Sunday, June 02, 2019

History: Service success stories from 2006

Today is Sunday. This time thirteen years ago you wouldn't have been able to catch a bus in suburban Melbourne. OK, a slight exaggeration, a few routes ran. But not many. The nearest public transport to the vast majority of Melbourne suburban homes simply did not run on Sundays.

This and other service legacies from 2006 is today's topic.  We'll cover it by looking at selected Melbourne on Transit posts of 2006 and describe the progress since then.


First to set the scene. Back then the political emphasis was on regional Victoria. Both as a reaction to the previous perceived 'Melbourne-centric' Kennett government and due to rural independents being important for the survival of the first Bracks government.  Regional Fast Rail was nearly complete and Southern Cross Station was being rebuilt.

In contrast Melbourne's rails were groaning under pressure. A metropolitan patronage boom was underway but wasn't yet thought important enough by government to warrant substantial investment. A promise to build a third track to Dandenong was broken while a populist post-election suburban fare cut (without matching capacity increases) exacerbated overcrowding and the effect of disruptions.

Buses though were starting to get more love than they had for decades. BusVic, the bus industry association, had become more active as an advocate. Some routes received improvements in 2002 and 2005. Still, the bus network then largely remained a useless embarrassment. This fact was  partly concealed to overseas visitors when numerous routes gained temporary evening service upgrades during the March 2006 Commonwealth Games.  That started to be addressed when within six months a large program of regular bus timetable upgrades commenced following the Meeting Our Transport Challenges (MOTC) plan. If was this document that set down the minimum service standards often referred to here.

Today, using 2006 posts as references, I'll list some of the service successes, large and small, that we had in that year.

* 25 January 2006 454 sets an example This describes the sort of good upgrades to local bus timetables that can make a real difference. That change was good. A few years later the 454 was  modified to extend coverage, but at the expense of directness and simplicity.  Fortunately the nonsense didn't last. The 2014 Brimbank network review brought network reform. This included replacing the indirect 454 with two more direct routes, the most significant being the 420 to Watergardens that later got upgraded to operate every 20 minutes seven days per week. 

* 3 March 2006 Some bus service stats Here I counted the number of bus routes in Melbourne and looked at their operating days and hours.  There was little Sunday or evening service then. 2006 proved to be the turning point with the MOTC program rolling out 7 day service to 9pm on many (but not all) local bus routes. One day I will repeat this exercise for 2019.

* 2 April 2006 Time-line history of Melbourne's Government Cable and Electric Trams and Buses The only reason this is included is the table showing how much tram frequencies declined in the 1950s and 60s. Trams have been the part of the transport system that has had the least improvement in service levels. Where capacity increases have occurred these have generally been by providing larger trams. However new or upgraded routes (such as 30 and 58) have tended to have 20 minute early Sunday service rather than the 30 minutes that used to be the rule. Apart from that not much has changed, demonstrating how service cuts have endured for decades despite subsequent increases in urban density and patronage uncompensated for with service improvements.  

* 2 August 2006 Proposed V/Line timetables Not much in this post, and the link is dead but this item introduced the first new Regional Fast Rail timetables. These included more frequent services with times nearer to clockface. Since then further service frequency increases have occurred, notably to Geelong (now via the Regional Rail Link) where weekday trains have improved from being every 60 to every 20 minutes.

* 10 October 2006 Timetable preview Route 900 A look at the timetable for the Route 900 SmartBus. This was the fourth Smartbus, following from the 703, 888/889 and 700. Unlike the others it's a completely new route overlapping everything else underneath, particularly between Chadstone and Monash University. Nevertheless it's been a success, particularly amongst students attending campuses at Caulfield or Clayton. The 900 provides needed capacity to Chadstone shopping centre on weekends. It's also the government's answer to the sometimes requested Monash - Rowville railway and the promised but possibly dormant Monash - Caulfield tram. Route 900's 2019 timetable is similar except that peak service was recently upgraded to every 10 minutes.

Are there any improvements from 2006 that I've missed? If so please leave them in the comments below.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

September: Trams commenced Friday and Saturday night additional services until 1am.

October: The same for suburban trains.

Also related: in April, V/Line fare integration occurred, with V/Line tickets valid in the metropolitan zone of origin/destination.