Friday, April 28, 2023

UN 151: How long will Mt Atkinson wait for transport?

Melbourne is growing faster than it has been willing to add essential services including train stations, buses, health facilities and libraries. In few places is this lag more apparent than in the City of Melton, especially on the new estates fast filling the plains west of Caroline Springs. 

One such estate is Mt Atkinson. People might have bought expecting a town centre and train station but these are as far away as ever. The Ballarat Line Upgrade brought large infrastructure and service improvements but still no station (although Infrastructure Victoria has recommended one). And no one knows if or when Melton will ever see rail electrification. 

Mt Atkinson's 'middle of nowhere' location disconnects it from more established suburbs with shops and other services. You can walk 3km and still not get to anything much. Severance caused by the freeway isn't helping either. 

No adult can live in Mt Atkinson without their own car. Children must be driven almost everywhere. Issues with cost of living and social isolation are acute. If you lose your job, health or ability to drive you basically have to move out. The same goes if rising interest rates bite as selling a car to trim costs is impractical.  

Barring the occasional booked developer bus, Mt Atkinson doesn't even have buses. The nearest bus stop from parts of the estate is 45 minutes walk away. And, from a planning perspective, the area is neither easy nor cheap to serve with no existing route that could be simply extended. This might explain why other growth areas have got buses while Mt Atkinson has waited. 

Residents are starting to demand better with involvement in an FOE campaign for better buses. The area is in the seat of Kororoit represented by Labor's Luba Grigorovitch (who asked a question on Mt Atkinson transport to the minister last month). 

Bus network options

Bus routes need to link homes to useful destinations. The more useful destinations near a terminus the better. Unlike the more transit-friendly Sunbury rail corridor where you can do both, choices need to be made as to whether you terminate a bus at a station or shops.

You also need to think about wider network needs, such as cross-suburb connections which could induce network demand beyond just that generated from the estate it was established to serve. 

Places that you might start or finish a Mt Atkinson bus route could include: 

* Caroline Springs Town Centre (shops, schools, buses but no station)
* Caroline Springs Station (station but nothing else)
* Deer Park Station (station, buses and potential for route to operate via shops) 
* Rockbank (station but nothing else)
* Tarneit (station, buses, shops, cross-town route potential but distance with poor catchment)

Routes should perform multiple roles, for example they should work as both train feeders and connections to shops. Thus you would likely never have a route that runs between two shopless stations (eg Rockbank and Caroline Springs) or two shopping centres that lack trains. 

You might consider routes that allow bus-bus connections for significant out of area destinations like Woodgrove Shopping Centre and Sunshine (both served by Route 456).  Additional coverage of other estates would also be a plus. 

I'll present three concepts for a potential Mt Atkinson bus route. They're rough so don't pay too much attention to the exact alignments. Development and new road connections may make variations better for coverage and directness. 

All options feature a route 20 to 22 kilometres long. Hence each would cost about the same to run. With usual bus travel speeds two buses would enable an hourly service, three buses one every 40 minutes and four buses a trip every 30 minutes. 

Option 1

The concept here is to provide access to trains at Rockbank and shops and services at Caroline Springs.

It includes coverage of parts of Rockbank, Fieldstone and Mt Cottrell as well as Mt Atkinson. That's a plus as these areas also have no buses. Deanside also gains with a direct bus to the Caroline Springs Town Centre (which Route 456 in the area misses).

A disadvantage is that Mt Atkinson people need to take an indirect bus away from the city to catch a train towards the city, significantly adding travel time. People hate travelling backwards so they're not going to like it. Still it's better than now where there's no service. Secondly we are using scarce service kilometres to run a bus along Hopkins Rd despite little development along it (according to the above photo). However as more roads gets connected it may be possible to shorten the route (and potentially permit higher peak frequencies). 

Option 2

The western portion of this route from Rockbank is identical to Option 1. The difference is that it runs south to Tarneit instead of east to Caroline Springs. That's got advantages and disadvantages. 

Firstly the disadvantages. The most notable is there's no easy connectivity to Caroline Springs. Instead someone from Mt Atkinson must backtrack to Rockbank and catch either the train or 456 bus east. Then they need to catch the 460 bus north. It's a lot of messing around to go a fairly short trips. 

However others in Mt Atkinson would value the option to catch trains at two stations, not just one. Weekend trains on the Geelong line will be boosted to every 20 minutes in 2024 while plans for Melton are merely to every 40 minutes. Tarneit also has shops, buses to numerous schools and a direct route to the large Werribee Plaza Shopping Centre. 

Why is there a kink north of Tarneit? This is to provide coverage in the Tarneit North area which just has a FlexiRide. This can be unreliable especially during peak times. A new fixed route would add needed extra capacity. Even though this route was mainly intended to benefit Mt Atkinson this is an example of a new route bringing wider benefits for other areas. 

Another benefit of this alignment is that it (indirectly) connects two train lines. It may still be quicker to change at Deer Park if you are travelling between stations. But if you aren't then the bus may be useful. 

Option 3

The third option is Caroline Springs Town Centre to Tarneit. This provides coverage of Mt Atkinson but not Fieldstone or southern parts of Rockbank which will need their own routes. It is relatively direct and would make currently difficult trips like Caroline Springs to Tarneit vastly easier than now. 

For Mt Atkinson residents this alignment would provide access to jobs, shops and other buses at both ends (including to Melbourne Airport if all this happens). However it doesn't meet trains on its local train line unless a station was built at Mt Atkinson. But once done this route has the potential to be an excellent feeder from multiple directions. 

What about that Tarneit North kink? You might have it initially but you'd eventually remove it with local Tarneit North fixed route buses providing coverage. As well as supplementing (or replacing) the less inherently productive FlexiRide this could serve important but unmet needs such as a direct bus connection from Tarneit Station to Laverton North jobs.  


There's enough people in Mt Atkinson and surrounds for it to have bus services. Haphazard leapfrog development with limited road connectivity makes bus planning complex and has potentially contributed to delays in it getting service. Compromises when service does start are inevitable but these are better than the nothing that currently exists. 

I've presented three rough concepts for a new bus route through the area. Which do you prefer? Is there a variation that would benefit even more people? Or maybe a stop-gap 'swings and roundabouts' measure like diverting the 456 off the freeway to be nearer homes to the south? Comments are invited and can be left below. 

More Useful Network items

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Online transport petitions and their success

Those in politics tell me that online petitions are rarely effective. And that 30 independently written letters are more effective than 1000 bulk-submitted organised form letters from an organised lobby. 

Plus there is the possibility of official petitions to the state Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council. But these requires sponsorship from an MP. That might not be forthcoming, especially if they are on the government side. 

Old-fashioned paper petitions, unsponsored by an MP, is another. These are commonly used for hyper-local issues. They require a lot of work to get signatures but then any campaign needs work. Possibly their greatest value is the conversations that their sponsors have with people to raise community awareness and interest. 

Another option is online petitions, such as hosted on . There have been some successes, though a petition alone is unlikely to be enough. However they can draw new people to your message, attract volunteers and raise community and media interest. The comments section is also useful  in drawing out experiences and stories. These can be helpful to win decision-makers over, interest the media and even motivate those behind a campaign. 

Last week I checked some of the more serious petitions related to transport in Melbourne to check if they got results. 

Successful petitions

St Albans level crossing removal (4595 supporters)

Established about 10 years ago by a mother who lost her son at the crossing. This and the nearby Ginifer level crossing was removed in 2016. 

Partly successful or too early to tell petitions

Advocacy for 6 car trains every 10 minutes to Wyndham Vale and Tarneit. These are busy stations in Melbourne's growing outer west. Current services are only every 20 to 40 min outside peak. 

There were small timetable changes a few years ago including upgrading Geelong line weekend trains from every 60 to every 40 minutes. Before the 2022 state election Labor promised a further upgrade to every 20 minute from 2024. 

Station at Keilor East/Airport West on proposed Melbourne Airport Line (3110 supporters)

This had strong support from local residents and Moonee Valley Council which ran their own advocacy. Local MPs Bill Shorten (federal) and Ben Carroll (state) also supported this. 

The Sunshine - Melbourne Airport line was initially announced without an intermediate station, though it was an option. However before the 2022 state election the state government announced that the airport line would have station at Keilor East near Terror St. The Labor government was returned at that election. 

However just recently, with pressure from rising deficits and interest rates, the government announced a deferral of projects including Airport Rail. This we don't know when Keilor East people will get a station. 

A petition to get funding from the then Turnbull government. Money got offered but the project appears deferred as described above. 

Public Transport accessibility (15018 supporters)

Part of a larger campaign by the Disability Resource Centre to highlight the difficulty many have boarding trams (especially) due to the slow roll-out of accessible vehicles and stops. The government has included funding for some accessibility improvements in the 2022 state budget but progress remains slow.  

Better public transport in Melbourne's north west (673 supporters)

A request for better public transport on the Craigieburn line. The petitioner considers that punctuality should be better and crowding less. And they have a point - the Craigieburn line is well used but outside of peak hours it is only half as frequent as the similar length Frankston line at most times. 

The petition mentions an issue with connectivity to the last 529 bus at Craigieburn however there have since been some Route 529 service improvements including later finishes. There is also a possibility of Craigieburn line train services being improved when the Metro Tunnel commences operation (as Northern group City Loop capacity is freed and the Metro Tunnel's business case service plan includes a Craigieburn line service boost). 

Other petitions

Distance based public transport fares (2712 supporters)

These petitioners wanted free or low cost public transport for short distances.  Instead the government has gone the other way with the $9.20 fare cap, making long distance trips far cheaper and leaving short distance fares the same. 

Public transport for Poowong (102 supporters)

The petitioners supports a coach service for the town of Poowong, 110km south-east of Melbourne. It has the backing of local MP Danny O'Brien. 

A new petition #Fix800Bus 

7 day service on Route 800 bus (107 supporters so far) 

This started only a few days ago. It requests 7 day service on Route 800 on Princes Hwy along with boosted Saturday frequency and longer operating hours. Route 800 serves major destinations including Chadstone, Oakleigh and Dandenong while also passing close to Monash University Clayton. It is the only public transport for a significant number of people on low incomes in the Noble Park North area.

Route 800 is Melbourne's busiest bus route without 7 day service despite its direct highway route and strong residential and employment catchment. Its last substantial timetable change was in 1991 when 7 day service was actually cut and Saturday frequency reduced. Over 100 other bus routes with much lesser usage have gained 7 day service since 2002 but the 800 remains without it. Thus a strong case exists for its improvement even if services on a nearby very quiet route like the 704 need to be trimmed to pay for it. 

The Route 800 petition is supported by the #Fix800Bus Facebook page. More background in my blog item here

Have you been involved in petitions that were successful (any topic)? What are some things that worked (and those that didn't)? Please share your experiences below.  

Monday, April 24, 2023

UN 150a: Better Melbourne Airport transport (more)

Last week we saw reports that the state government was putting off the proposed Sunshine to Melbourne Airport rail link. As a result it could be 10 or more years before we see trains serving one of the few world's top-100 airports without a rail link. 

10 years is too long for us to be putting off cost-effective service initiatives while we wait for 'Big Build' to get the billions needed to do its thing. We should also be looking at small infrastructure, passenger amenity and service upgrades in the meantime. Especially the type that will have enduring benefits even after Airport Rail starts. 

I described such a service-first approach for the Sunshine - Keilor East - Melbourne Airport corridor last week. This involved a frequent long hours bus as a precursor for Airport Rail.

That would have many benefits. For example it would permit access to Melbourne Airport for no more than $9.20 from the vast western half of the state via Sunshine. And, with other measures, it would deliver large accessibility gains for Keilor East with wider benefits from Caroline Springs to Footscray. Airport workers in the Keilor East area might actually find the bus superior to the train due to it being walking distance from homes and the standard fare. The government would be silly not to do something like it. 

That looks after the Sunshine - Keilor East - Melbourne Airport corridor. But what about connectivity from other directions? More could be done there too. That's today's story. 

Here are four possibilities the government could consider to improve transport connectivity to Melbourne Airport from multiple directions:    

1. Broadmeadows - Melbourne Airport Better Transport

An integrated service-based package including the following (roughly in this order) 

a. Deep clean and then better regular cleaning and cosmetic overhaul of dingy Broadmeadows Station. Improved passenger information including 'change here for Melbourne Airport signs' on platform, wayfinding to shops and promotions for Victorian destinations permanently at station. 

b. Added 9pm - midnight Sunday evening trips between Melbourne Airport and Broadmeadows on SmartBus Route 901 (to fix current 9pm Sunday early finish). Potentially also one or two extra earlier weekend short trips from Broadmeadows to Melbourne Airport also for early workers and flyers.

c. Upgrade all day Craigieburn line train frequency to that of similarly used Frankston line to lessen waits at Broadmeadows Station for bus passengers. First priority is improving evening and Sunday morning service from every 30 - 40 minutes to every 20 minutes. Followed by 10 minute 7 day off-peak daytime frequency. Such an upgrade is already in the service plan for the Metro Tunnel Business Case so it's important that it get done.  

d. Bus network reform including swapping Route 901 and 902 at Broadmeadows so that 901 goes to Airport West and 902 to Melbourne Airport. This would provide a more direct connection across Melbourne's north to Melbourne's airport from areas as far east as Greensborough. This can be done with the same number of service kilometres as now and no stops would be missed. A later upgrade though could boost 902 weekday service from every 15 to every 10 minutes and weekends from every 30 to every 20 minutes to better harmonise with trains at connection stations including Broadmeadows, Keon Park and Greensborough.  

e. The construction of a train station at Campbellfield on the Upfield line. In conjunction with the above 901/902 swap this would connect large parts of Brunswick, Coburg and Fawkner to a direct airport service via a change at Campbellfield. There would also be connectivity benefits for non-airport trips. 

f. Major reconstruction of Broadmeadows Station and bus interchange considering its status as a 'gateway to Melbourne' and important local hub. Scope of work should include access between platforms at multiple points to widen the station's pedshed. 

2. Airport West / Melbourne Airport Better Transport

An integrated service-based package including the following:

a. Longer operating hours for Route 478/479 to provide better connections from the 59 tram and thus suburbs like Niddrie, Essendon and Moonee Ponds.

b. Higher frequency for 478/479 between Airport West and Melbourne Airport starting by upgrading hourly weekend service to every 30 minutes (or preferably better). 

c. Improved passenger information and interchange facilities that bring tram, bus and shops closer together with better walkability and shelter. 

3. Better interchanges

Comfort, information, connectivity and amenity upgrades including the following: 

a. MELBOURNE AIRPORT: Upgrade to 478/479/482/901 bus interchange at Melbourne Airport including better wayfinding, seating, multilingual passenger information, local area maps and myki machine.

b. SOUTHERN CROSS: Dark and dingy. It needs a facelift. Upgrades to Skybus and V/Line coach terminal at Southern Cross Station could include softer lighting, friendlier colours, more information on CBD area transport (including buses), better promotion of Victoria etc.   

c. BROADMEADOWS. It's a disgrace. Let's fix it! See above. 

d. AIRPORT WEST. See above.


4. Tullamarine Freeway bus priority lanes for Skybus services 

Reliability is especially important for airport travel. Rising freeway traffic will make SkyBus less reliable without priority. Faster travel could permit more frequent service with the same number of buses, further improving the attractiveness of the service. Not surprisingly Skybus is calling for this with a report in today's Age.


Steps 1 - 3 have enduring benefits beyond when Melbourne Airport Rail starts. There are wider network benefits too. Some (like cleaning and information) should be done immediately. It is desirable that the remainder be completed before the Commonwealth Games in 2026. 

In conjunction with the Sunshine - Keilor East - Melbourne Airport bus mentioned last week, initiatives like these could provide a cost-effective stop-gap for Melbourne Airport's public transport needs from a large area. And there's wider benefits too, connecting previously disconnected areas with good transport suitable for many diverse non-airport trips that people make every day.

Thoughts on the above are appreciated and can be left below. 

More Useful Network items

Friday, April 21, 2023

UN 150: Keilor East and Melbourne Airport transport - What now?

Airport rail's been put off so what opportunities exist now for better transport for Keilor East and Melbourne Airport for the next decade? Keep reading! 


Few parts of Melbourne's inner 15km ring are distant from trains or trams. Largely industrial Laverton North, residential Doncaster and mixed use Keilor East are the main exceptions. All have had train lines proposed, promised or deferred at various times. Keilor East is most topical right now as it's caught up in Melbourne Airport Rail's deferral.

Today I'll describe a cost-effective multi-directional network that could deliver vastly better mobility for Keilor East and access to Melbourne Airport now for the ten or so years until Airport Rail arrives. 

Want to cut to the chase? Scroll 50 - 80% down for the specifics and maps.   

Keilor East and station proposals - background

Keilor East is one of those then fringe/now middle-ring areas conceived when it was still thought necessary that new subdivisions should have trains or trams. But it developed when the rail network was run down by WWII (so was not expanding) and more people were getting cars. Hence Keilor East only ended up with private buses, though nearby freeway-ringed Airport West is the terminus of one of Melbourne's longest tram routes.  

A station at Keilor East has been part of various airport rail schemes including the most recent iteration.  It would have many advantages including improved local access to the CBD, better load balancing between railway lines feeding Sunshine, and a better terminus for local bus routes. More on all that here

The City of Moonee Valley campaigned hard for Keilor East when this government revived the idea of an airport rail following a promise of part federal funding. They thought they won when the project's scope was expanded to include a station in Keilor East before the 2022 state election. However the government announced a delay of airport rail earlier this week. Council said it was shocked by media reports of the project's deferral and has called on the government to continue works around the station site. 

Delivering major infrastructure had been the centrepiece of the Andrews government's eight years in office. The scale of its program had wowed observers and won votes. However the demand it created pushed up materials and skilled labour costs. And rising interest rates have made what were once affordable debts expensive to service. Hence the pre-budget talk of cuts to the public service and scaling back or deferment of major projects.

While this might be financially prudent, it's still cold comfort for the people of Keilor East who have been lumbered with slow and infrequent buses for years. Right now nobody would be feeling the pressure more than Public Transport Minister Carroll whose state seat of Niddrie includes the Keilor East station site.  And Melbourne Airport is possibly second only to Rowville in the number of transport schemes proposed only to be abandoned or put off. 

Changed circumstances mean it's ripe to rethink the order we do things if we want to deliver better transport to more people sooner and for less cost. I'll give ideas for Keilor East later. Skip to about 50% down if that's your interest. But for you policy wonks, I'll run through the capital intensive 'infrastructure first' versus 'service first' approaches to improving transport as things might be shifting. 

'Infrastructure first' versus 'service first' policy

Infrastructure first

Low interest rates, a willingness to borrow and a belief that building major projects is the best way to create jobs and win votes has caused the Andrews government to take an 'infrastructure first' approach to public transport. 

That is to spend all available money on major capital projects. Even though the amounts involved might be tens of billions, as this is a one-off capital cost this is more easily paid for (mainly through 'good debt') than a much smaller recurring amount such as would be needed to boost services. Borrowing to build isn't a bad approach for a government if its inherited debt is low, interest rates are low, the labour market is weak yet anticipated population growth is high. And politically it worked for three elections - 2014, 2018 and 2022. 

Better service may be promised but only after infrastructure is built, even though this is not always strictly needed, especially for off-peak frequency improvements. The latter is often lost in the public arena, that too frequently associates trains with peak period travel even though the most highly developed networks have good all day frequency and patronage too.  

Even worse is that service upgrades may not happen at all if infrastructure projects are done in isolation. Such examples are abundant in Melbourne, for example train timetables or bus networks not being reformed despite opportunities unlocked by new stations or removed level crossings. Thus the cynic might describe this as 'Infrastructure first, service never'. 

Service first

A 'service first' approach, in contrast, emphasises the efficient use of existing vehicles and infrastructure. Building more is a last resort, done only if the need remains after reforming operational practices, streamlining timetables, upgrading signals, adding on-road priority and simplifying bus routes. In other words, sweating the assets. Basically the guiding philosophy behind 2012's Network Development Plan - Metropolitan Rail

Service first tends to distribute service more evenly (often via Toronto-style frequent trains and especially buses) to a wide catchment rather than concentrating it at a few sites (like capital intensive rail projects do). The former can address a broader 'access for all' public good as opposed to the interest of landowners and developers in a few favoured pockets. 

A shortcoming of 'service first' is the wages bill from operating all day frequent service, though this is less objectionable if occupancy and modal share are high (which they tend to be). And if a government is really interested in jobs then bus driver type jobs are better as they are ongoing and stable (unlike major project construction jobs which are more cyclical though often better paid). 

Beyond a certain point labour cost inefficiencies mount if the network is too dependent on buses as opposed to higher capacity light or heavy rail that carry more passengers per driver on the key corridors. However the risk of this is probably lower in Melbourne than elsewhere due to our already large (but generally underserviced) rail network and abundant unrealised opportunities to reform bus networks and add articulated vehicles. 

Another (and possibly the most decisive) shortcomings are political and economic, even though adding service makes good sense from a network asset utilisation point of view. And it's well-known in transport planning circles that improved service frequency induces more usage, especially off-peak. 

Big builds are seen by everyone while frequent timetables are merely experienced by riders (unless it's frequent buses in bus lanes passing you on the freeway). That enhances the politics of building, even if other measures have a higher overall benefit. 

Another barrier is that borrowing for recurrent spending on frequent service is generally considered 'bad debt' and financially irresponsible as there's nothing enduring to show apart from a heap of happy (or less grumpy) passengers. Hence investing in service requires money to be raised by either spending cuts elsewhere or tax increases. Neither are politically attractive. And especially when interest rates were so low and the payments painless, building big was cheap and the government could show something concrete for its borrowing. 

Nevertheless things change. Altered budgetary circumstances might preclude large 'infrastructure first' initiatives. If there is a political need for improved transport then a judicious 'service first' approach (in the tens to low hundreds of millions per year) might be the quickest and most widely beneficial. 

Which approach in 2023?

Doing both would have been good. That's actually been the transport policy setting of the previous NSW government which presided over a large infrastructure and service program across all PT modes. The reward for this has been a big recent growth in bus and train usage. Whereas in Victoria we built infrastructure but added way less service than NSW's 48000 extra weekly trips. The result is a widening gap with Sydney's trains often twice as frequent as Melbourne's at certain times, particularly evenings.  

As skills shortages, cost inflation and rising interest rates bite it could be time's up for the 'Infrastructure first' thinking for now. It may be a lean time with less happening in the decade after 2025 than the decade before it as governments seek to control their debt before the cycle repeats. 

For a while small high BCR infrastructure and targeted 'service first' initiatives might be about the only new things that get done. And only then if there is a political desire to deliver 'quick wins' for transport in areas like Keilor East. Service does involve recurrent outlay but spending even 1% of a megaproject's capital cost each year can buy a lot of it. 

We'll know the government's direction for sure after the federal and state budgets next month. 

A 'service first' network for Keilor East and Melbourne Airport

In 2019 I described an improved bus network for Melbourne Airport as a precursor to Airport Rail. Its centrepiece was a fast and direct bus from Sunshine to Tullamarine (which I called Route 500). Because Sunshine is such a large hub with trains from Sunbury, Ballarat, Melton and Geelong and buses from closer in areas, a bus from there would greatly improve access from a wide area. 

Operating the 500 bus via Keilor East might mollify Moonee Valley residents by giving them a still efficient airport service. Indeed those with a stop within walking distance might prefer it to the train. The service would also benefit some non-airport trips, especially if it is part of a Keilor East area integrated network involving several intersecting routes. More on that later. 

Value for money is another potential benefit. Airport rail as currently proposed would likely have a Sydney or Brisbane style premium fare or surcharge. In contrast a bus option could work with standard myki fares and the $9.20 statewide fare cap, making it attractive to airport workers. 

Not having an airport rail surcharge would also benefit Keilor East residents who might find it price uncompetitive to taxis for their one-station trip to the airport. Taxis themselves have problems with drivers refusing short trips from the airport so a reliable bus could be a godsend for Keilor East locals. 

To sum up, a Sunshine - Keilor East - Melbourne Airport bus won't be as fast as airport rail but could bring forward many of its benefits. Implementation cost could be low (measurable in millions, not billions) and delivery would be relatively fast.  And with airport rail being delayed 4 years (ie likely completion in ten years) the case for an interim measure is strong.  

Has something like this been done here before? The answer is yes, particularly during the Bracks/Brumby period when capital for public transport projects was scarce but there was a higher willingness to invest in bus service. 

Examples include the 571 TrainLink bus (added before the Epping line was extended to South Morang), the well-used 900 SmartBus from Caulfield to Rowville (built in place of Rowville rail) and Doncaster's DART, supplementing the orbitals to give Manningham no less than 7 out of Melbourne's 9 SmartBus routes.  

There is no reason why Sunshine - Keilor East - Melbourne Airport cannot have a similar TrainLink style frequent bus. Benefits could be magnified, especially for Keilor East, if delivery was integrated with some wider (but still cost-effective) bus network reforms. Potential opportunities for these are set out below: 

a. Route 500 Sunshine - Keilor East - Melbourne Airport TrainLink/SmartBus

See Route 500 on the map below. It features three stops in the Keilor East area including one near the proposed Keilor East station site near Terror St (which could include some parking if desired). 

Key service attributes include (a) limited stops, (b) long operating hours including Sunday evenings, (c) SmartBus type frequencies but never more than 20 minute waits, (d) timed connectivity with trains at Sunshine (possibly the Geelong line) and (e) standard myki fares. 

Special TrainLink or SmartBus branding, real time information and more comfortable triple-length shelters could provide a user experience more like a tram. The route could also be one of the first to switch to 100% electric buses to create another point of difference. 

You could stop right there. The result would be great with half the state being able to get to Melbourne Airport for $9.20 or less and a big lift for public transport from Sunshine. 

But if you wanted to give Keilor East and surrounds an even better go for little extra money you'd do some small local reforms involving routes like 465, 476 and preferably also an extended 406. This would extend access to the 500 from termini as distant as Watergardens, Footscray and Essendon. The outcome would be transformative, with Keilor East going from being a transport 'black hole' to being highly reachable from surrounds. More on that later. 

b. Route 499 Caroline Springs - Keilor East - Airport West

That's the other route shown on the map above. It's an optional extra that brings extra connectivity benefits, linking most of the Keilors. It's basically taking the existing 478 Melbourne Airport - Airport West route but extending it to Caroline Springs via Keilor Plains Station and Taylors Rd. 

Route 499 would make many quite local trips possible on public transport for the first time with much less backtracking in the Keilor Plains Station / Keilor / Keilor East area. It's less direct than the 500 to Melbourne Airport so some passengers may wish to transfer to this at Keilor East interchange. 

Airport travel is possibly not its dominant function with the route provide a new connection from Keilor to Keilor Plains and Airport West Shoppingtown while supplementing the existing 418 from Keilor Plains to Caroline Springs. It could replace the existing 478 with the 479 remaining as a Sunbury to Melbourne Airport route. There are some overlaps with Route 469 in Airport West so the alignment of this may need to be reviewed. In any event the 469 should be split at Airport West to make it simpler as almost no one would ride it end-to-end.   

c. Cost-effective wider network enhancements 

The above network could be further enhanced with small upgrades or reforms to other local routes. These might include: 

* Route 406 SmartBus with Sunday - Thursday trips added until midnight and Sunday frequency boosted to every 20 min and extended to Keilor East interchange. Also straightened between Highpoint and Footscray in conjunction with reforms to other routes like 223 and 409 to create a 10 minute frequent 'Megabus' corridor for little money. Justified as it's already a strongly performing route whose airport connection via Route 500 would add further usage.   

* Route 407 upgraded with longer operating hours and 7 day service. Potential extension in the Keilor East area to allow for Route 406's extension. 

* Route 465 upgrade including extension of service until midnight and Sunday frequency boosted to every 20 min. This boost, along with the abovementioned 500, would facilitate a rerouted 903 SmartBus via Highpoint (replacing 468 and part of 408). This would correct an anomaly where there is no 7 day service between the Craigieburn line and Highpoint because the Blue Orbital (904) was scrapped and the Red Orbital (903) was not rerouted to compensate. 

A schematic diagram of the main Keilor East area routes discussed above is below. Thicker routes are more frequent and/or have longer operating hours. Compared to now the result is a much more connective network with less backtracking for many local trips.  


A revamped Keilor East bus network concept that brings forward many benefits of Airport Rail (for a fraction of the cost) has been described. Its benefits are wide, reaching almost all western and north-western suburbs. These include: 

a. Limited stop Sunshine - Keilor East - Melbourne Airport bus operating long hours with improved connectivity for Geelong, Wyndham Vale and Melton

b. New Caroline Springs - Melbourne Airport bus improving connectivity to Keilor Plains Station for Keilor and Airport West 

c. Two new SmartBuses for Highpoint Shopping Centre (406 & 903), improving connections to Essendon, Footscray, Sunshine, Keilor East and (via an easy change) Melbourne Airport. 

d. Longer operating hours and better frequencies for buses in Keilor East with three routes (406, 465 and proposed 500) operating until midnight and 407 operating 7 days. 

Thoughts on this network are appreciated and can be left below. 

Also see UN150a on better airport transport for Broadmeadows, Airport West & CBD

More Useful Network items

Friday, April 14, 2023

UN 149: Baisakhi special - Public transport to Hindu and Sikh temples

Around now, April 13-14, is when Hindus and Sikhs give Baisakhi and New Year (Vaisakhi) greetings to mark the start of a solar new year. It is also a spring harvest festival. Vaisakhi Mela (celebration festivals) are held across Australia around this day.

So it's topical talking about public transport to Hindu and Sikh temples temples. But before that a few words on adherents' distribution and access to transport in Melbourne. 

Hindu and Sikh communities - geography and transport

Hinduism and Sikhism are two of the fastest growing religions in Australia. This is largely due to immigration which has made Australia a favoured choice amongst students and workers from the Indian subcontinent. Victoria, especially Melbourne's outer western, northern and south-eastern suburbs, has the nation's highest percentage of residents with Indian subcontinent heritage. Punjabi is also now Australia's fastest growing language with it being more widely spoken in Australia than India

Australia's immigration program favours people of working age. Many have families. This means high rates of trip generation as people to go work, school and university.

It's important to consider migrants' financial circumstances as this affects housing and transport choices. Many are quite highly educated but often do low pay / poor conditions jobs Aussies won't touch with discrimination or difficulties accessing higher paid work including permanent residency requirements. This is due to a mix of federal and state policies including uncapped access to 457 temporary work visas with low wage thresholds, de-regulated vocational education and a wish to support education as a key export industry. The Grattan Institute has analysed these policies closely with articles and reports here, here and here

The early 2000s saw divergences in state government attitudes to population growth between NSW and Victoria; in 2000 premier Carr said Sydney was 'full' while Bracks and Brumby unashamedly advocated a 'big Australia' with Melbourne taking the lead. Backing growth was seen as a way for Victorian Labor to win the confidence of business that it lost in the early 1990s and create jobs. . 

Melbourne's value proposition was that it could provide fringe area new house and land packages for perhaps a third or more less cost than more geographically-constrained Sydney. For migrants aspiring to big city jobs this meant that only Melbourne could deliver on Advance Australia Fair's promise of 'boundless plains to share' (even if none were exactly girt by sea).  

As a result Melbourne flipped from being a slower grower than more dynamic Sydney, Brisbane and Perth in the '80s and '90s to rivalling Sydney as Australia's biggest capital today. Melbourne's growth was largely driven by interstate and international migration. Sydney also had the latter but a higher rate of outmigration limited growth.  

These forces have made Melbourne's outer suburbs the fastest growing and most diverse in the nation. Popular suburbs for migrants are typically along the main transport corridors in the 20 to 40 km suburban ring from the CBD. A home purchase is a major marker of success and settlement in Australia. Up to four in five buyers in some estates have Indian heritage with professionals highly represented. Large new homes on small blocks are popular with proximity to temples a selling point. 

Public transport in such outer areas comprises outer suburban Metro or V/Line trains typically running every 20 to 40 minutes. Stations are typically more widely spaced than in middle suburbs. Hence the vast majority of residents only have buses within walking distance. These are typically also every 20 to 40 minutes though with shorter operating hours with little operating after 9pm most nights. 

Stations and bus routes in these booming ethnoburbs are amongst the most productive on the network. This is despite them getting approximately half the number of trips common for main SmartBus routes serving generally more established demographically European and east Asian oriented suburbs in Melbourne's east and south-east. This can be verified from the very high boardings/hour figures of bus routes serving strongly Indian areas in Melbourne's north and west and strong usage of stations such as Tarneit. 

Rational service planning would send more service hours resources to such high-use routes. However  Melbourne has a habit of building infrastructure but starving service. Service/usage mismatches are also common, with multicultural areas often left with second-class service despite demand generated by high housing densities and lower than average car ownership (including in some outer suburbs like Tarneit). 

Even though people in the Department of Transport and Planning are nice inclusive folk who can do a good 'welcome to country', the distribution effects of the services they preside over is discriminatory in outcomes if not in intentions. Inactivity here has entrenched inequalities such as the west and north getting half the south-east's train frequency and the east's nine SmartBus routes versus none in the outer west

This inequality is not helped by a historic reluctance to review and reform bus routes in Melbourne. That can mean that poorly used or duplicative routes can run for years before anyone with influence twigs that it's worth redeploying service kilometres to routes whose improvement would benefit more people

Temples and transport to them

Hindu and Sikh temples are often large structures in industrial or green wedge adjacent areas with sparse transport. Similar to other fast-growing religions in Australia (from Islam to evangelical Christians) their scale (and thus geographic catchment) is large. 

This is opposite to the small suburb-level churches operated by longer established (and often declining) Christian faiths, though they too have consolidated churches. The larger catchments mean that especially for people without a car buses are an important way for people to connect to their faith communities. 

Hindu and Sikh faith communities typically started meeting in private homes. Then they might have hired a hall as numbers grew. Tireless fundraising allowed the purchase of land (typically in outlying industrial areas) and the construction of a building. A long term approach was taken with moves towards what are now large temples starting in the 1980s and 90s when communities were very much smaller. The story continues today, especially in outer growth areas, with their own schools likely another community aim. 

I found lists of temples herehere, here as well as general searches.  They commonly open early in the morning and close mid-evening seven days a week. Many close for about 3 or 4 hours from midday (with siestas being common in India).

Here's a non-exhaustive list of temples and available transport. Some are large while others are small. Transport planners need awareness of them due to their community importance and ability to generate network patronage. 


Sri Sai Siva Vishnu Temple / 7 Pauljoseph Wy, Truganina @

Route 400 every 40 min passes about 500m away on Robinsons Rd but no convenient stop.  

SMVS Swaminarayan Temple  / 435 Davis Rd, Mt Cottrell 🚍

Nearest bus Route 182 every 40 min but limited walking connectivity. 

Gurudwara Sahib Tarneit / 560 Davis Rd, Tarneit 🚍

Served by Tarneit North FlexiRide. Requires booking.

Hoppers Crossing Gurdwara / 417 Sayers Road Hoppers Crossing 🚍🚍

Route 150 every 40 min passes by. Route 160 every 40 min nearby. 

Guruji Mandir Temple / 501 Sayers Rd, Hoppers Crossing 🚍

Route 150 every 40 min passes by. 

Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul / 1596 Boundary Rd, Mount Cottrell @

No buses operate in area

Sri Durga Temple / 705-715 Neale Road Deanside 🚍

Route 456 bus every 40 - 60 min. 

Kundrathu Kumaran Temple / 139 Gray Court, Deanside @

No public transport. Nearest is Route 456 bus. 

* Shree Swaminarayan Hindu Temple / 37 Sheahan Rd, Rockbank @

No public transport. 

Melbourne Murugan Temple / 17-19 Knight Ave, Sunshine North 🚍🚍 

About 400m from 903 SmartBus on McIntyre Rd. 


Dal Baba Bidhi Chand Ji Khalsa Darbar / 5 Lakeview Dr, Mickleham 🚍🚍

Approx 700 - 800m from nearest buses (529 and 541). Both operate every 20 min weekdays, 40 min weekends. 

Guru Ravidass Sabha / 24 Malcolm Place, Campbellfield 🚍

Nearest bus is limited service 531 and 538 bus reachable via indirect walk. 

Sri Guru Singh Sabha / 344 Hume Hwy, Craigieburn 🚍🚍

532 bus every 30 to 60 min nearby. No signalised pedestrian crossing. 

Kali Mata Mandir Temple / 7 Nova Ct, Craigieburn 🚍

Industrial area with no direct transport. About 15 min walk from Craigieburn station and bus interchange. 

Sri Vishnu Durga Hindu Temple / 4a Helm Ct, Epping 🚍🚍🚍

Served by 901 SmartBus and Route 357.

Prem Prakash Mandal Mandir / 63 Miller St, Epping 🚍🚍

Bus route 358 passes. About 1.5km walk to station and other buses. 

BAPS Swami Narayan Temple / 60 Heaths Ct, Mill Park 🚍🚍🚍

Near bus routes 383, 386 and 387. 


Shree Shirdi Sai Mandir / 32 Halley Ave, Camberwell 🚍🚍🚍🚍🚍

Near 75 tram and Hartwell station. Access also possible via limited service 612 bus. 

Sri Guru Nanak Satsang Sabha / 127 Whitehorse Rd, Blackburn 🚍🚍🚍🚍🚍

Well served. Walking distance to Blackburn Station, 901 SmartBus and other routes including 703, 736 and 765. Also limited service Route 271. 

Sri Vakratunda Vinayaka Temple /1292 Mountain Highway The Basin 🚍🚍

On bus route 755. 

Shree Swaminarayan Temple / 69 Wadhurst Drive, Boronia 🚍🚍

Limited service. About 500m from Route 737 bus on Coleman Rd and longer walk to 732 and 755 on Burwood Hwy. 


ISKCON Temple / 197 Danks St, Albert Park VIC 🚍🚍🚍🚍

Near tram route 12. Route 606 bus also stops nearby.

Sankat Mochan Samiti Temple / 1289A North Road, Huntingdale 🚍🚍🚍🚍🚍

Excellent public transport connections being near Huntingdale Station and stops for 900 SmartBus. Routes 630 and 704 also stop nearby. 

Aumsai Sanstan Temple / 12 Mechanics Lane, Mordialloc 🚍🚍🚍🚍🚍

A small temple with excellent transport access at Mordialloc Station. Also near 903 SmartBus and regular routes 708 and 709. 

Vaishnav Sangh – Shreenathji Temple / 3-5 Princes Domain Drive Hallam 🚍🚍🚍

Route 893 bus every 20 min 7 day operates nearby. Also walkable to Route 828 in Frawley Rd. 

Gurdwara Siri Guru Nanak Darbar / 33 Officer Rd, Officer @

No nearby buses. About 2km from Officer Station. 

Gurdwara Sahib Nanaksar Thath Isher Darbar  / 430 Evans Rd, Lynbrook @

No nearby buses. About 1km from Merinda Park Station. 

Gurdwara Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji / 200 Perry Road, Keysborough 🚍🚍

Hourly Route 816 bus stops nearby. 

Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple / 52 Boundary Rd Carrum Downs 🚍🚍

Southern hemisphere's largest Hindu temple about 500m to 901 SmartBus on Frankston - Dandenong Rd. Also near routes 832 and 833. 778 stops nearby but has limited service.

Service ratings

Number of buses is an indication of public transport access, as below.  

@     = No practical public transport nearby

🚍 = May be some buses but limited hours, long walks and very poor walking connectivity

🚍🚍 = At least one 7 day route nearby but walking connectivity may be long and poor

🚍🚍🚍 = Two or more 7 day routes nearby with reasonable access

🚍🚍🚍🚍 = Multiple 7 day / long hours routes nearby with good access

🚍🚍🚍🚍🚍 = A good range of transport options eg trains, trams and long-hours SmartBuses

Ratings are rough estimates with significant trade-offs. For instance some temples are a poor walk from good services while others have infrequent routes that stop nearer. A high value is placed on 7 day service operating to at least 9pm even if frequency is low (typically 40 - 60 min). 

Temple location and transport access

Different temples have different prospects for public transport access improvement. This is largely due to their location and the often poor street permeability of suburbs they are built in.

A location like A, near an intersection, has the best prospects. It is likely already near buses on both east-west and north-south roads. Upgraded access would involve boosting bus frequencies on both roads and (if not already done) replacing any roundabouts with signals (to guarantee pedestrian access) and moving bus stops to as near the intersection as possible. 

Location B is less favourable but probably already has a bus. Its main needs may include better bus frequencies and operating hours. Pedestrian signals may also be needed if traffic volumes are high.

Temple location C has least prospects due to distance from main roads and poor local street permeability. The dead-end location means it cannot support a through route with a stop right outside. The best that can be hoped for is a long walk from a frequent main road route or a somewhat shorter walk from a less frequent service on a nearer loop street.

However longer term as suburbs age and become ripe for redevelopment the prospect of purchasing properties to link dead ends and enable efficient through service should be seriously entertained. 


Public transport to most temples is limited with some having no practically usable service nearby. This is not helped by many being located on the fringes of industrial areas which typically have little street permeability or consideration of walking in their design. 

The sites for some temples may have been purchased before there was any public transport or even people living nearby. Buy what land we can afford now and worry about the transport later might have been the mantra.  

Temples on non-freeway main roads have better prospects for improved transport. While buses along them may currently run infrequently (especially off-peak) higher frequency is often justified due to strong existing patronage and suburban growth. There is also scope for access improvements such as pedestrian crossings since these are often lacking despite the potential trips that a temple would generate. 

Finally the train stations and bus routes near which many Hindus and Sikhs live near are also ripe for improved frequency and operating hours. These are well used relative to other public transport services in Melbourne and justify 10 to 20 rather than currently widespread 40 to 60 minute frequencies. Improvements to residential area routes reduce waiting times especially where people need to change to a bus that serves a temple.  

Best wishes to all Hindu and Sikh readers for a happy and fruitful Baisakhi

More Useful Network items

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

TT #182: Buses that didn't run Good Friday (and the ones that should have)

Along with the usual traffic hold-ups public holidays add another layer of complexity to the bus user's life. This is because buses run to different timetables and in some cases not at all on those days.

Plans in 2006 to introduce standard rules for what buses ran on public holidays were only partly carried through. Hence there remains confusion as to what buses run on public holidays . 

It's so complex that PTV doesn't always have much of an idea themselves or get published information clear and correct

Arrangements for Good Friday are a bit easier to understand than for some other public holidays. 

The general rule is that buses run a Sunday timetable. If a bus route does not run Sundays then it will not run on Good Friday. This rule applies for all but two routes (681 and 682). In these two cases buses run Sundays but not public holidays. 

Hence, unlike most other public holidays where other quirks exist, the main reason for buses not running that you think ought to run are because they don't run on Sunday.

The list

Here's a list of all Melbourne's daytime bus routes that didn't run Good Friday. Beside their numbers is listed a reason for them not running.  

201 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - university shuttle

202 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - university shuttle

236 No Sunday service

237 No Sunday service

271 No Sunday service

273 No Sunday service

281 No Sunday service

284 No Sunday service

285 No Sunday service

301 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - university shuttle

303 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - peak route

309 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - peak route

318 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - peak route

343 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

350 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - university service

389 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

401 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - university shuttle

403 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - university shuttle

404 No Sunday service

407 No Sunday service

414 No Sunday service

415 No Sunday service

417 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - industrial route

431 No Sunday service

468 No Sunday service

490 No Sunday service

503 No Sunday service

506 No Sunday service

509 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - shopper route

511 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - peak route

512 No Sunday service

526 No Sunday service

531 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

536 No Sunday service

538 No Sunday service

542 No Sunday service (half)

546 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

548 No Sunday service

549 No Sunday service

550 No Sunday service

551 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

558 No Sunday service

559 No Sunday service

601 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - university shuttle

609 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

612 No Sunday service

671 No Sunday service

672 No Sunday service

675 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

677 No Sunday service 

680 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

681 Runs Sundays but not public holidays

682 Runs Sundays but not public holidays

686 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

687 No Sunday service

689 No Sunday service

694 No Sunday service (duplicates other routes)

696 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - shopper route

697 No Sunday service

699 No Sunday service

705 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - industrial route

706 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - shopper route

740 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - peak route

745 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

757 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

758 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

766 No Sunday service

768 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - university shuttle

772 No Sunday service

773 No Sunday service

774 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

776 No Sunday service

777 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - shopper route

778 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - industrial route

783 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

786 No Sunday service

787 No Sunday service

795 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

800 No Sunday service

802 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

804 No Sunday service

814 No Sunday service

821 No Sunday (or Saturday) service (to be deleted)

823 No Sunday (or Saturday) service

838 No Sunday service 

840 No Sunday service

842 No Sunday (or Saturday) service - shopper route

844 No Sunday service

857 No Sunday service

885 No Sunday service

FlexiRide Croydon No Sunday service

FlexiRide Lilydale No Sunday service

FlexiRide Mooroolbark No Sunday service

FlexiRide Rowville No Sunday (or Saturday) service

FlexiRide Rosebud No Sunday (or Saturday) service

FlexiRide Melton Operates but with a Sunday start time

List summary

When you add all this up you get 95 bus routes that don't operate Good Friday. These range all the way from tiny once or twice-daily weekday shopper routes to services along major highways like Princes (800), Nepean (823) and Hume (531). 

Reasons for not running and the number of routes can be attributed to the following: 

Peak commuter route (5)

Shopper route (5)

University route (8)

Industrial route (3)

Residential area route with Sunday and Saturday service but not PHs 2 

Residential area route with no Sunday service 52

Residential area route with no Sunday or Saturday service 20

Out of the 95 there's 21 special routes that you would likely never run Good Friday (or Christmas Day). These are weekday only peak, industrial or university routes. The only public holiday exceptions you might make are for university routes as universities tend not to observe state public holidays. 

The remaining 74, highlighted in yellow, are routes that a 7 day roll-out program would consider upgrading to run daily (including all public holidays). This list includes a few duplicative routes like 694 that you would never upgrade and would likely delete. Conversely it includes occasional routes (like 609 in Alphington and 745 on Scoresby Rd) that serve major roads or corridors that should get upgraded to more than the handful of trips currently run. 

A resumption of the 2006 MOTC program would likely involve staged roll-outs so the job could be entirely done in about two years (at a similar pace to that done in the 2006 - 2010 period). 

However unlike the MOTC program there could be a sharper attention to priority when sequencing, with the highest used or highest needs area routes like 281, 284, 404, 414, 503, 506, 536, 538, 546, 559, 612, 675, 774, 800, 802, 804, 814, 844, 885 etc being upgraded first. 681 and 682 in Rowville are also 'quick wins' since they already run 7 days and just need public holidays added. 

Other public holidays

Except for Routes 681 and 682 (which do not run on any public holiday) it is common for bus routes to run a Saturday timetable on public holidays other than Christmas Day and Good Friday. But not always. There remain about 20-odd bus routes that do run Saturdays but do not run on public holidays for which a Saturday timetable would normally apply. 

Because standardisation was never complete this is ripe for data and information errors, and do PTV often make them! More in this thread.

Even where bus routes do run a Saturday timetable there are oddities carried over from when shops closed around noon. Despite Saturday afternoon trading being legalised about 35 years ago many bus timetables have yet to get updates that reflect this. Hence service may shut down or reduce in frequency after about 1pm. This carries through to most public holidays. That includes ANZAC Day where buses may run in the morning when many shops are shut but not run in the afternoon when many open. 

This pattern is most prevalent in low income taken-for-granted historically safe Labor areas like Campbellfield, Reservoir, Springvale and Dandenong which have received very few bus improvements since John Brumby left office. 

More detail on all this here.

The route with more trips when the shops are shut 

Route 695F to Fountain Gate is the only bus route in Melbourne that has more service on Good Friday than any other Friday (or for that matter any other weekday). 

This is because 695F only runs after 4pm on a regular Friday and doesn't run at all on other weekdays. However it runs morning to night on a Sunday (whose timetable it uses on Good Friday). Fountain Gate is closed on Good Friday. Hence the most Friday trips run on the one day that the shops are closed.

This appears to be because 695F was conceived as a Fountain Gate shopper route with service on late night shopping Fridays and weekends only. Network simplification, if attempted in the area, would likely provide for more uniform 7 day services.  


A big deal can be made of bus network reform, with it being the centrepiece of Victoria's Bus Plan launched nearly 2 years ago. 

Even though it already had bus planners on staff, the Department of Transport and Planning has established a separate bus reform team, presumably to go bigger and bolder than before. Reform is desirable but success depends on budget funding and community acceptance. 

Winning both is hard as recurrent funding is hard to obtain and radical reform proposals can create 'losers' who are typically more vocal than the larger number who might benefit from a change. 

This is possibly why, of the three major bus reform programs in the 2006-2010 period (a. minimum service standards, b. SmartBus rollout and c. network reviews) only the first two achieved more than half of what they set out to do. 

Network reviews were potentially controversial with the need for consultation drawing out implementation time-lines further. By then the government had run out of money and/or shifted policy focus to fixing (by then) crowded and unreliable trains. Despite most (not all) review recommendations having merit, a far lower proportion of them happened than with the minimum standards or SmartBus.

The lesson from that era is that long reform processes can fall victim to wider political and budgetary circumstances, with initial momentum being lost, not to be recovered for many years. This remains a risk today, with today's challenge being interest rate pressures on borrowings (often major projects conceived when money was cheap).   

Mitigating that risk involves keeping reform going, even if small and cheap when finance is tight. This also means tight targeting to maximise benefits and a willingness to compromise or stage work. Seven day service and standardised public holiday patterns on popular routes in high needs areas is one of the most cost-effective and uncontroversial bus network reforms possible. Picking up on the start made in 2006, it would go a long way to creating a more usesful dependable network with wide benefits. 

See other Timetable Tuesday items here