Friday, April 30, 2021

Useful Network 89: Melbourne's lowest rated train stations & 25 ideas to make them better


A while ago we looked at our sorriest bus stops. But what about stations? How do people rate Melbourne's 220-odd train stations? One could spend hours doing vox pops. Or one could look at Google map reviews. Nearly all stations have reviews and most have comments as well. 

The first thing I should point out is that ratings should be viewed with caution. Extreme caution as some simply don't make sense. People who do reviews are not necessarily representative of the general population. Some stations have only had a handful of reviews. And you've got no idea of what is important to people when they decide whether to give a station a 1 or a 4 (on a scale of 5). It could be a bad experience of a cancelled train, some hoodlums sighted or a bike stolen. Or, the view might have been good or the rater might have been in a good mood that day.

Comments might give a better indication but even here there will be a skew towards the negative. Even at what you might be called our 'worst stations' the vast majority of journeys take place without incident and passenger impressions are far more often mediocre than downright bad. But people will disproportionately write about the latter. And non-train users will read these reviews and gain possibly an unfair impression of the system. Also note that where stations have been rebuilt many reviews relate to the old rather than the new station with the average distorted accordingly. 

With these caveats in mind I thought I'd work around the map and see where our worst rated stations were. Later I give 25 ideas on improving them.  

The very low (2 - 2.5 stars out of 5) 

2.3 Sunshine 

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Sunshine+railway+station,+Melbourne/@-37.7882448,144.8239615,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x0:0x6313e5a02a31f78e!8m2!3d-37.7880379!4d144.8325719!9m1!1b1

A busy station and major rail hub. It and the area have a reputation for anti-social behaviour. As some of the comments have indicated, the new station is nicer than the old one. The old underpass was considered notorious. But there is still a road flyover that makes the station area a major barrier between south/west and north/east Sunshine. 

2.4 Carrum (note new station) 

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Carrum+railway+station/@-38.077498,145.12468,17z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x0:0x6f388d2b00481ad6!8m2!3d-38.0750449!4d145.1223564!9m1!1b1

An even newer station than Sunshine. Not sure why it's marked so low so I'd take this one with as many grains of salt as there is sand on the nearby beach. It is possible that some of the reviews might have come from people who wanted to use it but it was closed down for construction. Improved timetables mean it enjoys a service every 10 minutes (day) and 20 min night, which is superior to stations on other lines. The Frankston line is somewhat prone to unplanned shutdowns due to track/signal faults and planned shutdowns due to works. But the bay view is spectacular and having entrances at both ends is good (though one should have been north of Mcleod Rd to avoid crossing what is now a traffic sewer since it was punched through to Nepean Hwy). 

2.5 Jacana 

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Jacana+railway+station/@-37.6951308,144.9136565,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad65a57c9e1464d:0x1d04567609f4e130!8m2!3d-37.6951313!4d144.9158505!9m1!1b1

I don't think anyone can contest the score here. With the ring road adjacent, power pylons overhead, austere pedestrian bridge and spartan toilet block style shelter, this unattended station is a great backdrop for a dystopian movie where bad things happen at night.  

2.5 Reservoir (another new station)

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Reservoir+railway+station/@-37.7238541,144.9969605,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x0:0xef42366a294136d7!8m2!3d-37.7168187!4d145.0068632!9m1!1b1

Also a new station but it remains in the middle of a road-choked area that is hostile for pedestrians. Service frequency is only 20 minutes day, 30 minutes night and 40 minutes Sunday morning so people are often waiting twice as long as they would at another low rated station like Kananook. Also buses rarely connect. 

2.5 Batman 

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Batman+railway+station/@-37.7297857,144.9580255,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x0:0x9bf5387e353b8a41!8m2!3d-37.7335234!4d144.9628401!9m1!1b1

A small unstaffed middle-suburban station. Service frequency is like Reservoir but with less peak service. 

2.5 Bonbeach 

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Bonbeach/@-38.0635701,145.1186611,17z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad672dcbfd95c71:0x1d04567609f50ba0!8m2!3d-38.0628091!4d145.1196279!9m1!1b1

Same service levels as Carrum. But it's unstaffed with few shops and no toilets. The latter is a point of frequent complaint in comments. In summer a nice beach is nearby as well as a French deli for the gourmands. Expect this to be one of the biggest improvers next year after the new station is built as part of the level crossing removal program.  

The low (2.6 to 3 stars out of 5)

2.6 General Motors (!) 

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/General+Motors+Station/@-38.0049406,145.2181604,14z/data=!4m16!1m8!3m7!1s0x6ad60fcf82ec68b1:0x3ff332a1e9567d0c!2sCranbourne+Station!8m2!3d-38.0999658!4d145.2810949!9m1!1b1!3m6!1s0x6ad6114883f01e9b:0xe554d9d0ca74f4!8m2!3d-38.0102852!4d145.2446598!9m1!1b1

A closed station that only ever saw few trains but some people wanted to rate it! And it got a higher rating than some open stations. 

2.7 Hastings

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Hastings+Station/@-38.3105419,145.186006,15z/data=!4m16!1m8!3m7!1s0x6ad60fcf82ec68b1:0x3ff332a1e9567d0c!2sCranbourne+Station!8m2!3d-38.0999658!4d145.2810949!9m1!1b1!3m6!1s0x6ad5e6e374e99249:0x1d04567609f51230!8m2!3d-38.3056062!4d145.1860428!9m1!1b1

This score is earned. It's poorly located relative to town centre with poor paths to it. On the unreliable, infrequent and often suspended Stony Point line. However this by itself cannot explain the low rating as other Stony Point line stations rate much higher. It's probably the line's busiest station, and that may have some influence. Unstaffed. 

2.7 Flemington Racecourse

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Flemington+Racecourse+Station/@-37.7845478,144.9194875,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad65da4c3d3b3df:0x1d04567609f4e0c0!8m2!3d-37.7876193!4d144.9072191!9m1!1b1

Station only used during special events. Hence it is likely to be disproportionately used by those who only rarely take trains. 

2.8 Officer

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Officer/@-38.066366,145.4038551,16z/data=!4m16!1m8!3m7!1s0x6ad60fcf82ec68b1:0x3ff332a1e9567d0c!2sCranbourne+Station!8m2!3d-38.0999658!4d145.2810949!9m1!1b1!3m6!1s0x6ad61c05649f8407:0x1d04567609f519f0!8m2!3d-38.0662318!4d145.4110131!9m1!1b1

Used to be in the middle of nowhere but attracting growing usage with surrounding suburbanisation. 

2.8 Kananook

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Kananook+Station/@-38.121816,145.1331351,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x6ad674ad1dbf84fb:0x1d04567609f50e60!8m2!3d-38.121816!4d145.1353291

On the frequent but not always reliable Frankston line. Got rebuilt about 10-15 years ago. In the middle of a busy road with access via a bridge. Area has a poor reputation for safety, especially at night. Unstaffed with no toilets. 

2.8 Mooroolbark

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Mooroolbark+Station%2FBrice+Ave+(Mooroolbark)/@-37.7758476,145.3179136,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x0:0x7c2774c448b519d9!8m2!3d-37.7848318!4d145.3131849!9m1!1b1

2.8 Upwey

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Upwey+Station/@-37.9071063,145.3331056,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad62339498554e1:0x1d04567609f517d0!8m2!3d-37.9036164!4d145.3313541!9m1!1b1

Outer suburban station with infrequent (30 min) off-peak service. Unstaffed. No toilets. 

2.9 Craigieburn

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Craigieburn+Station/@-37.6022546,144.9408659,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad651f5c8293eb3:0xf475b70572498897!8m2!3d-37.6022547!4d144.9430601!9m1!1b1

Rail terminus serving a major growth area in the northern suburbs and the terminus of some of Melbourne's most productive bus routes like the 529. It's getting a major expansion to its car park

2.9 Cranbourne

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Cranbourne+Station/@-38.0889577,145.2682855,14z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad60fcf82ec68b1:0x3ff332a1e9567d0c!8m2!3d-38.0999658!4d145.2810949!9m1!1b1

One could argue that its location isn't the most convenient relative to local attractions. One complaint is that when there are disruptions trains can be terminated at Dandenong. However the Cranbourne line duplication should improve reliability.  

2.9 Glenroy

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Glenroy/@-37.7031873,144.9132004,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad65b000a0fdbbb:0x1d04567609f4e160!8m2!3d-37.7046028!4d144.9173364!9m1!1b1

A typical fairly austere postwar middle suburban station. But, unlike Jacana to the north, it is fully staffed and has an active shopping strip surrounding it. Not much to do here on Sunday morning with 40 minute gaps between trains. 

2.9 Merinda Park

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Merinda+Park+Station/@-38.0889577,145.2682855,14z/data=!4m16!1m8!3m7!1s0x6ad60fcf82ec68b1:0x3ff332a1e9567d0c!2sCranbourne+Station!8m2!3d-38.0999658!4d145.2810949!9m1!1b1!3m6!1s0x6ad611d69478cf15:0x1d04567609f515d0!8m2!3d-38.0799238!4d145.2641165!9m1!1b1

Sort of behind a housing estate with no local shops. Similar comments as apply to Cranbourne with regards to line reliability and future upgrades. Unstaffed. 

Medium rated (a selection only - not all included)

3.0 Willison 

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Willison+Station/@-37.8318127,145.067052,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad64198b9374e3f:0x1d04567609f50660!8m2!3d-37.8357477!4d145.0702384!9m1!1b1

Quiet station on the quiet Alamein line. 

3.0 Coolaroo

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Coolaroo+railway+station/@-37.6617517,144.9222556,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x0:0xf2ead597d5ed5089!8m2!3d-37.660913!4d144.9259946!9m1!1b1

Relatively new and fairly austere station whose access is handicapped by being next to the very busy Pascoe Vale Rd. No local shops. Area perceived as being unsafe at night. Station was proposed in the '70s but only got built after the Craigieburn electrification in the 2000s, with it opening in 2010. 

3.0 Glenbervie

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Glenbervie+Station/@-37.7412911,144.9189726,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad65c86ced5fb9f:0x1d04567609f4e220!8m2!3d-37.7472531!4d144.9210137!9m1!1b1

In established middle northern suburb residential area. Limited unique catchment with it being very close to Strathmore. 

3.0 Cardinia Rd

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Cardinia+Road+railway+station/@-38.0712819,145.4373183,17z/data=!4m16!1m8!3m7!1s0x6ad60fcf82ec68b1:0x3ff332a1e9567d0c!2sCranbourne+Station!8m2!3d-38.0999658!4d145.2810949!9m1!1b1!3m6!1s0x0:0x5574acaf5d5ba163!8m2!3d-38.0714469!4d145.4381644!9m1!1b1

A growth area new station with an unextended bus that still stops just a few hundred metres short of it. 

3.0 Leawarra

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Leawarra+Station/@-38.1528859,145.1406874,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad60b2a815dbe9b:0x1d04567609f50ec0!8m2!3d-38.1520367!4d145.1394434!9m1!1b1

Melbourne's quietest station near a university. Located on the infrequent Stony Point line facilities and shelter are basic. This is what it looked like 9 years ago and it's doubtful much has changed. 


3.0 Lalor

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Lalor+Station/@-37.6637985,145.0172809,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad64f1d20bedefd:0x1d04567609f4fd90!8m2!3d-37.6658655!4d145.0172862!9m1!1b1

Utilitarian postwar middle northern suburbs station that, unlike Thomastown and Epping, did not get rebuilt about 10 years ago when the line had major upgrades. The most active shopping strip is a little way away and bus timetables don't evenly mesh with trains.  

3.0 Chelsea

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Chelsea+railway+station,+Melbourne/@-38.0537623,145.1157858,17z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x3a84457b2d1066ca!8m2!3d-38.0518227!4d145.1158547

Similar comments to Bonbeach but active shopping strip and higher usage. Unstaffed during the day but public toilets (Exeloo) were added a few years ago. Will shortly be demolished and rebuilt as part of the level crossing removal program. 

3.0 Bentleigh (despite new station) 

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Bentleigh+railway+station/@-37.9213265,145.0352122,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x0:0xd9fbf7f805f70b5!8m2!3d-37.9175431!4d145.0369522!9m1!1b1

Rating looks a little unfair since Centre Rd was grade separated a few years ago and the station rebuilt. However the new station loses points by having only a single entrance (to the south) that limits its pedshed. A radical rethink of the Frankston line when being grade separated could have involved such a northern entrance with McKinnon not being rebuilt to increase travel speeds with minimal impact on station accessibility (due to the close spacing between Ormond/McKinnon and Bentleigh). And it would have been cheaper than what got built. 

3.1 Deer Park

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Deer+Park/@-37.7780186,144.7629573,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad68aba4c965e05:0x1d04567609f4da00!8m2!3d-37.7776242!4d144.7715557!9m1!1b1

Formerly a stark station in the middle of nowhere this station has steadily seen more trains stop here, particularly on weekdays with it now being on a junction.  The station will be rebuilt as part of the Derrimut Rd level crossing removal. An evaluation of access to the planned rebuilt station is here

3.1 Ardeer

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Ardeer/@-37.7854298,144.7991349,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad6600e865c8e35:0x1d04567609f52780!8m2!3d-37.782995!4d144.8015562!9m1!1b1

A similar catchment to Albion (on the north side of Sunshine) but very different services with Ardeer getting nice but less frequent (especially on weekends) V/Line trains compared to the Metro service Albion gets. The station is quite austere with a residential catchment and no shops nearby. 

3.2 Hoppers Crossing

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Hoppers+Crossing+Station/@-37.8832535,144.6989292,17z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad688adc07f6259:0x1d04567609f527f0!8m2!3d-37.883254!4d144.7011235!9m1!1b1

If you ever wanted a station that was spartan and unstaffed for the high patronage received then Hoppers Crossing is it. There's not a lot of shelter and people reaching the station must cross the tracks. Pedestrian connectivity is poor from the hospitals precinct to the south due to excessive priority to vehicles. And it's best described as being mediocre from the north. Bus passengers (and there are a lot here) wait on cold concrete blocks that pass for seating in the bomb-shelter inspired bus interchange. Old Geelong Rd is getting its level crossing removed but unfortunately the scope of the project does not include a much needed station/bus interchange rebuild. For many years the state seat was taken for granted by Labor with what locals tell me was limited representation from the disgraced Telmo Languiller.  

3.2 Westgarth

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Westgarth+Station/@-37.7766871,145.0112084,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad643712557f07f:0x1d04567609f4f970!8m2!3d-37.7805603!4d144.999184!9m1!1b1

Basic inner northern suburban station with tram and bus nearby. 

3.2 South Kensington

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/South+Kensington+Station/@-37.8015383,144.9241688,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad65d0cd3148541:0xa3a50e2440a557be!8m2!3d-37.7997176!4d144.9258323!9m1!1b1

Most often heard by passengers as 'stopping all stations except South Kensington'. The station is somewhat isolated and isn't much to look at but it now enjoys a 10 minute daytime frequency so you're unlikely to be waiting for long. 

3.2 Beaconsfield

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Beaconsfield/@-38.0507209,145.3619911,16z/data=!4m16!1m8!3m7!1s0x6ad60fcf82ec68b1:0x3ff332a1e9567d0c!2sCranbourne+Station!8m2!3d-38.0999658!4d145.2810949!9m1!1b1!3m6!1s0x6ad61bd1d056cd3d:0x1d04567609f51900!8m2!3d-38.0509393!4d145.3660659!9m1!1b1

A basic suburban fringe station a bit away from the shops on the main street. Limited local buses. 

3.2 Mordialloc

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Mordialloc+railway+station/@-38.0060988,145.0853803,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x0:0xc76a331f99a9e393!8m2!3d-38.0066333!4d145.0875145!9m1!1b1

Staffed station near shops and beach. Has underpass. Covered waiting area. With many stations on the Frankston line being rebuilt as part of the grade separations this will soon be one of the few historical stations left on the line. 

3.3 Roxburgh Park

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Roxburgh+Park+Station/@-37.6382312,144.9332097,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad6504bc07dbac9:0x1d04567609f762c0!8m2!3d-37.6382322!4d144.9354038!9m1!1b1

Often derided for its brutalist concrete architecture, it could have been built 50 years ago but in fact only opened in 2007. It's not just looks but usability with one of the comments being about the unsheltered ticket machine. There is a shopping centre nearby but the station is sort of behind it. Hence there is limited passive surveillance.   

3.3 Dandenong

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Dandenong+Station/@-37.9845978,145.1859417,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad613f605761823:0x1d04567609f51370!8m2!3d-37.9899861!4d145.2097508!9m1!1b1

A major junction station serving both metropolitan and V/Line trains. A transport hub for a redeveloped town centre. The station was rebuilt in the 1990s about when the Cranbourne line was electrified. However it has not aged well with lax cleaning standards. Some platforms are quite narrow and it has  reputation for crime. 

3.3 Tyabb

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Tyabb+Station/@-38.2646633,145.1899113,15z/data=!4m16!1m8!3m7!1s0x6ad60fcf82ec68b1:0x3ff332a1e9567d0c!2sCranbourne+Station!8m2!3d-38.0999658!4d145.2810949!9m1!1b1!3m6!1s0x6ad5e11f6a274171:0x1d04567609f51250!8m2!3d-38.2597372!4d145.1862842!9m1!1b1

Provided you can work around the limited Stony Point train timetables or navigate the bus as a back-up this is a delightful destination for day trippers with many secondhand and antique stores and some cafes. As is common for Stony Point stations it can best be described as austere. 

3.3 Tarneit

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Tarneit+Station/@-37.8375579,144.6846153,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad68eb575d8bb89:0xe925c32a865257f1!8m2!3d-37.8320924!4d144.6957377!9m1!1b1

Now V/Line's busiest station (except for Southern Cross) this is one showpiece of the very successful Regional Rail Link. Many buses connect it to the surrounding area. However walks from the train to the bus are further than they should be and pedestrian connectivity is limited with parking being dominant. 

3.3 Pakenham

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Pakenham/@-38.0802174,145.4772725,17z/data=!4m16!1m8!3m7!1s0x6ad60fcf82ec68b1:0x3ff332a1e9567d0c!2sCranbourne+Station!8m2!3d-38.0999658!4d145.2810949!9m1!1b1!3m6!1s0x6ad61e00d28dc767:0xba2827d13e658da9!8m2!3d-38.0803376!4d145.4857743!9m1!1b1

Suburban rail terminus and interchange with V/Line but a fairly basic station. Local buses are typically hourly. 

3.3 Lynbrook

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Lynbrook+railway+station/@-38.0598364,145.2518918,15z/data=!4m14!1m8!3m7!1s0x6ad60fcf82ec68b1:0x3ff332a1e9567d0c!2sCranbourne+Station!8m2!3d-38.0999658!4d145.2810949!9m1!1b1!3m4!1s0x0:0x2f3f6b11ab0fffd2!8m2!3d-38.0576145!4d145.24941

Nice newish station. Built after most houses were. No local shops. Better than average positioning for walking with  a good wide shallow underpass but no cross street reduces its efficiency for direct bus routes. Could also benefit from more than one entrance. 

3.3 Glenhuntly

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Glenhuntly+Station/@-37.8899456,145.0419178,17z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad6698443d0d373:0xbcb286346582b894!8m2!3d-37.889865!4d145.0420886!9m1!1b1

Another station that won't be long on this earth due to a planned grade separation. This is a 1970s/80s brick building a bit like the old Ginifer. Mostly unstaffed. Lacks a southern exit. Near the tram and shops with the main objection (like Hoppers Crossing) being the requirement to cross the tracks to reach the station (as most trains run on the island platforms). 

3.4 Frankston

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Frankston+Station/@-38.146828,145.1245942,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad674d08c430e9f:0x6ed06ba1b251e4bc!8m2!3d-38.1429771!4d145.1260096!9m1!1b1

Recently got a makeover that changed its looks but not its inherent problems that make it not fit for purpose for a major suburban hub and interchange for reasons explained here. Has a somewhat poor reputation not assisted by the mix of businesses opposite. Desperately needs a northern entrance for easier access to homes and the Bayside shopping centre. 

3.4 Broadmeadows

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Broadmeadows+Station/@-37.6832357,144.9174218,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad65a8a54911bef:0x1d04567609f4e200!8m2!3d-37.6832355!4d144.9196163!9m1!1b1

A higher rating than I thought it would be. Station has a poor reputation with a dark 1970s/80s era development that meant well but had poor passive surveillance. Inferior off-peak train frequencies to similar lines to south and east. If passengers get the 901 bus from Melbourne Airport this is the first impression for visitors of a Melbourne suburban station and it's not all good. A previous government proposed an upgrade but they lost office before it happened. 

3.4 Moorabbin

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Moorabbin+Station/@-37.93727,145.0359847,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad66eb24093eb1d:0x1d04567609f50060!8m2!3d-37.9348804!4d145.0369428!9m1!1b1

A must visit for postwar brutalist fans with lots of concrete and ramps. Station got put into a trench as part of 1959 grade separation. Moorabbin was seen as a major district centre in the 1954 plan (similar to Box Hill, Preston and Footscray) but while it attracted residential development and light industry to the east the station precinct did not develop much beyond a few buildings (like the Kingston Civic Centre). Southland took over as being the area's highest order centre while Highett and Bentleigh are more favoured for daily needs. Being on the Frankston line Moorabbin enjoys a frequent service (maximum waits 10 min day, 20 min night) and is staffed first to last train. However access to platforms is indirect and is only possible from one point. Unfortunately this mistake appears to have been replicated at some newly grade separated stations such as Mentone, though the proposed Edithvale, Chelsea and Bonbeach have better designs. 

3.4 Patterson

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Patterson/@-37.930145,145.0341394,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad6694e5efd4aff:0x1d04567609f50020!8m2!3d-37.9251168!4d145.0355253!9m1!1b1

Every station has a 'runt' station. One that's the most inferior in the pack. For the Frankston line that would be a toss-up between Kananook and Patterson, both of which were built during austere times in the railways' history. Patterson is an elevated 1961 station that reduced walking distances for some residents at the cost of slower through travel for everyone else. There is a small shopping strip nearby. In an ideal world it wouldn't have been built, with the resources being put to improving access to nearby Moorabbin Station (including a northern entrance north of South Road). 

3.5 Albion

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Albion+Station/@-37.7772025,144.822196,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad65fd3c9b26edf:0x1d04567609f4db50!8m2!3d-37.7772023!4d144.8243898!9m1!1b1

A tired-looking station accessible via a (mercifully short) ramp and underpass to its north. Lacks southern access. No staffing most times. No local shops and much vacant land nearby. Has great potential as part of an enlarged Sunshine centre with historical interest provided by the silos. The first contact on the metropolitan rail network for buses approaching from the west (Melton and Caroline Springs). 

3.5 Huntingdale

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Huntingdale+Station/@-37.9115336,145.1015701,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad66afb79ac4339:0x1d04567609f50a70!8m2!3d-37.9110171!4d145.1023646!9m1!1b1

Another utilitarian station but one that has punches well above its weight as regard to patronage due to the 601 express shuttle bus to Monash University. Now enjoys a 10 minute 7 day service thanks to service upgrades on the Dandenong line. However weekend evening frequencies remain at a low 30 minutes. 

3.6 Narre Warren


Nearest station to the large Fountain Gate shopping centre. Hub for local buses. Area not known to be very walkable with high traffic volumes and car-friendly design. Some shops near station. 

3.6 Edithvale

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Edithvale+Station/@-38.0387145,145.1087799,17z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad6729a41ca49db:0x1d04567609f50b20!8m2!3d-38.0380605!4d145.1083767!9m1!1b1

Similar comments as for Bonbeach and Chelsea. Frankston line bayside station about to be rebuilt and repositioned north as part of grade separation. 

3.8 McKinnon

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/McKinnon+Railway+Station/@-37.9102046,145.0365855,17z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad669662a7919ad:0x1d04567609f500d0!8m2!3d-37.9103716!4d145.0382504!9m1!1b1

Thanks to the recent grade separation, this is a much grander station than its patronage might otherwise justify. Has a shopping strip with good east-west pedestrian connectivity via McKinnon Rd. A short walk from Ormond to the north and Bentleigh to the south.



3.8 Ormond

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Ormond+Station/@-37.9053965,145.039654,17z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad6697abf3aff35:0x1d04567609f50120!8m2!3d-37.903172!4d145.0395378!9m1!1b1

Like Bentleigh and McKinnon this got transformed and rebuilt by the level crossing removal. A very good feature that should be replicated everywhere is access points on both the north and south side of the busy intersecting road (North Road). This aids bus and walking access to the station with improved directness and less waiting. 

3.8 Yarraman

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Yarraman+Station/@-37.9845978,145.1859417,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad6147a3d430bcd:0x1d04567609f512d0!8m2!3d-37.9780437!4d145.1915038!9m1!1b1

3.8 Sandown Park

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Sandown+Park/@-37.9575329,145.1574459,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad61494e5590411:0x1d04567609f510e0!8m2!3d-37.9568391!4d145.1632494!9m1!1b1

A racecourse station with some residential catchment. Now enjoys a 10 min off-peak service thanks to it being on the Dandenong line. 

3.9 Berwick

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Berwick+railway+station,+Melbourne/@-38.0399904,145.3433659,17z/data=!4m16!1m8!3m7!1s0x6ad60fcf82ec68b1:0x3ff332a1e9567d0c!2sCranbourne+Station!8m2!3d-38.0999658!4d145.2810949!9m1!1b1!3m6!1s0x0:0xfd7a58881f25e76e!8m2!3d-38.0396464!4d145.3449583!9m1!1b1

Significant outer south-eastern suburbs station. Staffed. No shops at station but there is a strip to the north on the highway. Also near a university campus and hospital. A significant bus hub. 

3.9 Clayton

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Clayton+Station/@-37.9238571,145.1204529,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad66b2116633edd:0xe6b1257f74e84379!8m2!3d-37.924644!4d145.1206411!9m1!1b1

A rebuilt and now elevated station as part of the so-called 'Skyrail' project on the Dandenong line. High patronage with many passengers changing to bus. Buses here are well-used but often underserviced. Stinginess with myki readers and exits mean that the walk to some bus stops is less direct than it should. 


High rated

4.0 Springvale

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Springvale+Station/@-37.945655,145.1460733,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad614c729ad7125:0x1d04567609f50fe0!8m2!3d-37.9490856!4d145.1531321!9m1!1b1

Another newish station, but, unlike Clayton sunk rather than elevated as it was done before the 'Skyrail' project. Staffed first to last train with high all day patronage. Its single exit is its main failing, especially the lack of a direct entrance from the west side of the busy Springvale Rd. 

4.0 Cheltenham

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Cheltenham/@-37.9697351,145.0653876,15z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x6ad614cd41ae1f23:0x290fef2ec78e9b35!2sWestall+Station!8m2!3d-37.9377146!4d145.1379542!3m4!1s0x6ad66c292aa87ec5:0xc8c0c7c2977bc494!8m2!3d-37.9669104!4d145.0547499

Staffed station. Frequent train service. Shops nearby. Toilets. All the ingredients of a high rating. Although buses in the area were a mess with complex routes stopping at different places around the station. The old above ground station has now been replaced with a 'trench rail' station as part of the recent grade separation. 

4.1 Highett

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Highett+Station/@-37.9625286,145.056075,15z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x6ad614cd41ae1f23:0x290fef2ec78e9b35!2sWestall+Station!8m2!3d-37.9377146!4d145.1379542!3m4!1s0x6ad66ea3a1fc3f93:0x1d04567609f50180!8m2!3d-37.9484402!4d145.0417704

Frequent service and near shops which have improved over the last 20 years. Unstaffed most times but generally considered a safe area. Like many stations it could benefit from additional entrances (in this case to the north). Only some express trains stop here but the new January 31 2021 timetable made Frankston line operations simpler. 

4.1 Oakleigh

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Oakleigh+Station/@-37.900461,145.0863781,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad66a5989927939:0x1d04567609f50940!8m2!3d-37.9004926!4d145.088346!9m1!1b1

Had a makeover in recent times. A major bus hub with more buses to this station going in more directions than just about anywhere else. Staffed. Several streets of active shops nearby to the east. However it suffered from the spate of 1950s-70s 'road over' Country Roads Board grade separations that blighted less favoured sides such as to the south and west. This can be likened to Sunshine and Huntingdale where the same happened at about the same time. 

4.1 Southland

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Southland+Station/@-37.9697351,145.0653876,15z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x6ad614cd41ae1f23:0x290fef2ec78e9b35!2sWestall+Station!8m2!3d-37.9377146!4d145.1379542!3m4!1s0x6ad66e9dfecd8b89:0x8702784825012ca4!8m2!3d-37.9588021!4d145.0491934

This much needed addition to the network opened a few years ago. Previously trains went right past this large shopping centre but there was no station. Previously passengers had to alight at Cheltenham and either walk or catch a complex to catch bus to Southland. The new station does have some problems though. For example as it was designed for city commuters and not for local travel there is poor shelter on Platform 2. Also it could benefit from a western entry point and a reconfigured local bus network including stops on Bay Rd as part of a direct route to Sandringham. 


4.2 Noble Park

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Noble+Park+Station/@-37.9704238,145.1710071,15z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad61488c3699a4b:0x1d04567609f511d0!8m2!3d-37.9666069!4d145.1763117!9m1!1b1

This had a reputation for gangs and violence about 15 years ago with the station precinct considered particularly seamy. Unlike further up the line at Carnegie and Murrumbeena, locals enthusiastically welcomed the elevated rail. And it and the new station can be regarded as a success with Noble Park generally seen as better now than then. 


4.2 Westall

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Westall+Station/@-37.9387846,145.137619,16z/data=!4m7!3m6!1s0x6ad614cd41ae1f23:0x290fef2ec78e9b35!8m2!3d-37.9377141!4d145.1379548!9m1!1b1

This station was previously fairly quiet with the area being somewhat light industrial. However there has been quite dense townhouse development to the south. It had a major fire about 15 years ago, necessitating its rebuilding. 

4.5 Mentone 

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Mentone/@-37.9829325,145.065849,17z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x6ad614cd41ae1f23:0x290fef2ec78e9b35!2sWestall+Station!8m2!3d-37.9377146!4d145.1379542!3m4!1s0x6ad66dcc10606cab:0x1d04567609f50580!8m2!3d-37.9819291!4d145.065019

Highly rated, but note again that many ratings are of the old station before the grade separation. You could describe the old station as being Paris on Platform 1 (gardens, nice trees, shops) and Detroit on the Platform 2 side (billboards and parking). An underpass provided fairly direct access under the rail and the old station was well located with regards to shops. The recently opened new station (official opening tomorrow) is aesthetically pleasing for non-users with much effort going to preserve and relocate the old building. However it is a case of one step forward, two steps back for most station users as the station is moved south, further from the shops, buses and its likely densest pedshed. 

5.0  Carnegie

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Carnegie+railway+station/@-37.8863175,145.0574625,18z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m7!3m6!1s0x0:0x418343e4afde5c07!8m2!3d-37.8863175!4d145.0585594!9m1!1b1

In a lot of ways this is a showpiece station. Not only due to the new station but also the surrounding area which had been rapidly densifying for the previous 10 - 15 years. The main street is busy with substantial retail development as well. Enjoys a 10  minute daytime frequency with express trains all day to the city. Service however drops on weekend evenings. 


Making stations better

There does seem to be a 'new station' effect where rebuilding has improved how station are viewed. But this can't be done everywhere. To lift the network to a better overall standard it is also important to attend to improving amenities at even stations that aren't part of signature projects like the level crossing removals. This involves a larger number of smaller projects rather than a smaller number of larger projects. And upgrades could be tied in with local initiatives such as shopping strip rejuvenation or bus network reviews. 

Budgets for each project would range widely.  Project examples could include: 

- Drinking fountains (like some newer stations have)

- Better local walking, cycling and bus information at stations

- Highlighting connectivity to popular nearby destinations

- Real time information displays (for train, tram and bus)

- Better disruption information

- Improved platform shelter coverage (both from rain and shade)

- More myki touch on/off points

- More entrances to stations (all directions, both ends of platform)

- Added pedestrian bridges or underpasses to and between platforms

- Opening all entrances full time that are sometimes closed (eg Richmond)

- Public toilets either in the station or nearby

- Staffing for unstaffed but busy stations

- Better passive surveillance (eg removing, repositioning view-blocking billboards)

- Bicycle parking

- Electric wheelchair charging points

- Using wall space to showcase local art

- Upgraded paths and pedestrian crossings in the area surrounding the station

- Improved cleaning regimes

- More frequent train service with max 20 min waits day or night (so you're waiting there less)

- Art and sculpture to liven dead surfaces and areas 

- Tougher anti-graffiti measures

- Platform surface, edges and markings

- Projection onto blank walls at night / screens that show silent local indie films / animations

- Renovating deteriorating station buildings

- Harmonising bus with train frequencies to cut loitering at stations & speed travel

- Gardening and planting

Please add your comments below if you have thoughts on the above list or opinions to share on various stations discussed here. 


Index to Building Melbourne's Useful Network items


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Timetable Tuesday #115: La Trobe University's 551 bus

 

Cross-suburban bus routes between clusters of major attractions like universities, hospitals and stations normally do well. They tend to attract high all day patronage for a diverse range of trips. Those in the eastern and south-eastern suburbs have been upgraded to SmartBus or at least operate to minimum service standards. And they are often fairly direct along main roads. 

Route 551 serves similar destinations but its routing and timetable make it more like a local route. Nevertheless it has much potential to be so much more. Roles include it being a connection to La Trobe University and a rail feeder service to Heidelberg (which may be quicker to parts of the CBD than the 250 or 350 which provide a one-seat ride). 

The electoral districts it serves are Ivanhoe (Anthony Carbines MP) and Bundoora (Colin Brooks MP). Both are held by Labor. 

Its map from the PTV site is below.  The 551 is roughly a north-south route from La Trobe University Bundoora to Heidelberg Station (which is near some major hospitals). Heidelberg isn't the nearest station to La Trobe but has a substantial retail strip nearby and is served by the 903 orbital SmartBus. The most direct way for passengers from the Doncaster/Manningham area to get to La Trobe involves taking the 903 and changing to the 551 at Heidelberg. 


The network map below shows the 551 in relation to other routes. The streets in the area are roughly a grid. Key east-west routes include 513, 517 and the 903 SmartBus (the latter added about 10 years ago). North-south routes are the 548 and 551. Both start at La Trobe University. There are two north-south roads that you'd think would make good direct bus corridors but neither route stays consistently on either. Thus there are kinks in both routes and sections of road without buses. 

The whole are has had no significant bus network reviews for 20 or 30 years. The main thing that has happened has been the commencement of the 903 SmartBus with no significant changes to the other routes it partly overlaps. 

Timetable

Route 551 operates roughly every 20 - 30 minutes in peaks and two buses per hour between the peaks. Intervals between the latter are every 25 or 35 minutes so it is not a clockface schedule. This compares with (and doesn't consistently connect to) trains every 20 minutes at Heidelberg. Services also do not connect consistently with the 903 orbital SmartBus which mostly runs on a 15 minute schedule.

Service finishes just after 7pm. There is no Saturday and Sunday service as the route missed out on 'minimum standards' upgrades about 15 years ago. However, as you will see later, the 551 once had trips on all seven days. 

Patronage

Route 551 enjoys above average patronage productivity on weekdays with 31 passenger boardings per hour (late 2018). The average for Melbourne buses is a little over 20 boardings per hour. This is surprisingly good given it has little unique coverage. It's the major trip generators, particularly La Trobe University, that help here. 

History

Route 551 has been going for at least 35 years. You can see it on the 1992 public transport network map with a similar route alignment to today. The first timetable on Krustylink is one for 1986. This features a 6.3 day per week service approximately. The .3 refers to the few hours it ran on Sunday afternoon, a trait it shared with other northern suburbs routes in the 1980s. Weekday service then was every 20 minutes peak and 30 minutes interpeak with no harmonisation with trains. The Saturday service was every 40 to 50 minutes.  

Route 551's timetable suffered at least two rounds of cuts in the early 1990s. In 1991 its Sunday service was deleted with weekday peak service reduced to approximately every 30 minutes. Then in 1993 there was a further cut with Saturday timetable deleted. This reduced service remains to this day but peak service subsequently improved to 15 - 20 min (possibly about 15 years ago).  

Potential

Route 551 has above average patronage but aspects of it are preventing it reaching its full potential. It may be that travel needs would be better served if the Heidelberg to La Trobe section became part of a much more frequent seven day route, such as an extended 903 SmartBus from the Manningham area. This would remove the need for large number of passengers to make a forced transfer at Heidelberg. It could also foreshadow the proposed Suburban Rail Loop in the area, establishing travel patterns early. Other areas could potentially be served by an amalgamated Route 550 and 551 to form an east-west Northland - Heidelberg route. 

Some bus concepts (not all the same) for the Heidelberg area are discussed in: 

- Useful Network Part 15 

- Useful Network Part 28

- Useful Network Part 52 (Networking the North)

- Useful Network Part 54 (SRL SmartBus) 

If you  have other thoughts or ideas for the 551 please leave them in the comments below. 

Timetable Tuesday index

Friday, April 23, 2021

Pampered parking. Starved buses. The story of station access.

Politicians love promising and building car parks near suburban train stations. 

Why?  

Perceived good politics..

In their world the politics stacks up for at least ten reasons, as follows. 

a. Station parking is seen as a vote winner popular with busy suburban working families that are otherwise not politically engaged and could vote either way. 

b. Where there's spare land an expanded car park can be promised, built and opened in one electoral cycle. 

c. Individually they are not big projects. So you could build them in your 20 most marginal seats. 

d. They are visible, so you can see the steamrollers, smell the tar and read the sign proclaiming which government funded it. 

e. Success can be seen each day as people observe how full they are. 

f. They are scaleable, so you can promise another expansion in 3 or 4 years if your government is having a rough time. 

g. Station parking is seen as a 'public transport' project with environmental and 'congestion busting' benefits. 

h. It's something they can officially open with signs, ceremonies and selfies. Boosting buses, from two per hour to four per hour, is not seen as being as tangible, despite their potential to carry more people. 

i. They are seen to address a common anxiety in modern life, that is the commute to work. Their construction shows that our representatives (however self-serving or stupid they may appear) have the common touch and are determined to deliver for their communities. However they give rise to another anxiety - "parking rage". 


j. Station car parks are largely seen as capital projects. That appeals greatly to federal governments who, in transport, would never fund services but may fund capital infrastructure. It also sits well with the current Victorian state government which will borrow billions for infrastructure but balks at recurrent funding for improved bus service (with declining service per capita being recorded). Hence both governments have lavish station car park programs. Federal's is the Urban Congestion Fund while the state offers Car parks for Commuters


..but (mostly) bad policy

The problem is that with uncharged parking at stations the politics works better than the projects in the more populated suburban areas. Station parking does become more appropriate further out. For example one could justify a car park at an exurban commuter station in a low land value area too sparsely populated for walking, bikes and buses. If you want to redevelop a town centre station precinct you might redistribute its parking spaces to stations either side.   

But once we enter suburbia, with higher land values and greater population density, things change. Station parking becomes hugely cost-ineffective per train passenger potentially gained. Car parks can cost tens of thousands of dollars per space. You'd think that a slab of asphalt in the suburbs would be about the simplest thing a politician can promise but even that can fail as the Herald-Sun reported on Wednesday


Using vacant rail-side land is one thing but per user costs skyrocket if land needs to be purchased and/or multi-storey structures built. And each space is occupied, all day, by a passenger paying only a few thousand per year in fares. Their patronage of the trains is good but at what cost? And could it be won through more cost-effective means with wider benefits?

Station car parks can crowd-out more productive land uses. Even short-term parking would be more locally beneficial if there is retail nearby. Or it could be used for dense retail, jobs and housing that would attract a greater economic return and encourage transit usage. Having such higher density at stations could also allow suburban residential character in neighbourhoods further away from them to be preserved.  

Station parking means that a very small number of people is getting a large public subsidy as we too rarely charge for it (unlike Toronto and San Francisco). That's something to remember. Parking lots look impressive but their space inefficiency means that relatively few directly benefit. A rail network needs efficient access to its stations to get high usage. This involves most access being via walking, cycling and buses whose space impacts are much smaller per passenger. For example a bus can carry 50 people every few minutes to a waiting area the size of a few car parking spaces. And in purely capital terms you can buy several new buses for the cost of adding a few dozen parking spaces with no doubt as to which option can move more people each day.

The customer is always right. Most people are pragmatists. They will use whichever access mode works best for them. Upgrade the space-efficient modes and people will use them. That will free scarce parking spaces for those who lack the other choices. Even the complaint of there being 'not enough parking' can be mitigated with intelligent demand-based parking charging. 

Part of the clamour for station parking is that alternatives just aren't very good at the moment. Especially in outer areas where stations are widely spaced and roads are hostile for those not in cars. For people in the critical 1 - 5 km distance from a station, walking is too slow, cycling is unsafe while buses are unreliable, infrequent and need recurrent investment to improve. 


Opportunities  

None of this is necessarily inevitable. Walking can be sped with more crossings, roundabouts removed and new station platform entrances. Cycling can be safened with connected off-road paths. And buses can be made better. Imagine if all stations had buses like the 465 in transport minister Ben Carroll's seat. This doesn't look much on a map and it goes to few significant places but it feeds Essendon station well and, unlike any similar route, runs every 7 minutes or so in the peak. Williams Landing has been another feeder bus success story from almost the day it opened. A dollar spent on bus services will create continuing jobs, as opposed to the one-off 'sugar hit' of parking construction (with the land acquisition component creating no jobs except for property lawyers and agents).

Are we doing much of this? For each station that is part of a government car park program I'll briefly summarise the state of current bus services, whether there have been recent improvements and any known plans for improvements. 

I'll list stations in roughly clockwise order around the bay. Those in red are part of a state government car park program, those in blue are part of the federal government program while those in black are in both. 

Werribee

On average every 20 - 25 min in peak. Major network revamp 2015. Minor upgrades since. New route 182 planned. 

Aircraft

No significant bus connections to station. 

Wyndham Vale

Major network revamp 2015. Little change since. 

Tarneit

On average every 20 - 25 min in peak. Major network revamp 2015. Minor upgrades since. New routes 152 and 182 planned. 

Melton

On average every 30 - 60 min in peak. One route added (454) but otherwise no major change for many years. 

Cobblebank

Every 40 min approx. Route 454 added when station opened. 

Rockbank

Every 30 - 40 min approx. Route 444 added a few years ago to Aintree. 

Caroline Springs

Every 20 min in peak approx. Recent extension of 462 and improvement of 460. 

Deer Park

Every 20 min in peak approx. Last significant upgrade in 2014 with new Brimbank network. 

Sunbury 

Every 20 - 30 min peak approx. Last significant upgrade a few years ago. 

Watergardens

Every 20 min in peak approx. Last significant upgrade in 2014 with new Brimbank network. 

Donnybrook

Every 40 min approx in peak. Served by new Route 524. 

Craigieburn

Every 15 - 30 min in peak approx. Recent and planned upgrades but lagging growth. 

Merlynston

Every 30 min in peak approx. No significant network reform or upgrades for >10 years. 

Epping

Every 20-25 min in peak approx. No significant network reform or upgrades for >10 years except for Epping North/Wollert. Local routes often unharmonised or irregular frequency. 

Hurstbridge

Only bus is 343 which parallels/duplicates rail line. No feeder buses from surrounding area. 

Wattle Glen

Only bus is 343 which parallels/duplicates rail line. No feeder buses from surrounding area. 

Eltham

Every 15 - 30 min. No significant local network reforms for >10 years. Complex routes with generally poor usage. Significant areas (eg Bolton St) without coverage. 

Montmorency

Buses do not operate right to station. Nearest route (293) every 30 min with limited operating hours/days. No significant network reforms for >10 years.

Greensborough

Every 15 - 30 min. Some recent network changes but patronage performance of some newish routes (eg 343, 385) is poor. Established routes eg 513, 518 and 566 are very complex. 

Watsonia

Every 20 - 30 min. Both routes (533 and 566) very complex. No significant network reforms or service upgrades for >10 years.

Mooroolbark

Every 30 - 60 min approx. All routes have limited operating hours. No significant network reforms for >10 years.

Croydon

Every 15 - 30 min with no recent service upgrades. Served by complex 380 loop. 

Ringwood East

Every 20-30 min served by 380 loop whose introduction made buses more complex. Large area along Eastfield Rd has no bus to station.  

Belgrave

Every 20-40 min approx in peak. Complex network with no significant reforms for >10 years.

Upper Ferntree Gully

Every 20-30 min approx in peak. Complex network with no significant reforms for >10 years.

Ferntree Gully

Every 20-30 min approx in peak. Complex network with no significant reforms for >10 years.

Boronia

Every 20-40 min approx in peak. Complex network with no significant reforms for >10 years.

Heathmont

One bus route (679) every 30 min approx in peak. No significant network reforms for >10 years.

Ringwood

Every 15 - 30 min approx in peak. No significant network reforms for >10 years except for recent 742 extension. 

Heatherdale

Every 20 - 30 min approx in peak via Route 742. No significant service upgrade in >10 years except for recent extension to Ringwood. 

Mitcham

Every 20-30 min approx in peak. Some network reforms in Mitcham north area in 2014. 

Surrey Hills

Every 30 min approx in peak. No significant network reforms for >10 years. Note: Station is being merged with Mont Albert as part of grade separation. 

Canterbury

One bus route every 30 min approx in peak and limited operating hours (285). No significant network reforms for >10 years. 

Camberwell

Two bus routes every 30 min in peak (285 & 612) with limited operating hours.  No significant network reforms for >10 years. 

Glenferrie

Tram only. No significant timetable upgrades to these in last >10 years.

Jordanville

Every 20 min average during peaks (single route). No significant recent network reform or upgrades. 

Pakenham

Every 60 min average during peaks. No significant recent network reform or upgrades. 

Cardinia Rd

Every 60 min average during peaks. Route 925 stops about 800m short of station. No significant recent network reform or upgrades. 

Beaconsfield

Every 40 min average during peaks. Little substantial network reform or upgrades for >8 years. 

Berwick

Every 20 - 60 min average in peak. Recent addition of Routes 888 & 889 but infrequent. 

Narre Warren

Every 20 - 40 min average during peaks. Little substantial network reform or upgrades for >8 years. 

Cranbourne

Every 20 min average during peaks. Significant network revamp in 2016 but more coverage is needed. 

Lynbrook

Every 20 - 40 min during peaks. 

Dandenong

Every 30 - 60 min average during peaks. Many routes finish ~7pm. No significant network reform or upgrades for >10 years except for Endeavour Hills.

Yarraman

Each route is every 60 min in peak. No network reform or upgrades for >10 years. 

Sandown Park

No buses to station. 

Frankston 

Every 30 - 60 min peak on average with limited operating hours on many. No significant network reform or upgrades for >10 years. Terminus station with town centre but poor buses intensifies parking pressures. 

Kananook

Every 15 - 60 min on average during peaks. No significant recent network reform or upgrades in >10 years.  

Seaford

Every 40 - 60 min on average during peaks. Recent introduction of Route 760 but need for other Carrum Downs area connections.  

Bentleigh

Every 15 - 30 min peak on average. No wholesale bus network reform in area (added Route 627 does not serve this station). 

Sandringham (project under threat!)

Every 20 - 40 min peak on average. Complex local network with no significant recent reform or upgrades in >10 years.  

Hampton

Every 20 - 30 min peak on average. No significant recent network reform or upgrades in >10 years.  

Brighton Beach (project under threat!)

Every 20 min peak on average. Complex local network with no significant recent reform. Lacks simple  feeder route along South Rd. 

North Brighton

Every 20-40 min peak on average. Complex local network with no significant recent reform or upgrades in >10 years.  

Elsternwick

Trams and buses every 10-30 min peak on average. Some reforms in last 10 years.   

Balaclava (project under threat!)

Served by trams only. No significant timetable upgrades to these in last >10 years. 

This is a long list but the service offering is fairly consistent. The average station that's getting a car park upgrade has a couple of bus routes about every half hour, even in peaks. It's had no recent service upgrades and none are planned. 

What works for station bus access

In one word it's frequency. And most stations now have about one third or one half what it should be.

Feeder buses are potentially lower cost and more space efficient than car driving and parking. But they can only widely appeal if the service is good enough. Bad interchange and network design can make changing and waiting a hassle. This is particularly in the afternoon where people can't as easily pick their finish times and unreliable trains can make aiming for timed bus connections a gamble. The gold standard then is a service where even if a bus has just been missed the next is not far away. 

How much peak service do you need? Maximum waits between buses cannot exceed 20 minutes. If they do then commuters won't use them as feeder services. Once feeder bus frequency hits 20 minutes then you start to get work commuters (as opposed to school commuters) using them. You can tell that because of rising bus patronage in the 5 - 7am and 5 - 7pm time slots, ie before and after the school peaks. See the ATRF paper on the 2014 revised Brimbank bus network for evidence of this.

To keep peoples' confidence services levels need to be retained and where possible improved. They cannot be allowed to atrophy through lack of vigilance. An example of the latter happened when the Department of Transport sloppily allowed peak direction headways on a major Werribee - Tarneit route (180) to blow out to 28 minutes on a nominally 20 minute service as part of the January 31 2021 bus recoordination. 

20 minute waits are still not fantastic if a bus has just been missed. 15 minute waits (like standard on most parts of the SmartBus orbitals) can even be marginal. But when you get to 10 minute feeder bus frequencies then the service becomes highly saleable and people use it in large numbers. Even in outer suburbs. Melbourne's problem is that we have very few feeder routes that operate at that frequency, even in peak times. 


What happened with bus services is similar to earlier trends with metropolitan trains. The network got bigger to serve the growing outer suburbs post WWII but frequency in established areas fell. Amalgamated routes were often less frequent than their shorter predecessors. Local buses in the 1980s often ran every 15 or 20 minutes during peaks but may now only be every 30 minutes, ending their practical usefulness as rail feeders. The Hampton example below represents a halving of peak bus service since the 1980s. It's significant as Hampton is one of the stations chosen for additional parking under the federal program.   


As you saw from the above list, 30 minute peak frequencies for feeder buses is common.  This is not necessarily true in other places. It comes down to service standards. Our minimum standard for local bus routes is every 60 minutes, with no allowance for an increased peak service (though most routes are usually a bit better). Whereas in Perth even neighbourhood feeder bus routes have a 20 minute peak service with busier routes every 10 minutes. 

The example below shows a middle-suburban feeder bus route with such a service and the efficient interchange it connects to. The latter involves smart infrastructure design. Though we've built a lot of that lately it's been hit and miss with regards to bus connectivity. For example it is regrettable that we didn't get Perth-style bus bridge/interchanges for the likes of Williams Landing where walking distances to the furthest bus is too long and the indirectness introduced is unhelpful for any through-routing. 

Conclusion

The typical Melbourne suburban station has two or three bus routes operating about every half hour in peak. Some services have been added, mainly to extend coverage. However frequency upgrades are rare in areas (ie the majority) that have not had local bus reviews implemented that could have delivered simpler networks. There is thus significant scope for station access improvements with buses. 20 minutes should be an absolute minimum with 10 min the preferred peak frequency on feeder routes within 70 km of Melbourne CBD. And bus wormholes should provide congestion-free last-mile rapid access in selected dense areas to key destinations. 

More buses undoubtedly need to be bought and operated to deliver upgrades to all stations listed. However their capital cost per passenger carried is much lower than that of station parking. Plus you are getting fringe benefits such as reduced traffic congestion, better land use near stations and a more useful and versatile transport network. And household financial benefits accrue where people do not need to add another car as there are good buses that they can use for many trips. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Timetable Tuesday #114: 70 years of tram timetables - how have they changed?


Summary: You can wait up to twice as long for 
a tram at night than your grandparents had to.  

Trams are Melbourne's slowest changing (and some would argue slowest moving) public transport mode. We're getting new trams and upgraded stops but the pace of progress towards accessibility was described as slow by the state auditor-general. Also rarely are lines extended despite many stopping about 1km short of stations due to a history of competition rather than connection between modes. 

The inner suburbs the trams serve have changed much faster than their transport. They are now less industrial and more gentrified. Urban consolidation within them is seen as an alternative to (or at least a moderator of) fringe sprawl. Trams are talked about as being keys to our city's livability which in turn assists international investment but in action are merely taken for granted. 

In particular, trams' ability to handle the increased transport effort growth and density require is hampered by (a) slowness and unreliability due to their extensive on-street running with car-caused delays and (b) service levels that have hardly changed in decades or have even been cut. 


The most recent service change on some routes appears to have been a reduction. This is due to a recent wheel shortage putting some older trams off the road. Apparently due to long supply chains and 'just in time' philosophy we don't stock sufficient spares locally.  

Anyway that's hopefully temporary. What about long-term trends in tram service levels? Back in the early days, going back to the cable trams, the motto was "Always a tram in sight". In other words a turn-up-and-go service. This compares with railways that was more a freight mover and transit for those outside the contiguous urban area. Their users caught specific trains and relied on timetables (ie a regimented industrial type mentality as opposed to post-industrial temporal fluidity). 

Transport Vlogger Reece Martin did a comparison of Toronto vs Melbourne trams. Our system's big advantage is its geographical extent. But on frequency Toronto was way better with consistent 10 minute or better service day and night. Wheres our trams can have gaps of 20 or even 30 minutes. Watch it here: 



As it turned out Melbourne once had Toronto-style tram frequencies. Then, mainly between 1954 and 1969, we cut them. On every route. Fifteen years ago I bought a book that listed these cuts and wrote a blog post summarising them. That post was just a chronology and didn't graphically show these and subsequent service changes. Hence it didn't present the 'big picture' particularly well. 

I've finally got around to presenting them in time-line form. I'm not going say that it's 100% correct; there may have been some changes that I've missed. And some tram routes are more frequent than others. But Krustylink's old tram timetables has been of great assistance to gauge service levels in the '80s and 90s. Along with personal memories of service upgrades in the early years of franchising. Where there are variations, I'll take Route 67 as a representative route for no better reason than it being one that I once lived near. 

On the diagrams below years are left to right. The first year is 1951 with the last being 2021. Service levels are bottom to up. They are 1 to 6 trams per hour, though the legend shows this as frequency (every 60, 30, 20, 15, 12 and 10 minutes). Hence the taller the green the more frequent the service. Click on the image for a better view. 

Weekday interpeak

Service cut from every 10 to every 12 min early on where it remained for decades. There was a further cut to every 15 min on some routes (notably those that serve St Kilda Rd) in the early 1990s. However these were some improvements in the early years of franchising with approximately half our routes operating every 10 minutes or better interpeak. However Route 82 between Footscray and Moonee Ponds remains a laggard with a better service on weekends than on weekdays. Its weekday midday frequency remains less than it was in 1989 despite dense development since.  


Weeknight

Did you know that Melbourne trams once ran every 10 minutes in the evenings? Amazing but true. It starts off with a similar story to weekdays but the cuts kept on coming. By the end of the 1960s waits for trams were double what they were in the early 1950s. 

This was the same era in which television came, local cinemas shut and the main people out at night were youth in their hotted up cars. Then, and this is the biggest story of this post, service stagnated for the next 50 plus years except for some shoulder peak and early evening improvements. Tram timetables have remain largely cast in stone despite all the wider social changes eg flexible working  hours, night time economy and the 24/7 society. The erosion in frequency means that, especially at night, you can often drive to a destination in less time than it takes for the tram to show up at your stop. 



Saturday afternoon

The reason I say Saturday afternoons is that it seemed that Saturday mornings had a more intensive service reflecting past shopping patterns (Many Melbourne bus routes still have that pattern in 2021 despite the need having gone). The drop off here was less sharp than on weeknights. At least some routes (like the St Kilda Rd group) had early 1990s cuts that have not been reversed. 


Saturday night

A similar pattern to weeknights with a halving of service from 10 to 20 minutes. Service upgrades since have been to expand span of hours rather than frequency. 



Sunday morning

The question marks relate to uncertainty over early 1950s frequency - it could have been 10, 12 or 15 minutes. The cuts to the current frequency were made about 60 years ago. Another type of cut was the replacement of quieter tram routes with buses on Sundays (and sometimes Saturday afternoons). This practice largely ended in the late 1990s, making trams more consistent and simpler to use as almost all routes ran 7 days. There was however still an oddity with the 55/68 but that was fixed in 2005. A few tram routes now run a 20 minute service (instead of 30 minutes) and some other routes have had the midday frequency made to start a bit earlier however the half-hourly frequency remains widespread in the important 7 to 9am slot.  


Sunday afternoon

What I've loosely defined as Sunday afternoon (or really 10am to 7pm) is where there has been the biggest turnaround in frequency across all times reviewed. Possibly a sweetener for privatisation, this Kennett government initiative boosted Sunday service levels to those which operated on Saturday on all metropolitan tram and train routes. These are the sort of big service upgrades we need but have rarely been implemented by subsequent governments, particularly on trams. Anyway the effect of this was to restore frequencies to 1960s levels after a 30 year trough. 


Sunday night

Nothing much here. 1960s cuts and no serious restoration of service. With few exceptions, this leaves our 30 minute service frequency at just one-third that of comparable tram routes in Toronto. 



Conclusion

One might quibble about details, but the big picture is this. Big cuts from the early 1950s to the late 1960s as the Tramways board sought to balance the books in the face of rising wages and falling patronage. Higher deficits were accepted in the '70s and '80s but service remained static and patronage rose for some years in the '80s. 

That was until the industrial activism and further service cuts in the early 1990s. Some restoration of service happened from the mid-1990s with conductors removed from 1998. The improvements then tailed off with little happening frequency-wise on most routes in the last 20 years. Instead emphasis has been on extending weekend span including Night Network. Thus our densifying inner area is hardly closer to having an all-day turn-up-and-go tram service than it was a generation ago and has a much inferior frequency to that enjoyed by their grandparents.