Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #32: Route 624 - via Murrumbeena or Malvern East?

Some bus routes need just a glance to work out what they are about. It could be a simple circumferential link between train stations on different radial lines. Maybe something between a station and shops, serving homes on the way. Or possibly a radial that starts in the suburbs and heads inwards to a train station or the CBD.

That isn't true with Route 624 between Kew and Oakleigh via Caulfield and Chadstone.  The map below (not to scale) doesn't help a lot either. 


It's simpler if you plot it on a to-scale map pieced together from three PTV local area maps (shown below).

 

The westernmost part of the 624 is a north-south connection from Kew to Caulfield. It joins three train lines and multiple tram routes. While neither Auburn nor Tooronga stations are major, the route is walkable from Swinburne University/Swinburne TAFE to the west and Camberwell to the east. 624 also goes near many private schools that attract students from long distances. Trams provide other north-south links but none start at a station (or destination) as significant as Caulfield like the 624 does. As logical as a Route 72 southward tram extension to Caulfield might look on a map, the 624 bus is the nearest to it we've currently got.

Approaching from the east is the Chadstone to Oakleigh section. Unlike other routes this takes the long way around via Huntingdale Rd. It's not direct. But it doesn't need to be as it provides some useful local coverage other routes don't. 

Then there's 624's middle. That's the confusing bit. On weekdays about half the trips go via Murrumbeena and Carnegie with the other half via Malvern East and Darling. On evenings and weekends all trips operate via Murrumbeena and Carnegie.  

The Malvern East variation runs along Dandenong Rd. It used to just follow the 623. The more frequent 900 SmartBus was introduced over the top of both in 2006. However no changes were made to either 623 or this variation of the 624 despite the overlap. The hourly weekday-only Darling Rd portion has no overlap. However it goes an indirect way to Caulfield and is poorly used. All homes in the area are near trams or Glen Waverley line stations.


The 7-day Murrumbeena - Carnegie variation used to run via Dandenong and Koornang Rds (overlapping the 623) until it was sensibly changed about 15 years ago to serve the Murrumbeena portion of Neerim Rd (not previously served). However it still overlaps 623 along Neerim Rd west of Koornang Rd before looping around to Caulfield. It's quite confusing as there are Route 624 stops on both the north and south side of Caulfield Station. 

To summarise, 624 is really multiple routes that just happen to join together and share the one route number. There's a simple useful north-south portion between Kew and Caulfield, a less simple but still useful portion between Chadstone and Oakleigh, and, in the middle, two duplicative and less useful sections between Caulfield and Chadstone. 

Patronage is quite high seven days per week.  School children heavily use some weekday services. And despite the low frequency, weekend usage is high due to the route serving Chadstone Shopping Centre.

As expected with a route of this length and complexity, the 624 serves multiple state parliamentary seats. These include Hawthorn (John Kennedy MP), Malvern (Michael O'Brien MP), Caulfield (David Southwick MP), Oakleigh (Steve Dimopoulos MP) and Burwood (Will Fowles MP).

624's timetable

A 624 timetable is below (other direction is similar). Operating hours meet the post-2006 standard for Melbourne buses - ie a Monday to Sunday service finishing at 9pm. Some finishes were previously earlier  but extra trips were added not long ago. 

The route's basic daytime frequency is 30 minutes, with services alternating between Carnegie and Malvern East for an hourly service on each. Weekend service is hourly, with only the Carnegie portion served. 


History

Some history on the 624 appears in my post from 10 years ago. The old 627 got fixed (and the number recycled for a new route this year) but nothing's changed with the 624. Krustylink also has some history but do check at other 62x series routes as they were chopped and changed a lot. 

Conclusion

624 seems to have good and bad bits. What do you think should be done with it? Should it be split into different routes, and if so, where? Do parts justify a better service than runs now but should other segments be dropped? And are there things you could do with other nearby routes (eg running the 623 via Neerim Rd or extending 734 to Caulfield) that could help simplify 624? Comments would be appreciated and can be left below. 

No comments: