Friday, December 31, 2021

2021: Better than we thought it would be

2021 turned out much more like 2020 than most people imagined (or hoped) at the start of the year. In other words it was defined by coronavirus and our reaction to it. 

However for the topics discussed on this blog, I think 2021 turned out better than expected. 

Indeed by some measures it was the best year of at least the last five and one of the more significant in the last ten. 

I say this for two reasons. 

Firstly Melbourne and Victoria was able to maintain its public transport service levels. Many cities internationally could not and cut back timetables due to funding arrangements and massive driver staff shortages. We were possibly also saved by our inflexible and unresponsive internal processes for changing timetables that work against optimising services under other circumstances. Replace the negative 'inflexible' with the positive 'resilient' for an assessment of how our services fared. Although seeing all those super-frequent peak trains with few riders would have flustered the efficiency minded.

Secondly there were the green shoots of service reform across all modes. Whether it be trains last summer, some buses in spring and the 82 tram a few weeks ago. Good things on the service side are being done after a period where 99% of attention and funding was on 'Big Build' infrastructure projects. 

January 2021's train timetable changes finally delivered 2012-planned reforms that were going to happen in 2015 on the Werribee, Williamstown and Frankston line. These included slashing maximum waits from 30 - 40 minutes to 20 minutes 7 days per week and providing a consistent 7-day cross-city routing pattern. Altona and Williamstown got their peak trains restored to every 20 minutes from every 22 minutes - a small but worthwhile boost that makes their timetables easier to remember. 

One of the most confusing parts of our rail network, the City Loop, became less so with Dandenong trains approaching it in a consistent direction all week with no midday reversal. With the Clifton Hill group reformed about 10 years ago, this leaves two out of the four Loop portals to tidy up. 

The other big beneficiary was the Ballarat line. It got weekday trains every 40 minutes to Ballarat with even larger weekday boost for suburban stations like Ardeer, Deer Park, Caroline Springs and Melton. 

An issue highlighted back in January and recurring all year, was that when confronted with a substantial service boost DoT/PTV rarely knows what to do with it. Their style is more like "timetables have changed - use the journey planner to plan your trip" rather than to actively sell passenger benefits like more consistent services, reduced waiting and even more distance from other passengers. Then when improved timetables come into effect PTV may drop the ball and get everything wrong anyway

This is important because if you want continued reformed services you want more people using those you've just improved. And even from a political point of view, accurate information, not misleading passengers and better than mediocre marketing would especially not go astray in 2022, an election year. 

May saw the 2021 Victorian State Budget. It had more for bus upgrades than the 2020 budget. We'll see the effects of this boost in the next couple of years when improved services commence in the Yarra Valley and Broadmeadows areas. Yarra Valley needs reform for reasons explained here while, near Broadmeadows, places like residential Campbellfield hasn't seen bus improvements for decades. Other improvements were budgeted for growth areas like Clyde and Tarneit and the redevelopment area of Fishermans Bend. 

Especially refreshing in 2021 was that the bureaucracy could once again think bus network reform with the term appearing unapologetically in 2021 budget documents. 

The extent to which this could be so seems to depend on the Minister. The Coalition government and Minister Mulder didn't put in much new money for buses but did back reform. In contrast the following Labor government, and especially its minister Jacinta Allan, enthusiastically built infrastructure but resisted potentially controversial rail timetable and bus network reforms. Minister Horne, who followed in public transport, was too junior and short-lived to captain a discernible change of tack. That job was to fall to Minister Carroll who has been able to do so without the benefit of much extra funding (yet). This is an example of the role serendipity can play in politics as Minister Carroll only picked up transport due to the reshuffle following last year's Adem Somyurek scandal

Less than a month after the 2021 State Budget came Victoria's Bus Plan. The most important plan covering buses since Meeting Our Transport Challenges in 2006, this even more emphatically signalled that bus reform was on the agenda. And its basic principles, including support for simpler routes and higher frequencies was encouraging. However being more a 'plan for a plan' it lacked detail on essential matters such as a service hierarchy and network coordination framework. It wasn't backed by much funding but some needed timetable reforms to 19 routes were slated to happen later in the year. 

Different views on the plan appear here: 


Also out in June was word of a dramatic reform to Night Network buses. This was actually in the works for some time but implementation had been delayed. The idea was that instead of just running Night Network buses on their own special routes, some of these would be replaced by selected regular routes upgraded to operate 24 hours on weekends. 

Night Network buses were often poorly used, even before COVID-19. It was hoped that upgraded familiar regular routes would attract higher usage. Very early indications have been positive. Running some regular routes all night would make us more like practice in other Australian cities. Another plus is that some suburban areas that have long been stuck with Saturday and Sunday morning services that start too late would gain earlier trips. The sort of passengers who would use these services are not necessarily Night Network type passengers so for this group having regular routes operate instead would make buses simpler for them. The reformed network started later in 2021. 

A worthwhile improvement that should help accountability came in July. From then the public could look up bus punctuality performance for each route. This removes an anomaly where performance information was available online for trains and trams but not buses.  

In September I wrote about substantial bus timetable changes to 19 regular routes. I described them as 'smell of oily rag' reforms as busy routes got more trips while quiet routes got fewer. While they were confined to one company's services (Transdev) there are some really good upgrades, including better operating hours and weekend frequency upgrades. A video summary is here.  

Again PTV's information and promotion efforts were lackadaisical. This seems to indicate that pro-service and pro-patronage mindsets are not yet universal throughout DoT despite now clear ministerial support for service reform that should generate higher usage. 

Infrastructure Victoria brought out its 30 year strategy in August. The state government responded in December with the Victorian Infrastructure Plan. Encouragingly, and of particular interest to us, they supported bus and tram network reform by 2025 to feed and support the Metro Tunnel. My three-part series on what this might (ideally) look like starts here. If the state government carries through with this to the scale it should then many of Melbourne's busiest bus and tram routes will be reformed within four years. 

October saw the announcement for the Melbourne Bus Franchise covering most of our longest, most frequent and highest profile bus routes. Incumbent Transdev lost to Kinetic, better known as the operators of Skybus. Transdev Melbourne had smartened their act in the last couple of years but this was not enough to compensate for some torrid years prior. Kinetic will take over next month.    

Rounding off 2021 was a tram upgrade. The PTV website item stressed the introduction of E-class roll-out on Route 58 and only casually mentioned timetable changes. However concealed in this was some good news for Route 82 passengers whose weekday interpeak service increased from every 20 to 15 minutes. 82 remains the least frequent 'regular' route on the network but by a much lesser margin than before. 

As you have seen service upgrades have spanned metropolitan trains, regional trains, trams and buses in 2021. And we've seen the start of official recognition of the worth of bus network reform, whether it be in budget papers or the Victorian Bus Plan.

If 2021 was the 'year of the plan' will 2022 be the 'action year'? That could include smaller scale 'build back better' upgrades to slash maximum waits at 100 stations and similar timetable reforms to that which we saw for Transdev for other bus operators. Along with funding for larger scale upgrades such as needed to Double Service Frequency On Everything.

Despite high benefit / cost ratios, there's no escaping that substantial service boosts and network reform require an increased call on public funds. Given the size of its budget, it is reasonable for DoT to have to demonstrate it wisely spends what it already gets. In particular it needs to urgently review its business costs and its high executive wages bill. The latter amounted to about $100 million on 400-odd execs, a large rise on 2020. DoT internal change must however (i) not diminish attention on and capacity to deliver network reform and (ii) not be so protracted that it causes an obsession with self to the exclusion of the passenger or user (as has been the case with previous almost continual restructuring). 

A previous instance of internal savings being found under the Kennett government during its (pre-franchising) transport reform program led to off-peak suburban train frequency increases on some lines bigger than the 'build back better' upgrades proposed here. If they won't by themselves they should be forced externally to do so we don't miss out on needed service improvements. 

The maxim that an organisation's true priorities are set by its budget not by its plans is true. This means that even more important than Victoria's Bus Plan (and all the other plans the Auditor-General found existed) is the contents of the state budget. Particularly 2022's, due out in May, about half way between now and the state election.

Will this budget finally contain the decisive 'swing to service' that we've long hoped for? The answer to this will likely determine how significant 2022 will be for transport. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

TT #147: Holiday timetables without tears - some learnings from this summer

A shortish item today due to much material and previous discussion in this Twitter thread.  

Despite changed routines making it critical, PTV has long had difficulties with presenting accurate online timetable information at this time of year. This is despite the events that make it difficult, like Christmas and holidays, being unmovables that can be planned for well in advance. While issues arise every summer, its performance seems particularly poor this time. 

Current and recurring issues include:  

1. Timetable arrangements for buses (especially) in Melbourne can be complex for no good reason except for how things were done in the past and lack of recent reform to complete simplification (that started in earnest in 2006).

2. The Department of Transport can neither understand, manage, nor communicate its complex services. 

3. PTV information channels such as its website, journey planner and app are often incomplete, inaccurate and untrustworthy with poor internal processes to ensure the quality of underlying data. This is exacerbated by the abovementioned complexity of service eg timetable variations. 

4. DoT seems oblivious of the cost to it of managing complex services despite a. reputational risks caused by its deficiencies being on public show, b. the loss of passenger goodwill and patronage and c. the relatively low cost of fixing some of the worst complexities (probably in the hundreds of thousands to low millions per year across the entire network). 

See The Public Holiday Gamble on Melbourne buses and Hot waits - summer timetable cuts for more detail. Since those were written there have been some improvements. Which is good as it makes finishing the job cheaper. Victoria's Bus Plan rightly identifies complexity as a barrier to use but lacks an action plan to fix the worst and cheapest of it soon. 

So with this in mind here is the top five simplifications that should be done to prevent a repeat of this summer's problems the next time around: 

1. Rowville bus routes 681 and 682 are Melbourne's only 7-day routes that don't run public holidays. They should, like every other 7 day route. Especially given that the other main bus in the area, the FlexiRide, is weekday only so also doesn't run public holidays. Having consistency would greatly simplify PTV communications efforts since they won't need to resort to weasel phrases like 'some bus routes will be altered or will not run' which doesn't mean anything except to spread distrust. 

2. Scrap reduced summer bus timetables on Routes 503, 506 and (if it's still effective) 733. 503 and 506 are run by a tiny family bus operator whose manual spreadsheet timetables work for them. However they have resulted in PTV publishing a stand-alone pdf whose data does not flow into their online timetables or journey planner, thus confusing and misleading passengers. Given all are significant cross suburban routes it would be easiest just to fund the extra few drivers for a few weeks to deliver a full timetable all year. Yes, we're probably talking mere tens of thousands per route per year here - a pittance in the whole scheme of things. 

3. Operate Melton's new FlexiRide with Saturday hours on most public holidays. Another tiny cost involving just one extra hour service per public holiday. It would address a specification drafting error where those who wrote it were unaware of normal Melbourne bus service practices (ie a Saturday timetable on most public holidays). This was corrected in the subsequent Tarneit FlexiRide but Melton's needs to be brought into line for consistency and ease of communication across the network. 

4. Sort out the Deakin University mess where there are two Box Hill shuttles (201 and 768) operating to different semester patterns. Merging routes would be an economical fix that would make travel so much simpler. More detail here

5. Upgrade the twenty-odd 6-day bus routes that still run on Saturdays but not public holidays to also run then. This is the biggest change with the biggest benefit. Without it some areas are left without buses for 4 days straight (Dec 25, 26, 27, 28) then again three days straight (Jan 1, 2, 3) as all as public holidays or Sundays. This list, which appears here, includes popular routes like 506, 536, 559 and 612. Others have significant unique coverage or connections eg 414, 526, 538, 548 and FlexiRides around Lilydale/Croydon. This is the dearest of the five steps but it's still relatively cheap since we're only talking about a few days of the year on (mostly) short and infrequent routes. 

Communication becomes clearer when consistency of service means that there's no longer exceptions to trip people up. And there is a high chance of accuracy without those involved having to hold an equivalent of a PhD in timetable history to spot the numerous exceptions that currently exist. Currently it's the opposite with it being a miracle if mistakes don't happen. Safe / robust systems should be planned around the fallibility of humans with the same applying for data systems.   

Would the above fix everything that's complex about our buses? Not by a long shot. For instance some Saturday timetables still have oddities like noon finishes that belong to another age. This would also apply on public holidays if those timetables were to run then. Then there's the complex routes and frequencies that don't harmonise with trains or are either too high or low for a route's role. 

However addressing the above five, along with internal checking before people go on holidays, could ensure a less fraught period for Melbourne bus passengers in 2022/2023. Now that will be something good to look forward to! 

Index to Timetable Tuesday items here

Thursday, December 23, 2021

UN 117: The bus and tram network the Metro Tunnel needs (Part 3 - central area)

Parts 1 and 2 discussed revised bus networks for the stations feeding the Metro Tunnel from the west and east respectively. 

The concept of revamped bus and tram networks to coincide with the Metro Tunnel's opening was raised in Infrastructure Victoria's 30 year strategy. This received state government endorsement through the Victorian Infrastructure Plan. The key now is to ensure that it happens with a significant uplift in service. And given the magnitude of doing the job properly planning really needs to start now.  

What about on-street transit for the central Metro Tunnel area itself?

We're talking about five new stations here. These include State Library near Melbourne Central and Town Hall near Flinders Street. And three others (Arden, Parkville and Anzac) at currently non rail -served precincts. 

These should trigger an overhaul of bus and (especially) tram networks. Not so much because of a need to access the stations but because the Metro Tunnel will relieve stress on Melbourne's busiest tram corridor and enable redesigned routes with flow-on benefits across the network. 

Already has state government support

The good news is that, like buses, tram network redesign also has Victorian Infrastructure Plan endorsement. Indeed Metro Tunnel works is delivering a Park St link and budget funds have been committed to planning tram reform. So it looks like a goer. It should even be possible to do much with no or only a small increase in tram service hours if network overlaps are reduced and/or speeds are increased. 

Department of Transport too

Enabling tram network reform with better efficiency and distribution of service is a key rationale for the Metro Tunnel (2016 business case here).  Furthermore, the Department of Transport (then as Transport for Victoria) started planning this well before the IV report and the government's Infrastructure Plan response. You can see an indication of their thinking in the Why can't we just?  presentation from 2017.  

Its 'layered planning model' (Slide 6) describes tram route, frequency and span adjustments as 'easy'. Cost is stated as being low, being in the 'hundreds of thousands' or 'millions'. Slide 12 below mentions the St Kilda Rd corridor and the potential for trams from the south-east to be rerouted via Park St to serve faster growing destinations in the CBD's west. Such rerouting is assisted by the Metro Tunnel's 'stress relieving' role mentioned earlier. 

The availability of the above is noteworthy as the Department rarely publicly engages on network planning matters until work is well advanced. While there isn't always a lot of detail on specific measures, Infrastructure Victoria, with its legislated independence, tends to be more forward on these matters. 

Taking a step back

Let's put individual projects and modes to one side to consider broader CBD transit network issues. A visitor to the Hoddle Grid would not be mistaken for thinking it's paradise with a dense grid of frequent (and free!) trams. And they wouldn't need to walk far before finding a station on its periphery due to the City Loop. 

But you don't need to go far outside it for the story to change. A snapshot of key issues is below:

- Focal point for train and tram infrastructure with access from much of state
- Quite good connectivity between trains and trams
- Good integration of trams in the urban fabric of Hoddle grid
- Frequent buses from some important directions

Complexity of City Loop (eg 2/4 portals still reverse at midday) makes it unsuitable for short trips 
- Complexity of trams in CBD with service maldistributed relative to activity
- Some tram network 'missing links' including to dense areas (eg parts of Spencer St)
- CBD bus corridors are complex, invisible and integrate poorly with trains and trams.  
- Non-radial trips just outside the Hoddle grid often difficult due to inconvenient network design
- Frequencies less than turn-up-and-go on individual routes (eg trains 20 min, trams 12 min) 
- Free Tram Zone unnecessarily crowds and slows trams while leading to underuse of trains and buses

- Metro Tunnel will enable improved trains including a consistent City Loop pattern on all lines
- Metro Tunnel creates opportunities to redistribute tram resources & rethink the network
- A flattened peak and post COVID recovery also creates opportunities to rethink the network

- A post COVID slump with a reduced central area activity may make reform seem less urgent
- Metro Tunnel implemented without supporting network reform 
- Current interest in network reform dissipates with little achieved
- Good reform might get done but is stupidly reversed (eg recent rerouting of Tram 12 )

6 big moves to transform inner area transit

Now we know the weaknesses, let's focus on the opportunities. The following six identified are either made easier by the Metro Tunnel or support usage of its stations. None are original but I think they'd make a difference and maximise Metro Tunnel benefits.  

1. Go West: Shift some trams from Swanston St to the western part of the CBD

The graph below, from the Metro Tunnel Business Case, tells the story. William St has lots of jobs nearby but few trams. Spencer St also receives relatively low service. Trams from the south-east are  overwhelmingly concentrated on the Swanston St spine. The Metro Tunnel will provided the needed capacity to enable a westward shift so that more trams can run via William and Spencer Street. 

St Kilda Rd currently has eight tram routes (1, 3/3a, 5, 6, 16, 64, 67, 72) from the south that operate through to Swanston St. At least one of these should be rerouted via William St with another via Spencer St to better distribute services. The latter is why the proposed Park St link is important. 

A tram network reconfiguration has several potential flow-on benefits. For instance new train/tram connectivity at Anzac Station. Fewer routes in Swanston St capacity exists for those that remain to be lifted from their current 12 minutes interpeak to a genuine turn-up-and-go frequency.

The ability to do this is further enhanced if there are more through routes with fewer overlaps. For example William Street's extra route from the south-east could form a 57 rerouted from Elizabeth St with this and the 58 providing a William Street super-frequent pair from Park St to Queen Victoria Market. As with all these things cascading effects need to be considered. For example the need to retain frequency on Elizabeth St, such as by providing short trips in a route's busiest portion. 

2.  Connecting the neglected north-west

The north-west of the CBD, around Spencer and La Trobe St has had huge recent development. However its trams haven't kept pace. And poor accessibility to the New Quay area has seen businesses struggle. Page 57 of the Metro Tunnel Business Case maps this accessibility deficit starkly. 

Key issues include (i) The absence of a simple continuous tram route up Spencer St, unlike other CBD streets, (ii) No full-time tram connection from New Quay to La Trobe St destinations including Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and the Tunnel's State Library Station and (iii) No easy access to New Quay from Footscray.

Potential solutions include: 

- Permanently reroute Tram 12 via Spencer St and LaTrobe St as was temporarily done in 2020 during COVID and unaccountably reversed. This change had many network benefits including enhanced connectivity to regional trains and Skybus, more services on Lonsdale St, simpler services on Spencer St, etc.

- Provide a simple west-east connection from Waterfront City via LaTrobe Street operating full time.  This would supplement the existing limited service City Circle (Route 35). There's at least two potential approaches, one radical and one not. The radical approach involves rerouting the 86 tram to shorten its route kilometres and remove three turns. Route 30 would be deleted entirely with resources saved used to boost Route 96 which is left all by itself on Bourke St. Benefits include simplicity, directness and an extension of Night Network to more CBD streets. Disbenefits include a greater need to change for some trips and having only one tram route on Bourke St (unless another route is shifted).

The other approach could be to simply extend Route 30 to Waterfront City. That leaves a more complex network overall that, in having more routes, is less conducive to frequency increases on each one. Hence my preference is for the more direct and cheaper Route 86 option. 

Both options would partly overlap with the rerouted 12. However they would provide La Trobe St with a frequent connection from Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and State Library (a Metro Tunnel station). Either would end the situation where Waterfront City has only limited access to most of La Trobe St and the abovementioned stations.   

- Reroute bus 220 off Footscray Rd to run via Waterfront Way. This would provide better connections to Waterfront City's attractions and a direct route from Footscray. Route 220 is already a frequent service with long operating hours. 

3. 10 minute maximum waits on all tram routes

Currently a lot of tram routes, particularly on St Kilda Rd, operate every 12 minutes interpeak. Route 82 at Footscray operates every 15 minutes (recently improved from every 20 minutes). Sunday morning and evening frequencies are often every 30 minutes. These frequencies are low by world standards and are not quite turn-up-and-go, especially for shorter trips and those involving a connection. Also we've been letting tram frequency decline and stagnate for decades, despite rising population density in areas around them. 

Unless services are very frequent a network coordination framework should specify harmonised frequencies between modes to provide consistent connection times. The rail network has been moving towards an all-week 10 minute daytime/20 minute evening pattern. Timetables associated with the Metro Tunnel will likely accelerate this trend. Trams need to follow with everything operating every 10 minutes or better during the day and never worse than 20 minutes at other times. 

Such frequency increases may require more driver hours with existing routes and speeds. Although the 82 tram got its recent off-peak upgrade mainly by redistributing trips. On other parts of the network there may be scope to reduce overlaps while still serving every stop.  This is particularly so for some St Kilda Rd routes as mapped below. 

Even if you could only remove one route (or substantially shorten two) you might save enough service kilometres to allow several routes to be boosted from every 12 to every 10 minutes. There will be 'swings and roundabouts' but overall most passengers should gain.  

The south-east tram network has an inconsistency based around the weekday Route 3 and weekend 3a (via St Kilda beach). Anzac Station may prove an attractive transfer point for people from the St Kilda beach area. Thus there might be merit in running 3a as the full time route seven days. This then gives a route very similar to most of the 16. Below shows a simplified network based on a new more frequent Route 3 to replace the 16. Route 67 would also need higher frequency to at least partly offset the reduced weekday frequency on a 1km segment of St Kilda Rd. 

The main 'loose end' is what to do with the remaining north-south part of the 16 from Kew. The map has an arrow going to Caulfield. That is indirect. But in the absence of a tram to Camberwell it does at least connect to Glenferrie and further north. Another approach could be to extend it due south to replace the 64 at East Brighton. This leaves the question of what to do with the remainder of the 64 since this overlaps much of the 5 all the way to Melbourne University. 

4. Short shuttle tram trips 

Most tram timetables have all their trips going all their way. That is the same frequency of service is provided at all points along the route. However ridership may vary significantly along it. For example  outer sections of routes might only have five people on board while inner sections may be heavily loaded. One way to accommodate this is to arrange trips so that some start part way along a route. For instance instead of an 8 minute service along the route's full length, there might be a 10 minute service on the outer portion and a more intensive 5 minute service on the inner 'short shuttle' section of the route. 

This could be an example of a 'greater good' change where capacity is delivered where needed but outer area frequency is still reasonable. It is likely only practical on our longer routes only. Active management of dispatches to ensure even spacing and/or loading may be desirable. Also there may be legibility issues where passengers expect trips to go all the way to the terminus but are disappointed when they don't. The least troubling time to introduce this is likely in the morning peak on inbound trips as a relatively small number will be travelling on outbound counter peak trips that stop early and turn back to form a peak direction trip. Again this was proposed by Infrastructure Victoria and supported in the state government response.    

Maybe 10 or 20 years ago another tram shuttle concept was floated for the St Kilda Rd/Swanston St corridor. This was to have a faster and higher capacity spine with larger trams with local trams from the east-west streets feeding in to it, likely requiring a transfer. This received a poor public reception and there seems to have been little mention since. And with the Metro Tunnel providing relief it is arguably less necessary anyway. Hence it will not be recommended here.

5. New CBD area tram links

A tram extension to Arden was recommended by Infrastructure Victoria. The state government didn't support it but didn't rule it out either. However planning needs start now if it's to have a chance of it operating when Metro Tunnel services commence.

IV's proposal for an Arden station tram makes a lot of sense. One up Spencer St involves barely 1.5km of track each way. It would support an already dense (but poorly served) precinct and foster emerging development around Arden. It would connect in to Southern Cross Station, a trip not possibly by rail except via significant back-tracking. Arden would also provide the logical terminus for one of the trams from the south rerouted from Swanston to Spencer St. 

Also mapped is an east-west route from North Melbourne via Victoria St. This overcomes a network limitation of north-south travel being easy but east-west access being difficult. A little like Park St in the south, significant parts of Victoria St already have trams. The concept of a more complete tram grid in this part of Melbourne is nearly a century old, having featured in the 1923 General Scheme

The City of Melbourne advocates aspects of both the above and other tram extensions in its 2030 Transport Strategy

6. New and revised CBD area bus links

Even if you didn't want to do much with buses, there are some changes should be made as the Metro Tunnel will make some CBD area routes redundant or over-serviced. As with cascading benefits for trams there are similar gains for buses with some new or joined corridors possible. Potential bus network reforms include: 

- Delete Route 403 between Footscray and Parkville as its function will be entirely performed by the Metro Tunnel. Resources to be transferred to a new 403 (see later). 

- Delete Route 401 Melbourne University Shuttle as its very high frequency is no longer needed with Metro Tunnel trains available at Parkville. Replace with extended Route 202 to provide a service every 10 minutes between North Melbourne and Victoria Park. Savings could be put towards operating weekend services on Route 202 and/or the new Arden feeder bus mentioned later.  

- Extend operating hours for Bus Route 402 to provide a more useful connection to new Parkville Station. Consider extending to Jolimont or Parliament to provide stronger eastern terminus. 

- Simplify the complex Route 546 in Parkville area with a consistent route. Extend operating hours and upgrade to 7 day service to serve a densely populated but poorly serviced precinct at Alphington.  

- Boost the currently hourly Route 505's frequency to provide a better feeder to Parkville Station. A little money for this was provided in the 2021 state budget but a still higher frequency would be welcome. 

- A new Arden Station feeder bus route to serve north-western areas close but inaccessible to it. Noteworthy destinations and origins include dense housing near Maribyrnong, Highpoint Shopping Centre, public housing near Ascot Vale and Flemington (including that funded for redevelopment), and stations at Newmarket and Flemington Bridge. It could terminate at either Arden or North Melbourne. An option exists to extend it to Southern Cross until there is a Spencer St tram extension in the area. Bus resources could come from deleted or reduced Melbourne University routes mentioned above.  

The new 403 bus serves several public transport 'black holes', areas of high social need and major destinations or interchange points. It connects with 3 (and possibly 5) railway stations. Consequently it should be a good patronage performer suitable for many trips all week. Hence at least a moderate frequency is suggested with a seven day service. The map shows a recycled route number but it is the most suitable for the area given surrounding routes. The main objection to it may be that too much of it duplicates Tram 57's coverage and that if justified at all it should operate at a lower 'coverage route' style frequency such as every 30 or 40 minutes. 

- Other CBD bus route reforms. These are less tied to the Metro Tunnel so I won't go into much detail here. A few examples include efficiencies for Transdev's Fishermans Bend routes (not all need to go beyond Southern Cross Station to Queen Vic Markets), longer hours on the 605 and reform of the West Gate Bridge 232.  


Some central area tram and bus network reforms have been described to complement the Metro Tunnel. The overall effect is to provide better service to inner growth areas including some where development has outpaced service. Special attention has been given to the north-west of the CBD and the Arden precinct. However the network should provide benefits as far out as Maribyrnong and St Kilda. Like with buses, tram reform was proposed by Infrastructure Victoria and supported by the state government. Add them to the network revamps in Part 1 and 2 for the other parts of the Metro Tunnel lines and you would have a transformed network that delivers much of the Double Frequency On Everything plan.

Do you think these are good reforms or could I have gone further? Are some thing ill-advised or are some things missed? Comments are appreciated and can be left below. 

See other Building Melbourne's Useful Network items here

PS: This is the last of a three part series. Part One, covering reformed buses in the area from Watergardens to Footscray, is hereAnd Part Two, describing a similar revamped network between Caulfield and Dandenong is here.  

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Timetable Tuesday #146: January 30 2022 bus route and timetable changes

Just a quick one this week. 

When PTV put up timetables on their website they normally have a date range. Normally, if no changes are on the horizon the finish date will be the 31st of December (either this year or next). But if there are changes planned then you'll see an earlier date. This is a good clue that there might be something in the works. 

Initially you might only see the current version of the timetable online. But as you get nearer the commencement date you will see two - the current effective until its last day and the new version taking over from the next day. It can vary but both versions are available about 4 or 5 weeks before the commencement date. 

When it's just a timetable change you can see both version is you look up the pdf timetables. Where a route change (which can be quite minor) is involved then you will see the new timetable under a separate route entry starting on the revision date. 

Those curious can use the search function to good effect to find all revised routes starting on a particular date. A search on '30/1/2022' indicated revisions for routes 626, 663, 670, 677 and 679. Note that this only captures route changes, not timetable changes within an unchanged route. And it depends on whether the date has been entered at all.

For at least a couple of months we've had warning that things are afoot in the Lilydale area. And not just the small changes associated with the recent replacement of TeleBus with FlexiRide. There's also some changes starting on 30 January 2022. 

What are they? As it turns out the answer is 'not much'.

The biggest appears to be a deviation on the 626 to serve McKinnon Secondary College's east campus. Regardless of its merit, it's an example of how the bus network tends towards complexity over time.

You need look no further than the 626's progenitor - the (old) 627 as it was about 20 years ago. This was like a bent and twisted hairpin with origin not far from destination. It too had got that way from simpler routes, as you can learn here. The 627 stayed like it was for too long until it got split into two simpler routes with better operating hours in 2010. These were the 625 and 626. 

So now with the 626 McKinnon Secondary deviation the cycle repeats, with no signs of a needed tidy up of Bentleigh East's still complex bus network, likely involving reforms to 701, 767, 822 and even the new 627. 

What about the other routes? These are all in the Lilydale area. A Yarra Valley bus network review was mooted in the 2021 state budget. However whatever is happening on January 30 isn't it. There only seem to be minor timetable changes of a few minutes here and there. These involve routes like 663, 679,  680, 684  and 685. Maybe also more. 

Something they've gone backward on is the presentation of the pdf timetables for Route 670. As part of the new expanded Night Network, this has 24 hour service on weekends. This is of benefit both to people coming home late at night and those with early starts on Saturday and Sunday. 

Unfortunately they have changed the presentation of the new pdf timetables to make travel harder for the latter group of travellers. In many cases the service is under-sold and people may not know it even exists.

Here's why. The new timetables move after midnight trips from the day they are on to the previous day. As an example, if you were to just look at the Sunday timetable you would look at the time for the first bus and see that there's nothing before 8am. That's typical for buses in Melbourne and you'd think nothing of it. Yet it sells the service short because the 670 actually has 24 hour weekend service. So if you needed to catch a 5, 6 or 7 am Sunday morning service then you could.

The problem is that PTV hides those trips on the Saturday evening timetable (which few will look at). Whereas the pdf Sunday timetables up to 29 January do show these Sunday trips on the Sunday timetable.

A split needs to be done sometime during the night. Before that split the trips show up on the Saturday timetable. After the split they are on the Sunday timetable. You could argue it should be midnight to reflect the calendar date. Or a bit later like 3 or 4 am between the two 'Night Network' peaks (that is around 2 am outbound and maybe 6 or 7 am inbound).

But having it as late as 8am, when the passenger mix travelling likely has little interest in Night Network and wouldn't think to look their trip up on the previous night's timetable is poor and hides the service available. 

This appears a minor presentation issue but is one more thing that contributes towards bus services in Melbourne being complex and underused. Overseeing this is the Victorian Department of Transport whose collective outlook towards buses does not reflect the minister's genuine desire to do much better with them. Examples include a record of either ignoring buses (eg leaving them out of new station brochures) or downplaying real achievements (like reforming the Night Network) by insufficiently promoting benefits like enhanced Sunday morning travel.  

That's it for today. The 30 January timetables appear minor tweaks, at least in the Lilydale area. However other areas will have more significant service and timetable changes in early 2022, such as Clyde North's new bus and Cranbourne peak rail upgrade. 

More Timetable Tuesday items here

Friday, December 17, 2021

UN 116: The bus network the Metro Tunnel needs (Part 2 - east)

Last week I presented a reformed bus network for suburban Metro Tunnel stations between Watergardens and Footscray. This would make buses more direct, more frequent and more useful over a large part of Melbourne’s west. Its design supports not only Metro Tunnel services but also fast developing precincts near Footscray, Sunshine and Highpoint and future rail corridors such as to Melbourne Airport and Metro 2. 

The concept of a reformed bus network was proposed in Infrastructure Victoria's 30 year strategy and accepted by the State Government through its recently released Victorian Infrastructure Plan. The new network would commence in 2025 to coincide with the planned commencement of Metro Tunnel train services.

Here's an even larger 2025 reformed network for the Metro Tunnel's eastern side, covering stations between Caulfield and Dandenong. It would achieve the following:

* Feed Metro Tunnel trains and relieve parking pressure at the line's busiest 9 stations
* Boost access to the Monash National Employment and Innovation Cluster & thousands of jobs
* Deliver the Caulfield to Rowville transit corridor as a premium bus
* Bring forward some Suburban Rail Loop benefits by ten years through 'SRL SmartBus'
* Transform local buses in the cities of Greater Dandenong, Monash and parts of Knox, Glen Eira, Kingston, Boroondara and Whitehorse, fixing a 30 year backlog in network reform

Of similar scale to bus reform in Sydney, it introduces 10 'new generation' bus routes operating every 10 minutes. As well a simplified 'key route network' lifts most others to every 20 minutes. That compares to widespread 40 to 60 minute frequencies currently despite higher than average usage of buses in the area. 

The south-east has larger employment and education clusters than the west and hasn't had substantial bus reform for years. Hence today's item has more in it than last week's. To keep it understandable I'll discuss the main 10 minute network first. Then, if you are up for it, the more detailed 20 minute network is described next.     

Ten routes every ten minutes 

Below is a a concept 2025 Metro Tunnel supporting bus network for Melbourne's south-east. Routes shown would operate every 10 minutes or better seven days per week. Some are potential 'Bus Rapid Transit' or other medium capacity corridors. Detailed descriptions and links after the map. 

To recap the main points about the map from last week:

The big diagonal line is the Cranbourne / Pakenham line whose trains will come from the Sunbury line via the Metro Tunnel. Only stations between Caulfield and Dandenong are shown. Dots are key interchange points or destinations. Dark blue is Metro stations, red universities and TAFEs, green shopping centres and pink hospitals. Many are potential interchange points.

Most routes featured already operate today. Only frequency changes are proposed for 703, 901, 902 and 903. Minor modifications (including extensions) are proposed for 630 and 693 with larger changes for 733 and 900. 620 and 810 are new routes. They would replace existing complex and less frequent routes on their corridors and provide new linkages between major destinations. Interactions with other routes are discussed in detail later.  

The listed routes below form the above-mapped ten minute network.  

620 Caulfield - La Trobe University Bundoora (NEW): A new frequent route linking the Metro Tunnel, half of Melbourne's train lines, many trams and passing near three university campuses. Would replace part of the half-hourly 624 and 548 routes and fill a major network gap. Discussed in detail here and as a similar concept here.

630 Elsternwick - Monash Clayton: A popular existing route. Currently runs every 12 minutes in the peak. An upgrade to 10 minutes all day would not require many new buses and would evenly mesh with train frequencies. A service boost would also compensate for rerouting the 900 away from Huntingdale. 630's high Sunday productivity is notable and justifies a service boost. Extending to Elsternwick would provide a stronger terminus. 

693 Chadstone - Ferntree Gully: An important connection to the Monash NEIC. Currently runs every 20 minutes in peak, 30 min interpeak. Large parts overlapped by 742 and, further east, 753. Relatively poor usage at Belgrave end which is better served by local routes going to more places. Frequency upgrade would be in conjunction with an extension to Chadstone, shortening to Ferntree Gully and network simplification to reduce overlaps. The 10 minute frequency may appear generous (particularly on weekends) but it compensates Oakleigh for the loss of the 900 and would provide an excellent feeder for the future SRL station at Monash. More here.  

703 Brighton - Blackburn: No changes proposed to route. Current timetable has uneven timings and limited operating hours. Frequency and operating hours upgrade to make it a real SmartBus (and better) connecting major jobs in the Monash precinct and feed Clayton Superhub.  

733 Box Hill - Sandringham (SRL SmartBus): A very popular route currently only every 30 to 60 minutes most times. Despite serving major destinations including Box Hill, Mt Waverley and Monash Clayton. Less well used at its Oakleigh end where it is close to 903 and overlaps part of 703. A reformed network could have this route head south rather than west from Clayton to terminate at Sandringham or at least Southland. This would give it a route nearest to that of the proposed Suburban Rail Loop. Hence it is considered suitable as a 'next generation' SRL SmartBus service that would help establish usage patterns and development early. More about the 733 here.   SRL SmartBus discussed here and here.

810 Monash Clayton - Dandenong (NEW): Although areas like Springvale are not far from the Monash precinct and have high bus usage, they don't currently have easy bus access to it. Also the busiest part of the 902 SmartBus is on that part of Springvale Rd near Springvale Station. This is a low income area and many people use the bus for short distance shopping and feeder trips. These two factors are the rationale behind this new frequent route. Other areas to benefit include Noble Park, Dandenong and the hospital and TAFE there. Heatherton Rd currently has a bus (811) but the hourly frequency does not match the area's demographics nor patronage potential. As part of this change to lessen overlap the 811 would terminate at Springvale. An earlier version of this concept (without the Monash connection) is presented here.

900 Caulfield - Stud Park: This corridor has had a lot of discussion due to various light rail and 'trackless tram' promises and concepts. The 900 is a very popular route (especially weekends) but is not the fastest between Chadstone and Monash University due to its deviation via Oakleigh and Huntingdale. The mapped route has it going straight via Princes Hwy. Other routes such as the 903 and 693 are boosted or extended to retain Chadstone - Oakleigh capacity, particularly on weekends. Current peak frequency is every 10 minutes making an upgrade to every 10 minutes all day / all week possible without buying more buses. This makes it the cheapest and quickest of the ten 'new generation' bus services discussed here to implement. 

901 Frankston - Melbourne Airport: One of the three SmartBus orbitals, this currently runs every 15 minutes on weekdays and 30 minutes evenings and weekends. Parts of this route (in the north-east) are so poorly used that it shouldn't really be a SmartBus while other sections deserve more service. The part of the 901 between Frankston and Ringwood is one of the latter. Longer term the orbitals should be split so that service can be better matched to catchment needs including 10 minute frequencies. The simplest upgrade without splitting could be to introduce a maximum daytime wait of 15 minutes (rather than the current 30 minutes on weekends) by operating short trips between (say) Frankston and Ringwood. These would be slotted in between the existing trips to provide a combined 15 minute frequency on all seven days. 

902 Chelsea - Airport West: Similar comments apply as for the 901. Again there is a high need for a more intensive service between Nunawading and about Springvale South. Again ideally 10 minutes but 15 minutes would be a major advance on the current 30 minute weekend service. Other network reforms including the 810 and 814 north of Springvale and the 813 to the south (some discussed later) will augment the 902 on the busy portion around Springvale Station. 

903 Mordialloc - Sunshine: The busiest of the three SmartBus orbitals with the Oakleigh - Chadstone - Box Hill portion contributing high patronage. The portion between Mentone and Doncaster is recommended for ten minute service. It's well away from this area but there are good reasons to split this route at Heidelberg and extend the eastern portion to La Trobe University. This has interactions with other network reforms. As with the other two orbitals scope exists to run short trips to run a consistent 15 minute service. This, along with the 693 extension and upgrade is particularly important with the 900 rerouting away from Oakleigh. 

Staging and priorities

There is no reason why these 'next generation' routes cannot be rolled out in a staged fashion, similar to the SmartBus orbitals about 10 years ago. Some are more complex or resource intensive than others.

My top priorities in terms of ease, low cost and patronage potential would be the 900, 630 and 733 (Box Hill to Clayton only). Also important could be short trips on the three SmartBus orbitals to provide 15 minute weekend daytime service on their busiest portions.

Most transformative from a network point of view are the new 620 and the southern extension of the 733 to create an 'SRL SmartBus'.  The new 810 could be nicknamed the 'Opportunity Line' given its catchment demographics. That should also receive early consideration, even if initially at a 15 or 20 minute frequency rather than 10 minutes. 

Last to happen might be upgrading weekday SmartBus orbital services from 15 to 10 minutes. This is because sections of these very long routes don't justify their current 15 minute service let alone 10 minutes. Weekday orbital upgrades could occur at the same time they are split to better match service with train frequencies and need. Reform here would have implications well beyond the east, including areas such as Altona, Airport West and Melbourne Airport.  

Is having ten frequent routes too much? Currently we have one (if you count the weekday only 601 Monash shuttle). Sydney's reformed eastern suburb and inner west network has eleven. Further from the CBD Sydney's northwest has four (600, 601, 611, 665) plus Sydney Metro through the middle of the business park (a precinct like Monash) and a bus transitway to the west.

Overall I'd say the network above was generous but not over the top given expectations for the Monash precinct and the lack of rail serving its heart. Also t
wo of the routes precede proposed light or heavy rail corridors (eg Rowville and SRL) while the rest serve major employment areas and activity clusters. As well there is a degree of offsetting savings with some shortened or simplified routes to reduce overlaps.

There is no reason why service upgrades couldn't be staged with the new routes put in earlier but at 15 or 20 minute frequencies. This is particularly the case for 
'business heavy' areas (eg the Monash precinct) whose routes might go to every 10 min on weekdays (especially in peak periods) but remain at every 20 minutes on weekends until more mixed-use development occurs and/or the SRL commences. 

Frequent network summary

Presented above is a network that would greatly improve access to stations feeding the Metro Tunnel and eventually Melbourne Airport. The frequencies are of a level rare in Melbourne but common in parts of Sydney. They would permit easy turn-up-and-go access to and within the Monash precinct - Melbourne's largest suburban employment cluster. They will require substantial new bus purchases if you want high frequency. However if you are willing to tolerate more waiting then the above network could still form the basis of some worthwhile reform even at lower frequencies like 15 - 20 minutes whose implementation would be much cheaper.

You can stop reading now. But if you want it there's more detail below for the 15 and 20 minute routes that fill the above's gaps and greatly improve more local connections. 

More routes - the eastern key route network

Here's a more 'filled in' network. The map shows not just the 'new generation' 10 minute services but also those upgraded to run every 15 or 20 minutes as well. It represents a large scaling up of service and would bring the most people within 10 minutes walk of a 7 day bus operating every 20 minutes or better. This is a big step up from 30 to 60 minute services in the historically underserved areas between Springvale and Stud Roads despite favourable demographics for all day bus usage.  

Despite all the lines the new network is simpler than today's (which you can see on local area maps like Greater Dandenong's). It is however larger than the western area network discussed last week. Fortunately reform can be staged, done in clusters of related routes. This is necessary because changes to one route may leave a gap unless another is adjusted to compensate. 

Routes will be discussed in related clusters rather than numerical order. All routes with bold headings will be key routes operating every 20 min or better. Other routes mentioned are lower frequency neighbourhood type services. Groups are roughly arranged simplest first. Special effort is made to highlight opportunities for simpler and cheaper reforms that could bring forward some benefits of this revised network. 

Group A

800 Chadstone - Dandenong: No change to route. Upgraded to operate every 20 min 7 days with longer operating hours. Can be done with existing bus fleet as a stand-alone change affecting no other routes. Hence early upgrade, before the Metro Tunnel opens, should be possible. More on 800 opportunities here and here.

Group B

803/804 Chadstone - Dandenong: A reformed two route corridor that is simpler than the current 802/804/862 corridor. The corridor would run every 15 min peak and 15 or 20 min off-peak with each route operating at half this. The new route 803 would be an amalgamation of 802 and 862 while 804 would be similar to now. More details here

Notes: This would provide an Oakleigh - Monash connection, something which becomes more important when the 900 is realigned to skip Oakleigh. Both routes would run 7 days which wold make the corridor more legible compared to now where one route runs 7 days, one route 6 days and the other 5 days. Like the 800 upgrade this is low cost involving no more buses than now. Again there should be no large interactions with other routes and an early pre-Metro Tunnel upgrade is recommended.

Group C

623 Glen Waverley - St Kilda: Upgraded from every 30 - 60 min to operate every 15 min peak/20 min off-peak. Rerouted via Caulfield Station. Partly funded by deleting Route 624 between Chadstone and Caulfield with Neerim Rd Murrumbeena served by rerouted 623. 

734 Glen Waverley - Caulfield: Extended to Caulfield to provide new Metro Tunnel connection. Upgraded from every 30 min to every 15 min peak, 20 min off-peak. Burke Rd portion replaces deleted 624 in area.   

Notes: 624 remains as local route via existing Oakleigh - Chadstone alignment. Chadstone - Kew portion replaced by parts of 623, extended 734 and new 620 as above. 623 would continue to deviate via Mt Waverley with an option to remove this confusing backtracking when Route 733 is upgraded. Early reform on this group can commence before the new 620 starts by buying the one or two buses necessary to extend the 734 to Caulfield and routing all 624 trips via the main (Carnegie) deviation, thus at least providing a single path for this currently very complex alternating route.  More on the 734 extension and related Caulfield station upgrades here.

Group D

822 Chadstone - Cheltenham: Upgraded from every 30 - 60 min to operate every 15 min peak/20 min off-peak. Straightened to operate via Murrumbeena, East Boundary and Chesterville Rd to provide direct north-south route serving densifying Bentleigh East precinct and more jobs at Moorabbin. Shortened with alternative arrangements in the Cheltenham/Sandringham area. Done in concert with Bentleigh East area reforms to 627, 701 and 767 to retain local coverage. More detail here

828 Berwick - Southland: Upgraded from every 20 - 60 min to every 15 min peak/20 min off-peak. Southland- Highett - Hampton portion served by local route (which could be an extension of another route that finishes at Southland eg 631).

Notes: Can be done stand-alone with abovementioned routes or in conjunction with 733 extension which provides Bay Rd Southland - Sandringham connection to replace current lower frequency 822. A cheaper alternative that does not need to wait for the (relatively expensive) 733 extension could be to operate 828 directly from Southland to Sandringham via Bay Rd to provide a smaller but still very worthwhile frequency increase (30 to 15-20 rather than 10 minutes). When the time comes to introduce it, note that the 733 extension will have some minor interdependencies with 631 and 824 and a replacement route in Oakleigh South, as discussed here.  

Group E 

737 Westall - Croydon: Upgraded from every 30 - 40 min to every 15 min off-peak (20 min weekend) at least between Monash University and Knox City. These could be early upgrades with short trips added between existing trips. Later the 737 could be slightly extended to start at Westall Station to replace deleted 631 in area and connect the dense M City development to its nearest train. At the same time the 703 is upgraded the 737 could be rerouted via Ferntree Gully Rd and Springvale Rd to be similar alignment to current 742 until Glen Waverley. Timed to connect with most trains at Glen Waverley. 

Notes: Interactions with 693, 703 and 742. With 693 upgrade and Chadstone extension, Route 742 is no longer needed between Chadstone and Monash University. Instead it could start at Monash University (north side) and operate to Glen Waverley via Blackburn Rd, paralleling the upgraded 703. That's a swap with the 737. However it was considered preferable to have the more frequent 737 on Springvale Rd to relieve the heavily used 902 for local trips to/from Glen Waverley. 

Group F

691/692 Glen Waverley - Ferntree Gully: A new fast (and limited stop) connection to Rowville from the Glen Waverley Line. More detail here. Would comprise a pair of routes, splitting east of Stud Park. The pair could run every 10 min peak, 15 min interpeak and 20 min weekends to match trains at Glen Waverley. Each half would be half that frequency. 692 is a new route while 691 would be modified. 

Notes: Would be done in conjunction with reforms to 681 and 682 while replacing 754 in the area (which could run to Waverley Gardens instead). Rowville FlexiRide would also be reviewed including a potential replacement with fixed routes. This upgrade for faster CBD access is desirable in conjunction with the rerouted 900 since it will no longer run via Huntingdale Station. 

Group G

705 Mordialloc - Monash University: Rerouted to provide a fast Monash University link from the Mordialloc area. It would also serve jobs in the Braeside areas with a connection from Clayton. Every 20 minutes on weekdays but less service on weekends (hence dotted line). This is the closest public transport equivalent to the new Mordialloc Freeway which currently has no comparable inland transit route. The Springvale end of the 705 could be replaced by an extended/rerouted 704 to better link local destinations. Of all the key routes here the 705 would be the last to implement as a 20 minute service as others have higher all day patronage potential. More on the 705 concept here.   

817 Monash University - Keysborough (NEW): New route via Westall Station, Westall Rd, Kingsclere Av. Every 20 min weekdays, lower frequency weekend. Replaces 824 between Westall and Keysborough while providing new Monash connection. 

824 Middle Brighton - Waverley Gardens: extended to replace 811/812 at Brighton end and rerouted to remain on Centre Rd to terminate at Waverley Gardens Shopping Centre, replacing 631 in area. This provides a direct Clayton connection and takes advantage of level crossing removal. Clayton - Westall portion of existing 824 served by local 704 rerouted south of line and extended to Springvale (also replacing 705 in area). More on this concept (and the abovementioned 817) here.

Notes: Route 631 shortened to become a Southland - Clayton local route as Waverley Gardens gets extended 824 from Clayton instead.

 Group H

813 Dandenong - Springvale: Runs along the existing route alignment south of the railway but shortened to terminate at Springvale with northern portion operated by modified 814. Frequency would increase from 40 to 20 minutes due to its strong catchment and high patronage. This boost would also relieve some pressure on the 902 on Springvale Rd for some local trips. The higher frequency would mean that 812 would no need to operate closely parallel to the 813 between Keysborough and Dandenong so can be terminated at Parkmore. More here and here.

814 Springvale - Dandenong: Rerouted to start at Springvale with Springvale South portion operated as rerouted 811. Runs via Wanda, Albany and Hansworth to replace 813 and 848 in area. Then to Dandenong via existing route. Upgraded to run 7 days with service boosted from 60 to 20 min. 

815 Waverley Gardens - Keysborough South (NEW): New direct Noble Park - Keysborough South route via Corrigan Rd and Chapel Rd. Southbound buses would form inbound Route 816 services, enabling access to Parkmore SC. Corrigan Rd service enables 812 to be straightened, operating direct to Parkmore. 

816 Waverley Gardens - Keysborough South: Extended north to Waverley Gardens to replace 848 on Bakers Rd then Chandler Rd to provide a new connection to Noble Park. Then straightened in south with arriving services forming inbound 815 services.  Some 815 and 816 concepts here (though note the route numbers are swapped).

850 Dandenong - Glen Waverley: Upgraded to every 20 min. Route straightened in various places including running via Lum Rd. Brandon Park Dr served by local route 848 extended north to Glen Waverley and routed south via Wanda St to Springvale (to replace 885). 

Notes: Reforms to 811/812. 811 takes in Springvale South portion of 814 and terminates at Springvale due to more frequent 810 in its place to Dandenong. More frequent 813 allow 812 terminates at Parkmore Keysborough with improved straightness due to new 815 serving its Corrigan Rd stops. Option exists to extend 812 to Dandenong via Dandenong South industrial area. 811/812 would be shortened to start at Moorabbin if 824 starts at Middle Brighton. 

Routes 848 and 885 amalgamated to form new route 848 from Springvale to Glen Waverley in conjunction with reforms to 850. 

Scope may exist for early reform involving just 813, 814, 811 and 812 with the 810, 815, 816, 848, 850 and 885 reforms to come later. On the other hand all routes are run by the same operator and in a similar area so the possibility for scheduling efficiencies by doing them together should not be ignored.  

Group I

At the edge of the map are routes east of Dandenong. They include routes to Endeavour Hills and a new Dandenong  route to Fountain Gate that would connect jobs at Dandenong South to residential areas such as Hampton Park. They won't be discussed further here as they are better considered as part of reforms in eastern areas like Hampton Park, Casey and Endeavour Hills.  

Deleted, added and modified routes

A major thrust is simpler, more direct and more frequent routes to more places. Hence some are joined so more people can take one-seat rides to key destinations. In other cases routes are split with the busy portion being a separate route with a more frequent service. Some local routes get extended to stronger termini.  Overall three route numbers are taken out of use while four new ones are created. Lists below:

Deleted routes 

802: replaced by new 803
862: replaced by new 803
885: replaced by rerouted 814 and 848 

Added routes

620: New Caulfield - La Trobe University route. Replaces portions of 624 and 548.
692: New Glen Waverley - Ferntree Gully route to provide frequent service wtih 691.
810: New Monash - Dandenong route. Replaces portion of 811 on Heatherton Rd.
815: New Noble Park - Keysborough route. New direct Corrigan Rd route.  
817: New Monash - Keysborough route. Replaces portion of 631 and 824.

Significantly modified routes

623: Rerouted via Caulfield Station and Murrumbeena station to replace 624 in area. Mt Waverley backtracking may be removed but only after 733 is upgraded. 
624: Made shorter Oakleigh - Chadstone route with other parts replaced by modified 623 and new 620.
627: Potentially reforms in conjunction with 822 upgrade and straightening. 
630: Extended to Elsternwick. 
631: Shortened to operate Southland - Clayton only. Monash connection provided by extended 733.
691: Rerouted to start at Glen Waverley in conjunction with new 692 to provide train feeder for Stud Park. 
693: Extended to Chadstone in west but shortened to Ferntree Gully in east. Other routes extended from Belgrave to cover this section.
701: Potentially reforms in conjunction with 822 upgrade and straightening. 
704: Extended to Springvale to replace 705 in area.   
705: Extended to Monash University Clayton. 
733: Extended to Southland or Sandringham to provide 'SRL SmartBus' service. Oakleigh portion served by another route. 
734: Extended to Caulfield to replace deleted 624 portion.  
737: Extended south to Westall Station. Rerouted to provide more capacity on Springvale Rd south of Glen Waverley. 
742: Shortened to operate from Monash University to Ringwood only. 693 extended and upgraded to compensate in overlap area. Swapped with 737 to operate via Blackburn Rd. 
754: Rerouted to terminate at Waverley Gardens in conjunction with Rowville changes. 
767: Potential reform in Bentleigh East in conjunction with 822 upgrade and straightening. 
811: Terminated at Springvale. Dandenong portion served by new 810. Shortened to start at Moorabbin in conjunction with 824 extension. 
812: Straightened west of Parkmore. Shortened to terminate at Parkmore due to upgraded 813.  Shortened to start at Moorabbin in conjunction with 824 extension.  
813: Shortened to terminate at Springvale. 814 rerouted in Mulgrave. 
814: Shortened to terminate at Springvale. Modified 811 to cover Springvale South. 
816: Extended north to Waverley Gardens. Straightened in south. 
821: Potential modification in conjuntion with 733 extension. 
822: Operated more directly down East Boundary Rd and Chesterville Rd to Southland. Replaced by other routes to Sandringham. 
824: Extended west to Middle Brighton to replace 811/812. Straightened east to terminate at Waverley Gardens. Keysborough portion served by new 817. 
828: Revisions west of Southland. Southland - Hampton portion served by another route.. May be extended to Sandringham via Bay Rd initially pending 733 extension.  
848: Rerouted to replace 885 in Mulgrave. Extended to Glen Waverley. 
850: Rerouted for improved catchment. 
900: Straightened to operate via Princes Hwy. 

Dandenong - Pakenham/ Dandenong - Cranbourne

Metro Tunnel trains will continue to Pakenham and Cranbourne through the City of Casey. An upgraded and simplified bus network is needed in these areas too. Suggested key upgraded and extended routes include 893 (Dandenong - Clyde incorporating part of 897), 791 (Frankston - Fountain Gate incorporating part of 841) and a new 860 Seaford - Berwick (incorporating part of 760 joined with 888). Detail on all that here. Also see previously for the links under 'Group I' for some other network concepts. 


A vastly upgraded reformed bus network for the eastern part of the Metro Tunnel catchment has been described. It delivers streamlined 7 day routes across a wide area with large benefits for the Monash NEIC, the Caulfield - Rowville corridor and Melbourne's east and south-east more generally. Operating hours are extended and maximum waits for many passengers would be halved. Both those using Metro Tunnel trains and those travelling locally would benefit.

While ambitious by Melbourne standards, its service levels match what recent network reviews have delivered in established parts of Sydney (which are similarly unserved by trams). The ten 10 minute frequent corridors will require a lot of bus purchases. However the 'bones' of the network could be implemented with somewhat lower frequencies but still enhanced all week service and better operating hours with far fewer bus purchases. Even this would make a worthwhile difference. 

Large scale bus upgrades in a wide area, like we last saw with Doncaster's DART ten years ago, can do much 'heavy lifting' in transport, even more so than 
large rail projects. The number of people served just by this and the western network discussed last week could even potentially exceed the uplift attributable to the Metro Tunnel. But together they would make an unbeatable combination that would transform tranport and create a more conducive transit environment for projects like the Suburban Rail Loop, Caulfield - Rowville corridor and Monash NEIC to take root. 

Do you think it's a good network or could some aspects be done better? Is it too expensive or does it not go far enough? Is it a reasonable comparator for whatever the Department of Transport may develop? Comments are appreciated and can be left below. 

See other Building Melbourne's Useful Network items here

PS: This is Part Two of a three part series. Part One, covering Watergardens to Footscray, is here. Part Three presents details of a CBD area revamp (including tram reform) here.