Frequent services and realtime information. Time to throw away the timetable?
Transport minister Terry Mulder:
“We’d like to think we’ll get to a stage down the line whereby you can throw the timetable away, and we run ten minute frequencies. I think that’s what the community are wanting.”
Spot on Terry. I’ve already thrown my timetable away.
(Nah, I haven’t really.)
Frequent services, 7 days-a-week
The start of 10-minute services on weekends on three lines (which are now at least every 10-15 minutes at most times) is a big step towards being able to travel around Melbourne without a timetable. This is a vital part of making public transport competitive with car travel.
As Jarrett Walker says, “frequency is freedom”. Freedom from waiting, freedom from living your life by a PT timetable, freedom to hop on, hop off and travel spontaneously without a huge time penalty, and freedom to make trips requiring connections, without a long wait if you miss one. This last point in particular is important because it means different lines can work better together as an anywhere-to-anywhere network.
Ultimately if I’m catching a public transport service, I shouldn’t have to care what time it’s scheduled — I just care about how soon it is. So what becomes important is frequency and realtime information — particularly on people’s mobile phones.
We’ve already seen this happen with tram travel in Melbourne. Trams already run every 10-15 minutes every day (well almost), and combined with realtime information (Tram Tracker, and other related technologies), many people have stopped using timetables.
As one PTUA committee member remarked to me: “It’s changed the way I catch trams.”
For trains and buses, realtime information is available at stations (green buttons and Passenger Information Displays) and at some bus stops, but it’s not yet on people’s mobile devices (apart from high-level train disruption information). However recently it was confirmed that real-time information is coming soon for buses and trains on mobile phones.
More high-frequency routes needed
Expanding frequent services to all train lines, as is evidently planned (almost; some lines may miss out), and introducing more Smartbus routes, along with realtime information for all modes, will help mobility around Melbourne immeasurably.
For decades Melbourne’s 7-day frequent network has been rudimentary. Terry Mulder’s quote above indicates that finally, it seems, there’s some recognition that this needs to change, and the new timetables expand the frequent network markedly.
The more of Melbourne that has access to this frequent network, the more people can and will make use of it to cut their car use.
And that way, everybody wins.