Friday, November 01, 2019

Building Melbourne's Useful Network: Part 26 - City of Casey (Hallam - Narre Warren - Berwick - Clyde North)

I've said a lot about Melbourne's outer west and north lately. You will have read that growth areas like Tarneit and Craigieburn West have demographic patterns conducive to high bus usage including high residential densities, many rental  homes, high levels of trip generation and low car ownership. This, along with low service levels, have made local bus routes in these 'ethnoburbs' amongst the most productive in Melbourne. 

South-east versus west and north

The other side of Melbourne, including 1980s and 90s suburbs like Narre Warren and Berwick and newer areas like Clyde have different demographics and lower bus usage. 50 to 60 per cent of the population might be born here instead of under 50 per cent. About as many people may own their home outright compared to those who rent. Housing might be nearly all stand-alone and population density may be less. And, very importantly, car ownership is somewhat higher and bus usage somewhat lower. Buses may still be heavily used on weekdays (for children to get to school) but are less used off-peak and on weekends (when services are poorer and most families have cars).  

This means a less favourable catchment that risks being less responsive to service upgrades. For example Cranbourne had a local network reform in 2016 similar to what Tarneit got in the previous year. While Tarneit's routes are all top patronage performers, Cranbourne's are quieter, particularly on weekends. 

Part of the problem is that Hallam, Narre Warren and Berwick haven't had a thorough network review for years. Unlike Tarneit where a reasonable recipe would just be to double frequency on everything, this area needs a fundamental network review and a more selective approach to adding service.

Because the latter hasn't been done there are gross mismatches between service levels and passenger demand. For example on Sundays all four of the Dandenong to Endeavour Hills routes run every two hours despite high usage while Route 890  from Dandenong to Lynbrook (introduced three years ago) has four times the service but carries almost no one. There is also no network hierarchy, with even main roads having the same infrequent service that local streets get.

Electoral districts this area is in are Dandenong (held by Gabrielle Williams), Narre Warren North (Luke Donnellan), Narre Warren South (Gary Maas), Cranbourne (Pauline Richards) and Bass (Jordan Crugnale). All are considered fairly safe Labor except for Bass which is marginal.  

Existing Useful Network

I explain the Useful Network concept here. It's those routes that are frequent enough and run over long enough hours to be useful for many trips. I've specified a 20 minute frequency on weekdays and 7 day service until 9pm. In other words the coloured lines on the Melbourne Public Transport Frequent Network map with the 20 minute frequency selected.

The local Useful Network is sparse. Few residents can walk to it. It comprises the Pakenham train line and the Route 828 bus. The latter's 20 minute frequency only applies on weekdays, with Saturday and Sunday service being every 40 and 60 minutes respectively. No large shopping centre in metropolitan Melbourne has less Useful Network access than Fountain Gate.

Narre Warren and Berwick have no north-south Useful Network routes. The closest is the 893 through Hampton Park and Hallam. This route got straightened and upgraded in the 2016 Cranbourne Network review (more on that here).  

That 2016 review is why Cranbourne has many Useful Network routes, including some that are poor patronage performers on weekends. Meanwhile key routes to major destinations like Fountain Gate that ought to have better service (eg 828, 841 and 926) only run hourly on Sundays. 

The PTV local area map below shows all routes. Most operate every 30 to 120 minutes, with some occasional services in the less densely populated semi-rural areas in the north-east. 

Structural issues with the local network include: 

a. Lack of frequent service to Fountain Gate Shopping Centre from surrounding areas such as Narre Warren South and Endeavour Hills
b. Lack of direct service to Dandenong TAFE and Dandenong Hospital even from nearby areas such as Endeavour Hills
c. Lack of direct access to schools, higher education and health services at Berwick from the Cranbourne area
d. Limited access to jobs in Dandenong South from Narre Warren and Berwick (the only Dandenong South route stops at Lynbrook, missing a large catchment at Hallam that might potentially use it)
e. Lack of network coverage particularly east of Berwick - Cranbourne / Clyde roads
f. Many routes are indirect, confusing or have weak termini. Loop routes are a special problem.
g. Overlapping and inefficient routes in some areas, eg south of Hallam Station.
h. Limited frequency feeder services to local stations
i. Limited operating hours and poor Sunday frequency on Endeavour Hills local routes
j. Excessive service on some poorly performing routes (eg 863 and 890 on weekends). 

Most routes operate infrequently. Unlike in other areas (eg Brimbank or even Wyndham) there is no developed route hierarchy where more frequent all-day service is provided along major corridors. The massive infill development between the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines means that the only transport 90% of local residents have is an infrequent and often indirect bus service of limited usefulness. 

Useful Network gaps

Endeavour Hills, Hampton Park, Narre Warren, Berwick and Cranbourne North are beyond SmartBus territory. With no recent network reviews, Narre Warren and Berwick have had no twenty minuters added for years. Hence the sparse map you saw before with poor connections from most areas to local railway stations and attractions such as Fountain Gate Shopping Centre and hospitals and tertiary education around Berwick.

Read the government-commissioned (but sadly barely implemented) Cardinia Casey Greater Dandenong Bus Service Review for more discussion on this and their proposals for network reform. 

Expanded Useful Network

Below is a potential Useful Network with upgraded direct routes between major destinations. Because there are so few existing routes with better than a 30 or 40 minute frequency, this network will cost more than the current network. However it should deliver large access gains for local jobs, education and health services. 

The routes shown would operate every 20 minutes 7 days per week with somewhat wider operating hours than currently run.  It's a fairly coarse network; for example the north-south routes are approximately 3 km apart. Hence there will still need to be local routes operating (say) every 40 minutes off-peak to provide infill coverage. I won't say much about them here but these local routes would be simpler than now and altered to reduce overlap with main routes while maximising coverage. 

Here's a summary of the new or altered routes and their rationale. 

828/830/926: Currently Route 828 is a long route from Hampton to Berwick Station. 926 partly overlaps it, operating from Fountain Gate to Pakenham, missing Chisholm TAFE near Berwick Station. 

The Useful Network above has 828 terminating at Dandenong. Operating east from Dandenong would be a new 830 incorporating 828's eastern portion and the existing 926 to Pakenham. The new 830 would improve frequency for the growing parts of Officer and Pakenham remote from the station. Routing it via Berwick instead of Beaconsfield station would improve connections to the TAFE, university and hospital from the east. Scope also exists for it to be made more direct in Pakenham in conjunction with local network changes. 

841: This gains a rerouting in the Cranbourne area to improve coverage and reduce overlap with the 893 (which was upgraded in 2016). A western extension to Dandenong incorporates the existing infrequent 842 to Endeavour Hills while providing new direct connections to Dandenong Hospital and TAFE. While catchment in its north-east is poor, the importance of destinations served still justify it being a Useful Network route with a suggested 7-day 20 minute frequency. Thompsons Rd, Cranbourne North would retain a service with a new local route feeding in to Merinda Park Station (possibly involving a reformed Route 799). Some resources to fund this extension may come from rationalising and simplifying the Endeavour Hills local network (more on this next Friday).

851: This is a new route designed to fill a 'missing gap' in the network. A key purpose is to efficiently connect people in the Narre Warren, Hampton Park, Keysborough and Noble Park areas to jobs in Dandenong South. These areas are quite socially disadvantaged with higher than average unemployment. A job ready public transport network may help address the barriers long term unemployed face in obtaining and retaining employment. A special feature of its timetable would be a very early morning start to suit industrial sector jobs. 

By itself Dandenong South would not sustain the route, especially on weekends. However its western end would form a direct feeder route to Noble Park Station (connecting people from the Chapel Rd area) while its eastern end would feed in to Narre Warren Station and Fountain Gate. Even though there might not be many through travellers, the route should be useful for a diversity of trips throughout the week given favourable passenger demographics. 

The 851 is basically a replacement for the 895 between Fountain Gate and Hampton Park. The portion beyond Hampton Park has a weak southern terminus and overlaps other routes such as the 892 and 893. Some resources for this route could come from those freed by reducing the nearby Route 890 industrial route to a weekday only service (as its weekend service is poorly used).  

899: This is an existing route south from Berwick to The Avenue Village Shopping Centre in Cranbourne North. A popular local request is a bus route from Cranbourne to Berwick so that people can access schools, higher education and health services at Berwick. Extending the 899 to Cranbourne via an amalgamated 798 could meet this need. Local routes would need adjusting to retain service on missed parts of the 798 and 899. The latter could potentially be part of the Thompsons Rd route mentioned before. The area is remote from railway stations and is growing rapidly so a Useful Network level of service is suggested. The map has the route extending along Princes Hwy to Fountain Gate, overlapping the 830. This segment is optional but directly connects Fountain Gate to a large catchment. 

The above are the main Useful Network routes. However they are quite widely spaced. Also there is limited east-west connectivity to Cranbourne line stations. To address that two more routes are suggested. These might operate every 20 minutes only on weekdays since they don't serve major weekend attractions like Fountain Gate. These are as follows: 

852: This is mostly an east-west route feeding into Berwick and all its destinations. It would also be an efficient feeder for Lynbrook. Because Lynbrook isn't very useful for other than connecting to the train, the map has it incorporating the 897 to Cranbourne to give it a stronger terminus (when the road system allows). 

853: This is another route even more dependent on the road network. The Berwick to Casey Central portion might be introduced first. It introduces a direct connection to Berwick from Clyde North with no other routes. It might start at a lower frequency and eventually build up as the area develops.  

Areas missed

A large part of Berwick (north of the railway) doesn't get any Useful Network routes. The main reason for this is the road network, especially around Ernst Wanke Rd, in relation to the location of stations. While it is possible to have a bus route from Hallam Station to Berwick Station and this might work for train feeder purposes, it would miss the area's main trip generator at Fountain Gate. Poor road geometry has an enduring impact on public transport service levels, the directness of routes and walkability to stops. Fortunately newer areas (eg Point Cook) tend to have nearer to a grid pattern and are more conducive to efficient bus services than areas like 1980s-1990s neighbourhoods like Berwick and Lysterfield.  

Implications for local routes

The above direct main routes would affect where local routes go. These should be adjusted to avoid duplication while providing good coverage and access to popular destinations. Their timetables should harmonise with trains and the Useful Network routes described above. 

Dead ends should be avoided unless the route is on the edge of suburbia. It's better that routes extend to the nearest station or shopping centre. Dead end route examples include 831, 839, 841 and 925.

Ideally routes should be linear rather than loops. An example is the confusing 834 and 835 bidirectional pair around Berwick and Narre Warren. A simpler network would likely have separate linear routes operating north and south of the train line, each with their own route number.

Where there is no useful outer terminus and it is tempting to create a loop, a good approach is to have it operationally a loop but to present them as linear routes that through-route. An example is the very successful 494/495 pair in Point Cook. 

Areas where bus routes could be made simpler are shown below. 


Presented is a revised network for Hampton Park, Narre Warren, Berwick and Cranbourne North. What do you think of it? Is it too much or not enough?  


Austin said...

I'm a resident of Clyde near the intersection of Patersons and Clyde Rd. It's immensely frustrating that my little brother needs to catch a bus to Cranbourne and then two trains to get to Chisholm Tafe (a journey of over an hour usually) when his school is a 10 minute drive up Clyde Rd. There are even bus stop turn outs along Clyde Road ready to be used, sitting vacant.

I've enquired with my local member and apparently they are waiting to complete level crossing removals before they review buses in the area. My brother will probably be finished study before they even begin level crossing removals at Berwick. Its even worse if you don't have access to the 897 and I surmise it will probably be another 10 years before the government even considers a Clyde railway extension.

Peter Parker said...

Austin: Your MP is talking nonsense. A lot can be done with buses with or without grade separations. And if you look at the areas that got grade separations (eg various stations on the Ringwood and Dandenong lines) or Southland Station none of them got bus reviews either!

Historically the best way to get success with bus upgrades is to campaign for rail extensions. And if you do get the rail extension you will probably get a new bus network also. The record shows that governments in Victoria are only marginally interested in buses for their own sake despite them being the nearest public transport to 80% or more of the population.

undertheclocksblog said...

Peter, why is the Liberal Party running "SRL should be buses" ads?

Also, worth mentioning that 901 is extremely well used by 'industrial' workers along the route. Like the good old days.

Undertheclocksblog said...

Also the time has come for all those silly dead end E-W roads like Glasscocks, Wedge, Skye, Ballarto etc to be connected up and run right through from the Frankston area to the Casey Area.

Peter Parker said...

I agree with some east-west connections. The new Route 760 sort of does it but it doesn't connect jobs at Seaford/Carrum Downs very well to either Seaford Station or Cranbourne. Hence my highest priority would be an extended 778 from Seaford to Cranbourne via Hall Rd as shown here: Then Ballarto and Wedge Rd as development expands.

I am not aware of the Liberal ads. While many in transport are skeptical of the choice of mode, Labor has correctly diagnosed cross-suburban public transport as a priority. And electorally SRL seemed to work well for them.

undertheclocksblog said...

Peter, the biggest problem was the Rutherford Rd onramp onto Eastlink. Clearly Rutherford/Latham/Hall Rd should have also joined onto M11, which would have meant the Hall Rd buses could use short section to Thompsons Rd to Carrum proper. I get that we would also like to go through to Seaford, but the wetland makes that hard. The trajectory of Hall goes through to the lovely Armstrong Rd, which I'm guessing the governemnt want to be a major route, with its level crossing and creek crossing.

There is definitly no good reason not to have a strong bus service from both Seaford and Carrum to Cranbourne (and later Clyde if rebuilt) via both Hall and Ballarto Rds. They should also stop the backstreet mucking around, I don't care if the bus goes into Fan

Peter Parker said...

Not having Rutherford connect makes things slower but would not nullify the usefulness of a Seaford route. I'd have it start at the station, do an anticlockwise loop to serve the shopping strip and Woolworths, then Seaford Rd, then Brunel Rd then Lathams & Hall Rd. That's not centred on the housing but would still give some people a good connection to Seaford Station and shops. Then Hall Rd. From there either Duff St (for better directness to the station and to replace 792) or Cranbourne-Frankston Rd (via shopping centre but overlaps 791).

The Ballarto Rd route could be similar, going the same way from Seaford but staying on Seaford Rd. Then to Cranbourne via Cranbourne West or Brookland Greens (again problems with poor road connectivity).

The Thompsons Rd route could potentially originate at Frankston then run south-north through Carrum Downs (replacing 833 in area) then heading east (instead of west) to Merinda Park and further east. Maybe even end up at Berwick via Soldiers Rd.