Friday, November 05, 2021

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 111: Patterson Lakes on the cheap

When the Department of Transport does stuff it's typically project or individually route based. Rarely area or whole network based. 

Hence Southland might get a new station but its surrounding bus network did not get a refresh. Railway level crossings might historically confine buses to one side of the rail line but their removal likewise did not trigger bus network reform that could have unlocked further benefits. A route might have a minor kink removed (like the 624) but its more objectionable features may be left untouched.

It is also common for a route to be added or extended over an existing unreformed network with poorer outcomes than if we considered them both together. Minor service upgrades may improve some things but leave other issues unresolved. At best you might have a case like the 788 bus where it gets two upgrades in close succession as they are associated with different projects. 

One feels some sympathy for the bureaucrats because bus reform is like a messy ball of string. You pull on one end and several others become apparent and beg to be fixed. It can be never ending since we've had a reform drought for so long. 

But the line must be drawn somewhere. Managers are highly aware of 'scope creep' that can lead to projects taking longer or costing more than they should. These worries often outweigh considerations like whether the project delivers all possible benefits. And for years DoT top brass didn't care much about bus network reform so didn't insist on best or even good practice in network planning.  

Hence there's still many loose ends across the network with some changes actually creating new ones. This magnifies opportunities for cost-effective and beneficial reform. There will be some implementation costs but they may involve no more annual service kilometres than now. They may also lay the groundwork for a network that is easier to upgrade should more funding become available later. 

Today I'll discuss such opportunities for buses in Patterson Lakes and parts of Carrum Downs and Bonbeach.  


Existing network issues

Shown here. There are issues with service levels but I want you to concentrate on where routes go as it is here the biggest opportunities lie. Patterson Lakes has three routes running east from Carrum. Two  (708, 833) are on Macleod Rd while the 857 goes around the lakes to the south. The first two run every 30 to 60 minutes seven days per week until 9pm while the 857 is an occasional weekday to Saturday morning service. Hence there is a significant area with only a limited service. The 857 also makes a short trip to Carrum Station quite long due to a dog-leg just before it gets there. I discussed Route 857 issues recently here


The 857 runs north to Chelsea. It provides some extra coverage between Chelsea and Bonbeach stations. However it misses areas to the east which have no other transport. This includes a lifestyle village popular with retirees at the end of Broadway (see map below). 


If we ended this discussion right there it would be hard to see how we could improve services without more bus service hours. This is where 833's backtracking in Carrum Downs comes in. This backtracking makes the 833 more complex and slows those wishing to go to Carrum from much of Carrum Downs. It  is only there as the 833 was not properly straightened when it got extended to Carrum a few years ago. 


833 can almost be characterised as two routes - a busy southern half from Carrum Downs to Frankston and the newer quieter northern half from Carrum Downs to Carrum. Reasons for that quietness include the lack of catchment (part of it traverses a sewage farm) and overlaps with other routes that would sap its patronage. 

Most of the area is in Carrum, represented by Sonya Kilkenny. This has mostly been a marginal seat for Labor up until 2018, when a large pro-government swing was recorded despite loud opposition to the  'Skyrail' style station at Carrum. The similarity between the swing there and at neighbouring Mordialloc (where an inferior but less controversial trench rail option was chosen) indicated that 'Skyrail' was a much less significant issue than touted before the election.  

Opportunities 

Mapped below. The big change is the swapping of 833 and 857 in Patterson Lakes. This better distributes service between McLeod Rd and Gladesville Bvd so that all of Patterson Lakes gets a 7 day service operating to at least 9pm. To retain about the same number of kilometres the 833's backtracking in Carrum Downs is removed, also simplifying the network. I'm not the first to suggest putting 857 on McLeod Rd; it was also recommended in the Kingston area bus review done about 12 years ago.  

The level crossing removal shifted Carrum Station south. Wisely it got built with a southern entrance, further extending its walking catchment. This has made the 857's dog-leg at Church and Whatley less necessary. The map has the Route 780 from Frankston rerouted via Church Rd if a bus here is considered desirable. 780 is a seven day hourly route operating more frequently and over longer hours than the 857. Thus people south-east of Carrum go from having just the occasional 5.5 day 857 to a choice of two seven day routes (780 and 833). Straightening would also shorten travel time from Carrum to Dandenong via the 857. Again the cost of this should be minimal. 

The dark blue line on the map is another potential reform. That's shown as it also doesn't involve more route kilometres than now. That is a reform to the poorly used 778 so it starts at Seaford rather than Kananook. Seaford is a stronger terminus with beach and shops. And in the east it could instead terminate at Carrum Downs Shopping Centre. Also a stronger terminus with more direct connections from other routes (including the straightened 833). This reform would make the 778 more useful for more than purely industrial area passengers so may warrant its upgrade from 5 to 7 days per week and potentially a frequency boost. 


Route 857's straightening in two places means there may be some extra kilometres to use in a place where it could provide more coverage. That is on top of the distance and time already saved by the building of Karrum Karrum bridge which means the route does not have to cross onto Nepean Hwy and negotiate two level crossings.

Routing 857 via Scotch Pde instead of Fowler St could throw some coverage east to parts of Chelsea and Bonbeach that are some distance from the station including the lifestyle village at 100 Broadway. This area was described as 'densely populated' in the Kingston area bus review (which also recommended a Scotch Pde bus). While not shown on the map, an option may exist to run via Bondi Rd instead of Cannes Av to add connectivity to Bonbeach station and bring the bus nearer the (few) shops there.


The above requires no additional service hours. But if some were available these should be used to provide more hours for the 857 involving the addition of maybe 20-30 trips per week involving the use of existing buses. These might include (a) an earlier am start for trips towards Dandenong, (b) at least one extra trip in the evening peak, (c) Saturday afternoon service and, preferably (d) a Sunday service.  

Summary 

1. Swap 833 and 857 in Patterson Lakes so that both McLeod Rd (708) and Gladesville Bvd (833) get a 7 day service with 857 operating directly via McLeod Rd. 

2. Above paid for by straightening 833 in Carrum Downs. This simplifies service. 832 and 901 will continue to provide service in the area. 

3. Operate 857 directly to Carrum station. If a bus is still desired in Church Rd or Whatley St (arguably less necessary given that the station has moved south) this could be done by rerouting 780.  

4. Use resources saved in making the 857 shorter to provide expanded coverage around Chelsea and Bonbeach (ie Scotch Pde instead of Fowler St). Routing nearer the new under construction Bonbeach Station should also be considered if this is done. 

5. Option exists to reroute 778 to provide a direct east west Seaford Station - Carrum Downs Shopping Centre bus useful for more trips. 

Route lengthenings and offsetting shortenings are summarised below. 

Further upgrades

These involve better service frequencies and operating hours. Some for 857 and 778 have already been discussed.  The reformed 833, with more unique coverage and less duplication, may also call for frequency upgrades. Indeed it's already had operating hours improvements thanks to the reform of Night Network buses which added 833 to it.

One feature about the 833 is its southern half is very well used but its northern portion is less so. The abovementioned changes should improve this somewhat due to less duplication and more coverage. However I think there will still be a difference. There is a strong case that the catchment from Carrum Downs Shopping Centre to Frankston justifies more service than is currently provided (30 min weekdays, 60 min weekends).

Given the demographics of areas like Frankston North a 20 minute frequency seven days per week would not be excessive. However it might be in the northern parts of Carrum Downs, the 'dead' area near the sewage farm and possibly Patterson Lakes (which has high incomes and car ownership). 

If you were trying to match service to demand you might opt for only every second off-peak bus to run from Carrum Downs to Carrum. This would provide a satisfactory 20 min service over the whole route during peak, a good 20 min all day service for the busy southern portion and a still better than now 40 minute off-peak service for Patterson Lakes.

This option is likely to be a better match of service to demand. Its main disadvantage is the loss of legibility in that some trips from Frankston would terminate at Carrum Downs. An alternative might be to run all trips the full route but accept less of an uplift for the busier section, with a weekend frequency of say 30 or 40 minutes. This would be much better than the current 60 minute service but is less of an improvement for most passengers than the first option. 

The removal of 833 from McLeod Rd and its replacement by 857 reduces off-peak service from 4 buses per hour to three buses per hour (unevenly spaced). McLeod Rd is a densifying corridor with some apartments and a continual stream of cars (which can make crossing difficult).

Ideally service on it could be upgraded by improving 708 from every 30 to 20 minutes, with a weekend boost to every 20 or 30 minutes as well given the 708's large unique catchment and relatively direct alignment. 708 might also benefit from extra stops near the water park which would add some residential catchment too.

No route amendments for the 708 are proposed here. However they might be considered in conjunction with reform of the confusing and indirect 858 in Chelsea Heights which, as a minimum, should be split at Chelsea and given stronger and more useful termini. Such a reform could open the way for a north-south route to replace the 857 Chelsea - Carrum portion. The main weakness of this is that it would break the one-seat Chelsea - Patterson Lakes Shopping Centre connection.

The abovementioned shortening of the 857 would make its run time significantly less than needed to run an hourly service with two buses. With careful scheduling it may be possible to use this extra time to permit a frequency upgrade, efficiencies or reform of other routes at Carrum. This may be worth investigating as a Stage 2 of these reforms to simplify services for Chelsea, Edithvale and Chelsea Heights. 

Conclusion

Described are bus network reforms for Patterson Lakes area. The route changes involve transition costs but should not require more kilometres that run than now. However they increase the number of people near a 7 day service, simplify the network and speed some trips. All routes are run by the same bus operator, which should simplify reform. Thoughts? Please leave them in the comments below. 


See more Building Melbourne's Useful Network items here

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like how considered this review is to ensure that almost all of this can be done for no operating cost (bigger fear of Government). I assume a couple of new bus flags and updated signage would be very little CapEX

Thanks for the well considered discusssion.

Craig Halsall said...

Some great suggestions to cheaply fix a number of issues in the Chelsea/Carrum/Patterson Lakes area.

I would suggest the rerouted 780 use Whatley St rather than Church Rd. At the end of Whatley St is a footbridge over Kananook Creek to the grounds of Patterson River Secondary College. There are also side streets and walking paths off Whatley St, unlike the 800m section of Church Rd with zero permeability.

Frequency upgrades for 708 should not cost extra vehicles given the intense school peak for sections of the route and would be good compensation for the removal of 833 on McLeod Rd. It would also allow 832/833 off-sets in Frankston North to be resolved - changes to runtimes and attempts to offset with 708 at the Carrum end have made things overly complicated to achieve. The evening peak offsets along McLeod Rd are also poor at present.

Splitting the 857 at Carrum would allow it to act more as a regional feeder from the southern bayside suburbs into jobs at Dandenong South and Dandenong if linked with span upgrades (currently you can't reach Dandenong until nearly 9:30am!)

Craig Halsall said...

Some more thoughts on 857 north of Carrum...

Given the unique narrow catchment of suburbs along the bay further split by the wetlands, I have long pondered a Mordialloc - Frankston "shopper" bus concept that could reinstate buses to Aspendale North, incorporate the 858 through Edithvale/Chelbara, the 857 through Chelsea/Bonbeach and the 780 through Seaford.

Oldies would enjoy a one-seat trip to the shops of their choice and joining four short routes into one would avoid unnecessary layovers, aiding bus productivity. During rail disruptions it would also provide a (slow) way home from Mordialloc, where trains usually terminate.

Back of an envelope calculations suggest an hour each way is achievable, with 4 buses needed to operate a 30 min service (some of which is existing resources). Weekends could be hourly initially given the current timetables in some parts and the non-existent service for other sections.

So what happens to the other half of 858 to Aspendale Gardens?

With Edithvale Station moving north and becoming 400m from 902 stops in Edithvae Rd, renewed consideration might be made to reroute 902 via Wells Rd and Thames Prom to serve Chelsea Heights (some early plans for 902 had considered this alignment). The 708 would then cover off Chelsea Park Dr.

You could potentially delete the bus through Edithvale Wetlands altogether. Edithvale residents and beachgoers needing to use the train to connect with the 902, but this is no worse than currently the case for travel from Aspendale, Bonbeach or Carrum. Outside of hot summer days, Edithvale does not generate a huge amount of 902 patronage sadly.

The apartments near Edithvale Reserve would still have the "780" nearby (especially if it still travels along Rae Ave & Kinross Ave). Station St in Edithvale would also also lose a bus, but Munro Ave is walkable for the small number affected.

Effectively, Chelsea Heights gets a major upgrade for almost zero cost while the savings by deleting sections of 858 and 902 are spent on giving Aspendale North a full time bus.