Friday, May 10, 2019

Building Melbourne's Useful Network - Part 3: Blackburn South, Burwood and Mt Waverley

Two weeks ago 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 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.

This week we examine Blackburn South, Burwood and Mt Waverley. The area is almost continuously settled on grid roads. Bordering the area are some of Melbourne's biggest transport interchanges, shopping centres and universities, including Box Hill, Chadstone and Monash University.

The most ringing endorsement of the area's importance for public transport comes from the State Government. They want to build the first stage of the $50 billion Suburban Rail Loop to serve the same corridor that buses do today.  But that's years away. Can we do better than the half hourly buses there now in the interim?  This is what we'll explore today.


Existing Useful Network

Trains to Ringwood and Glen Waverley (thick lines) and tram 75 to Vermont South provide east-west transport.  North-south transport is all buses. These include SmartBuses 903 (Warrigal Rd), 902 (Springvale Rd) and 703 (Blackburn Rd). Lower frequency routes operate between these. To the south are the Dandenong train line and the 900 SmartBus along Wellington Rd to Rowville. 201 and 800 meet weekday frequency requirements but not days of operation for a Useful Network route but are still shown (in grey). See map below.


Clickable interactive map (with notes on routes) 

A route that didn't quite make it to the Useful Network is the 732 between Box Hill and Upper Ferntree Gully. While it has roughly 3 services per hour these were too uneven to qualify. More on that later.  

Existing Useful Network gaps

The largest gap between useful services is in the 2.4km strip between 903 and 703 on Warrigal and Blackburn roads (map above).  North-south Huntingdale and Middleborough/ Stephensons roads in between have buses that don't qualify for Useful Network Status.  East-west High St/High Street Rd and Ferntree Gully Rd also have buses with no individual route offering Useful Network service. A consequence of these gaps is that there are no direct Useful Network routes between some key destinations such as shown below (click for a clearer view).  



Suggested expanded Useful Network


Clickable interactive map (with notes on routes) 

An expanded Useful Network is shown above. It puts most people much nearer a Useful Network route. For the whole network, including the less useful less frequent routes, see PTV's bus-only Explore Melbourne  mapPatronage statistics are available to confirm points made.

1. Route 733 frequency boost from 30 to 15 min. Middleborough and Stephensons Rd is served almost entirely by the 733. It feeds stations at Box Hill, Mt Waverley and Clayton. All rank amongst the busiest on their lines and pressure for commuter parking is acute. Route 733 is well placed to provide an effective feeder function. It can also serve direct travel to Monash University and the Monash Medical Centre. Similar to the proposed Suburban Rail Loop, Route 733 links Box Hill, Monash University and Clayton. 

733's need for improvement shows in its patronage. Route 733 carries around 1.2 million passengers per year, making it one of Melbourne's busiest bus routes for its length.  No other route is busier relative to its low frequency (30 min interpeak weekdays and 60 min Sunday), with the Box Hill to Clayton portion being most used. Due to a historical anomaly involving ex-Met services, Middleborough Rd north of Box Hill enjoys  a 15 minute interpeak frequency via Route 279 despite less favourable demographics and fewer trip destinations than the 733.  

Route 733 already operates a 15 minute service during the peak period between Box Hill and Monash University. A logical Useful Network upgrade would be to operate short trips between Box Hill and Clayton to provide a 15 minute interpeak service to match trains at Box Hill and Mt Waverley. Unless scheduling efficiencies can be found an upgrade would use four off-peak buses. A weekend boost is also justified, particularly on Sundays where only an hourly service runs. 

2. Route 767 frequency boost from 30 to 15 min. Even after upgrading the 733, a large gap centred on Huntingdale Rd remains. This affects destinations and interchange points like Box Hill, Deakin University, Jordanville Station and Chadstone Shopping Centre. 

Again a suitable direct bus route already exists (the 767). It attracts over 1 million passenger boardings annually. Like the 733 it runs only every 30 minutes interpeak. That makes it another of the busiest routes to miss being on the existing Useful Network. Route 767 provides Deakin University's only connection to the south and is potentially a strong rail feeder service. The Chadstone to Southland portion is quieter, less direct and outside our area of interest.  

Similar to the 733, an upgrade could include adding short trips on the busiest section, ie Box Hill to Chadstone. That could raise interpeak frequency to 15 minutes in conjunction with existing trips. As the return trip is under 90 minutes, three off-peak buses will likely be needed. The bus currently used for 768 (Box Hill - Deakin University) could be folded into improvements for Route 201 (the main Deakin shuttle) or put towards 767 improvements. 

The revised table below shows the benefit that upgrading both Routes 733 and 767 would have on public transport access between major trip generators in the area. 


3. Improve Route 800 evening and weekend service. Route 800 qualifies as a Useful Network route due to its 20 minute weekday frequency. However its evening and weekend service was cut in the 1990s. Catchment density has increased since. Its service of activity centres, residential catchment and main road alignment justify span improvements to minimum standards. No new buses should be required as added services would be off-peak.

4. Route 734 extension to Caulfield.
 There is no efficient public transport across Gardiners Creek east of Glenferrie Rd. Issues include the lack of a Burke Rd tram to Caulfield Station, low bus frequencies on Tooronga, High, Winton, Huntingdale and Stephensons and the indirectness on Warrigal Rd caused by buses operating via Chadstone Shopping Centre. 

Difficult access between lines makes the rail network more fragile. Especially when planned or unplanned disruptions occur. In addition it is difficult to reach major universities and transport interchanges such as at Caulfield from some suburbs that are quite close by.  

Extending Route 734 the 3 kilometres from Glen Iris to Caulfield would provide a stronger terminus for the route and improve connectivity. Operating it via Gardiner, while less direct, would connect Caulfield with Camberwell via a tram connection. A frequency increase to 15 or 20 minutes would extend the Useful Network to High St and High St Road.  Additional peak buses would be required for this extension. 

Other matters

(i) Route 732 (Box Hill - Upper Ferntree Gully). Already operates close to Useful Network standards. Only some long intervals prevent it from showing on the existing map. While it links to a major centre (Box Hill) there is significant overlap with other frequent routes (notably the 75 tram). Unless it can be done cheaply an upgrade is considered a lower priority than the other routes.  

(ii) Routes 693 and 742 (Ferntree Gully Rd). These have long overlapping sections. A local network review may replace these complex services with a single simpler route operating more frequently.

(iii) Canterbury Rd. Another Useful Network gap with no direct route along it. A local network review may provide a dedicated Canterbury Rd route between (say) Box Hill and Ringwood. Modifications to nearby routes 735, 736, 740, 742 and 765 would lessen duplication. 

(iv) Waverley Rd. A potential Useful Network upgrade for its residential catchment. However, like Canterbury Rd it would require a local network review due to Route 623's indirectness around Mt Waverley. 

(v) Route 736. Even if nothing is done to the timetable of this hairpin-shaped route, one half of it could be renumbered to make the service appear simpler and more direct. Route 735 may justify a similar split. Further changes may be justified in a future neighbourhood service review.  

Service priorities for Blackburn South, Burwood and Mt Waverley Useful Network

1. Upgrade the busiest portion of Route 733 to operate every 15 minutes weekday interpeak and every 20 minutes on weekends by operating short trips between Box Hill and Clayton. Eventually upgrade operating hours of this section to SmartBus standard and operate Oakleigh portion as separate neighbourhood route. Time to regularly meet trains at Mt Waverley to lessen pressure on busier lines. 

2. Upgrade Route 767 to operate every 15 minutes between Box Hill and Chadstone Shopping Centre by adding short trips. 

3. Upgrade Route 800 to operate 7 days per week until 9pm and increase weekend frequencies.


4. Extend Route 734 to Caulfield Station. Upgrade to run every 15 to 20 minutes interpeak. 

The above does not resolve issues with local neighbourhood services. These are best addressed through local network reviews. Instead emphasis has been on quickly extending the area's Useful Network (i) as simply as possible and (ii) to as many people as possible. The above priorities to upgrade four significant routes should result in a greatly improved and connected service for the majority of residents beyond walking distance of trains and trams. And by building existing patronage they strengthen the case for exclusive rights of way, such as provided (in an ambitious form) by the Suburban Rail Loop project.

That's it for Blackburn South, Burwood and Mt Waverley. Please leave your thoughts below. I'll review another area's network next Friday.

1 comment:

Peter Parker said...

Update: This Infrastructure Victoria paper endorses a SmartBus (presumably along Route 733) from Box Hill to Clayton via Monash University, eventually extending south to Mordialloc. http://www.infrastructurevictoria.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Professor-John-Stanley-and-Dr-Peter-Brain-Investing-in-Melbournes-National-Employment-Clusters.pdf