One of the issues in public transport is “dead running“. This blog post cites a local example, but it’s a widespread issue.
At various times of day, trams trains and buses move out of service between their runs and their depots or stabling.
This is dead running.
Sometimes this is taken to extremes. Most route 600/922/923 buses run out of a depot in Sandringham, but apparently because of lack of space, some buses run Out Of Service right across town to/from another depot in Footscray! (At least they did when the route was run by Melbourne Bus Link. It’s recently been taken over by TransDev, who may have changed it.)
My local route the 703 is run out of Ventura Buses’ South Oakleigh depot. The route runs from Brighton to Blackburn. In the 703’s case, Dead Running to and from Brighton is along the most direct road, which also happens to be along the route: Centre Road. I would think this is a pretty common scenario.
Thus we get sights like this: people in the morning peak waiting at Bentleigh station for a bus to Brighton… perhaps their bus is delayed thanks to the long run from Blackburn (troubleprone despite the theoretical traffic priority Smartbuses are meant to have). Often when a bus turns up, it’s going to Brighton all right, but it’s not in service — yes, they do dead running in peak hour.
Likewise eastbound in the evenings there’s a big gap in the service between 7:33pm and 8:41pm… there’s a bus in between (at about 7:51) which runs out of service back to the depot.
The most obvious solution is to run more of these buses in service.
Stopping to pick up and drop off passengers would add to the run times of course, so you wouldn’t want to do it across the board — there will be times when it’s necessary to get vehicles to and from their runs as quickly as possible.
But if there are known gaps in the schedule, due to the timetable or regular delays, then it’d help those passengers a lot, even if it meant extending the run time slightly. Big benefit for little cost.
I was told some years ago by a senior bus planner that in regional cities, Myki had reduced the number of cash transactions on buses, and sped up run times — and that was before sales of individual tickets were scrapped. The silver lining in the cloud that is Myki is that we now have vastly reduced numbers of transactions on buses.
Theoretically bus run times should be faster now than in the Metcard days. And making Out Of Service buses run in service may make little difference to running times in many cases, thus almost no extra cost for those extra services.
It’s time those waiting passengers saw some benefit from that.