Friday, October 08, 2021

Building Melbourne's Useful network Part 108: Transport to Moorabbin's jobs

Moorabbin was proposed as a district centre in the 1954 Metropolitan Planning Scheme. It got a transport kick-start with road/rail grade separations and later a third track but, unlike Box Hill, significant private and public institutional development either didn't happen or were too distant from the centre to contribute to its vitality. Moorabbin was too much of a traffic sewer for local shopping (where neighbouring Bentleigh and even Highett took custom) and was overlooked when the area's major drive-in centre opened at Southland in 1968. 

The early 1990s were a time of decline for Victoria generally and Moorabbin especially. Deindustrialisation hit local jobs. St Kilda ceased playing home games at Moorabbin oval in 1992. Instead of it being a convenient stroll from Moorabbin station, 'home' games moved to the inaccessible Waverley Park. 

Local government amalgamation was another blow, with the disbanded City of Moorabbin split between Kingston, Glen Eira and Bayside councils. There's a town hall used for shows but it lacks even a public library. The aquatic centre is down the other end of the suburb, in the industrial area. Southland continued to expand, leaping over the Nepean Hwy. Big box retail opened up and down Nepean Hwy between Brighton and Mentone, Moorabbin became little more than the traffic-choked intersection at South Road, to be avoided if possible. 

Moorabbin's successful niche

There was one exception to this story of failure. Light industry. Moorabbin, along with Clayton and areas around Dandenong were centres of light and heavy manufacturing in Melbourne's south-east. Moorabbin more smaller scale and Clayton / Dandenong more heavy, including electronics and automotive. The latter slumped when protection wound back from the mid 1970s. Typical industries found at Moorabbin include metals, automotive, building supplies, printing, cabinetry, furnishing, food and more. Also important in the areas's east is 'big box' retail (including op-shops) on Warrigal Rd and the Kingston Centre slightly south of there. 

The industrial trades area can be identified by the island of shiny metal roofs in a sea of post WWII tiled houses. It is just over a square mile with none but its western extremity within walking distance of a Frankston line station (most often Highett but seldom Southland and never Moorabbin). 

The 'last mile' problem

If there was anywhere that needed 'last mile' access to jobs from a nearby rail line, it would be here. How well is it being achieved? At first glance it looks pretty good with eight bus routes running through or near the area. That's much more than other light industrial areas like Bayswater or Laverton. 

But are they useful? Or do they just go through the industrial area because it happens to be on the way to somewhere else? Are local buses job ready? The map below gives a snapshot of issues affecting Moorabbin area routes.  

Frequency and connectivity

The main issues that make transit access to the Moorabbin industrial area so (unnecessarily) hard can be put under two headings: frequency and connectivity. 

Frequency first.

The only really frequent route is the 903 SmartBus down Warrigal Rd. This is every 15 min weekday interpeak and better than 10 min during the peaks. This is followed by the 824 every 20 minutes on weekdays. All other routes have basic frequencies of half-hourly or hourly. Some, like 811/812 (each hourly) have deviations, with only a handful of trips per day serving the heart of the industrial area. 

Secondly there's connectivity. From here you need access to surrounding residential areas where workers are likely to live and, for those coming from further afield, direct connections to the Frankston and preferably Dandenong lines. 

Of the latter the Frankston line is closest, being slightly beyond walking distance of the Moorabbin industrial area. However Moorabbin industrial area routes hardly ever run to its adjacent stations like Moorabbin, HIghett and Southland. The only useful route that really does is the 824. The 811/812 does but its occasional trips are rarely useful. 

Then there is the 903 running south to Mentone station. There's some backtracking involved if coming from the north. Besides the bungled design and rebuilding of the new Mentone station destroyed any convenient interchange with buses as explained here. It's more common for the main bus routes (eg Routes 631, 767, 821) to stop short at Southland Shopping Centre bus interchange. This is a long way from Southland Station with the indirect walk many times longer than the 1 minute a good interchange takes. 

Recent initiatives

There has been no significant bus network reform in the area for at least 20 years. Rail projects (like new stations) that ordinarily trigger bus reform in other parts of Melbourne have not done so here. Opportunities not yet taken up include the new station at Southland and the rebuilding of Cheltenham's as part of the grade separation. And, as mentioned before, Mentone's new station has made bus connectivity worse, not better.   

The Kingston area local bus review from over 10 years ago proposed some reforms. It wasn't much acted on. Neither have there been significant recent proposals for bus services. The closest we got was 2018's Mordialloc review but its proposals for regular route buses were poor and were (thankfully) dropped.

It's not that there hasn't been action on transport; there has been. Except it's been all about encouraging driving via the under-construction Mordialloc Freeway and the long way off Suburban Rail Loop (which won't have a stop in the area). Frequent and direct buses,  so important in providing 'last mile' access to jobs and homes, have been the missing piece. 

Prospects and opportunities

Older 1950s-era industrial areas like Moorabbin are better laid out than newer industrial areas as regards public transport. For example permeability is better, they more likely have grid streets and they are closer to existing residential suburbs and the rail network. This creates opportunities for bus reform to improve local public transport access. 

Especially important is that their relative contiguity and compactness can enable routes to run with multiple purposes including residential area coverage. This is good for patronage and a simple seven day network with wide operating hours. With any luck it will be possible for such routes to provide full coverage without the need for part-time and often indirect industrial routes (like the 417 in Laverton North).  

Below are four network concepts. Each has their pros and cons as regard to frequency and connectivity for a given level of resourcing. 

1. This shuttle concept is similar to the niche service that has worked well for universities a few kilometres from the station. The concept is you layer a short direct route over the existing network and run it frequently. You can do that with few buses as the route kilometres is short. The aim is to do one thing and do it well. The concept below shows such a route from Moorabbin station. It rather than the closer Highett was chosen as it avoids buses having to cross a level crossing. The unidirectional running saves route kilometres so permits a higher frequency with a given number of buses. 

2. Here we take the shuttle route and split it so it runs between two interchanges (in this case Moorabbin and Southland). This makes more trips zero or one interchange only. The trade-off is that the route is longer. This means a lower frequency for a given number of buses. The two interchanges are however on the same radial corridor. 

3. Below is an even longer route running between two railway lines. Termini could be Moorabbin and possibly Clayton stations. Some homes would get a no-change connection to the industrial area. It is even longer than the above route so similar comments with regard to a reduced frequency apply. That is unless there is already an existing route that could be modified to run via more of the industrial area in which case reform could be more economical than adding a new route. 

4. Last is a grid network concept. The existing network has a lot of the ingredients of this but not enough as routes mostly do not directly run to Frankston line stations. Also a true grid network relies on interchange between intersecting routes. Current frequencies on all routes except the 903 are not sufficient to reliably enable this. However these could be increased if network reform reduces overlap and reforms rather than add routes. 

Towards a revised network

A reformed network may be a mix of the above four options. Some changes are relatively logical with few 'losers' while others involve complex trade-offs or interactions with other routes. 

Because some of the routes that pass through the Moorabbin jobs area end up 15 more kilometres distant it's desirable that what's done in Moorabbin do not detract from their role further along it. For example it would be poor for a route that is direct and justifies a more frequent service on one part of it be made less direct in another area where a lower service is more justified. 

You can reduce the number of network options, and thus the complexity of a reform, by doing the following: 

a. Making note of routes that can stay the same as now as they are already useful, frequent and direct. 

b. Making certain changes that have so much merit that you'd do them no matter the network options for remaining routes. 

The routes you'd keep in their current form are the 824 on South Rd and the 903 along Warrigal Rd. Arguably there may be merit in extending the former to the Brighton area via the 811/812 alignment but this wider change doesn't affect its alignment in the industrial area. You might also add earlier am trips to better suit industrial start times but this is only a timetable change, not a route change. 903 is a also a strong corridor that you'd leave alone. 

The above takes care of South and Warrigal roads, to the north and east of the jobs area. Chesterville Rd is to the west of most (though some industrial land uses are west of Chesterville). This is currently served by the 767. This is one of those routes without a train station connection to the Frankston line. It is also only half-hourly off-peak. It could be described as a neighbourhood type route south of Chadstone, with the portion north of Chadstone being a more important route (being more direct and service large destinations like Deakin University and Box Hill). 

822 also has its indirectness in the Bentleigh East area though direct roads and other routes exist for network reform to straighten it. As it happens the roads a straightened 822 would run along (Murrumbeena and East Boundary) are exactly half way between the Frankston train line and the Warrigal Rd 903 SmartBus. This makes the 822 a logical candidate for a future upgrade to 10 - 20 minute frequency (as opposed to the current 30 - 60 minute service). Swapping it with the 767 (map below) would extend the benefits of this better service to the Chesterville Rd end of the Moorabbin light industrial area. As well it adds a train station connection at Cheltenham, something that the current 767 does not do due to its Southland bus interchange terminus. (NOTE: Map doesn't show unchanged 824 or 903). 

With these parts of the network settled, the loose ends can now be tackled. The most significant of these include: 

a. Continued lack of east-west connections from Frankston line stations to the industrial area. 

b. Desirability of a more regular service for Keys Rd (also east-west) 

c. Connections to residential areas like Clarinda and Clayton (which have a blue collar oriented workforce with significant commuter flows to the area)

The Suburban Rail Loop, starting at Southland, will pass quite near the area. A station is not planned in the area. However a Suburban Rail Loop SmartBus between Southland and Clayton may have local stops. Because of the long spacing between SRL stations this route would remain even after SRL commences operation. A potential SRL SmartBus alignment, based on an extended Route 733 from Clayton, would see upgraded service in Bernard St, about 300 metres south of Keys Rd (map below). 

The extended 733 would provide an extra Clarinda/Clayton connection. This would assist access to southern parts of the industrial area distant from the 824 on South Rd. However industrial area patronage wouldn't be the whole (or even a majority) of its usage due to the improved connections between the strong destinations of Monash University, Clayton Station and Southland Shopping Centre. A continuation to Southland station would be highly desirable to provide an east-west Frankston line connection. While the route is on this alignment it would be desirable that it run directly to Sandringham, improving service to another industrial area along Bay Rd. This would provide a new Monash University connection and be more frequent and useful than the existing indirect 822 (or 767 shown on an earlier map). 

The network with the extended 733 fixes some issues but not all. For example Keys Rd doesn't have a service along it (although the 733 is nearby). Also there is still a gap in east-west connections. Highett is the nearest station to most of the industrial area. However it has a level crossing. Although buses on Route 708 cross that on Highett Rd, it might not be thought desirable to add another route. Also if buses were run from Moorabbin, scope exists to replace the existing confusing routes 811 and 812 with alternatives, including on the residential Chapel Rd. 

Network option A

This option take the above and reroutes 821. Instead of running to Southland it instead operates to Moorabbin Station. Doing so connects this to Keys Rd and services Chapel Rd. The 811/812 can be shortened to operate between Southland and Dandenong only with the Brighton - Moorabbin portion serviced by a westward extension of the 824. The latter would improve off-peak weekday frequency from 30 to 20 minutes. The loss of 821 to Southland would be offset by the new 733 between Clayton and Southland. In conjunction with the unchanged 631 this would maintain two routes between Clayton and Southland. 

The revised 821 would likely gain hourly weekend service to retain 7 day service on Chapel Rd similar to what the 811/812 now provides. Scope exists to swap the 821 with the 705 to provide direct access to the Moorabbin industrial area from Springvale and for 705 to enable better Mordialloc - Clayton / Monash access. 

Network option B

Another option could likewise replace 811/812 with another route in the area. This might be known as the 826, running between Moorabbin and Southland via the industrial area and Friendship Square in Cheltenham. This could enable the southern part of the 631 to be deleted, with the service replaced in the Clarinda area by the extended 733 and potentially a re-aligned 824. Again the latter would need to be extended to Brighton to replace the deleted part of the 811/812. 821, which runs through a large 'dead' catchment might still need to be upgraded given the loss of the 631 on Kingston Rd. 


Two bus network options for the Moorabbin industrial area are offered. Either will involve extra buses and extra costs versus the existing network. However it should greatly improve connectivity to local jobs and deliver other benefits well beyond its area, including support for the Suburban Rail Loop. 

Which option do you prefer? Or maybe there's another that offers further advantages? Comments are invited and can be left below. 

More Building Melbourne's Useful Network items are here


Craig Halsall said...

A frequent shuttle bus loop from Moorabbin is one of the better options there, but it doesn't address connectivity from the Dandenong Line or access from the southern end of the Frankston Line.

I like Network A, however keeping 631 as is overservices Clarinda and results in three bus routes to Clayton but nothing from the area to other stations on the Dandenong Line.

I still feel a direct bus from Chadstone/Oakleigh to Clarinda is desirable, especially with the Greek ethnicity of many Clarinda residents (14% speak Greek at home, even higher than Oakleigh at 12.8%).

My suggestion for 631 would be to run it from Oakleigh  via Golf Links Rd/Golf Rd (over the loose end of the 733), Centre Rd, Clarinda Rd and Bourke Rd to Clarinda Shopping Centre. From there it can continue via Elder St South (improved coverage), Old Dandenong Rd, Kingston Rd, Bernard St and Friendship Square to Southland. The current South Oakleigh College school bus would be absorbed into this.

821 being sent to Springvale as a swap with 705 is smart, but a frequency increase from the currently hourly timetable would be critical for Moorabbin East access (more-so than a 7-day service). Assuming a 40 minute run time to Springvale is possible, 4 buses could provide a 20 min peak service along the entire route.

If you can only fund 3 buses for 821, running a 40 min service with peak shortworkings to Moorabbin East (forming a 20 min headway) would be my preference. A 20 min heeadway harmonises with 10 min counter-peak trains at Moorabbin and is likely preferable to a 15 min option. 30 mins for the entire route (also 3 buses) is unlikely to get people out of their cars.

As a side-note, the old 654 alignment pre-1991 network changes is reminiscent of your Network A ideas for 821, although with a deviation during shopping hours past Southland (note the Chapel Rd 'deviation' applied for most trips) -

One loose end that the Network A breaks is access between Southland & Holmesglen TAFE's Moorabbin Campus & Moorabbin Private Hospital.

A separate idea previously raised to send 627 to Southland (instead of Moorabbin) would largely address this. You could go further though and send 767 past the TAFE and then Chapel Rd, Wickham Rd & Nepean Hwy, with 627 via Tucker Rd, South Rd & Rowans Rd. This provides optimal TAFE access for both routes, with stops out the front instead of both being 5 minutes walk away.

Alternatively, a hyper-local version of 823 might mop up either Chapel Rd or Rowans Rd in conjunction with adding a frequent and 7-day Elsternwick - Southland bus down Nepean Hwy.

Craig Halsall said...

Another history lesson - for most of the 90s the 821 ran every 30 minutes and included a Saturday morning timetable, and indirectly connected to Cheltenham Station.

See -

However, changes in December 1998 saw the 821 truncated at Southland (708 took over the southern half) with services slashed to hourly and Saturday trips canned - hardly a good outcome for jobs access in Moorabbin East.

822 was another victim in August 2002, losing its 20 min peak headways (and as 655 a 15 min service operated in the '80s)

As a casual observer, and including the earlier 1991 cuts, there was an ongoing trend to reduce frequencies in the Moorabbin area to fund upgrades elsewhere in the south-east, a trend often seen in Canberra where established suburbs are downgraded over time for a "greater good" only to lose existing passengers in the process.

Another nearby example in March 1997 was joining 632+635 to form 701 (Ventura). This saved two buses and removed duplication with 703 on Centre Rd, but Patterson Rd buses were cut from 20 mins to half-hourly and the direct link from Bentleigh to Oakleigh became convoluted and only useful for local trips.

Steve Gelsi said...

With four routes (including the extended 733) running east-west there should be scope to run each on a different east-west alignment through the industrial area. You could keep the 824 (South Rd) and 631 (Bernard St) on their current alignments, and realign 821 via Keys Rd. The 733 could run via Cochranes Rd. If it was better to run 631 completely on Bernard St, would there then be scope to run the 828 to Southland and beyond via Friendship Square rather than via the Charman Rd shopping strip? Alternatively it could do that to Southland but then go via Cheltenham and the bit of 822 on Park and Reserve Rds before joining its existing route to Highett - that's likely to add a few route kilometres though.

The swap of 767 and 822 seems reasonable to make one of them an upgraded, more direct north-south route.

The other considerations here might be the stopping patterns of Frankston line trains, with expresses to Cheltenham.

Southland should have a lot more importance but that really requires moving the bus interchange to the station - probably where it should've gone when the redevelopment was done with the long-term view of a rail connection (or at least a slightly shorter walk to Cheltenham). For any bus heading north via Southland (e.g. the existing 811/812) it's quite a trip if your destination isn't Southland (right turn into the shopping centre, then almost a full circumference when you get out to head north again).

Craig Halsall said...

The streets around Friendship Square are not conducive for a major trunk route - one way streets and speed humps with kindergartens that don't require direct links from Dingley or Dandenong

Cheltenham acts as secondary arm of the Southland activity centre, with Kingston council, Centrelink and Medicare offices and should be served by the Centre Dandenong Rd trunk route

Sending the Highett Rd bus via Cheltenham enroute to Southland is also a poor outcome and could effectively double travel times for passengers

Another option to serve Friendship Square is bringing back a hybrid of the old 648 & 705, which could also run via the area surrounding Mentone Park Primary School (east of Warrigal Rd) before ending at Thrift Park or Mentone

See the 1972 network map -