Friday, November 26, 2021

Building Melbourne's Useful Network Part 113: A new bus network for Hampton Park (and more)

Today we'll venture to Hampton Park, in Melbourne's outer south-east. The area has had a station at Hallam for years with rapid housing growth in the 1970s and 80s. Main roads form the 'bones' of a coarse grid, with loopy streets and creeks interrupting it at the finer level. This makes it harder to simplify local bus routes without losing coverage. Also, unlike older suburbs, housing density and commercial activity peaks at 1 or 2 km from the station, with less around the station itself. 

The area has had quite a few piecemeal bus reforms over the last 20 or 30 years. Early numbers were in the high 700s (eg 792, 793, 794). Route numbers we know today (892, 893, 894, 895) started in August 2002 . The 891 started in 2010, replacing 827 in Hallam Gardens. The 2016 Cranbourne network saw major changes to 892 and 893 with the latter becoming a more direct and frequent route. However other Hampton Park changes were planned but did not proceed. More recently 863 from Endeavour Hills was layered over an unchanged existing network in the Hallam area. 

Lynbrook station opened in 2012. It got one bus route running to it but did not spark a comprehensive reappraisal of the local bus network. Its only route to the Hampton Park area is the 891 with other local routes, such as from Narre Warren South, going near but not to the station.

The average bus in the area is indirect and runs approximately every 40 minutes. The main exception is the 893 which was upgraded to every 20 min 7 days per week as part of the 2016 Cranbourne upgrades. This is a direct route running from Dandenong to Cranbourne via Hallam Station and Hallam Rd. There are no routes of equivalent (or indeed any) quality running east-west such as between Lynbrook and Narre Warren South even though there is now a lot of housing well away from the nearest station.  

The main destinations for Hampton Park people include the local shops on Hallam Rd and Fountain Gate in nearby Narre Warren. There's a lot of employment in nearby Dandenong South. Further away are jobs, services and education facilities in Dandenong and Berwick. The area sits between the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines with local stations being Hallam, Narre Warren and Lynbrook. 

Notwithstanding earlier comments about difficult street layouts, the bus network is more complex than it should be. The 2010 Metropolitan Bus Review proposed simplification but was never implemented. Even by suburban route standards, both routes 894 and 895 are very complex. They go a different way during peak and off-peak periods to save service kilometres. However this makes them almost unfathomable, especially if you look at the PTV's website maps below. 

Worthwhile bus network reform in Hampton Park must involve simplifying these routes. There are also complexities with buses in Narre Warren South with loop routes and weak termini. However discussion of them will be held over to another day. 

Hampton Park is in the state seat of Narre Warren South. This is held by Gary Maas MP. It is regarded as being fairly safe for Labor. Changes will be made to seat boundaries in the area due to the redistribution.  

Productivity of existing routes

All local routes have about average or better patronage performance on weekdays as measured on a boardings per kilometre basis (first number to the right of the route number). Numbers are for late 2018 (supplied by DoT). 

890 25/6/2
891 35/21/13
892 37/31/17
893 42/29/17
894 21/11/7
895 29/23/14

Saturday and Sunday usage (second and third numbers) is low on routes 890 and 894 as neither link residential areas to major shopping centres. 894 is also very complex. However 892 and 893 (which go to Dandenong) are strong performers while 895 (which goes to Fountain Gate) also performs well on Saturdays. 

The newer 863 from Endeavour Hills to Hampton Park is the least productive with half or less boardings per service km performance of the abovementioned. It has little unique coverage and doesn't go to major shopping centres. I won't discuss it today but it could be useful if wider reform was attempted.

Few frequent routes

As mentioned before the average bus in the area runs every 30 or 40 minutes. There is only one route  (893) that runs at the same frequency as off-peak trains (every 20 min).

I looked at main routes through this area before. Useful Network Part 26 examined corridors for potential frequent routes in the City of Casey while Part 97 considered potential SmartBuses in an even bigger part of the south-east.

Those items left some loose ends as local routes didn't get much mention. That's this item's purpose. I'll discuss local routes, notably in Hampton Park. However some of the benefits are wider, extending to Lynbrook Station, Narre Warren South and Berwick as you'll learn later. 

A reformed network

Network reform was considered with the following aims: 

1. Simplification of the very complex 894 and 895 routes with consistent all route service all day.

2. Improve connections to the station at Lynbrook and jobs at Dandenong South. It won't be possible to provide a one-seat ride for Dandenong South jobs from everywhere. But Dandenong South's 890 can be made to intersect with most routes in the area, permitting access with just one connection. 

3. Retain connections to shops at Fountain Gate and Hampton Park as much as possible, noting that there's often a trade-off with directness due to the location of the latter.  

4. Provide for direct routes that could be given frequent service if resources allowed. 

5. Retain residential area coverage. Stops retained in all but very few cases (where alternatives would be available). 

6. Relatively self-contained and simple to implement with a focus on the network's main problems. Berwick and Narre Warren South's network also needs reform but could be done in a subsequent stage. 

A potential reformed network is mapped below. 

A description of and rationale for the revised network is below: 

890: The current route runs to Lynbrook via a section of Westernport Hwy with no stops. It currently does well on weekdays but not on weekends as it has little residential area catchment that isn't close to Lynbrook Station. Lynbrook station is itself a weak terminus since it has a train and just two other bus routes. Hence travel to Dandenong South from many areas like much of Cranbourne, Hampton and Narre Warren South requires an unattractive bus-train-bus trip involving two changes, mostly between or two infrequent services.

The revised network takes 890 away from Lynbrook and routes it through residential parts of Hallam and then north to Hallam Station. It would then continue to Fountain Gate. This would enable increased weekend usage. Access to Dandenong South is better with connectivity with key north-south routes from Cranbourne including 893 on Hallam Rd and 841 at Fountain Gate. The 890 also replaces part of the very complex 894 with a straighter route that adds access to Fountain Gate. 

891: No change to route. However it might be scheduled so it combines with the new 894 to provide a combined 20 minute service to Lynbrook and Fountain Gate from some areas. 

892: Rerouted to replace 894 on Lakeview Dr. This lessens overlap on Hallam Rd which since 2016 has had the upgraded 893. This change frees 894 to do other things as explained later. A weekend frequency upgrade from every 60 to every 40 minutes is suggested, especially on Saturdays. This would partly compensate part of Pound Rd which goes from 2 to 1 route west of Hallam Rd due to the 894's simplification. Departures from Dandenong could be staggered with 890 to provide a 20 min combined frequency to Hampton Park west of Hallam Rd. The Ormond Rd part of the 892 would gain more frequent service to new destinations due to reforms to the 895 discussed later. 

893: No changes to route. However wider operating hours are suggested to reflect its status as a major route and provide after 9pm evening and early morning weekend service in the area. Due to Dandenong's more frequent trains, bus/train connectivity could be optimised at Hallam Station where trains are less frequent.

894: This complex and indirect route is radically reformed to go the same way each time. It would now provide a connection to Lynbrook and Fountain Gate. The latter should assist with improving currently low weekend usage. 

895: This also involves a radical reform. So radical that you might give it another route number like the 852 mentioned here. It is basically a direct Lynbrook - Berwick route. It's a thicker line as it's a potential more frequent service. Frequency could be every 20 minutes all day, particularly on weekdays. Its role is as a train feeder at both ends and to connect people to hospitals and educational services in the Berwick area. The directness and speed should assist usage despite its overlap of other routes at the Berwick end. Bus-bus connections may also be possible with the 893 (every 20 min) and a potentially upgraded 841 to provide a (currently missing) network grid. 


Bus vehicle usage for the existing routes involved is roughly as follows: 

890: +1 bus. Existing 40 min service needs 2 buses. The revised route is longer so 1 more bus is assumed. If that isn't sufficient it may be possible to interline it with the 892 at Dandenong which will  gain layover time. 

892: unchanged: Existing 30 min service with 40-45 min run time would require 3 buses. Revised route is longer but dropping frequency to every 40 min would leave bus requirements unchanged. Any surplus time at Dandenong could assist the extended 890 (also run by Cranbourne Transit). Ideally departures from Dandenong would be staggered with 890 to provide as close to a combined 20 minute frequency as possible to Hampton Park west of Hallam Rd. 

894 & 895: +2 bus: Existing 40 min service uses 3 buses on 2 hour cycle interpeak. Timetable is consistent with routes interlining at Narre Warren South terminus. Peak period short-cuts are economical but add to complexity. The new 894 would have similar length and 40 min frequency as 891 so should use 2 buses, leaving one to be put towards the 895. 

The new 895 via Seebeck Dr on the map is about 11.4 km long. Running it via Casey Central Shopping Centre would make it about a kilometre longer. Despite it being a little less direct it is potentially more useful and connects with more routes so running via Casey Central is on balance desirable. An 11km long route permits an efficient hourly service with one bus on local streets. Three buses could permit the 20 minute frequency recommended. The 895's direct route along main roads may allow somewhat faster speeds, with the ideal being a 20 minute service via Casey Central with three buses. 

Overall this network needs three new buses. It may be possible to get away with fewer but this is not recommended as it would mean poorer service on the new direct route 895. However if additional resources were available consideration may be given to boosting peak frequencies on 891 and 893 as these enjoy above average usage on weekdays.    

A network option B

Every proposed network will have shortcomings. Thus it is not wise to draw up just one network and think 'this must be the one' since this will make you blind to its deficiencies. At the same time you should not lose heart and give up. Especially when you have an existing unsatisfactory network and nothing has been done in nearly 20 years to fix complex routes like 894 and 895.

In the first network's case both 892 and 894 go near but not right to Hampton Park Shopping Centre. The difference is barely 100 metres but it will still annoy passengers, especially the less mobile. 

Another fault with A is that it doesn't tackle inefficient overlaps enough. In fact its extension of 890 to Fountain Gate creates new overlaps along Princes Hwy. Economies may be possible if another way for this route could be found. 

The network option B (below) presents another approach. 

Notable changes include: 

a. 890 and 892 west of Hallam Rd are flipped. This routes 892 past Hampton Park Shopping Centre instead of 890. It's a trade-off here: which route should have the best access to Hampton Park Shopping Centre? Another approach could be to introduce a kink with a small amount of backtracking so that both do. 

b. The 894 from Network A is deleted. Parts of it are replaced by the 890 which is routed to Narre Warren Station and Fountain Gate via the existing 895 alignment. Arguably this more east-west alignment is more legible while still making possible a lot of bus-bus and train-bus connections for the 890. It should also make the 890 a strong weekend patronage performer instead of its current weakness.

Other parts of the 894 around Coral Park Primary School retain service by diverting the 891 through the area. 891 would become even more of a coverage type route, especially if it is, as on the map, deviated via Fordholm Rd to better serve Hampton Park Shopping Centre. However those willing to walk to direct routes have the 893 and the revised 895 with their more frequent service. A partial solution could be to terminate 891 at Hampton Park Shopping Centre and extend 863 to Lynbrook via Coral Park. This would speed travel as access to Hallam Station would be direct instead of via Willow and Oaktree.

Network B is more economical than Network A. This is because removing 894 would free up its two buses. One might be needed for the 891 due to its extra length. It may then be possible to upgrade 891's peak service to be nearer to 30 than 40 minutes. This is a small but desirable improvement. The other remaining bus could be put towards the 895 upgrade. Hence Network B may require only two new buses instead of three for Network A. 

The economy of Network B reflects a common issue with bus network reform. Existing unreformed suburban bus networks in Melbourne are dominated by indirect and overlapping local routes running every 30 to 60 minutes. In Melbourne's east there are no SmartBuses east of Ringwood or Dandenong. Even routes running at moderate frequencies, like every 20 minutes, simply don't exist in many areas. 

Cost-effective reform might require merging two local routes so they become less direct while retaining coverage. However doing so may have an overall gain as they free up buses that could be used on frequent and direct routes. The latter tend to be more popular with passengers so adding them is a good way to grow network patronage. Example two-tier networks like this operate in Wyndham, Brimbank and Cranbourne. 


New bus networks for Hampton Park and surrounds have been proposed. 

Both are simpler than the current network and delivers new 20 minute more frequent service between Lynbrook and Berwick. Connections to jobs at Dandenong South are also improved.

Special effort has been made to retain service at pretty much all stops buses currently call at. Where this isn't the case there will be a stop nearby. 

More routes run directly to stations. There are fewer 'dead end' termini. The networks are also compatible with subsequent reforms for Narre Warren South and Berwick which have similar needs for simplified routes.

Which network do you prefer? Or maybe there's third and fourth options that could be better still? Maybe you can draw inspiration from the (mostly unimplemented) Cardinia/Casey bus network review done about 10 years ago?  Comments are welcome and can be left below.  


Craig Halsall said...

Overall I like your Network A over Network B, mainly as I don't like 891 becoming a mop-up mess on both sides of Hallam Rd, that someone else will scream in horror about in 5 or 10 years time.

One issue from straightening 893 in the 2016 reforms was to drastically downgrade services on McDowall Rd & Cairns Rd, which serves a large pocket of south-west Hampton Park too far away from other routes. To then detour 891 via Coral Park (adding 5 mins journey time) as proposed in Network B would be a further insult to these passengers trying to reach a station or Fountain Gate.

An upgrade of 891 to 20 mins in peak periods in conjunction with the upcoming Cranbourne Line upgrade is likely warranted, with services off-set with 893 at Hallam Station (i.e. a 10 min headway south). This would also provide a more attractive service through Hallam Gardens.

Personally I don't see the reasoning for sending 890 via Hallam Station though - while there is some catchment east of Hallam Rd, a majority of Hallam residents live north-west of Princes Hwy/Hallam Rd intersection, and many are still not within reasonable walking distance (and would still require a transfer to 828). It is also largely overlaps over routes in the area.

To take an idea from Network B, I'd run 890 to Fountain Gate via Shrives Rd and Narre Warren Station, with services off-set with 894 where possible, particularly interpeak and weekends.

Running a third route from the north into Lynbrook should allow some coverage gaps to be resolved - my thoughts would be for the 894 could travel via Olive Rd, Sth Gippsland Hwy, Northey Rd and Hutchinson Dr - given the high traffic volumes and adjacent estates having back fences facing the highway, few should be forced to use bus stops on Sth Gippsland Hwy.

However, such changes will likely require the addition of traffic lights for right turns, plus a median cutting on Hallam Rd.

Craig Halsall said...

A "Useful Network" Berwick - Lynbrook route is a great idea for regional coverage - my suggestion for 890 & 894 to combine on Shrives Rd would somewhat provide this for the northern half of Hampton Park, with options to change to trains at Narre Warren OR 828 at Fountain Gate

As an aside, 863 might be best rolled an extension of 861 - the current route is a flop at it stays on main roads in Endeavour Hills with poor pedestrian amenity and limited access from housing