Friday, May 03, 2019

Building Melbourne's Useful Network - Part 2: Reservoir, Epping and Bundoora

Last week we introduced the Useful Network. It comprises those train, tram and bus routes with a service frequency and span that could be useful for many (though not all) trips. I set the service threshold as being every 20 minutes or better on weekdays, with 7 day service until 9pm. The existing Useful Network routes are shown as coloured lines on the Melbourne Public Transport Frequent Network Map with the 20 minute boxes ticked for each mode.

Today it's Reservoir, Epping and Bundoora's turn. Unlike Caroline Springs featured last time, these are more established suburbs, with rapid growth up to about the 1980s. Significant centres in or near the area include Northland Shopping Centre, La Trobe University, Bundoora RMIT, Epping Plaza and the Northern Hospital. There is also shopping at Preston, Reservoir and Greensborough. Government plans seek to grow employment in the nearby La Trobe National Employment and Innovation Cluster. Housing density is steadily increasing with substantial infill development.

Existing Useful Network

A special Useful Network map for the area is below. Existing Useful Network train, tram and bus routes are on one layer. Possible Useful Network additions (discussed later) are another layer. Use the top left box to show one or both layers. The top right box opens the map in a new tab. You can alter the background between one that shows the routes clearer and others that show roads or development clearer.



The three main existing Useful Network routes in the area are the Mernda train line (dark pink), Hurstbridge train line to Greensborough (also dark pink) and Tram 86 up Plenty Rd (yellow).  East-west Useful Network bus routes include 561 (blue), 570 (brown), the 902 orbital (green) and the 901 orbital (yellow). Those running north-south include bus 552 (light pink) and 386/387 to South Morang from the tram terminus (blue). 

Compared to areas further out, the Useful Network here is quite dense. However there are still substantial gaps between routes. Even in populated areas.  As you'll see later this area has many routes that fall just below the 20 minute Useful Network frequency threshold. And there is one that exceeds it (552) but is less useful due to its weak northern terminus.

Suggested expanded Useful Network

Select Useful Network Additions in the above map.  For the whole network, including the less useful less frequent routes, see PTV's local area map for Whittlesea or their bus-only Explore Melbourne  map. Patronage statistics are available for existing routes. These will help you make sense of the points below.

1. 556 reform. The first significant gap is the lack of a Useful Network route between Northland Shopping Centre and Reservoir Station. Both are major hubs and the distance between them is short. Even more striking from Reservoir is the corridor up Cheddar and Dalton Roads to Epping Station and Epping Plaza. While it's parallel to the railway it's a sufficient distance away (~1km) to form a strong bus route linking multiple destinations.

As it happens there's already a route that does that. The 556. It's well used, with over 500 000 boardings in 2016-2017. Because it runs every 22 minutes it just missed out appearing on the Useful Network. As discussed here, 556's non-clockface frequency,  mis-alignment with 20 min train headways and Derby Drive dog leg (map below) also make it less useful than it could be. 


The days when Route 556 was the only bus in the area have long gone. Route 577, between Epping and South Morang, operates to the north on Findon Rd. To the south, on McDonalds Rd, was Route 571. This was replaced by the 901 SmartBus,  providing a frequency and span rare in suburban areas. Route 556 is now much less important in the area compared to when there was nothing else (1993 map below).  


If a service upgrade is desired to offset the loss of the 556, a possible option includes an off-peak upgrade of the nearby Route 577. This currently operates two trips per hour. More precisely, it's an uneven 20 - 40 minute pattern, presumably to meet trains every 20 minutes. Adding one extra service per hour would upgrade it to an even 20 minutes, extending the Useful Network to a significant catchment.  A new Derby Rd route is another possibility. However this makes the network more complex and doesn't resolve Route 577's unevenness. 


2. 566 upgrade/simplification. Mill Park has many bus routes but few are good enough to make it onto the Useful Network. The western end of Childs Rd is quite close to Epping Station, Epping Plaza, Melbourne Polytechnic and the Northern Hospital but the bus misses these trip generators. The eastern end of Childs Rd is Bundoora RMIT. Mill Park Stables Shopping Centre is about two-thirds along. A good case exists for Childs Rd to be added to the Useful Network. A potential exists to extend this east to Greensborough. This overlaps with parts of the 86 tram and the 902 bus (unless routed via the M80) but it does provide a direct Bundoora RMIT to Greensborough connection.

Like with the 556, there is an existing Childs Rd to Greensborough route that almost but not quite qualifies. It's the 566, operating every 24 minutes on weekdays. I discussed the 566 back in March because it was so confusing around Greensborough. Currently 566's western terminus at Lalor (a local centre) is quite weak. Starting it at Epping Station would make it stronger, especially if routed near Epping Plaza.  Partly due to its length, 566's patronage is quite high (673 000 in 2016-7). The Northland to Greensborough portion is a discussion for another time. But in any event the route should be split at Greensborough with another number (eg 565) given to the Epping/Childs Rd half for legibility.

3. 357 upgrade. About the same distance Dalton Rd is east of the railway is Edgars Rd to the west of the railway. Route 357 along it starts at Thomastown and ends up at Wollert with some major trip generators at Epping midway along it. It serves areas beyond walking distance of either Lalor or Thomastown Stations.  Already running every 20 minutes during peak periods, an off-peak upgrade would significantly extend the Useful Network to areas generally poorly served.

Thomastown has more favourable demographics (eg lower workforce participation) for all day bus usage compared to newer suburbs like Wollert. A potentially cheaper option then may be to provide the 20 minute off-peak service on the portion between Thomastown and Epping Stations only.

4. The 552 was mentioned before.  Its 15 minute frequency appears to be a historical remnant that may not be justified by current patronage nor connectivity with trains (every 20 minutes). A 552 extension to Keon Park Station would better connect north-east Reservoir to more destinations via the train, bus 555 or 902. The distance involved is short. It would not need more buses if 552's frequency was changed to 20 minutes to match trains.

A rough map of possible Useful Network upgrades is below. Selecting 'Useful Network' additions from the clickable map above gives a more detailed view. You can see that though relatively modest, the changes extend the Useful Network to most main roads in the area and would greatly increase its population catchment.


Service priorities for Reservoir, Epping and Bundoora Useful Network

1. Upgrade Route 556 from every 22 to every 20 minutes. Coordinate with trains at Reservoir. Shorten by operating directly from Epping Station to Epping Plaza. Option exists to upgrade Route 577 to every 20 minutes to expand the Useful Network in Epping and offset Route 556 change.  

2. Commence Route 566 from Epping instead of Lalor. Operate via Epping Plaza. Upgrade from every 24 to every 20 minutes. Split at Greensborough with Epping portion operating as 565. 


3. Upgrade Route 357 from every 40 to every 20 minutes during the day between the peaks

4. Extend Route 552 to Keon Park Station. Reduce off-peak frequency to 20 minutes. Time to connect with trains at Reservoir. Consider further changes in conjunction with Route 553 review. 

The above does not resolve coverage or connectivity issues with local neighbourhood routes. These need more detailed review than I can offer here. So I've not mentioned them. Instead the emphasis has been on quickly extending the area's Useful Network (i) as simply as possible and (ii) to as many people as possible. Implementing the four steps above, affecting five significant routes in the area, should result in a significantly improved and connected service for the majority of residents beyond walking distance of trains and trams.

That's it for Reservoir, Epping and Bundoora. Please leave your thoughts on the Useful Network concept below. I'll review another area's network in a future Friday.

1 comment:

Luke M said...

Thank you again for your overview of Reservoir, Epping and Bundoora.

I think you changes are great, but I have some alterations for you to consider, plus a solution for Derby Street in Epping.

1) Redesign Route 552 proposal.
I would alter the route, for of all by removing the Hickford Avenue section of Route 552, and running both ways via Miranda Road. (the north west corner of Hickford is close enough to Cheddar Road to remove). From Marshall Drive, run the Route via Gertz Av, Clough Parade and Tunaley Avenue. This would then give access to the shops in Gertz, as well as Mercy Place Nursing Home.

2) Extend Route 356 to Thomastown.
While upgrading Route 357 to have a full 20 min interpeak would work, I would prefer to see 356/357 interweave every 20 minutes between Thomastown and Epping. I would then look at Changing 358 to become a future Epping to Craigeburn via Woollert West.

3) Alter Routes 363 & 577.
Bare with me here, this takes a little thinking outside of the box. 2 steps here.

Change Route 363 to become University Hill to Epping via South Morang.
Using the the current route 363 from University Hill to South Morang, alter the route to then ran via Civic Drive, Findon Road, Meadow Glen Drive, Derby Drive, McDonalds Road, Greenbrook Drive, Rufus Street, Davisson Street, Cooper Street.

Extend Route 577 to become Epping to Palisades Blvd, via South Morang.