Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Timetable Tuesday #137: Route 546 - The Yarra's north bank bus


Route 546 is a quirky bus route in Melbourne's inner to middle north-east. Running from Heidelberg to Clifton Hill and then to either Melbourne University or Queen Victoria Markets it serves everything from wealthy 'old money' suburbia to densifying clusters of modern apartments. State seats it serves include Richmond (marginal Labor - Richard Wynne), Northcote (marginal Labor - Kat Theophanous)  and Ivanhoe (safe Labor - Anthony Carbines). 

Route 546 received attention lately when one of its stop was removed in conjunction with the introduction of the 202 shuttle. The route almost but not quite runs in to the Melbourne CBD. It has an oddity where peak trips serve Melbourne University and off-peak trips serve Queen Victoria Market. The map below shows its alignment is roughly north-east, between the Hurstbridge line and the Yarra River. 

A view of the 546 in relation to other routes is below. 

Much of it parallels the inner part of the Hurstbridge train line from Clifton Hill to Heidelberg. However it has sufficient unique catchment that at least portions of it justify keeping, especially given density increases along it. It may connect with Parkville station on the Metro Tunnel when that is completed in a few years. 

The 546 has several roles. These include its use as the only buses in parts of Ivanhoe East. It is also the nearest radial public transport for the southern part of Alphington. It also provides a possibility for Mernda and Hurstbridge passengers to change to it at Clifton Hill for a faster trip to Melbourne University. However since the much more frequent 202 started they would now be better off to catch that from Victoria Park. 


Bus 546 runs every half hour from about 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday. The route was one of the 50-odd overlooked by the 2006 MOTC plan which delivered 7 day hourly minimum service standards to  many bus routes throughout Melbourne. 

Hence it has no weekend or public holiday service, although there was a Saturday morning service prior to the massive October 1991 service cuts whose axe-marks remain apparent in timetables of three decades later. Some later weeknight trips got added in the 2000s. More recently the route had issues with timetable adherance and run times got extended. 

Apart from the lack of Saturday service, the 546 timetable has some similarities with the 548 (with which parts overlap) and the 549 in basic service level and operating hours. 

Last year I identified the 546 as one of the thirteen bus routes that most deserve Saturday service to be restored or added, largely due to its areas of unique coverage and dense development along it. 


The 546 has had some chopping and changing, particularly to its termini at the city end. You can trace its evolution via network maps hosted by BCSV and historic timetables at Krustylink. Termini at various times changed from East Melbourne to Collingwood to Clifton Hill to Melbourne University or Queen Victoria Markets. 


Route 546 is one of those bus routes that has just stagnated despite all the change around it. For example the dense development at Alphington has not spurred a service increase, not even to the 7 day hourly minimum standard service level. On the other hand the portion between Clifton Hill and Melbourne University may see reduced usage due to the 202 providing a more frequent shuttle. Its timetable is living testament to the need for bus service reform in Melbourne to address 30 or more year backlogs as things change around basically stagnant bus services. 

1 comment:

Michael Iurovetski. said...

Speaking of the oddity, the fact that it either goes to a university or market could help you slightly if when you catch it you'll be late to your class.