Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #33: 271 to the orchards late at night but not on Sunday

Last week we looked at Route 624 between Kew and Oakleigh. It wasn't easy to describe because it was really three or four routes in one. 

Today's route, the 271, is a bit like that. Operating from Box Hill to Ringwood it passes through a large area of normal suburban density near Box Hill, Blackburn and Mitcham before taking off into the greenery around Park Orchards. It then heads south again, via Ringwood North, to its Ringwood terminus. It starts in the electoral district of Box Hill (represented by Paul Hamer MP), then runs through Warrandyte (Ryan Smith MP), ending in Ringwood (Dustin Halse MP). 


It's the khaki line on the joined up local network map below (Visit PTV for the individual local government area maps at a better scale).  It's probably easiest to follow from Park Orchards in the  northernmost tab of the map. 


The photos below show two parts of 271's catchment. Left is a residential street in Blackburn. It's at close to normal densities for what is now middle-suburbia. 600 to 900m2 would be a fairly normal block size. However population ageing in some middle areas has lowered population density compared to when there were more children in the neighbourhood. On the right is Park Orchards. Its big selling point is large 'lifestyle' blocks within driving distance of jobs in the eastern suburbs and even Melbourne CBD. You'd need to be wealthy to buy a house here. And it would be rare for homes not to have at least one car per adult.  


Not photographed is the western part of 271 along Whitehorse Rd. It has some commercial land uses. These include jobs that the route may usefully serve. Although the catchment doesn't look particularly productive (as it parallels a well-served rail line and there are other bus routes nearby) the Box Hill destination is convenient for a wide range of work, shopping, education and health trips. 

Knowing catchments is important because different neighbourhoods generate different levels of usage for public transport. A service level appropriate in one area may be too much or too little in another. With the large variations along it may be difficult working out what service level is right for 271. More on that next when we discuss the timetable. 

Timetable

Below is Route 271's timetable.  



Buses run approximately every 30 minutes, from morning to night, with a 20 to 25 minute headway during some peak times. A more even 20 minute service runs during the afternoon school peak  but only covers the early part of the commuter peak, with the 30 minute service resuming at 5pm from Box Hill. The Ringwood end has a better peak service, with the 20 minute frequency continuing until 6pm. However even this does not fully cover the pm peak, with city commuters needing to finish not much after 5pm to still enjoy the 20 minute frequency. 

The half-hourly schedule continues until 9:30pm - better than average for a Melbourne local bus route. Also superior is the weekday finish time with last trips in both directions departing at 10:30pm. Only SmartBuses and a handful of ex-Met bus routes (including 271) are still running this late. 



Similar to weekday service, Saturday service is every half hour. This makes it similar to the (sometimes overcrowded) SmartBuses on dense busy corridors like Route 900 (Caulfield - Chadstone - Oakleigh - Monash - Rowville). However 271's 8pm finish time is earlier than 'minimum standards' for local bus routes. 

This is because Route 271 can trace its history to National Bus routes, which were mostly omitted from getting 'minimum standards' upgrades that many other routes received in the 2006 - 2010 period. For the same reason Route 271 does not run on Sunday, despite its (arguably excessive) Saturday frequency. The route's last major restructure and timetable change occurred in 2014 as part of that year's Transdev network reforms

Conclusion

What would you do with Route 271? Does it overlap too many routes at the Box Hill end? Is it too indirect? And should some Saturday trips be moved to Sunday to provide an hourly service on each that might better match demand on both days?  If you have ideas please leave your comments below. 

2 comments:

Adam said...

It would be interesting to see the patronage figures for the Mitcham to Box Hill section. My thinking would be to curtail the route and run it to Mitcham Station. This would reduce the majority of overlapping and get peak commuters onto the rail system quicker. For those Park Orchard residents that want to connect to the rail system today, they have 1 of 3 options.

1. it seems they would have to back track to Ringwood, as it is the closest station directly served
2 change buses to the Route 901 along Mitcham Road to get to Mitcham Station or
3 go all the way to Box Hill

Obviously, extending operating hours to the minimum standard and introducing Sunday running should occur too.

Peter Parker said...

Thanks Adam. I've always wondered about how to simplify routes in that area. The 273 dogleg must also be considered (it kills it at a direct feeder from the north) as also should the 270. I'll say more about 273 on Friday. As for 270, if you wanted to make that the primary route you could route that further north, via Junction instead of Springfield. Yes it's a bit less direct but it gives a frequent service nearer more people (especially since 270 got upgraded in 2014).

Agree that finishing 271 at Mitcham is better for commuters. But Box Hill is the major centre and pruning it would remove a bus along part of Whitehorse Rd.

If you wanted to split up the orbitals and free up resources for bus upgrades you could split 901 at Ringwood and delete the fairly quiet section to Greensborough. Blackburn to The Pines could be handled by an extension of 703. If you wanted to keep the SmartBus on Whitehorse Rd you could extend the Frankston portion of 901 to Box Hill. Or, if you deem it excessive duplication with the train (especially at night) you could just have a Box Hill - Ringwood route running (say) every 20 min 7 days/week with a 9pm finish. That would free up a lot of resources that you could put into a network with almost nothing, eg the Knox area. This all gets quite complex so I might discuss this on a future Friday.