait until 2014 when Route 420 commenced.

How does Route 420 compare with the cancelled SmartBus extension?  There are pros and cons. SmartBus runs until midnight six nights per week. 420’s hours are shorter, with 9pm finishes.  420 is less frequent on weekdays, operating every 20 minutes compared to 15 minutes for SmartBus.  On the plus side its 20 minute frequency harmonises with trains that also run every 20 minutes.  The flat 20 minute frequency gives 420 a better weekend daytime service than SmartBus (every 30 minutes). 
420’s routing is probably more useful. The extended SmartBus would have traversed many kilometres of low density industrial areas.  Such areas have unmet public transport needs and current service is sparse.  However, industrial area demand patterns are unlikely to suit a SmartBus route with its long operating hours and more frequent service. 

Route 420, in contrast, improved service to the Glengala Rd part of Sunshine West that previously only had access to the indirect Route 454 to Sunshine.  Benefits for Sunshine West include (i) simpler bidirectional operation along Glengala Rd, (ii) direct access to Deer Park and Watergardens and (iii) increased Sunday frequency.  Access to some schools has been improved.  There are few overlaps with other routes (network map below). And the residential area of Sunshine West along with trip generators in Sunshine itself mean a likely higher patronage than if the route had extended south of Deer Park into the industrial area.  

Route 420’s timetable is below.  Most trips run their full route. Short-workings exist at the ends of the day and to better serve the route’s inner portion from Sunshine during the evening. 

What do you think of the Route 420?  Is it the sort of direct route you’d like to see more of in the suburbs? Would a 10-15 minute peak frequency be desirable to relieve parking pressure at stations? Should it go nearer Deer Park Station to make interchange easier? And does it deserve to run longer hours or even become a SmartBus?

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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1 comment:

Simbera said...

I lived in Deer Park when the routes changed - at the time the train frequencies at Deer Park station were woeful, with only every second Ballarat train stopping there. Now they get (most) Ballarat trains and Geelong trains, so it's much better

When the trains were so infrequent, a pretty sizeable portion of the route's patronage was people on the inner sections wanting to catch the train from Sunshine - I wonder if the balance has shifted now that the trains are better?

You're right that the interchange between bus and train at Deer Park is pretty bad. Around the time the routes changed they redid that intersection, and we got better footpaths and shelters, but a longer walk. Hopefully this can be reviewed when they remove the level crossing in a few years