Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Timetable Tuesday #99: The upgraded Mornington Peninsula bus network (and some enhancements)

The biggest initiative in this year's otherwise sparse state budget (for service) were much called for bus improvements on the Mornington Peninsula. Buses are the only public transport on the Port Phillip side. None south of Mt Martha currently operates at the minimum service standard of hourly until 9pm Monday to Sunday. They didn't get all they wanted but the Shire of Mornington Peninsula can take some credit thanks to the Better Buses campaign they ran last year. 

Proposed upgrade

An announcement video appears on local MP Chris Brayne's Facebook page

I've mapped a summary  below (click for a clearer map): 

How many buses do the upgrades need? 788 is a little under two hours end to end. A look at Ventura bus tracking shows three buses are out on a normal weekend (80 minute frequency). A check on a weekday afternoon (around 4:30pm) indicated five buses out to run the 40 to 50 minute frequency. An improvement to every 30 minutes would need two more buses. Assuming some extra run time, one of those extra buses might run on weekends to enable an even 40 minute service. 

With minor exceptions in the peak of the peak, the 781 to Mt Martha runs hourly. Run time is fifty minutes. The extension would greatly boost coverage and cut backtracking for some trips. However the extra length to Dromana would tip it to over an hour and require an extra bus.  

The 887 is roughly every 2 hours with an hour trip time each way. That means it uses one bus. We're not told whether its frequency will stay at every two hours or whether it will increase (say to hourly). If the latter an extra bus will be needed. 

Hence this upgrade should require a minimum of three and possibly four new buses. 

Limitations of announced upgrades

The above represents the biggest improvement to local buses for at least ten years. However it doesn't address all the area's transport needs. For example coverage remains an issue with many areas served either by infrequent routes like 786, 787, 886 or receiving no service at all. 

Even though the freeway 887 will offer a quicker trip to Frankston its frequency will likely be much lower than the 788 (currently it's every 120 minutes, and I'm tipping no better than every 60 minutes). Hence there will still be many times when people will get the 788 to arrive at Frankston earlier than if they waited for the 887. That leads one to question the usefulness of the 887, especially if there are network alternatives that deliver wider benefits to more places on more days of the week.  

Peak frequencies on the upgraded routes remain unattractive even after the upgrade. No single bus route beyond Frankston to the south is better than every 30 minutes, with 60 minutes most common. 

Frankston is a major rail terminus with a large commuter catchment. Few can walk to the station and buses are not useful to most due to their low frequency. Same applies for the Stony Point train. Pressure on car parking, notably all-day commuters that are taking spots that could be used for local shoppers, is likely a driver behind local moves to extend rail electrification to Langwarrin or Baxter. The feds waved some money but the state said no. So the project is a non-starter, despite the wishes of some. More background in a post from last month.  

With four routes (781, 784, 785 and 788) Mornington is better served than areas further south. However some routes are indirect. Also all but the 788 have a 60 minute base frequency, making them unattractive for commuters who instead add parking pressures around Frankston and Seaford stations.  

An alternative network 1

What if you wanted to address some of the wider issues the budget's option didn't? 

For instance given the state didn't kick in for the Baxter rail extension, should it offer an alternative to relieve commuter parking issues in Frankston? Frankston's role as a walkable transit-oriented centre (or even a car-oriented commercial centre) is incompatible with it being clogged with unattended commuters' cars. They just take up space and don't contribute to local commerce during the day. In economic terms the lost business is a deadweight loss caused by not providing commuters sufficient  alternatives to parking in Frankston, like usefully frequent bus services from the peninsula.   

Some of the most populated parts of residential Mornington, around Bentons Square, only get indirect buses to Frankston. The 785, for instance, comes just hourly. Total travel time to Frankston is almost 50 minutes. That's an intolerable addition to an already slow train trip exceeding an hour to the CBD. A revised network might permit a faster and more frequent service to thousands more people from the area.  

Below is a concept network (click for a better view): 

Key points include: 

* Potentially faster run for the 788, especially for trips to Monash University and Frankston Hospital, by routing via Moorooduc Hwy (as limited stops service). The weekday frequency would be four times that provided by the current 887 with longer operating hours plus weekend service. 

* Faster and more frequent service to Monash University, Frankston Hospital and Frankston Station for most of Mornington East/Osborne by operating Route 785 via Moorooduc Hwy (as limited stops service) and doubling its frequency.

* New Moorooduc Park & Ride on Moorooduc Hwy. Intended to relieve parking pressure in the Frankston CBD, hospital university precinct by providing a high quality express bus service every 15 minutes to these destinations. The location chosen would be served by the boosted 785 and 788 whose timetables would be offset to provide a combined 15 minute frequency on weekdays and a 20 minute service on weekends.   

* More direct Mornington - Hastings cross-peninsula travel. Current travel requires backtracking via Frankston interchange. The rerouted 785/788 and a new Moorooduc Hwy pedestrian crossing near Frankston-Flinders Rd (desirable for other reasons) would enable a more direct change to Hastings buses 782 and 783 and cut 6 km of backtracking.    

* Minor routing changes for 781 and 784 to retain coverage. 781 would operate to Dromana as per the Budget proposal but could have a minor straightening in Mornington. 784 would alter to provide 'mop up' coverage on streets missed by changes to other routes.  

* Deletion of Route 887 with resources put into the upgraded Route 785. Passengers going to Monash University and Frankston Hospital would instead get a more frequent trip on the rerouted 788, with a 7 day service available. 

As always, there would be trade-offs. Removing the 887 would extend travel times from Rosebud to Frankston. However as it's unlikely to be a frequent service there would be many times where the slower but more frequent 788 gets you there faster. 

While Mornington East/Mt Martha East gain greatly, Mt Eliza loses the 785. That reduces its service from three to two buses per hour. Ideally the remaining 781 and 785 should be staggered to provide an even 30 minute service. Also notable is that Mt Eliza has several schools that would no longer have the 788 nearby. There may need to be school deviations, special trips, or timed transfers to cater for this. On the positive side parts of Mt Martha will gain a direct bus to Mt Eliza thanks to the 781's extension. And if a 20 minute combined service to Mt Eliza is thought desirable then 781 and 784 could be boosted to run every 40 minutes at additional cost. 

An alternative network 2 (Southern Peninsula)

The next network concentrates on southern peninsula improvements. It could be done independently of the Mornington ideas presented above. However the map below shows both concepts.   

Key points include: 

* Reforming the 788 to a two-route 787/788 corridor to provide 7 day direct Frankston services to large parts of Rye, Blairgowrie and Sorrento remote from Point Nepean Rd. Service kilometres would be similar to the 788's 2020 budget improvements, so there are no cost increases. However coverage would be better spread west of Rye, replacing the existing complex and infrequent 787 service on this section. Route 787 and Route 788 trips would be evenly spaced over the common Rye to Frankston portion. PTV, which is not particularly good at these things, would be required to provide legible multi-route information at all stops, even if manual processes have to be resorted to.   

* Joining the existing 786 with the remaining (eastern) part of the 787 at Rye. The map shows this as a single through route (labelled 786) to Dromana. Additional service kilometres could boost operating hours including 7 day service. Although an improvement the extended 786 is still quite complicated. A suggested simplification is to split it into two routes, eg 793: Dromana - Rosebud and 794: Rosebud to Rye. On weekdays one of those routes could extend or deviate to Chisholm TAFE on Boneo Rd to replace Route 886. 793 and 794 trips would be timed to connect to the 787/788 corridor at Dromana and Rosebud where possible. 


Presented are some alternative approaches to improved buses on the Rosebud side of the Mornington Peninsula. There are swings and roundabouts but overall I think it has some substantial benefits. Please let me know what you think in the comments below including other ideas you might have. 

PS: An index to all Timetable Tuesday items is here.


Rob said...

I think one of the biggest issues facing the Mornington Peninsula is the 2 hour travel time from Frankston to Sorrento/Portsea. Perhaps one of the 787/788 routes could be rationalised to provide a regular service to Rye and then run direct via Freeway to Frankston, whilst the other route continues regular service and stopping patterns.

For the many young people who travel down the Peninsula on weekends, school holidays and special events, this could provide an attractive alternative to driving. Right now, 45 minutes by car vs 2 hours by bus does not incentivise public transport for these trips

Peter Parker said...

Thanks Rob, I sort of agree. Especially if there was about two or three times the funding than was allocated. The 788 does a lot of things and not all of them well.

But given the current service is so sparse then top priority has to be frequency upgrades on the 788 for at least its major trunk bit. Which was more or less the approach in the budget. A lot of 788's usage (especially off-peak) is local travel. Eg Dromana - Rosebud or Rye to Rosebud. Frequency trumps speed for these trips. And there's usually one or two who get on at Mornington near the hospitals. If you were to have an express that skips that you'd need a good regular route.

As for the express service, the current 887 started its life as a Penbus trial - to help people get to uni at Frankston or a faster way to get to the CBD. We don't know yet whether the upgraded 887 will continue to run on weekdays only or include weekend service for the holiday/special event crowd. It will need to be a better frequency than every 2 hours to be an attractive alternative to either driving or the 788. An issue though is that the freeway can get slow on major events/peak season so even a freeway bus has limitations.

One travel market I haven't said much about are peak commuters to the CBD. This is not helped by the relative slowness of Frankston trains (even expresses). Grendas tried an express bus at a premium fare about 10 years ago but it failed. Demographically only a small proportion of Mornington Peninsula people work in the CBD. But my Park & Ride concept could assist some of them while relieving Frankston of some parking pressure.

Simon said...

Whilst the service boost to the 788 including the upgraded frequency is well received and needed, I think as another poster points out ideally, there needs to be both a frequent express and stopping bus service for the Mornington Peninsula. I think for example an all day/night bus express from Frankston Station, stopping at Frankston Hospital/ Monash University than express to Rosebud than all stops to Sorrento/Portsea would be much time competitive with the car. Than the stopping all stops bus could run say Frankston to Rosebud. If both ran at least every 20-30 minutes every day, I think this could really help boost patronage.

Also to at least Dromana there needs to be an all day and evening service of each at least every 15-20 minutes to Frankston Station, as most of the population growth and residental area is in the northern part of the Peninsula. A park and ride in Moorooduc is interesting, it may work, but there would have to be high frequency buses to Frankston and real train/bus connections, otherwise people will drive to Frankston/ Kananook/Seaford instead.

Peter Parker said...

Thanks Simon. Agree. Up to a certain point you need frequency but beyond it you need speed. An interesting characteristic about the peninsula is I'm guessing the express service will see most use during peaks and summer weekends, and least use off-peak and possibly winter weekends. My guess is the crossover point is either 20 or 30 min frequency. Although the timetables might be odd and it would need much more money than now, possibly something like this:

Peak: Express every 30, Stopping every 30
Interpeak: Express every 60, Stopping every 20
Night & early weekend am: Stopping every 40
Weekend (winter): Express every 60, Stopping every 30
Weekend (summer): Express every 30, Stopping every 30
(or maybe even 20 for both if it proves popular)

If you were limited with resources, I'd be curious how three expresses on weekends would go - ie am, midday, pm that some might aim to catch.