Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Timetable Tuesday #41: Widdershins on the 582 bus

What’s Melbourne’s most frequent public transport at 7am on a Sunday morning?  With its 20 minute frequency, one of the least likely correct answers is this unassuming bus route weaving through semi-rural semi-suburbia east of Eltham. 

582’s high frequency trumps any train, all SmartBuses and most tram lines. Apart from some trams the most you can expect from those busier lines is a 30 minute headway. 

The intensive Sunday morning service isn’t the route's only quirk. There's more as you'll find out later. 

The route

582 is a simple anticlockwise unidirectional bus route. Its only significant origin and destination is Eltham Station. It has been cleverly designed so its run time is 16 minutes. This allows a single bus to operate a 20 minute frequency, neatly meshing with trains at Eltham (mostly every 20 minutes with some unfortunate larger gaps). 

The network map extract shows it in relation to other routes. It's only when you get off the main road that the 582 has unique catchment. For there were no local network changes when the new 902 SmartBus came in.  


As mentioned before, the 582 timetable has a flat 20 minute frequency, giving it an extraordinary service on Sunday mornings. A constant journey time is scheduled, whether it is the morning peak, school drop-off time or early Sunday morning. Just one bus is needed to complete the loop. 

Route 582 has the standard post 2006 pattern for public holiday service. That is a Saturday timetable applies on all public holidays apart from Good Friday and Christmas Day which have a Sunday schedule. However its operating hours have not been standardised with other routes.  Consequently it has an early finish - before 8pm on weekdays and around 7pm on weekends. 

The Saturday and Sunday timetables are almost identical, with the same number of trips per day. Weekends have only six fewer trips than weekdays due to weekend's shorter operating hours (about an hour less at each end of the day). Nevertheless 582's weekend service starts much earlier than most other routes, particularly on Sunday. 

Change over time

What has happened to the 582 timetable over the last few decades? Despite an unpromising catchment for buses (eg low density, high income, high car-owning), Route 582 has had upgrades. Unlike more important routes that have had service cut.   

In the 1980s and 1990s 582 had fewer services than now. However trips ran clockwise and anticlockwise. There was a confusing noon reversal, such as remains on City Loop trains and bus route 558. You can see old 582 timetables on Krustylink.

Patronage comparisons

Route 582 carries about 74 000 passengers per year. Is this productive or not for one bus fully used for about 90 hours a week?  

We can compare it with other one-bus routes. An example is Route 844, from Dandenong to Doveton that we looked at in June. The catchment and demographics of 582 and 844 could not be more different, especially when it comes to incomes and social needs.  Despite 844 having some overlapping coverage, and its not having a Saturday afternoon or Sunday service, it carried 112 000 passengers (also in 2016-17).  By this comparison 582 is an underperformer that gets an undeservedly high service. 

Another comparable is the 559. Like the 582 it is a unidirectional loop operating every 20 minutes. It serves the train at Thomastown and shops at Lalor. It has an aged, low-income catchment.  Despite it not having much unique catchment and also lacking Saturday afternoon and Sunday service, it carried 88 000 passengers. 

If you were to take the Saturday afternoon and Sunday service off the 582 and put them on the 559 it is likely you'd gain more patronage on the 559 than you'd lose on the 582. The same is also likely for the 844. 

The varying service days and hours illustrated different approaches to providing bus services.  582 is based on the view that once you have a bus you might as well have it in revenue service all day every every day, even if you need to pay driver hours. Whereas the 559 and 844 are based on scrimping service hours and keeping buses off the streets even when people might wish to travel. As the examples show, the approach taken is more a historical remnant than anything to do with a route's patronage or the social needs of its catchment. 


Route 582 is operationally efficient, with one bus needed to operate the whole route. However its single direction running makes some trips not possible or indirect. Service is high for its catchment and a transfer is required for trips to larger centres such as Greensborough. There is also significant overlap with other routes that a reformed 582 could potentially overcome

What do you think? Please leave your comments below.

PS: if you're wondering about 'Widdershins', it means anti-clockwise. That's the direction the 582 runs. 

You might enjoy these well-regarded books on transport topics

Better Buses, Better Cities: How to Plan, Run, and Win the Fight for Effective Transit Steven Higashide NEW!

The Public City: Essays in honour of Paul Mees Gleeson & Beza

A Political Economy of Access: Infrastructure, Networks, Cities, Institutions (Access Quintet Book 4) David Levinson

Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives Jarrett Walker

Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age Paul Mees

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