Friday, May 31, 2019

Building Melbourne's Useful Network - Part 6: St Albans, Essendon and Highpoint


Last week I designed an expanded Useful Network for Altona North, Newport and Williamstown, about 15km south-west of Melbourne. 

This week we'll do the same for the St Albans, Essendon and Highpoint area, a similar distance north-west of Melbourne. 

The main state electoral districts and MPs involved are Essendon (Danny Pearson MP), Niddrie (Ben Carroll MP,) St Albans (Natalie Suleyman MP)  and Footscray (Katie Hall MP).

Both areas have similarities but also varied demographics within them. Average incomes and labour force participation increase from west to east in both. Essendon, like Newport, is an established rail-based centre. And, significant for this exercise, both areas are served by the Route 903 orbital that duplicates long-established local routes. Again this creates opportunities to expand more frequent transport to more people for more of the day at little cost.   



Existing Useful Network

I explain the Useful Network concept here. It's those routes that are frequent enough and run over long enough hours to be useful for many trips. I've specified a 20 minute frequency on weekdays and 7 day service until 9pm. In other words the coloured lines on the Melbourne Public Transport Frequent Network map with the 20 minute frequency selected.

St Albans, Essendon and Highpoint Useful Network routes are shown below. Key corridors include the Craigieburn and Sunbury train lines, the 57, 59 and 82 trams, and buses 406, 408, 465 and the 903 orbital. The first three bus routes are above-average patronage performers with 465 contributing to the very high number of people who make bus-train connections at Essendon Station. 


Where are the main gaps in the Useful Network? 

One is around Kealba and Keilor Downs east of the Sunbury train line. Unlike Kings Rd, the Sunshine Rd corridor lacks its own continuous north-south route. The northern portion is served by Route 419 every 40 minutes (20 minutes peak). The southern portion is served by the 903 orbital every 15 minutes, not connecting with trains. However the 903 isn't as useful as it could be as it branches east through an unpopulated area and then duplicates another route (465) until Essendon. 

The result is that those making the relatively short trip from Kealba to Sunshine need to make a bus - train trip instead of a direct bus such as is available to similar areas to the west such as Kings Park and Albanvale.  The same applies for those going from Sunshine North to Watergardens. 

There are also gaps in Essendon around Hoffmans Rd. This is because the 59 tram on Keilor Rd and the buses on Buckley St diverge to the west and nothing frequent runs in between. Another gap is further west around Valley Lake. That area is harder to do much about due to its bus-hostile road layout. 

It looks like there's a gap around Braybrook. This is not so. Several Useful Network routes run there between Sunshine and Footscray. I've just omitted them for clarity as these services (216, 219, 220, 410) deserve their own review, as do those between Footscray and Highpoint (82, 223, 406, 409). However Braybrook still gains from this exercise, as you'll see later.

Where Useful Network routes go is as important as the coverage they provide. That's because of popular destinations in the area. Two Useful Network routes (465 and 903) operate along Buckley St to the medium sized Milleara Shopping Centre. In contrast none operate over the short distance from Essendon to the very large Highpoint centre. This makes access to Highpoint from nearby suburbs such as Strathmore and Brunswick West difficult, with the infrequent Route 468 not operating on Sundays. The lack of good alternatives to driving can cause parking pressures around Highpoint, especially on weekends and public holidays when limited public transport runs.


Other network issues include weak northern termini for routes like 406 and 465. This limits the ability of buses to be useful for cross-suburban trips. Also reducing efficiency are overlaps, such as along Buckley St, where 465 and 903 duplicate with uneven spacing between trips, not always meeting trains. Such duplication presents opportunities for low cost network reform.


Expanded Useful Network

The map below shows an expanded Useful Network.  



More corridors (and therefore people) have a Useful Network standard of service than before. The main additions are around Taylors Lakes, Keilor Downs, Kealba and Essendon. In all these cases existing 40 minute frequency services are replaced with service every 20 minutes on weekdays. 

To do this without adding huge amounts of service kilometres requires rerouting the 903 so it no longer duplicates the 465 along Buckley St. Moving it to run via Highpoint, Maidstone and Braybrook gives it a slightly shorter route than currently. More significantly it replaces existing routes 468 and the Highpoint - Sunshine portion of Route 408 with higher frequency and longer hours. The resources freed from the 408 and 468 changes can then be put towards extending Route 406 to St Albans and 419 to Sunshine (with an increased frequency). 

Rerouting the 903 (with its long operating hours) improves service through Braybrook - a low income, low car owning and high bus using neighbourhood whose service has been stagnant for years.

903's shift also improves access to Highpoint from two directions (Sunshine and Essendon - Coburg). This makes Highpoint more like Northland, Doncaster Shoppingtown, Eastland and Knox City - all comparable centres with busy SmartBus services. Most current bus routes to Highpoint are either infrequent or do not run late at night or on Sundays. 

Sunshine also gains. While it loses the Route 903 on McIntyre Rd it gains better connections to Highpoint and a better northern connection via an extended Route 419. This provides fast and direct access from Taylors Lakes, Kealba and Keilor Downs to jobs and trains in Sunshine and Watergardens. It would form a mirror image of the successful Route 420 on the other side of the Sunbury line. Route 421 would continue to provide local access to St Albans from most areas.  

406's western extension to St Albans gives it a stronger terminus. While not many will  necessarily travel from Keilor East to St Albans, its higher frequency benefits Main Rd East and St Albans shopping centre. While smaller than Sunshine and Watergardens, St Albans has an exceptionally high percentage of shoppers who arrive by bus (a fact sometimes lost on 'traders advocates' who place greater value on parking). 

Main Rd East also has good resident demographics for the more frequent off-peak service Route 406 would bring, with useful destinations including St Albans, Highpoint and even (for some) Footscray. Potential also exists (at additional cost) to take advantage of the newly grade separated intersection and extend 406 further west to Brimbank Shopping Centre. While not needed for pure coverage reasons, the increased frequency would benefit another strong bus catchment west of St Albans and remove (for bus passengers) the barrier that level crossings historically provided. 

Finally areas near Hoffmans Rd gain. Instead of duplicating the tram and other bus routes on Keilor Rd, Route 476 is rerouted to overlap Route 475 between Essendon and Niddrie. Each route operates every 20 minutes during peak periods and 40 minutes off-peak. Staggering their timetables would provide a new higher frequency corridor, with the combined 10 minute peak service particularly attractive for commuters. 

Expanded Useful Network and local routes

The above upgrades have implications for local routes. That is if you want to avoid significant service cuts in some areas and wasteful duplications in others. The most important of these are on the map below: 


Further information is on the interactive map below by clicking on individual routes (click top left for menu, top right to enlarge). 




A simplified reallocation of service kilometres between routes is shown below. Detailed costings have not been done. However due to the reduction in service duplication the most likely outcome is the use of a similar number of buses and perhaps a small increase in service kilometres (especially if operating hours on some routes are extended). 



Service priorities for expanded St Albans, Essendon and Highpoint Useful Network

1. Reroute SmartBus 903 from Essendon via Highpoint Shopping Centre to Sunshine to replace existing routes 468 and 408 (Sunshine - Highpoint portion). Freed resources used to upgrade and/or extend other routes (see below).

2. Extend Route 419 to Sunshine (replaces 903) and increase off-peak frequency to 20 min. Extend Route 406  to St Albans to replace 419 on Main Rd East and retain direct Highpoint service. An extended Route 407 (operating 7 days per week) could cover local streets currently served by Route 406. 

3. No change to Route 465 but add after 9pm service and upgrade Sunday frequency to 20 minutes to compensate for deletion of Route 903 in area. These upgrades are required between Keilor East and Essendon only. 

4.  Operate Route 476 via 475 alignment and offset times by 20 min to provide a combined Useful Network corridor via Hoffmans Rd to Niddrie.

5. Desirable associated other changes including (i) minor 475 straightening along Hoffmans Rd, (ii) Upgrade Route 408's Sunday frequency from 60 to 30-40 minutes on remaining portion between St Albans and Sunshine, and (iii) potential weekend frequency upgrade from 60 to 40 min on altered Route 419. 

What do you think? Do you have other ideas? Are there things you see are wrong with the above? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

An important anniversary

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the commencement of electric suburban rail services in Melbourne on 29 May 1919.

Enjoy these articles. 

The Age article
The Argus article

Newport Railway Museum

Monday, May 27, 2019

Victoria's 2019 State Budget: What public transport got


It's better to judge a government's priorities by its budgets not by its words

Today very serious, very educated and very rational people from the government will be telling us what we can't have because it would cost too much. One must be realistic.  It's what responsible management demands while wasting not a single moment in getting things done. There is no alternative. The minuses on one sheet must reconcile with the pluses on another as Numbers Do Not Lie. 

That's the side of government we'll see today. 

It's a far cry from late last year just before the election. Then we saw the government's visionary, creative and intuitive elements on display.  Most active before elections, they dabble in the strategic, long-term, state-building, and, yes, vote-winning, realms. 

Financially adventurous, they ask 'How do we fund?' more often than 'Can we fund?'. Their antics have made past governments prone to the offerings of spruikers proposing novel off-book financing for their pet schemes. In Australia that's been anything from seeking unconventional finance to develop energy projects to unsustainable transport franchise contracts in an attempt to save money. Fancy schemes rarely end well.  

If the numbers initially don't work you make them work. One might quantify benefits that most people wouldn't express in financial terms. The more you rely on 'wider economic benefits' the spongier things get. You might accuse opponents of being 'narrow' or 'small minded'. Projects could be strung out over long periods, so paying for them becomes someone else's problem. And don't put it beyond governments to leave their successors unwelcome presents, as Labor did with myki in 2010 and the Liberals did with the expensive to cancel East West Link road project in 2014. 

Context

So much for history, where do we find ourselves today? Victoria's population is growing rapidly so there remains increased demand for services such as state-provided health, transport and education. Prisons aren't cheap. And there's a large capital works program with more grade separations, more roads and more trains coming on stream.  People will be looking for the government to honour commitments made there.  That's on the spending side.

On the income side, Australian state governments have few independent revenue sources.  Payroll tax, gambling taxes, stamp duty and land taxes are some of the major examples. However the softening property market means reduced income from the latter.  The recent federal election has returned a result the state Labor government was not expecting (nor would have liked). 

Even ahead of that the treasurer has signalled there will be some tough decisions made. That means either tax hikes and/or spending cuts. Although as it's the first budget after the election now is politically the best time to do them as they will likely have been forgotten by the 2022 election.  

Last year's budget (May 1, 2018)

Before we see the contents of this year's budget we'll examine the salient part of last year's state budget. At the very least familiarity with it should make it easier to find things in this year's document. 

The budget papers most important for public transport are:

Paper 3 (Service Delivery) from page 10 and again page 117

Paper 4 (State Capital Program) from page 2, page 20 and again page 25

Some service km per capita calculations from Daniel Bowen are here

This year's budget (May 27, 2019)




Salient points from Paper 3 (Service Delivery)

* Better Buses Fund. Ramping up to $6.4m in 2022-3. Includes more frequent services in Romsey & Lancefield, new Mernda - Craigieburn bus, new Donnybrook - Craigieburn bus, new Keysborough bus, express bus from Eltham during Hurstbridge line disruptions, new Alexandra - Eildon bus.  

* $6.8m on 'Bus Industry Innovation Fund' to support bus industry "through delivering initiatives focused on improving network efficiency, patronage, customer experience, safety and driver support."

* 100 more authorised offices, to be recruited 10 per year over 10 years across all modes. 

*  Funding for planning and business case development of tram and active transport connections between Fishermans Bend and the CBD. 

* Last year we spent $1210m on bus services, $3899m on train services, $957m on tram operations  and $1357m on road operations (p323). The budget has small increases for buses and trains, a very big increase (67%) for road operations and a small cut for tram operations. 

* There is an allocation (about $56m from 2020-1) for additional train services. Not much detail on these are given but they relate to the Ballarat Line Upgrade, Cranbourne-Pakenham Line Upgrade and High Capacity Metro Trains.  This will be supported by more train authorised officers (p 100). Mobile phone charging will be available at inner Melbourne stations (p 104).

* There is no budgeted increase in metropolitan train service km to 2019-20 (remains at 23.8 million km). Patronage is expected to grow slightly to 246.2m trips (p 332).

* 10 more E-class trams will be purchased and 10 Z-class trams overhauled (p 115). Nothing significant for tram services with a small cut proposed in operating budget.  Page 335 refers to the drop being due to payment scheduling. Tram patronage is expected to rise slightly to 208 million trips per year. Last year's service delivery target (99.2%) will be maintained, even though actually delivery has been less. 

* Metropolitan bus patronage has been and is expected to remain static at just under 120 million trips per year. There is only a very minor increase in service kilometres to be run. (p 326). Much stronger growth is expected for regional bus patronage despite no increase in service kilometres (p 327).

* Significant asset initiatives mentioned in this paper include many level crossing removals (75 by 2025), new trains for Sunbury - Pakenham/Cranbourne, Hurstbridge line upgrade, additional station parking, Melbourne Airport Rail and improved security and resilience. 

Salient points from Paper 4 (State capital program)

* Page 9 has the big picture. Something like 80% of government capital investment is on transport projects. It's way higher than health, education and justice, which are the next three.

* Key current projects include: level crossing removals (25 more by 2025 costing $6.6 billion), Sunbury line upgrade to support the High Capacity Metro Trains, Cranbourne line duplication and doubling peak frequency, Hurstbridge line duplications, 10 new E-class trams and upgrades of Zs (p 3).

* Future projects include Suburban Rail Loop planning, Melbourne Airport Rail planning and Western Rail plan, including electrification to Wyndham Vale and Melton (p 5).

* Allocations for Metropolitan (rail) Network Modernisation Program improvements as part of level crossing removals. (p 78)

Summary

Continuing on from past years, this budget contains significant investment in capital works, but relatively little on running services. So it's very much a status quo budget for passengers. Busy trains, trams and buses will continue to leave people behind in established areas. And tens of thousands more people each year will be living in fringe areas without even basic bus services. The only possible silver lining come from the Bus Industry Innovation Fund, 100% of which should go to reforming bus networks in areas that need it.   


Note: Due to the budget tomorrow's Timetable Tuesday will not run. Normal service will resume next week. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Wanna win government in 2022? Do (or promise) these marginal seat public transport service upgrades.


Tomorrow is the Victorian state budget. I'll report on what it means for public transport services then. 

Today we'll think further ahead to the 2022 state election. While state Labor is riding high with a  comfortable majority, anything could happen in the next 3 1/2 years.

You'd think that adding a bus or train service would be faster than building a new station but the time differences between the two aren't as great as you might expect. As a minimum you need to recruit drivers. That may take a year's training for train. Bus driver training is faster but, especially if you're increasing peak service or expanding coverage into growth areas, you may still need to buy new buses and find accommodation for them.  Then there is planning time, likely community consultation, PTV's sometimes sclerotic internal processes and the government's budgetary cycle.

Add up all those and even a modest service upgrade may take two or more years. Putting on a new bus service is like a tough jail sentence for a multiple offender; planning and implementation time tends to be consecutive rather than concurrent years. Although they benefit the most people for the least expenditure, whole network reviews, where existing routes may be modified or replaced, have not been a recent priority, with the last big metropolitan one (Cranbourne) being implemented in 2016. 

So 2022 is sooner than you think. If this government wants to have better services running before the  election they will need to start planning now. 2020 will be almost too late. The long lead times for planning regular route upgrades is very different to the response to unplanned rail disruptions, where  replacement buses arrive within an hour or two after being requested.

The opposition has more time, since implementation if they win will be in 2024 at the earliest. However even they will need practical, costed and politically saleable plans at least a year before the election. These need to be derived from policy that is not just about opposing what the government does.  

You normally expect the first post-election budget to be tough, with spending cuts. That was true for the Howard government's 1996 budget and the Abbott government's 2014 budget. We're being told that tomorrow's state budget will similarly be tough. Not helped by sluggish stamp duty income and an unexpected (by many) federal election result.  Now is a politically good time to trim inefficiencies (including in public transport services) that inevitably accrete over any government.   


Map from VEC site

As we saw with last week's federal election, swings can be very different between seats and states. For Victoria there may be differences between inner Melbourne, outer Melbourne, regional cities and more rural areas. Coalition parties need more than their 'blue ribbon' rural, bayside and eastern metropolitan heartland to win office. Labor requires regional areas and south-eastern suburbs to swing. And, when they're strongest they may gain normally Liberal eastern suburbs seats.  

Psephologists often use election pendulums based on two party preferred votes for their analysis. They're a nice graphic that matches the seating pattern in the house. Pendulums are less helpful when there are strong minor party candidates. And politically effective governments can unexpectedly retain marginal seats while those thought safer can swing, possibly due to the influence of a popular independent or local issue. 

Notwithstanding the above we'll still use the pendulum to identify marginal government seats. Most of these will need to be won in 2022 for the government to hold or the opposition to win office. 

Below were the marginal government-held seats coming in to the 2018 election.  Many were centred on the Frankston train line. View the full list here



Below are the marginal government seats after the 2018 election, which the government won with an increased majority. The Frankston line seats are no longer marginal. Instead government marginals are concentrated in the middle to outer eastern suburbs. For example Bayswater, Mt Waverley, Box Hill, Ringwood, Burwood and (south-east fringe) Bass.  Plus some inner areas like Northcote, Richmond and Hawthorn where the Greens are strong. View the full list here


The above seats, particularly the middle to outer eastern districts, will be the political battlegrounds of 2022. Like the Frankston line was in 2010 and 2014. The Coalition will need those eastern seats (that have historically been fairly reliable) to regain government.   

You're a Liberal aiming for your first win in 12 years. You're Labor wishing to retain power.  You're a Green who doesn't think Labor have delivered. Or you're an independent wanting local issues to campaign on. If you're any it's time to browse this list of transport service upgrades to advocate for in your coveted seat.   

The routes referred to can be found on PTV's local area maps or streetdirectory.com.au . You can see their current timetables on PTV's website. There's repetition as many upgrades have benefits extending over three seats or more. Which makes them even more worth fighting for.

(This seat-by-seat list is quite long. Scroll to the end for the express version.) 


* Upgrade weekday interpeak trains to every 20 minutes
The current 30 minute frequency is amongst the worst on the network. A 20 minute frequency would bring weekdays into line with weekends and support 10 minute services to Ringwood. 

* Upgrade evening trains to every 20 minutes
The current 30 minute service is low for a major metropolitan line. Existing timetables reflect 1970s cutbacks and not modern travel patterns. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes at night. 

* Upgrade Sunday morning trains from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes
Current timetables reflect past travel patterns. Population growth, densification and more early Sunday morning events make an upgrade worthwhile. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes on Sunday mornings. 

* Major bus network review in area with simpler, more direct and more frequent services seven days per week. Reroute 664 via Scoresby Rd to Knox City to fill a long-standing service gap on Scoresby Rd. Upgrade existing routes to 7 days/week, remove confusing deviations, add more direct routes and boost service frequencies.
Many areas around Knox were settled 40 years ago but are still waiting for a regular bus service. Existing services are indirect, infrequent and sometimes duplicate one another. Major roads (eg Scoresby Rd) have as little as one bus per day over their entire length. 

Hawthorn John Kennedy MP

* Upgrade weekday trains to operate every 10 minutes to Ringwood between the peaks
A frequency upgrade would bring Ringwood weekday train services into line with Dandenong and Frankston and what already runs on weekends to Ringwood. Current services are well used. Patronage will only increase as housing in the area becomes denser.  

* Simplify peak period train timetable on the Ringwood line
Current stopping patterns are confusing. Fewer stopping patterns, but greater frequency on each, will make trains easier to use and more reliable. 

* Upgrade evening trains to every 20 minutes
The current 30 minute service is low for a major metropolitan line. Existing timetables reflect 1970s cutbacks and not modern travel patterns. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes at night. 

* Upgrade Sunday morning trains from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes
Current timetables reflect past travel patterns. Population growth, densification and more early Sunday morning events make an upgrade worthwhile. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes on Sunday mornings. 

* Improved frequencies and signal priority on trams 48, 70, 72 and 75
Population pressures are leading to overcrowding during both peak and off-peak periods. Increasing traffic is reducing tram travel speeds.  

* Upgrade bus route 624 to operate every 15 minutes to Caulfield on weekdays and better weekend frequency
Current 30 minute weekday frequency and hourly weekend service is low for a major cross-suburban route. Potentially useful service for Swinburne University and to link three train lines. 

* Extend bus route 734 to Caulfield Station to improve connectivity from Glen Iris
This short bus route extension would improve access to the Monash campus in Caulfield and other attractions including South Yarra and Chapel St. It would also provide a handy back-up during train disruptions. 

* Upgrade bus route 548 to provide improved connection to LaTrobe University and potentially extend to Camberwell. Extend operating hours and introduce Sunday service.
Existing service has potential to become a major cross-regional route but is currently infrequent. Currently few services exist between northern and eastern suburbs. 

* Upgrade bus route 609 to provide improved Chandler Hwy connection and extend all trips to Hawthorn Station. Operate 7 days per week.
Current route runs a few trips per day only. Upgrade would complete a missing link for which demand is demonstrated (refer to traffic volumes on Chandler Hwy). 

* Add Sunday service on all bus routes including Routes 285, 548 and 612 
Changing lifestyles, altered travel patterns and increased residential area densification call for 7 day service on all bus routes. 



* Immediate upgrade to Route 788 peak and summer services.
Upgrade would stop passengers being left behind during peak periods where buses come only every 40 minutes (see above). An enhanced summer timetable operates but only for four weeks over December-January which is too short. Outside that time weekend frequency is only every 80 minutes.

* Major upgrade to bus route 788, with service operating every 20 - 30 minutes seven days per week with earlier morning starts on weekends.
Without a train, bus route 788 is the Mornington Peninsula's only trunk public transport route.  Current frequencies are inadequate for this purpose, especially during peak times and on weekends. 

* New direct bus route along Melbourne Rd between Rye and at least Sorrento (possibly starting at Frankston as part of an upgraded Route 788 corridor).
Parts of Melbourne Rd are served only by the occasional and indirect Route 787. It has enough catchment and is sufficiently far from Route 788 to justify its own direct 7-day route. 

* Retimetable bus route 788 to better connect with trains at Frankston, particularly ex-city trains on Sunday mornings.
Route 788 is a long-distance service that attracts day trippers from Melbourne, particularly on weekends. However current wait times of 50 minutes on Sunday mornings make such travel unattractive. This was the result of the bus never being recoordinated when train times were changed. 

* 24 hour weekend operation of bus route 788 as part of upgraded Night Bus network at least as far as Rosebud.
Current Night bus services are provided by Route 970. Operating these as Route 788 would simplify the network and assist weekend travel, particuarly in summer. 

* Local bus network reform to straighten Route 787 for improved coverage, directness and hours of operation.
The existing route is highly indirect and misses many residential areas. Reform would improve access to buses and provide a 7 day service. 

* Extend bus route 782 to Flinders 7 days per week.
The current route finishes at Balnarring, making travel to Flinders only possible on weekdays. 


* Upgrade Mernda train line to operate every 10 minutes during the day
Extensions to South Morang and Mernda have increased line patronage. 'Turn up and go' train frequencies relieves pressure on nearby trams and provides area with a fast and frequent transport option. Existing 20 minute frequency is low for a train line through a continuously urban area. 

* Boost Mernda and Eltham evening train frequencies from every 30 to every 20 minutes
The current 30 minute service is low for a major metropolitan line. Existing timetables reflect 1970s cutbacks and not modern travel pattern. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes at night. 

* Boost Mernda and Eltham Sunday morning train frequency to 20 minutes
Current 40 minute service is worse than comparable length lines in the south and east (every 30 minutes). Changing lifestyle patterns have increased demand for early Sunday travel. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes on Sunday mornings. 

* Upgrade frequencies on tram routes 11 and 86, particularly during evenings, Sunday mornings and shoulder peak periods
Urban densification and changing travel patterns have increased demand for off-peak travel. Shoulder peak upgrades can relieve peak crowding by encouraging travel either side of the peaks. 

* Upgrade bus route 506 to operate longer hours and on Sundays to improve connections to Brunswick
Bus route is well used but does not run Sundays. Hours are shorter than metropolitan 'minimum standards' and do not suit modern lifestyle and travel patterns. Demand is likely to grow with increased population density in inner suburbs.  

* Upgrade bus route 508 to a SmartBus with increased frequency and hours of operation. Potentially extend to Ivanhoe to provide a stronger terminus.
Route is a major east-west link operating across the inner northern suburbs to Moonee Ponds via Brumswick. Upgrades would provide an improved feeder for trains and relieve parking pressures at stations. Catchment is undergoing population densification. 

* Increase weekend frequency on bus routes 510 and 567
These are popular direct bus routes but weekend frequency drops off. Upgrades would make a lot of cross-suburban trips easier and improve access to Northland shopping centre. 

* Extend weekend operating hours on Route 251 to improve access to Northland
Current services do not meet 'minimum standards' operating hours. Upgrade would improve connections to Northland Shopping Centre from the south. 

* Institute an upgraded Chandler Hwy bus to replace the current 609 and serve development.
Area is currently a public transport 'black hole'. Increasing density and development requires justifies improved service that would also benefit connectivity to the inner eastern suburbs. 

* Make bus routes simpler, more direct and more frequent 7 days/week with local bus network review.
Area has historic bus routes that have not changed for decades. Some timetables reflect old travel patterns. A review could make services more direct and provide strong termini for some routes that would increase patronage. 

Mt Waverley Mat Fregon MP

* Upgrade Glen Waverley train line to operate every 10 minutes during the day 
A frequency upgrade would relieve pressure on the busy Dandenong and Ringwood lines and allow improved connectivity to the Monash precinct. 

* Upgrade Glen Waverley train line to operate every 20 minutes on evenings and Sunday mornings.
Services are currently only every 30 minutes. This upgrade will make trains more useful for more trips over more of the day and week. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes at these times. 

* Upgrade bus route 733 to a SmartBus service between Box Hill and Clayton via Mt Waverley and Monash University with doubled frequency and extended operating hours.
This is a very busy route that has not had significant upgrades for 20 years despite increases in patronage due to higher density, university expansions and more students. The current half-hourly weekday and hourly Sunday timetable is inadequate for passenger demand. A SmartBus upgrade would fill a large gap and greatly improve access to the Monash employment precinct from the north and improve access to Box Hill station from the south, relieving pressure on parking. 

* Upgrade bus route 767 to operate every 15 minutes between Box Hill and Chadstone.
This is the only route that provides access to Deakin University from the south. Its current 30 minute daytime frequency is inadequate for this purpose. An upgrade to 15 minutes would greatly improve access to the campus and provide an improved feeder service to trains at Jordanville Station. 

* Upgrade bus route 737 to operate every 15-20 min weekdays and 20 min weekends between Monash University, Glen Waverley and Knox City.
This is another well-used bus route that operates only every 30 minutes on weekdays and 40 minutes on weekends. A frequency upgrade would greatly improve access to Monash University and Knox City, while relieving commuter parking pressure around Glen Waverley Station. Existing services have not been upgraded for decades despite population densification in the area. 

* Increase weekend frequency on 703 SmartBus to every 20 min. Also upgrade peak and evening service.
This is a busy route that can often get crowded. It serves a major role in providing access to Monash University to the north and west. 

* Add short trips to increase SmartBus Route 902's peak frequency to 7.5 minutes and weekend frequency to 15 minutes between Nunawading and Springvale South.
Nunawading to Springvale South is the busiest section of this orbital route. High passenger numbers can make punctuality poor and service uneven. Adding extra short trips caters for this demand and relieves parking pressure at stations including Nunawading, Glen Waverley and Springvale. 

* Extend bus route 734 to Caulfield and upgrade frequency to provide new connection between lines. 
This short bus route extension would improve access to the Monash campus in Caulfield and other attractions including South Yarra and Chapel St. It would also provide a handy back-up during train disruptions. 

* Make bus routes simpler, more direct and more frequent 7 days/week with local bus network review.
Bus routes, particularly east of Glen Waverley Station, are complex, infrequent and do not always 7 days per week. A review and implementation of same would ensure that bus services meet modern travel needs. 



Box Hill Paul Hamer MP

* Upgrade weekday trains to operate every 10 minutes to Ringwood between the peaks
A frequency upgrade would bring Ringwood weekday train services into line with Dandenong and Frankston and what already runs on weekends to Ringwood. Current services are well used.  This service would support the growth of Box Hill as a dense centre active all day and relieve parking pressure in the area.  

* Operate weeknight services from city every 10 minutes until 10pm. All services run with 6 car sets.
Limited timetables and the use of 3-car trains causes acute evening crowding on services departing Flinders St. This upgrade would increase weeknight services to be like those enjoyed by the Dandenong line. 

* Simplify peak period train timetable on the Ringwood line
Current stopping patterns are confusing. Fewer stopping patterns, but greater frequency on each, will make trains easier to use and more reliable. 

* Upgrade evening trains to every 20 minutes
The current 30 minute service is low for a major metropolitan line. Service upgrade would support night time activity at Box Hill. Existing timetables reflect 1970s cutbacks and not modern travel pattern. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes at night. 

* Upgrade Sunday morning trains from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes
Current timetables reflect past travel patterns. Population growth, densification and more early Sunday morning events make an upgrade worthwhile. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes on Sunday mornings. 

* Improve shoulder peak, Sunday morning and evening services on tram route 109.
Service improvements are desirable given changing travel patterns and increasing population density along this route. 

* Upgrade Deakin University shuttle (Route 201) from every 20 to every 10 minutes.
The current 20 minute frequency shuttle does not mesh with trains every 15 minutes at Box Hill, leading to long waiting times. A shuttle frequency upgrade would boost the service enjoyed by other successful university shuttles (ie every 10 minutes or better like La Trobe's 301) and provide a 'turn up and go' service. Some resources for this upgrade can come from the confusing and unnecessary Route 768. 

* Upgrade bus route 733 to a SmartBus service between Box Hill and Clayton via Mt Waverley and Monash University with doubled frequency and extended operating hours.
This is a very busy route that has not had significant upgrades for 20 years despite increases in patronage due to higher density, university expansions and more students. The current half-hourly weekday and hourly Sunday timetable is inadequate for passenger demand. A SmartBus upgrade would fill a large gap and greatly improve access to the Monash employment precinct from the north and improve access to Box Hill station from the south, relieving pressure on parking. 

* Upgrade bus route 767 to operate every 15 minutes between Box Hill and Chadstone.
This is the only route that provides access to Deakin University from the south. Its current 30 minute daytime frequency is inadequate for this purpose. An upgrade to 15 minutes would greatly improve access to the campus and provide an improved feeder service to trains at Box Hill Station. 

* Increase frequency on bus routes 302 and 304. Upgrade evening service on Route 304 to finish at 9pm. 
The 302 and 304 corridor suffers acute overcrowding during peak times. Unlike bus routes in the Doncaster area (eg Route 907) it has not had a recent service upgrade. Extending Route 304's operating hours would improve access from the area to Doncaster Shoppingtown.  

* Increase weekend frequency on 703 SmartBus to every 20 min. Also upgrade peak and evening service.
As a major link to the Monash precinct, bus route 703 is well used and deserves further upgrades. 


* Add short trips to increase SmartBus Route 903's weekend frequency to 15 minutes between  Doncaster and Oakleigh South. Also provide Sunday service between 9pm and midnight.  
These short trips would cater for the high demand experienced along the busiest section of the Route 903 SmartBus. A consistent 15 minute weekend service would strengthen access to Box Hill and relieve parking pressure by making bus travel a viable alternative to driving. 

* Lengthen operating hours on bus routes 270 and 279 to at least 9pm on weekends.
Only requiring a few trips to be added, upgrades to 'minimum standards' would make these routes more useful, particularly on weekends where they finish very early. 

* Introduce Sunday service on routes 271, 284, 285, 612 and 766.
This upgrade would make buses useful for more trips to major centres such as Box Hill, Camberwell and Chadstone. It would ensure that all buses in the area operate 7 days per week and better suit modern travel patterns. 

* Commence new direct bus route along Canterbury Rd between Box Hill and Ringwood via Forest Hill Chase. Implement in conjunction with reviews of local routes such as 735, 736 and 765.
Canterbury Rd is a main road that lacks a strong bus service along it, though portions of several routes run along parts of it. A single Canterbury Rd route would make buses more direct and easier to understand, leading to increased patronage and better access to shops and trains. It would also allow improvements to other local bus services in the area. 

* Simplify bus routes in Blackburn North area with local review.
Current network is complex. A simpler network with more direct and frequent services would make buses more useful and improve access to stations. 


* Upgrade Sunday morning Pakenham line trains from hourly to every 20 minutes
Current Sunday morning frequency is hourly - the lowest on the metropolitan network. Line serves growth areas with little other transport. Upgrade would make local trains more versatile for a wide variety of trips. 

* Upgrade weekend evening Pakenham line trains from every 30 to every 20 minutes
Corridor is rapidly growing in population, with new housing often denser than older housing. 20 minute frequency reduces waiting times and provides a more attractive service. 

* Review the timetabling of the Stony Point train line and the Interisland ferry to improve connectivity in both travel directions on all days of the week and promote this as a travel option to Phillip Island.
Current train services only sometimes meet ferries. Reappraising train and ferry timetables would ensure as many services as possible connect to one another in both travel directions. Operate special buses to Frankston when there are line closures or works to ensure that reliable connections are maintained. This would improve access to Phillip island and potentially boost tourism. 

* Upgrade frequency on bus route 926 to 20 or 40 minutes and straighten route
Current 60 minute frequency is inadequate for direct bus route given wide spacing between stations on parallel railway line. Upgrade could be done in conjunction with network changes that make 926 more direct and improve coverage to new estates. 

* Improved coach services to Cowes and Wonthaggi especially on weekends
Higher frequency would provide more flexible travel options for residents and visitors. 
* Improved local bus network on Phillip Island with buses timed to meet ferries.
Current services are very infrequent and cover little of the island. Improved network should provide a basic 7-day service all year with possible additional service during peak tourist season. 

Ringwood Dustin Halse MP

* Upgrade weekday trains to operate every 10 minutes to Ringwood between the peaks
A frequency upgrade would bring Ringwood weekday train services into line with Dandenong and Frankston and what already runs on weekends to Ringwood. Current services are well used.  This service would support the growth of Box Hill as a dense centre active all day and relieve parking pressure in the area. 

* Operate weeknight services from city every 10 minutes until 10pm. All services run with 6 car sets.
Limited timetables and the use of 3-car trains causes acute evening crowding on services departing Flinders St. This upgrade would increase weeknight services to be like those enjoyed by the Dandenong line. 

* Simplify peak period train timetable on the Ringwood line
Current stopping patterns are confusing. Fewer stopping patterns, but greater frequency on each, will make trains easier to use and more reliable. 

* Upgrade evening trains to every 20 minutes
The current 30 minute service is low for a major metropolitan line. Service upgrade would support night time activity at Box Hill. Existing timetables reflect 1970s cutbacks and not modern travel pattern. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes at night. 

* Upgrade Sunday morning trains from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes
Current timetables reflect past travel patterns. Population growth, densification and more early Sunday morning events make an upgrade worthwhile. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes on Sunday mornings. 

* Upgrade bus route 907 to operate every 10 minutes weekdays. Improve evening frequency to 20 min. Introduce 9pm - midnight Sunday evening frequency. Operate 24 hours on weekends as part of upgraded Night Network.
Route 907 is a busy bus service along a major corridor. Frequency and span upgrades would serve a densifying corridor as close in as Collingwood and as far out as Doncaster Rd. It also passes the fast-growing area around Doncaster Shoppingtown. 

* Lengthen weekend operating hours on routes 270 and 370.
Current operating hours are shorter than minimum standards. An extension to 9pm would make buses more useful for more trips. 

* Introduce Sunday service on bus route 271, even if it means reducing Saturday service to hourly
The current timetable has trips every 30 minutes on Saturday but no service on Sunday. The 30 minute Saturday service is perhaps excessive for the catchment. However a Sunday service is desirable, even if Saturday service must be reduced to pay for it. 

* Upgrade weekend service on bus route 670
Route 670 is a main road service with a 15 minute weekday service. Most of the route is away from the railway line. A weekend upgrade would improve access to shops at Ringwood, Croydon, Chirnside Park and Lilydale. 

* Split bus route 380 to simplify service. Extend Sunday evening service until 9pm.
The current route is confusing. It could revert to the previous arrangement where the northern half operated as one route number and the southern half on another route number. Buses could continue to through-route as now. Extending to the 9pm minimum standard finish time would make buses more useful in the area. 

* Commence new direct bus route along Canterbury Rd between Box Hill and Ringwood via Forest Hill Chase. Implement in conjunction with reviews of local routes.
Canterbury Rd is a main road that lacks a strong bus service along it, though portions of several routes run along parts of it. A single Canterbury Rd route would make buses more direct and easier to understand, leading to increased patronage and better access to shops and trains. It would also allow improvements to other local bus services in the area. 

* Operate Route 740 all the time, not just peak periods. Do in conjunction with local network review.
Area needs more direct and easy to understand full-time bus network. Having peak-only routes just adds confusion. 

* Add Ringwood - Frankston trips on SmartBus Route 901 to increase peak frequency. Also boost weekend frequency to 15 minutes.
This segment is the busiest portion of the Route 901 service. The improved weekend service would make buses a real travel alternative and relieve parking at major shopping centres such as Eastland and Knox City. 

* Local area network review to simplify routes and expand coverage in poorly served areas
Some areas around Ringwood have poor local bus coverage. Some routes may occasionally deviate, making the network hard to understand. Area has had little significant bus route reform in recent years. 


* Upgrade Glen Waverley train line to operate every 10 minutes during the day 
A frequency upgrade would relieve pressure on the busy Dandenong and Ringwood lines and allow improved connectivity to the Monash precinct. 

* Upgrade Glen Waverley train line to operate every 20 minutes on evenings and Sunday mornings.
Services are currently only every 30 minutes. This upgrade will make trains more useful for more trips over more of the day and week. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes at these times. 

* Improve shoulder peak, Sunday morning and evening services on tram routes 70 and 75.
Catchment is undergoing population densification along tram corridors. Service upgrade would better align trams with modern travel needs. 

* Improved frequencies and signal priority on tram 75.
Population pressures are leading to overcrowding during both peak and off-peak periods. Increasing traffic is reducing tram travel speeds.  

* Upgrade busy bus route 733 to a SmartBus service between Box Hill and Clayton via Mt Waverley and Monash University with doubled frequency and extended operating hours.
This is a very busy route that has not had significant upgrades for 20 years despite increases in patronage due to higher density, university expansions and more students. The current half-hourly weekday and hourly Sunday timetable is inadequate for passenger demand. A SmartBus upgrade would fill a large gap and greatly improve access to the Monash employment precinct from the north and improve access to Box Hill station from the south, relieving pressure on parking.

* Upgrade bus route 767 to operate every 15 minutes between Box Hill and Chadstone.
This is the only route that provides access to Deakin University from the south. Its current 30 minute daytime frequency is inadequate for this purpose. An upgrade to 15 minutes would greatly improve access to the campus and provide an improved feeder service to trains at Jordanville Station. 

* Upgrade Deakin University shuttle (Route 201) from every 20 to every 10 minutes.
The current 20 minute frequency shuttle does not mesh with trains every 15 minutes at Box Hill, leading to long waiting times. A shuttle frequency upgrade would boost the service enjoyed by other successful university shuttles (ie every 10 minutes or better like La Trobe's 301) and provide a 'turn up and go' service. Some resources for this upgrade can come from the confusing and unnecessary Route 768. 


* Add short trips to increase SmartBus Route 903's weekend frequency to 15 minutes between  Doncaster and Oakleigh South. Also provide Sunday service between 9pm and midnight.  
These short trips would cater for the high demand experienced along the busiest section of the Route 903 SmartBus. A consistent 15 minute weekend service would strengthen access to Box Hill and relieve parking pressure by making bus travel a viable alternative to driving.  

* Extend bus route 734 to Caulfield and upgrade frequency to provide new connection between lines. 
This short bus route extension would improve access to the Monash campus in Caulfield and other attractions including South Yarra and Chapel St. It would also provide a handy back-up during train disruptions. 

* Commence new direct bus route along Canterbury Rd between Box Hill and Ringwood via Forest Hill Chase. Implement in conjunction with reviews of local routes such as 735, 736 and 765.
Canterbury Rd is a main road that lacks a strong bus service along it, though portions of several routes run along parts of it. A single Canterbury Rd route would make buses more direct and easier to understand, leading to increased patronage and better access to shops and trains. It would also allow improvements to other local bus services in the area. 

* Introduce Sunday service on bus route 612 between Chadstone and Box Hill and Route 766 between Burwood and Box Hill.
Upgrade would support retail activity at Chadstone, Camberwell and Box Hill and provide residential areas with 7 day service. 

* Simplify bus route 736 by splitting route at Glen Waverley and operating as separate route numbers.
Low cost change would make a confusing and indirect bus route more understandable and encourage patronage. No change in service kilometres required. 


* Upgrade train frequencies, particularly on weekends
Current regional-style train frequencies are lower than what is required for a fast-growing suburban location. Upgrades would be a handy precursor to electrification. 

* New bus routes in growth areas
Melton is one of the fastest growing local government areas in Australia. It has had no extensions to its local bus routes despite this growth. This has led to thousands of homes being remote from any form of public transport. 

* Major bus network review in area with buses every 20 minutes or better Monday - Sunday to station via Coburns Rd and Station Rd.
This upgrade would make buses more useful for travel to major local destinations such as Melton Station and Woodgrove Shopping Centre. The frequencies suggested are like those operating in similar growth areas such as Werribee/Tarneit and Cranbourne that received new bus networks in 2015 and 2016. 

South Barwon Darren Cheeseman MP

* Upgrade Geelong line trains from every 40 minutes to every 20 minutes on weekends
Current demand for weekend trains on the Geelong line is high. Existing frequency is only half that of other lines a similar distance from Melbourne CBD, eg Pakenham. A 20 minute service would bring Geelong line train frequencies similar to that of electrified suburban lines.  

* Introduce new bus routes for Armstrongs Creek for coverage of growing residential areas
Residential area has had rapid recent growth with significant areas remote from bus services.  This places pressure on parking at stations like Waurn Ponds. 

* Upgrade local bus routes with longer hours of operation and better weekend frequencies, particularly to Torquay/Jan Juc over summer.
This change would better match service provision with likely demand and potentially relieve traffic pressures in the area by making bus travel a real option. 


* Upgrade Mernda train line to operate every 10 minutes during the day
Extensions to South Morang and Mernda have increased line patronage. 'Turn up and go' train frequencies relieves pressure on nearby trams and provides area with a fast and frequent transport option. Existing 20 minute frequency is low for a train line through a continuously urban area. 

* Boost Mernda and Eltham evening train frequencies from every 30 to every 20 minutes
The current 30 minute service is low for a major metropolitan line. Existing timetables reflect 1970s cutbacks and not modern travel pattern. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes at night. 

* Boost Mernda and Eltham Sunday morning train frequency to 20 minutes
Current 40 minute service is worse than comparable length lines in the south and east (every 30 minutes). Changing lifestyle patterns have increased demand for early Sunday travel. Comparable lines in Sydney operate every 15 minutes on Sunday mornings. 

* Improve shoulder peak, Sunday morning and evening services on tram routes.
These upgrades don't require additional trams to be purchased. However they better suit modern travel needs and accommodate the densification of housing in the area. 

* New 401-style frequent bus link from Clifton Hill station to Melbourne University.
Current access from Clifton Hill to Melbourne University requires taking a train the long way around the City Loop and changing to an (often crowded) tram. Like has occurred successfully with Route 401 from North Melbourne, a frequent express bus may relieve some pressure on train and tram services. 

* Introduce new Burnley St bus route from Victoria Gardens to Burnley Station possibly extending to Williams Rd and the South Yarra area.
There used to be a bus route (607) in the area but it was discontinued in the 1980s. However land use change and population densification may make it popular again in providing a north-south connection and feeder to Burnley station. 

* Increased frequency on Johnston St bus routes (200/207)
Current peak services are overcrowded. There have not been recent service upgrades. Catchment is undergoing population densification which is likely driving demand. 

* Upgrade bus route 907 to operate every 10 minutes weekdays. Improve evening frequency to 20 min. Introduce 9pm - midnight Sunday evening frequency. Operate 24 hours on weekends as part of upgraded Night Network. 
This would improve services to Collingwood along an important corridor. Having one bus route operate 24 hours would improve legibility compared to now where a Night Network operates with different routes and route numbers for buses. 

Summary

The above list is quite long. There's lots of repetition. What if you wanted only a few high-impact upgrades that benefit a lot of seats?  Here's my pick and the marginal seats that would gain (others would as well).

* Belgrave/Lilydale line service upgrade. Weekday interpeak trains increase to every 10 min to Ringwood and every 20 min to Belgrave and Lilydale similar to weekend timetable. Weeknight trains increase to every 10 min until 10pm to Ringwood. Evening and Sunday morning trains increase from every 30 to every 20 min. Benefits Bayswater, Hawthorn, Box Hill and Ringwood which are currently Labor held marginals. Would also benefit marginal Liberal-held seats of Croydon, Evelyn and Ferntree Gully.  

* Mernda line service upgrade. Weekday interpeak trains increase from every 20 min to every 10 min. Evening and Sunday morning trains increase to every 20 min from every 30-40 min. Benefits Northcote and Richmond (Labor marginals).  

* Box Hill, Deakin and Monash Uni precinct bus upgrade.  Upgrade 201 Box Hill - Deakin shuttle to every 10 min. Upgrade bus route 733 to SmartBus between Box Hill, Mt Waverley, Monash Uni and Clayton. Double frequency on Route 767 between Box Hill, Deakin Uni and Chadstone. Upgrade Route 737 bus between Monash Uni, Glen Waverley and Knox City. Benefits Mt Waverley, Burwood and Box Hill (Labor marginals) and Forest Hill (Liberal marginal). 

* Weekend bus boosts. New Sunday running and/or extra trips to give 7 day service at least hourly until 9pm on the following bus routes: 251, 270, 271, 279, 284, 285, 304, 370, 380, 506, 548, 612, 766 and 788. Benefits Hawthorn, Northcote, Burwood, Box Hill, Ringwood, Nepean (Labor marginals), Kew (Liberal marginal) and Brunswick (Green marginal). 

* Ease the squeeze peak upgrades. More trips on routes 200/207, 302/304, 703, 733 and 788 to address overcrowding during peaks. Benefits Box Hill, Burwood, Mt Waverley, Richmond and Nepean (all Labor marginals). Also Kew and Forest Hill (both Liberal marginals). 

* Tram service refresh. Shoulder peak, evening and weekend service upgrades on selected tram routes. Improve tram priority at slow spots and roll out more accessible stops. Benefits Northcote, Richmond, Box Hill, Hawthorn and Burwood (Labor marginals) and Kew, Caulfield and Forest Hill (Liberal marginals).  

* Key bus links program.  Extend bus route 734 to Caulfield. Upgrade frequencies and terminate routes 508, 548, 609 and 624 at more useful termini eg busy train stations. New Burnley St route in Richmond. New Canterbury Rd bus between Box Hill and Ringwood, with associated local network changes. Benefits Hawthorn, Northcote, Box Hill, Ringwood, Richmond, Burwood, Mt Waverley (Labor marginals). Also Kew, Caulfield and Forest Hill (Liberal marginals).

* Geelong and Ballarat line frequency upgrade. Increase weekend service to every 20 minutes on the Geelong line to as far as South Geelong and run more weekday interpeak and weekend trains at least to Bacchus Marsh.  Benefits Barwon and Melton (Labor marginals). 

* Pakenham catch-up train upgrade. Increase Sunday morning frequency from hourly to every 20 or 30 min. Upgrade weekend evening service from every 30 to every 20 min in conjunction with similar upgrades for Dandenong and Cranbourne. Benefits Bass (Labor marginal) and Gembrook (Liberal marginal).

Conclusion

The above are some suggested public transport service upgrades for all the marginal government-held seats in Victoria. Governments have sometimes introduced pre-election service upgrades. Notable examples occurred in 2006 (successful for the government) and 2010 (for buses - unsuccessful for the government as the big problems were with trains).  There were also significant (but low budget) bus network reforms in mid-2014, several months before that year's election.

NSW is a recent example of a government with a strong service agenda that two months ago won an election expected to be tight. Although some projects had troubles, the Berijiklian government could demonstrate a strong infrastructure and service expansion record, including doubling the number of stations with a 15 minute or better service in 2017 and proposing 14 000 extra bus services. That left the opposition with a weak transport offering apart from a populist free child travel policy that would likely increase crowding.

Victorians, in contrast, saw very little proposed on the service side in their November 2018 election campaign. While the government has been active in transport, it was all about infrastructure not service. Politically, this choice couldn't be faulted, with Labor winning an increased majority. However their task was made easier by an opposition that, apart from a few unofficial Edmund Carew tweets, failed to exploit the government's weakness and press a strong service agenda of its own.

In 2022, when people can no longer fit onto trains because the government blew its chance to  significantly revamp Metro train timetables in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, the public may be less forgiving. Without increased service - on train, tram and bus - we're in for a rerun of the 2006 - 2010 era, when crowding increased and reliability plummeted. People couldn't get to work on time in the morning or back to daycare on time in the evening. And everyone remembers the political price that the then government paid for that in 2010!

What do you think about this list? Are there some things that should be in it? Should some be removed? Or maybe there's seats I've missed. Please let me know in the comments below. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Building Melbourne's Useful Network - Part 5: Altona North, Newport and Williamstown

Today we head west to look at Altona North, Newport and Williamstown’s Useful Network.  

Williamstown dates from the early years of white settlement.  Most was settled before mass motorisation and has well established train and bus services. Newport to the north is a major railway junction and again developed over a century ago.   

Mass motorisation after WWII made living further from the railway more viable. This was when Altona North grew fastest, with a post office opening in 1960.  Parts near the refinery (opened 1949) had a station (Paisley) and local shops. However the station closed in 1985 and the shops are shuttered.  As belated compensation for the station’s closure, the route 232 freeway express bus started operating from the Park & Ride west of Millers Rd from about 1990. It used to be popular but traffic congestion has made it slow, unreliable and poorly used.   


Forty or fifty years ago the new brick houses on spacious blocks in Altona North were considered more desirable than the small timber cottages near the railway.  It's different now.  Newport and (especially) Williamstown are now expensive suburbs populated by high income CBD workers.  Altona North, in contrast, has aged and degentrified, with many people not in the labour force.  Its manufacturing-based workforce would have been hit hard by the Toyota closure. You can see the big socio-economic divide west and east of Hansen St / Blenheim Rd on this Charting Transport SIEFA map

The above is important to know when planning bus routes and service levels. Low income / low labour force participation areas require frequent all day service over long hours while commuter-heavy areas need direct and frequent bus feeders to employment hubs and railway stations, especially if parking at these is scarce. 


The area presents massive opportunities for no to low cost bus network reform. It has roads where multiple routes overlap. Other roads have no continuous route down them. Patronage levels vary so there is scope to better align service with usage. The whole area is in the state seat of Williamstown held by Melissa Horne, the current minister for public transport who last year vowed to remove archaic bus routes.

When you talk to political candidates from all parties bus services often get cited as an issue. However when they get in the best you can usually hope for is a new route running over the existing deficient network. It remains to be seen whether this minister will, unlike her predecessor, champion and implement the type of wider, better and more cost-effective bus network reform Melbourne needs.  


Existing Useful Network

I explain the Useful Network concept here. It's those routes that are frequent enough and run over long enough hours to be useful for many trips. I've specified a 20 minute frequency on weekdays and 7 day service until 9pm. In other words the coloured lines on the Melbourne Public Transport Frequent Network map with the 20 minute frequency selected.

Altona North and Williamstown has several Useful Network routes (map below).  They mainly run north – south.  Two (232 and 903) overlap along Millers Rd.  With Route 411  these provide a high (but uneven) frequency of 7.7 trips per hour. 
Three (one railway and two bus routes) occupy a narrow strip in the east. Only the 471 serves the heart of Williamstown's shopping strip.  The large central area of Altona North has only one Useful Network route. Neither Mason St nor Blackshaws Rd currently have continuous routes along them.  




The service 'hole' between Millers Rd and the Williamstown rail line is clear in the 2014 SNAMUTS map below. This shows the area as being 'urbanised without minimum service'. If you wanted to plug this gap then Blackshaws Rd and Mason St are the places to start. 


Altona North has more opportunities for low-cost bus reform than most other areas. This is because (i) parts of the existing Useful Network are quite poorly used and (ii) there are large overlaps between routes involving the 232, 411 and 903. Reform of these routes present opportunities to economically extend Useful Network service to more places, increase peak frequencies and/or boost neighbourhood routes. 

Expanded Useful Network


The map below shows an expanded Useful Network. Most noticeable are the dedicated routes on Blackshaws Rd and Mason St. These provide direct access to frequent trains at Newport, or as an alternative, frequent buses to Footscray. This is done by straightening Route 471 (for Blackshaws Rd) and rerouting 232 (for Mason St). These are significant gains for commuters in the western part of Newport slightly beyond walking distance from their local station.    




A minor Useful Network extension along Ferguson St is terminating Route 472 near Williamstown centre. This improves access to the town centre for those in Yarraville, Spotswood and Newport. 

Millers Rd retains Useful Network coverage with an upgraded SmartBus Route 411 replacing the 903 SmartBus, whose timetable rarely connects with trains.  903's termination at Sunshine frees up resources to give 411 SmartBus type operating hours, better peak service and higher weekend frequency (at least between Footscray and Altona).  Buses could be timed to meet trains at West Footscray station, improving connectivity for Brooklyn, Yarraville and Kingsville. It would slot in particularly well with a rebuilt Paisley Station with resultant network benefits, such as better access between Werribee/Williams Landing and Altona North.

The upgraded Route 411 would be the first SmartBus to operate exclusively in Melbourne's west. Its implementation would be a first step in resolving the west-east divide in public transport service provision (Melbourne's east alone has no less than six SmartBus routes entirely within it, not counting the three orbitals). All of it runs via roads designated as being part of the Principal Public Transport Network in Plan Melbourne. Thus buses should be accorded priority for faster movement. 


So that upgrades pay for themselves (in terms of service kilometres) quieter or duplicative parts of some routes need to be deleted or replaced with a service that is cheaper to run. This includes Route 903 through the Brooklyn industrial area and some stops on Civic Pde, Altona. As you'll see later, all stops will retain a 7 day service. And through travel from Altona to Sunshine will remain via another route.  


Removing Route 232 from Melbourne CBD is the other major change. This suffers poor reliability and patronage. Shortening this route allows more buses locally rather than be stuck in the CBD. Existing Route 232 passengers will gain better 7-day access to stations from straightened local routes and proposed 411 SmartBus.


Expanded Useful Network and local routes


The reformed Useful Network affects some local routes. For example deleting Route 903 requires another route to serve its missed stops. I've chosen a modified Route 412 for this job. Instead of going to Footscray, the route would run to Sunshine, serving all Route 903 stops. Staggering its times with Route 428 may allow a more even and consistent Hampshire Rd service than currently exists for Sunshine South.

The Blackshaws Rd route allows Route 432 to be shortened. Also the improved main road services may warrant adjusting Route 432's relatively high (but uneven) weekday frequency to something more regular like every 30 minutes. 


Compensating for the 232 and 903 changes are new travel opportunities. For example the rerouted 232 provides access to Port Melbourne jobs from Newport station. This may benefit some train passengers from Werribee and Williamstown and bus passengers from Altona Gate. An extension of Route 412 along Civic Pde to Westona Station would improve access to Altona Gate. While no route change suggestion is made for Route 415, scope exists for it to gain 7 day service and longer operating hours. 


The map below shows the network implications of these changes.  


More detail, including route by route details, are on this interactive clickable map (click top left for menu and top right to open in new window). 



Funding and trade-offs

The existing network has 154 km of Useful Network bus routes. This figure includes the full length of routes that operate well outside the area, including the 232, 411/412, 472 and 903. Not all Useful Network routes are equivalent, for instance 903 has higher frequency and longer operating hours than the 232, so is dearer to run.


The expanded network actually has only 133 km of Useful Network routes. Yet it serves more people. How? It adds service to Blackshaws and Mason while removing overlap from Millers Rd. Other economies come from not running via the freeway, into the CBD or through the industrial area of Brooklyn. In other words moving service to nearer where people live and removing duplication. Such changes provide a simpler network with a generally more frequent service. The main reallocations between routes are summarised below. 





Service priorities for expanded Altona North Useful Network 

1. Blackshaws Rd direct route by straightening Route 471 to run straight east then south to Newport. 

2. Mason St direct route by rerouting Reroute 232 to form direct Altona Gate - Newport route. Extend weekday peak trips (and every second interpeak trip) to Port Melbourne. 


3. New terminus for Route 472 at Nelson Pl to better serve Williamstown shops and remove duplication on Victoria St.

4. Upgraded Route 411 (SmartBus) service between Footscray and Altona along Millers Rd. Every 10 - 15 min peak, 20 min day (Monday-Sunday) and 30 min night with service until midnight. Existing service maintained between Altona and Laverton with all trips operating as Route 411.  


5. Associated local route changes including (i) Operate Route 412 between Sunshine and Altona/Westona (to replace 903) with 30 min peak and 40 min interpeak frequency, (ii) Minor straightening of Route 432 and operate to every 30 min weekdays/40 min weekends for better train connections, and (iii) 7 day service on Route 415.


What do you think? Is this an improvement on what's there now? Do you have other ideas? If so please leave them in the comments below.