Friday, February 14, 2020

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 38: A Reservoir and Thomastown recap

Sometimes you describe something, look at it later and have second thoughts. These thoughts might have come from a conversation or a second look freshened by the passing of time. 

A recent example is Reservoir’s bus network. 

There's no doubt that the existing bus network west of Reservoir is very poor. Routes like 553 start from near they are finish and have deviations that duplicate other routes. Then there's the execrable 558, Melbourne's only bus that has a midday direction reversal where Saturday morning service goes the same way as weekday afternoon service. Its limited operating hours also deny areas west of Reservoir weekend service. 

I discussed one approach to fixing 553 and 558 two weeks ago in Useful Network 36.  I made 558 bidirectional and extended it to Northland via the Route 555 alignment. Route 555 was modified to replace 553, with it running to the latter’s Thornbury terminus instead of Northland. Route 526 was then extended eastward to Northland and then in a merger with the 550 to La Trobe University. You can see this in the map below.

While a simpler network it would have had its detractors. For example the popular Route 555 got a less popular southern terminus that’s really only of local rather than regional significance (like Northland is). And the 558, although straighter, remained with a weak northern terminus good for connecting with the 902 orbital but little else.

Sometimes casting one’s net wider can generate other ideas that lead to an overall better network.

Consider Lalor and Thomastown for instance. Areas east of the railway have buses running to a variety of destinations. For example Bundoora RMIT (566 and 570), Reservoir (556), Epping Station (556) and Epping Plaza (556 again but indirectly).

That is not so for those significantly west of High St. Local routes 554 and 557 run to Thomastown and Lalor. Route 357 to the north operates to Epping. However there are no connections to the south or east. That stymies access to destinations such as Coburg, Reservoir, La Trobe University and Northland. And what should be a one-change trip often involves two changes. This is because, similar to the Hadfield / Broadmeadows divide, there are no north-south buses. Instead the 357, which ought to be the north-south bus, turns to terminate at the minor but impressively stationed Thomastown, just like everything else in the area.  

A minor southern extension of the 357 to Reservoir would change all this.  Instead of alighting at Thomastown, waiting up to 20 minutes for a train and then potentially another similar wait for a bus, vastly more destinations would be available with a single change at Reservoir. These include Coburg, La Trobe University and alternative routes to Northland. Access to jobs in the industrial area near the M80 and connections to the 902 orbital SmartBus would become possible.

This alignment serves many areas away from stations and possibly justifies a 20 minute interpeak service given favourable catchment demographics. However it does not need to serve north and south of Epping. Instead the route could be split, with 357 operating to Wollert and an extended and upgraded 558 taking over Edgars Rd to operate between Reservoir and Epping. Then it would become a mirror image of the successful 556 along Dalton Rd east of the railway.

What are the implications of this for western Reservoir? There would be another route, which would be a major bonus for a historically underserved area. The 553 could be retained in a much simpler form with an extension to north-western Reservoir, serving areas that the 558 currently stops at. The 526 would still extend east to Northland while the 555 can retain its current alignment to Northland (but with an upgrade to an even 20 minute frequency).
Route 558 would be timed to meet trains at Reservoir, with its 20 minute frequency providing consistent connections. The portion north of Epping which remains as the 357, would connect with trains at Epping, preferably with a 20 minute offset with Route 356 to permit a combined 10 min peak/20 min interpeak service in the overlap portion (although note stop placement issues discussed here).


Presented is an alternative network for western Reservoir that also delivers substantial benefits for Thomastown and Lalor. It shows how time can change how one sees the network and the ideas one has for its improvement. If you have comments on it please leave them below.

An index to all Useful Networks is here.

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