Friday, September 27, 2019

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 22: A cheap Inner-East link (Burnley St)

When Melbourne Metro works began in earnest about a year ago some long-term temporary changes were made to bus routes. These included splitting the cross-city bus routes 216, 219 and 220 to avoid the work site on St Kilda Rd. The Sunshine routes were shortened to terminate in the CBD while the Brighton area routes finished at The Alfred hospital. Those needing to continue into the CBD had to catch a tram. Hence there are currently two independently-run Route 216 services, separated by several kilometres. Ditto for the other two. The PTV notice is below. 

Although the frequencies and operating hours of the east and west portions are (generally) similar (ie Smartbus-like frequencies with the unusual feature of late Sunday evening service) their catchments couldn't be more different. The Sunshine - Footscray ends of all three routes (i) serve  predominantly low income catchments, (ii) are often the only transport option in their catchment, and (iii) are very busy. Whereas the Brighton ends of all three (i) serve predominantly high income catchments, (ii) often parallel or overlap trains and trams and (iii) have low to moderate patronage, especially given their high service level. 

What will happen to the 216, 219 and 220 after the works? Will the east and west portions be reunited? Or can other things be done? For example service levels adjusted to suit patronage, with the west getting more trips and the east getting less? Another possibility is doing something with the eastern portions of some of the routes to make them more useful. More on that later. 

Existing network

You often can't easily go north-south. There's lots of lore about 'north of the Yarra' and 'south of the Yarra'. Apparently people are either one or the other with little exchange between the two. Or is that all a myth and just down to transport practicalities, with few direct connections between the areas?

The map below shows the network around the eastern part of the 216/219. It is rich in trains and trams but they don't go everywhere. Buses are flexible enough to serve some of the gaps but often they don't. Or they might not connect to railway stations. For example 216/219 turns off before it can reach Hawksburn Station. This makes it a poor feeder as riders can't take advantage of trains to get into the city quicker. Further north the trains and trams run roughly east-west but there are few north-south bus routes. There's only the straight 246 to the west and the angled 605. Further north there's nothing substantial between the 78 tram on Church St and the 16 on Glenferrie Rd (the 609 bus with its one or two trips per day on Power St can be ignored). 

Burnley St used to have a bus but doesn't any longer. Service was removed in 1987. But signs remain.

Twenty or thirty years of densification has brought no bus. This is why I suggested it last month as one of the top twelve corridors that needs a bus. 

The map below shows the network 'hole' created by this 'missing link'.  

Also not having a bus causes a reduction in SNAMUTS accessibility, with the area around Victoria Gardens having good east-west access but nothing from the north or south.

The picture at the top shows the extent to which the area has changed. The population decline has reversed. Units have gone up, housing students or CBD workers. And increasing car traffic has made trams slower than ever. So there might be merit in a Burnley St bus being restored to span a missing link in the grid. And MacRobertsons Bridge (below) gets plenty of traffic, with the lack of public transport over it not helping. 

Richmond's political complexion has changed, with it going from safe to marginal Labor (Richard Wynne MP) with gentrification and the rise of The Greens. And Prahran has been a three-way contest with it currently held by The Greens' Sam Hibbins MP. With two marginal seats in play, the Burnley St bus also makes it in to this marginal seat public transport wish list, especially if it can be done cheaply

Expanded Useful Network with new Route 610

What if, instead of restoring the southern portion of Route 216/219 to the CBD you did something else? For example terminating them at Elsternwick with Brighton and Gardenvale being served as per Useful Network 8

And instead of running it to the city, doing things like the trains and trams now do, extending it north to Victoria Gardens via Hawksburn Station, Burnley Station and Burnley St? The resources used would be about the same as running it to the city and the service would be simpler with just a single route number (I've suggested 610). 

I've proposed every 20 minutes Monday to Sunday, but a 10 or 15 minute service would improve connectivity with the routes it intersects. And there's a lot of them. Six train lines and no less than nine tram routes. It would really connect the inner east with the inner south-east with the Yarra River much less of a divider. 

You'll get the idea on the map below. It doesn't go to any huge attractions but there's enough along the route (along with ever-increasing housing density) to make it useful. Not just for local trips but also train feeder trips as well. 

Those who follow buses and their reviews closely might remember seeing something like this before. They would not be mistaken. A similar concept (though involving the 220 via Orrong Rd rather than the 216/219 via Williams Rd) was proposed in 2010. However like many bus review recommendations it was never implemented.  


What do you think? After the Melbourne Metro works finish should Routes 216/219 revert to going back into the CBD? Or would this just duplicate trains and trams, noting that usage was never particularly high? Is a north-south bus route like the 610 suggested the type of east link we really need? Would people use it and should be we be introducing it permanently now? If you have thoughts please leave them in the comments below. 

PS: More Building Melbourne's Useful Network posts are here. Do these and you've transformed buses and public transport generally in Melbourne for not much money.


Adam said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! This is exactly what I proposed to PTV when they were seeking the public's feedback before they truncated the 216/219/220 routes.

My only concern is that traffic is a nightmare along Burnley St and over the MacRoberston Bridge and would therefore have buses sitting in traffic for the majority of the daylight hours. (More so on Burnley St between Bridge & Swan Streets) There isn't much scope for bus lanes/priority along Burnley St and the bridge is 3 lanes (2 northbound/1 southbound)

I have also always wondered why the 216/219 is so poorly used on the Williams Rd/Hotham Street section. It is a clear North/South route, with a relatively high frequency and operating hours when combined and it connects to other transport routes. The section between Dandenong Rd and Elsternwick Station is quite dense, with 60's style 'six-pack' blocks of flats together with newer apartments.

Calvin Tsang said...

They'd need a dedicated bus only bridge across the Yarra to make this work

Craig Halsall said...

Rerouting 220 to Kew would be an option? Plenty of directional road signage in Kew and Hawthorn for drivers heading to Elsternwick, no PT equivalent

Tom said...

I agree the Hotham St/Williams Rd bus should be the Burnley St bus as well. A bus/active transport bridge between Burnley St and Willams Rd may be useful for that.

Merge the 605 and 220, for a continuous Orong Rd bus running into the city.

Run the Kooyong Rd bus to Heyington, possibly with bus/active transport bridge over the Yarra to Power St and through-route with the 609 (with decent frequencies).