Tuesday, February 15, 2022

TT #152: Introducing Melbourne's 2022 updated frequent network maps

The Public Transport Victoria website has many maps showing various parts of the public transport network. Whether it's trains, trams, individual bus routes and everything operating in a local government area you can find them. 

These maps are good for indicating the existence of some service.  But we don't know how good it is or if it is very useful. This is because there is no distinction between buses or trains that run a few trips a day and those that run every ten minutes. Both get the same uniformly thin line on the map even though their role in the network are vastly different. 

For years I've been making frequent network maps. These highlight the widely useful parts of the network. If you value having good all-day public transport access you will want to live or set up business near one (or preferably several) frequent routes or lines. 

Frequency maps highlight well and poorly serviced areas. This makes them a great tool for advocacy as shortfalls can easily be seen. Especially in this state election year (Multi-part seat by seat 2022 Vic election guide here). Currently Melbourne sits between the poorly served Brisbane and the much better served Sydney in the proportion of people near frequent service. The just-released Committee for Melbourne Benchmarking Melbourne Report put the proportion of Melburnians near frequent public transport at just 22% (page 35). 

Expanding the frequent network would be the single biggest thing you could do to improve public transport in Melbourne. It would dwarf the Metro Tunnel and even rival the Suburban Rail Loop in its overall impact. All in a fraction of the implementation time and at less cost. 

However service aspects got little attention as the government favoured 'big build' infrastructure projects instead. But with more grade separations and the Metro Tunnel coming online in the next few years, now is the time to 'switch to service' so that infrastructure can deliver all its designed benefits. Frequent network maps can be a powerful tool for assessing where we are and setting priorities. In many cases there are opportunities for 'quick wins' where relatively few added trips with trains, trams and buses we already have, can greatly expand the frequent network. 

My early frequent network maps from 2010 were fixed documents. You couldn't zoom in or out. Neither could you select which modes you wanted or what frequency cut-off you wanted to see.      

Online interactive maps don't have these issues. I started with making a Monday - Friday frequent network map in April 2019. This shows the places and routes with frequent peak and interpeak daytime service. Learn more about this here.

Frequent nework maps - daytime

Genuinely useful public transport requires good service all week. Many routes (including most SmartBuses) run frequently on weekdays but not weekends. Still, even for buses, there are still some frequent weekend routes and corridors. Most notably on Saturdays with a drop-off on Sundays. Hence for the true picture you need maps for all seven days. I first provided them here along with comments that may be useful. 

Maps for each day of the week are also below. The top left box opens a menu where you can select options by mode (bus train or tram) and longest wait (10, 15 or 20 minutes). Do this if the default misses out modes you want and to check what frequency you want to show. The right box opens up a bigger version for easier viewing.   

Melbourne public transport frequent network Monday - Friday (~7am - 7pm) 

Note: Peak frequencies are usually better or similar to interpeak frequencies. In a few cases they are not, eg counterpeak trains between Greensborough and Eltham with >40 min gaps. This is why the map shows the 20 minute service terminating at Greensborough. 

Melbourne public transport frequent network Saturday (~11am - 6pm)

Melbourne public transport frequent network Sunday (~11am - 6pm)

Most recent update to maps: March 2024

What's still running at 10pm?

So far we've only discussed daytime service. Evening service is critical for those in essential and service industries whose work often happens at night and on weekends, the precise time when services often cease or become less frequent. As an example, few local Melbourne bus routes run much after 9pm. This is why I created The Network at 10 pm maps to show those that do. Again separate maps by day show the variations over the week. Because service is so sparse I've added lower frequency options like 30 and 60 minutes so you can see areas with some 10pm service. 

During normal service hours, the network's lowest service is mostly found around 10pm on a Sunday. Use Sunday's 10pm map (screenshot near beginning) if you're interested in all week frequent service, day and night as this is generally a 'worst case'. The main exceptions here are some train lines (Sunbury, Craigieburn, Upfield, Mernda, Hurstbridge, Pakenham, Sandringham) that still run on archaic every 40 minute Sunday morning timetables.    

 Melbourne public transport 10pm network: Monday - Friday

Note: Several routes have after 10pm service on Friday evenings. Some even operate all night as part of the Night Network. These are not shown above. These routes also operate until late on Saturday and are shown on Saturday's map below.

Melbourne public transport 10pm network: Saturday

Note: This map generally also applies on public holidays where a Saturday timetable operates. The exceptions are some routes where 10pm and later service only runs on Saturdays (including some Night Network routes). See PTV timetables for footnotes. 

Melbourne public transport 10pm network: Sunday

Note: This map also applies on public holidays where a Sunday timetable operates, eg Good Friday and Christmas Day. Selecting the Stations and Maximum Waits tab colour codes stations by maximum wait 7am - midnight Monday - Sunday. 

Maps last updated October 2023

Recent upgrades (but still much more to do)  

These maps were created in 2019. They have been updated to incorporate all known service changes to this month. These have generally extended the frequent network to more days of the week in more places. The after 10pm maps have also changed, especially if you select the 30 or 60 minute frequency option for buses. 

Key changes include:  

* 2020 Endeavour Hill network. This improved operating hours span and Sunday service. The individual routes are still not frequent but overlaps eg 843 and 845 common corridor justify inclusion on some maps.   

* 202 Melbourne university shuttle. Provided an extra 10 minute frequent service across the inner north on weekdays. This added an extra line on the weekday frequent network map. 

* Werribee, Williamstown and Frankston train upgrade. A much needed January 2021 upgrade that simplified routing and cut maximum waits from 30-40 to 20 minutes on all days and nights of the week. This has meant a big expansion of 20 minute service on the after 10pm maps. 

* Transdev network timetable reform in 2021. This was an economical 'oily rag' timetable change with quieter routes (eg 603 and 604) having less service (including deletion from some maps) and busier routes getting more service. The major upgrades are in the Doncaster area with four SmartBuses now still running at 10pm on Sunday evenings (instead of none before). There are also changes to the weekend daytime maps with the number of individual bus routes offering 15 min or better 7 day service rising from two to four (something that remains much rarer in Melbourne than Sydney, Perth and even Brisbane).      

* Night Network revamp. The thrust of this late 2021 change was to simplify services by running regular bus routes all night instead of having confusing special Night Bus routes. This affects service on the Saturday 10pm map as some local routes that finished around 9pm are running later (indeed all night for Night Network routes). The same happens on Friday night but the 10pm weeknight map leaves these out.   

* Tram 82 weekday frequency upgrade. A welcome cost-effective recent improvement that added this popular tram route to the 15 minute network on weekdays (it was already there on weekends). 

* Craigieburn network revamp April 2022. Four routes (528, 529, 533, 537) upgraded to every 20 min weekdays in conjunction with other local coverage improvements. 

* Fishermans Bend routes 235 and 237 got upgraded from 20-30 min to every 10 min off-peak weekdays in October 2022. This was followed by weekend and evening improvements a year later. 

* Box Hill/Deakin upgrades May 2023. Included upgrade of Box Hill - Monash part of 733 to run every 15 min on weekdays and 767 to run every 20 min weekdays. Also some weekend improvements. 

* Deakin University bus upgrade October 2023. 903 rerouted via Deakin Uni. Some Saturday trips added on eastern section. 201 university shuttle improved to every 15 min with 768 and 281 Box Hill - Deakin portions deleted. 

* Fishermans Bend upgrades October 2023. 235 given weekend service every 20 min. Also extended hours including every 20 min until midnight 7 nights of week. 237 also gained late evening service on weeknights every 20 min. Noteworthy for the frequency maps is that the 235 becomes the only single bus route that can claim 20 minute or better service 7 nights of the week. 

* Tram 3a abolition October 2023. The weekend only Tram 3a now operates as Tram 3 all week. 

* Route 501 Craigieburn - Donnybrook express commenced January 2024. Every 15 min M-F peak, 20 min M-F daytime, 40 min weekend. Daytime only.

* Route 475 Diggers Rest - Sunbury commenced March 2024. Every 20 min weekday, 40 min weekend.   

The future for more frequent service

What does the immediate future hold? April 2022 will see some welcome upgrades in the Craigieburn area including 20 minute interpeak service on some popular local routes. This will mean more lines on the 20 minute weekday map. Currently, apart from the train, the only route in the area with 20 minute or better weekday service is the north-south 541 bus. 

Something else to look out for is Fishermans Bend. A route like the 237 is only half-hourly interpeak currently. The government has budgeted some frequency upgrades in the area. So I wouldn't be surprised if this makes an appearance on at least the weekday 20 minute map fairly soon.  

Apart from that we don't know. There however remains significant 'low-hanging fruit'. Possibly most notable is the 201 (every 20 minutes) and 768 (every 40 min approx) which, if combined, could deliver a simplified and more frequent 10 - 15 minute express shuttle between Box Hill and Deakin University.  

More complex to do but no less important are some of our busier corridors with closely spaced destinations. Most notably Footscray - Highpoint which really needs a 7 day 10 minute frequency on a simple route. I discussed opportunities for the somewhat overlapping and complex 223 and 406 here. Better connectivity across the middle-north is also desirable due to popular destinations like Coburg, Preston, Northland and Heidelberg being not far apart. Again a 10 minute frequency on a simple single route is very economical on service kilometres as mentioned here (Murray Rd MegaBus).   

When you look at the 20 minute weekday map you'll see a big service 'black hole' east of Ringwood Station to Belgrave and Lilydale. This is because of infrequent interpeak trains (only every 30 minutes). Oddly weekend service is better at every 20 minutes. Fixing this anomaly so weekday midday trains ran as frequently as weekends is high priority, low cost and politically savvy (due to many marginal seats). Plus it would deliver an all-day frequent 10 minute service to Ringwood, serving another clutch of marginal seats. More here

As to these and others, the May 2022 state budget will be the thing to watch, along with various subsequent election campaign commitments that may be made. Preferably lifted from the list here

Comments on the above maps, including any errors, are welcome and can be left below. 

Timetable Tuesday index

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