Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #26: Route 504 across the inner north

The most important factor that determines the usefulness of a public transport service is not whether it's a train, tram or bus but its timetable, route and stops.


On a service kilometre per head basis, Melbourne's inner-north is one of the most highly served parts of the metropolitan area. This is due to the large number of basically parallel turn-up-and-go tram lines running south to the city. Also on radial routes are the less frequent but faster trains. 


Matching the higher service per capita is the inner north's lower car ownership and use compared to elsewhere. Other distinguishing characteristics include mixed housing densities and high bicycle usage. Over the last forty of so years industry has moved out while high income city workers have moved in. 


A versatile network requires both north-south and east-west services. That makes it possible for people to reach anywhere with just one change of service. All east-west travel in the inner-north is provided by bus. We discussed the limited service bus route 506 back in February. 


Just to the south of the 506 is the 504, which is today's topic. You can see its map below. 


Like the 506 it starts at Moonee Ponds Junction. Unlike the 506 it is straighter, at least until Carlton North. Then it heads south then east to Clifton Hill Station. As you can see on the network map below it intersects with numerous tram routes. It also passes near Jewell and Rushall stations.

Mostly because of the unhelpful road layout around Royal Park and Parkville, it's the last east-west route until Route 402 along Grattan St.  This makes it a very important link. It also serves as a substitute for Route 506 when this service is not operating (eg Saturday evenings and Sundays).    


Below is Route 504's timetable. It benefited from the 'minimum standards' upgrades about 10 years ago so enjoys a 7 day service until 9pm. This makes it unlike other routes in the inner north, eg 503, 506 and 509, whose operating hours and days are shorter.

Service is close to a half-hourly headway on weekdays, with a slightly higher frequency early in the morning. This frequency does not mesh with trains (every 20 minutes off-peak) so connections are purely coincidental except at Clifton Hill which enjoys a 10 minute train frequency. 

On weekends Route 504 operates to a flat 40 minute frequency. This meshes with trains at all times except evenings, when trains drop back to every 30 minutes. A minor oddity is weekend vs weekday finish times. Even on Sundays the last bus from both Moonee Ponds and Clifton Hill are 20 or 30 minutes later than the last trip on weekdays.  


What if you lived in the large area between Route 504 and 506 and could catch either from Moonee Ponds? Is there one route whose timetable is consistently more frequent and operates over longer hours than the other? The answer is there isn't. Route 504, unlike 506, has 7 day service until 9pm. It normally comes every 30 minutes on weekdays. In contrast, Route 506 is much more frequent on weekdays and Saturday mornings. However it finishes early on Saturday and lacks Sunday and public holiday service (not conforming with the general standard on the latter).    


Route 504 is an important link in Melbourne's inner-north. Does it have greater potential? Should its frequency be improved, perhaps to the level that would make it a Useful Network route? Is there scope to extend it? Please let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below. 

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