Tuesday, June 25, 2024

TT #190: Big upgrades for bus routes 505 and 546

Some welcome bus upgrades were announced by PTV last week. Titled Buses return to Grattan Street, Parkville, the headline for both it and the ministers' release misses some even bigger news. That is large service upgrades for bus routes 505 and 546 (and some small upgrades for the 402). 

The return to Grattan Street is part of its reopening to vehicular traffic, a significant milestone of the Metro Tunnel Project which closed it for works in the Parkville Station precinct. I'll leave that for others to talk about. My topic today will be just the service upgrades. 

Route 505

505 is a relatively new inner-suburbs route, serving the dense infill housing area of Parkville Gardens. Running from Moonee Ponds to Parkville, it started with an hourly service (even in peaks). It proved popular and got a peak upgrade with advocacy from local MPs. Average hourly boardings was just over 25 for Monday to Saturday with strong Sunday usage too, putting it above average for buses in Melbourne. 

Route 505's hourly outside peak service was infrequent, even by Melbourne bus standards, especially for an inner suburban route. This change plans to boost that to every 20 minutes on weekdays and 40 minutes on weekends. 

Route 546

Route 505's current terminus is Parkville. However the new timetable, starting next month, will see all Route 505 trips continue as Route 546 to Heidelberg. This is a long-established route that connects Melbourne University to Clifton Hill and then Heidelberg. Its eastern portion has sections of unique coverage, including it being the main public transport to the Alphington Paper Mill apartments (which currently has zero weekend bus service). Some Route 546 trips started at Queen Vic Markets while others started at Melbourne University, confusing passengers. Operating hours were restricted with no weekend service and there were run time issues with buses running late. 

The new timetable should address all these problems. Route 546's service levels will match the upgraded 505 due to the through-running. In other words weekday service will improve from every 30 to every 20 minutes while weekends will go from nothing to every 40 minutes. Services will finish around 9pm, which is typical for local bus routes in Melbourne. Route 546's weekday productivity was around 20 boardings per hour, around average or slightly above for buses in Melbourne. 

Route 402

This is a popular route between Footscray and East Melbourne via Parkville. It will get some small service upgrades early on weeknights and on Sunday morning. Being one of just two 7 day bus routes in Melbourne that run every 10 minutes or better midday on weekdays it will be an important feeder to the Metro Tunnel at Parkville station. 

Routes 401 and 403

These are weekday only university shuttle routes, from North Melbourne and Footscray respectively. These get stop changes only this time. However when Metro Tunnel starts Route 403 will become redundant. And there may not be the need to run Route 401 as frequently as it currently runs. 

One hopes that there is a Stage 2 of bus reforms in this area. For example, should Route 202 and 401 be through-routed? Any money saving could free resources for other initiatives eg operating 402 until Midnight (so it becomes a SmartBus level service) and/or have 202/401 operate weekends. 


Overall these are a welcome set of changes that will bring frequency and operating hours boosts to areas that need it. They are an all too rare case of bus service upgrades being done in concert with large infrastructure projects. They will start on July 14. The weekday frequent network map will be updated accordingly. 

Index to Timetable Tuesday items

1 comment:

Steve Gelsi said...

There is a bus stop outside Arden station, so presumably something will be changed to run down Laurens St.

I worked near Grattan Street over 15 years ago and the 10-minute frequency on the 402 to and from Footscray was brilliant, only problem was getting clogged through Kensington. As was the 402 when it was introduced.