Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #25: 844 - the bus route that time forgot


It's about as simple as a bus route can get. Route 844 leaves Dandenong Station, heads east, does a small loop, waits at its Doveton terminus for two or three minutes then returns to Dandenong. 

It's done that for about as long as most people can remember. And, as you'll see later, its 2019 timetable is almost the same as when (the late) Bob Hawke was prime minister. 

Route 844 gets good patronage for its service level. Doveton, its main service area, is characterised by high social disadvantage, low average incomes and the almost complete lack of a middle or upper class since local car manufacturing declined and closed.  With no significant shops within walking distance, it forms a real lifeline, especially for those who don't drive or cannot walk to other services.

As you'll see later, if you wanted evidence that there is zero correlation between social need and public transport service provision in Melbourne, the timetables for Route 844 (and similar routes around Dandenong) provide the proof needed.    

The route map is below:


You can see how the 844 relates to the overall network below:


On leaving Dandenong Route 844 overlaps Route 828 before heading north then east. There it provides unique coverage. Roads form barriers to the north and east. So even if it wanted to it couldn't go in those directions. This makes it purely a shopper and train feeder to Dandenong.  



Timetable



Route 844 runs every 30 minutes most of the day on weekdays. Its span only just exceeds normal commuting hours except for a 70 minute gap until the last departure from Dandenong at 7:45pm. 


The Saturday timetable features an hourly frequency. Its span reflects old-style suburban shopping and working patterns. That includes a somewhat earlier Saturday start and a much earlier Saturday finish than is common for other bus routes in Melbourne.

In other words, whereas the minimum service standards for Melbourne bus routes is 8am - 9pm on Saturdays, Route 844 only runs from 7am to 3pm. The afternoon finish is only slightly more generous than the traditional noon or 1pm closing of main street shops. It does not reflect the Saturday afternoon trading hours deregulation of the 1980s. Dandenong Plaza, for instance, closes at 5pm Saturdays.  

Missing out on being upgraded to minimum service standards also means no Sunday service. Poor pedestrian permeability in the area (due to the freeway) means limited options for Sunday travellers. These include a walk west to the Endeavour Hills routes (which provide a frequent weekday service but, as they also missed out on minimum standards upgrades, each run only a few Sunday trips) or to the south where the hourly 828 is available.



What was Route 844 like in the past? Krustylink presents this 1991 timetable



 Apart from minor changes to times there has been no significant change in almost 30 years.  Route 844 would indeed appear to be the bus that time forgot. 


Conclusion

What would you do with Route 844? Should it extend south via Doveton Avenue to provide connection opportunities to destinations like Fountain Gate or Berwick (via 828) or Cranbourne (via 893)? Could it go slightly further to operate as a feeder to a reopened General Motors station? Or do you think it should get better operating hours and frequency? 

Please comment below if you have a view. 

1 comment:

Craig Halsall said...

Some more historical context:

Traditionally the 844 was one of Grenda's two "flagship routes", the other being the 800 along Princes Hwy between Chadstone/Oakleigh and Dandenong

A timetable of the early 80s the route enjoyed a 20 min weekday service, Friday night shopping trips, half-hourly Saturday morning service, hourly Saturday PM services until 7pm & hourly Sunday services

Back in those days, 844 didn't do the loop in Doverton East, but just ran the full length of Tristania St to the Doverton Pool

Those living further east in the late 60s/70s housing in Hallam (North) only received an 842 bus once an hour, which terminated at Belgrave-Hallam Rd & didn't provide access further east. An hourly 839 ran from Dandenong to Berwick along Princes Hwy.

At the end of 1987, sensible network changes saw a regular route from Hampton Park serving the largely industrial corridor along Princes Hwy & the through-service to Fountain Gate & Berwick was sent through Doveton, now operating half-hourly on weekdays

(Unfortunately I don't have the 844 timetable of the time)

The September 1991 network cuts and changes saw a future focus on reallocating resources to the main trunk route along Box St, branching out through different estates in Berwick as the 827 & 828

The now combined 826/827/828 corridor was now 20 mins all day on weekdays (hourly on each branch), with the 844 service level dropped accordingly to the current day level. The Sunday service to Doveton fell victim to the service rationalisations of the time (as it also did on Route 800)

In August 2002 the 844 was given a minor extension to include the loop in Doveton East & moved to serve part of Power Rd, but alas missed out on any span increases.