Friday, August 21, 2020

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 58: Clarinda area SRL SmartBus

Having discussed some metropolitan-wide network issues on recent Fridays, today we return to the usual fare of looking at a particular area's network and proposing improvements to make public transport more useful. In most cases this involves examining a local bus network and identifying opportunities where routes could be made more direct, more frequent and fill coverage gaps. 

Today it's Clarinda's turn. Clarinda, just south of Clayton, is a lot like other ethnically diverse suburbs on the other side of Melbourne like Sunshine West and St Albans. Most of it suburbanised in the 1960s through to the 1980s, during which mass motorisation had made proximity to a station less important. Melbourne's grid still defines most of its main roads but streets in between are less straight. However this is less of a concern than in other areas as buses almost all stay on the straight main and semi-main roads. 

Clarinda has lower than average incomes and car ownership compared to the rest of Melbourne. It marks the western edge of a large belt of low incomes that runs south-east through Springvale, Noble Park and Dandenong. Part of this is because a markedly higher than average proportion of the population are not in the labour market. Households most commonly have one car, as opposed to two in the state generally. Although there are no high-rise apartment blocks, Clarinda has nearly a quarter of its homes as semi-detached, row or townhouses, a much higher percentage than the state generally. Also, more people rent their homes than pay a mortgage, with the proportions reversed compared to the state-wide average.  

All the above demographics make Clarinda the sort of area that would respond favourably to improved bus services. And, although we can't tell precisely from route level statistics, as the routes all serve areas much larger than Clarinda, buses in the area seem well used. 

Existing services

The orange line (Route 824 between Keysborough and Moorabbin via Clayton) is Clarinda's main Useful Network bus route. That is a 7 day service with a weekday frequency of every 20 minutes or better. The lime green line is the 703 between Brighton and Blackburn, also via Clayton. That's a part-SmartBus useful to those parts of Clarinda near Centre Rd. 

Other routes serving Clarinda are on the PTV map below. Most notable is the 631. This runs every 30 minutes interpeak between Southland and Waverley Gardens via Clayton. Also present is the 821 down Clayton Rd. This is an infrequent weekday service to Southland via the industrial areas to the south and the Kingston Centre.  As well as the 703 to Brighton mentioned previously there is the 733 to Oakleigh along Centre Rd. More on this later.

Clarinda had its bus network reviewed more than ten years ago. It made several recommendations for revised routes in the Clarinda area but not one got implemented. You can even go back nearly 30 years and see that the same routes ran then as today (1992 map below).  

Although the routes haven't changed, the timetables for Route 824 (especially) gained longer hours and Sunday service when minimum service standards were introduced for many Melbourne bus routes from 2006. 

Unfortunately minimum standards can be misinterpreted by bus operators and the Department of Transport not always vigilant enough to pick them up. For example, although minimum standards call for 9am to 9pm service on Sundays, the 825 at Clarinda operates from 10am to 10pm. This is disadvantageous as there is much more travel demand at 9am Sundays than 10pm Sundays. Even 8am Sundays can be quite busy, with it being practice on some routes to start Sunday service at 8am rather than 9am.  

Productivity of existing services

Existing routes serving Clarinda are better used than average. Weekday boardings per bus service hour (2018) are as follows: 

631 Waverley Gardens - Southland 38
705 Mordialloc - Springvale 18 (not currently in Clarinda area)
821 Springvale - Southland 32
824 Moorabbin - Keysborough 35

The Clarinda area routes are about 50% up on the numbers for the average bus route in Melbourne. 821 is unexpectedly strong given its sparse industrial area catchment in its middle. On weekends 824 gets reasonable usage while 631 is a very strong perfomer, particularly on Sundays. This might have something to do with retail activity - on weekends Moorabbin is quiet while Southland is busy.  The bus review mentioned before confirmed that Clarinda was a strong patronage area. 

Network issues

Most residential areas of Clarinda have access to a Useful Network service on Centre Rd (703) or Clayton Rd/Bourke St (824). However some denser areas near Clarinda Rd have only the 631. As mentioned before the 824 doesn't quite comply with minimum standards due to the late Sunday start. Also due to the area's demographics and distance from a train station a reasonable case could be made for at least one major route in the area to operate over longer hours more similar to a SmartBus (eg a midnight finish on most nights). 

631 and 821 serve jobs in the Moorabbin area but are prevented from reaching their full potential due to a route alignment that does not connect them to the Frankston train line. The 631 runs to Monash University but the 821 (more direct from Southland) does not. These points were picked up more than 10 years ago in the Booz & Co bus review.  

However neither the new station at Southland nor the very recent reconstruction of Cheltenham (due to a grade separation) triggered a network review so the same situation remains today. 

Route 821 operates to Southland, providing a handy connection to Clayton Rd. However it does not operate on weekends which are busy shopping days. Route 824 is a strong route but is only hourly on Sundays. The Saturday timetable has a higher Saturday morning frequency on the Clarinda part of the route, dropping to hourly on Saturday afternoons. 

A revised more useful network

The revised more useful network for Clarinda will require more buses on the road than the current network. This is considered justified for the following reasons: 

* The desirability of a 'SRL SmartBus' roughly following the proposed Suburban Rail Loop between Southland, Clayton and Monash University
* The favourable demographics for buses in Clarinda, good usage of existing routes and likely responsiveness of passengers to use improved services
* The desirability of improved connections to major destinations including Monash University and Southland, as well as an improved feeder to Clayton Station 
* Growth of the Kingston Centre and the commercial area to the north and the need for a strong east-west connection to supplement the existing north-south 903 orbital SmartBus.
* The need to establish a strong 'future proof' corridor that complements the SRL by serving intermediate destinations such as the Kingston Centre, Moorabbin (east) area jobs and housing at Clarinda. 

A map is below. Line thickness reflects frequency with the 824 remaining a Useful Network route (every 20 min) and the extended 733 being a high quality SmartBus every 10 minutes.  

The centrepiece is a Route 733 extension to at least Southland Station. Instead of duplicating the 703 along Centre Rd and then running near the 903 to Oakleigh, it operates to Southland via Clarinda and the Kingston Centre. Ideally it would have stops near Southland Station and continue west to Sandringham via Bay Rd. This would replace the existing Route 822 along this corridor with some small network changes in the Highett/Cheltenham area. 733 is a well-used route that follows other parts of the SRL by connecting Monash University with Box Hill. Accordingly it is recommended as a SmartBus upgrade, though as an intermediate step an improvement to every 20 minutes off-peak 7 days per week and some longer hours (eg 6-7 am to 11pm 7 days) would be a substantial gain and an excellent intermediate step. 

Route 824 has a minor route change to lessen its overlap with 733. Some slightly wider operating hours and better weekend frequencies - eg every 30 - 40 min on both days is suggested. The Clayton - Keysborough portion can be kept for now but may be subject to a separate review. Notes on Greater Dandenong here.

Route 631 again has only a minor change in the Clarinda area but becomes a much shorter route overall. A connection to a Frankston line station is desirable. Due to the new extended 733 it can terminate at Clayton rather than running to Monash University. The Waverley Gardens section can be replaced with an extended 814 to Clayton as discussed here with benefits for a network 'hole' near Westall in a separate network review. An improved weekend frequency (to every 30 - 40 min) is suggested given the current very high Sunday usage (where the service currently only runs hourly).  

Route 705 from Mordialloc is suggested to be rerouted so that instead of finishing at Springvale it finishes at Monash University. Off-peak trips would be desirable, especially given the route is effectively a public transport alternative to the Mordialloc Freeway (under construction) and a poor quality one at that due to the low frequency existing. The Boundary Rd corridor is attracting increasing development including a Costco. An alternative will be needed for Fairbank Rd to Springvale - this could be a reformed 704 or extended 631 from Clayton. Removing the 821 removes that route's inefficient overlap with the 631 in a quiet industrial area but the new extended 733 retains the Southland connection with a higher frequency and more operating days. 

Overall the network is fairly direct and retains or improves connectivity to key destinations like Southland, Clayton and Monash University from most areas. A common stop outside Clarinda Shopping Centre allows 733 passengers access to Holmesglen TAFE/Moorabbin and 824 passengers access to the Kingston Centre/Southland. Another gain is that almost all of Clarinda and Clayton South is near an efficient 7 day service to Southland, something not currently available from Clayton Rd.  


We started talking about Clarinda and ended up outlining a Suburban Rail Loop SmartBus that benefits many other areas as well. Other options were considered but discarded. For example 631 could have been made the SmartBus instead as it already runs from Clayton to Southland. Another possibility could have been to extend 733 to Moorabbin via the 824 alignment. However this would not perform the SRL SmartBus role that is attracting some popularity amongst people it's been discussed with. 

Have other ideas or wish to comment? Please leave them below. Note that to avoid span they are now reviewed so won't appear immediately.  


Anonymous said...

I really like your suggested bus reforms Peter. I definitely think a smart bus is warranted from Southland to Monash University Clayton. I definitely think the 'missing link' is to continue on Bay Road to connect to Sandringham to provide improved connections for people along the Sandringham Line.

I think in addition the 824 from Moorabbin to Keysborough is probably only needed to run as far as Westall, with a new bus to run from Westall to Waverley Gardens/ Dandenong North. The 824 services a busy residential and industrial corridor along South Road, Holmesglen Tafe and connects major train stations and activity centres, being Moorabbin and CLayton. I think a better frequency is justified, every 10 to 15 minutes in the day and every 15 to 20 minutes in the evening, 7 days a week.

Peter Parker said...

Thanks Anon. Agree. I'm not sure that Westall is the strongest terminus. I'd be inclined to finish 824 at Clayton with some other route (possibly from Oakleigh via the existing 733 alignment) operating via there and Osborne Av to Springvale.

This would leave Keysborough without a direct Clayton route (that 824 currently does). But it could get a Westall Rd route from Monash (possibly an extended 737 via Westall Station). Besides Keysborough has too many routes that are too infrequent and it would be desirable if they could be brought up to every 20 min instead of 40-60 min which is common currently.

Anonymous said...

I would agree actually Clayton is a stronger terminus for the 824 bus, and simplifying the Keysborough routes with an improved frequency would be a better outcome than currently.

A Westall road bus from Monash University could link through Dingley to Mentone or Mordialloc maybe, to connect to the Frankston line.

Anonymous said...

What about the Route 703 bus becoming part of the main Smartbus network.From Blackburb station it takes the route to Melbourne Airport off the Route 901. Then from Clayton Station it could continue south to Mordialloc or Edithvale. This would create a Smartbus Route like the 903 or 902. The Route 901 bus could be extended from Ringwood to Warrandyte. The Ringwood to Blackburn part of the route is only doubling the service the train does. From Frankston it could be extended down the Peninsula to Portsea.

Peter Parker said...

Anon - I'm quite happy with the 703 alignment as it is, though there might be a case to extend it north to The Pines to replace the 901 (which is poorly used between The Pines and South Morang). This could be upgraded to a proper SmartBus with better operating hours etc.

Splitting the 703 at Clayton might be controversial. I like the concept of a south route from Monash/Clayton to Mordialloc. However it's largely industrial and there's way less density compared to the Blackburn - Monash Uni section of 703 (which should ideally be every 10 min). So I'd have Mordialloc - Monash done with a straightened 705 (swapped with 821 which would run to Springvale). The 705 would get upgraded frequency including all day service (maybe every 20 min?) I discuss this in my Mordialloc Freeway corridor post.

The 901, which we've left hanging at Blackburn, could be extended to Box Hill to provide a feeder into that major hub. But I don't think that Warrandyte has the density to justify a SmartBus orbital (already has 906 to CBD).