Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #38: Routes 302 and 304 - the buses with their own Facebook support group


Today you'll get two for the price of one as we're describing a pair of routes. They're the same 90% of the way, with them only splitting off near the end. 302 heads south to Box Hill while 304 heads north to Doncaster.  You can see this in the route map below.



Like the 48 and 109 trams either side, 302 and 304 run to Melbourne's CBD. They are simple and direct routes, spending most of their time along Belmore Rd, Harp Rd and then Earl St. Then they run along the Eastern Freeway, going the same way as the Doncaster DART routes (905/6/7/8) to the terminus in Lonsdale St just short of Southern Cross Station.  Their catchment is affluent suburban residential, although both ends of both routes are at major destinations.  


Below is about where they both start. The western end of the CBD in Lonsdale near King. It's remote from many other connecting services, with potentially intersecting trams, Skybus and the major hub of Southern Cross Station a block to the west. It shares this beginning with the 900-series express DART routes to the Doncaster area. 



The 302 and 304 pair as we know it today is quite new. They are a product of Transdev's first wave network review in 2014. Before that the Belmore Rd routes were complex, comprising routes 201, 202 and 302. The 2014 reforms typically simplified local networks with good results in areas such as Fishermans Bend. 

Unfortunately peak frequencies on some of the reformed routes were insufficient for the patronage.  Overcrowding was causing delays and passengers at some stops couldn't board.  This was not helped by the operator inheriting an unpunctual network (with tight run times) and, for a while, skimping on fleet maintenance. Longer (but more realistic) run times (such as required to meet punctuality standards) with an unchanged fleet equals lower frequency, other things being equal. 

Relief came last year when more buses were added on some routes. Those to benefit include three out of the four Doncaster area DART routes and both of Fishermans Bend's main routes.  

However the lower profile, but also crowded, 302 and 304 routes missed out on extra trips. This has led to discontent with the service offered. Unhappy passengers formed the 302 304 Bus Route Melbourne Support Group on Facebook. Below are a few snippets from that page. 


Both routes operate through Kew, the seat of Tim Smith MP - click to email who recently gave a speech to parliament on the need for more services. They also serve Box Hill, held by Paul Hamer MP - click to email.

Timetables

What are the 302 and 304 timetables like? During the day they operate at the same frequency, with trips offset to provide a doubled frequency along the long common section between the city and Mont Albert North. However operating hours on the routes are different, with 304 being a daytime only service. 

On weekdays both routes operate every 30 minutes, providing a combined 15 minute daytime service. Route 302 from Box Hill retains its 30 minute frequency until late evening. Its weeknight finish time is later than most regular routes and almost as late as a SmartBus, at least from the CBD.  Morning peak frequency is around 6 to 12 minutes on the common section (timetable below). The PM peak frequency peaks around 8 minutes in the 4:30 to 5:30pm block, soon dropping to 12 then 15 minutes afterwards. 


What about weekends? On Saturdays there's a good span on the combined section - again almost as good as a SmartBus. Saturday daytime frequency is much better than SmartBus being every 15 minutes. However Saturday evening frequency is half that of SmartBus with service dropping to hourly after about 8pm. 

Sunday span on the combined section (and the 302) is similar to a regular bus route at about 12 or 13 hours. However start and finish is earlier than normal, meaning that both routes don't meet the 9pm minimum standard finish time. Combined frequency is 30 minutes during the day, dropping to hourly at night once the 304 has finished. Below is a combined weekend timetable for both routes. 



The 304 (the Doncaster route) is worth a special look. Its span does not meet minimum standards, particularly on weekends, although it does have an early Saturday morning start. Last trips from the city are around 6pm on both days, with Sunday having an earlier finish. Because other routes along Elgar Rd don't have much of a night service (281, 293) if you wanted to get from Belmore Rd to Shoppingtown one needs to either walk to Station St (which has the 903), catch the 302 to Box Hill then backtrack via the 903, or (possibly quicker) just walk to Shoppingtown from Elgar Rd near Elgar Park.


Conclusion

I wouldn't do much with these routes as they are simple, direct and well-used, but what do you think? Should their city terminus be more convenient to Southern Cross Station? Are extra operating  hours justified, particularly on Route 304? And if you are a user, should more trips run during peak times? Please leave your comments below and don't forget to check out the Facebook page. 

1 comment:

Debbie K said...

All we want is to be picked up. To get to work, uni or home.
In the AM the 302/304 buses are full by the time they’ve reached East Kew. In the PM they are full before they get to East Melb, day after day after day they fly by one after another ‘Bus Full’ leaving us waiting waiting waiting.
PTV recognise the problem. They’ve submitted a business case to improve the service. But no one from the govt is telling us whether it’s approved or declined.
Why not do some load planning and get buses off minor roads so that larger buses can be used to pick up more passengers? Fixing this doesn’t seem like rocket science. What’s going on Melissa Horne? Why won’t you help us? Why won’t you even speak with us?