The July 27th public transport network changes are pretty big. Some of the information is a bit vague, so here are some points I’ve gleaned from looking around, as well as chatting to Transdev, who run a lot of the bus routes that are changing.
The big thing in rail is V/Line trains from Ballarat and Bendigo will start using the new Regional Rail Link tracks from Sunshine into the City. This will mean they no longer stop at North Melbourne, because unfortunately RRL has no platforms there.
You’d expect the new dedicated tracks would help running times, but that doesn’t seem to be universal. For instance the 8:13 arrival from Bendigo took 12 minutes from Footscray into Southern Cross in the old timetable; the new one has it taking 17. The 8:25 arrival from Ballarat took 22 minutes from Sunshine in the old timetable; the new one has it at 21 minutes. In many cases V/Line trains take substantially longer than comparable Metro trains.
It’s quite possible the V/Line timetables include some padding to allow for delays (though they still consistently miss their punctuality targets). And the RRL project isn’t actually finished yet, so there might be improvements when it is.
Where V/Line timetables have changed, their connecting buses have got modified timetables — same for those metropolitan bus timetables which provide timed connections to Metro trains. This is why all the changes are coming on one date.
The Dandenong line is going to every 10 minutes on weekdays, which is very welcome given the number of passengers and destinations along the line. Most trains will no longer stop at Malvern, matching the weekend pattern. Curiously they recently put in realtime information on platform 3 there — which will barely get used. It really should have gone onto platform 1.
This also means the Cranbourne and Pakenham ends of the lines go to every 20 minutes — much better than the current half-hourly service.
Another big change is that peak Pakenham trains will now stop between Oakleigh and Caulfield where currently they run express. It won’t make much difference to running times as the line is so congested anyway. On the up side people at those stations will have more trains… but possibly it’ll result in more crowding on those services, which are often pretty packed.
The Frankston line gets a few changes, including — at last — removal of the incredibly confusing afternoon peak-shoulder timetable which currently has three completely different running patterns.
Morning Frankston line trains are also altered, with the two-tier timetable extended to until the off-peak timetable kicks-in. The anomalous 8:35 limited express from Bentleigh into the City no longer stops there, but there’s an additional service originating at Moorabbin to make up for it — which should mean overall more seats available for passengers at the zone 1 stations, as well as a faster ride for those coming in from zone 2.
(The government is claiming Frankston has two extra morning peak services. I might be counting them in a different way, but I’m not seeing that. I can see two extra expresses, but one less stopping train.)
It’d have been nice to see some other upgrades come through — more lines are richly deserving of ten minute services, for instance.
Trams: some route changes
Route 112 is being split back to similar to how it used to be: the 11 from West Preston into the City (and Docklands), and the 12 from St Kilda into the City and then out to Victoria Gardens. This should allow them to run the bigger trams on busy route 11 (including adding space on incredibly busy Collins St/Docklands routes), without wasting that capacity on quieter route 12.
Some part-time city routes such as 24, 31 and 95 won’t run anymore. Other fulltime routes cover that ground.
Likewise, the long-running part-time route 79 will no longer run, replaced in the evenings and weekends by its weekday cousin 78… which will mean people heading from Chapel Street to St Kilda Beach will need to change at Carlisle Street onto a 16 (or, on weekends, a 3a).
There are big question marks over what will happen when CBD trams are free from January. Some routes are swamped at present… one wonders if there will be a need to reinstate those part-time city routes to boost capacity. You’d hope PTV and Yarra Trams are feverishly working on the forecasts for that. (Ditto the abolishment of two-zone fares in Melbourne from January.)
Lots of changes on the buses in the Manningham area, particularly those run by Transdev, whose contract stipulates they need to re-design their routes and increase patronage — but without increasing resources. In other words, badly-needed route reform.
DART/Smartbus 908 will no longer go all the way into the city outside peak hours. It’ll terminate at Doncaster Park+Ride instead, with connections into the City. This should be okay inbound, and outbound on weekdays during the day, when the services you’re connecting to will be frequent. There might be some waiting involved outbound on weekends and evenings.
This one is controversial: route 303, which runs 4 services per day in each peak direction, is getting cut.
In general the theme is one of removing duplication, particularly part-time routes, and consolidating services by bumping up frequencies to compensate. For instance routes 200, 203 and 205 have been combined into a single route 200, which should be less confusing.
In many cases another similar route isn’t too far away from a removed one.
It does mean some trips that were a single seat ride all the way will require changing to another bus or a train, but the pay-off is a more cohesive network that provides options for more journeys, and in some cases overall a faster trip.
So, as is almost inevitable with route reform, some inconvenience to some, but overall should result in a more legible, simple, usable network… which in other areas has been shown to pay off in terms of getting new passengers on-board.
Other bus changes
The 401 North Melbourne to Melbourne University shuttle gets extended to 10pm, with services every 10 minutes after 7:30pm. Excellent.
Local bus routes around the airport get a shakeup, with the main connection now being the Smartbus from Broadmeadows station, which makes sense as it’s more frequent than the other routes.
Non-Smartbus airport area routes such as 478 and 479 are re-focussed on connections from Sunbury and Airport West, for the benefit of local trips (such as workers) to the airport. The ridiculous 479′s one service per day on the weekend into the CBD has been removed. What a total waste of resources that was.
Routes 216/219/220 get a slight cutback from every 15 minutes to every 20 on weekday evenings. This probably makes sense at the southern end, as demand is light, and resources are better used elsewhere — I understand the whole timetable has been re-written for the first time in decades to better reflect traffic conditions. Hopefully the slight reduction in frequency doesn’t mean crowding at the western end of the route. Apparently it will get more substantial changes next year, along with other long routes such as the orbital Smartbuses, which have also had just timetable adjustments this time around.
The Brimbank area gets an overhaul, with some good reform which has irritated some current users, but should result in a more usable network overall. While some are saying they are negatively affected, some locals I’ve spoken to say they welcome the more direct routes.
The Port Melbourne area will also get revised, with simpler routes, and some routes such as 250/251 which formerly ran through the city to Port Melbourne, have been split to improve reliability.
The 232 Altona to city bus over the Westgate Bridge will no longer stop in Port Melbourne — despite little difference in timetabled running time in peak, it’ll stick to the freeway.
In the outer suburbs such as Cranbourne and Frankston, there are some extra services on some routes.
Impacts on journeys
I’m not across all the changes: you should really go to the source. (Initially the information on the numerous bus changes was pretty vague, but it’s improved a lot in the past week or so, with a lot of detail on specific areas.)
Those in areas affected by some of the bigger changes should take a look at the Journey Planner, and check the alternative routes available. Despite the protests at the changes, the new routes actually make a lot of sense. In many cases I’ve seen, people might face a slightly longer journey on the bus, but gain higher frequencies, longer operating hours (eg full-time routes instead of peak only) and in one case I looked at, a shorter walk to the bus stop.
In other cases I’ve looked at, a change to another bus or a train will now be required to get into the city, but the overall trip is faster.
Transdev have also said they’re willing to help passengers on their routes with looking at their specific route changes.
Overall it looks like a pretty good package. The continued rollout of RRL infrastructure as the project nears completion; some good upgrades to the Dandenong line; cleanup of the incredibly messy Frankston line timetable, and perhaps most significantly, widespread bus route reform to remove duplication and part-time routes, replaced by more frequent, fulltime routes — these sorts of changes are vital to untangle Melbourne’s bus spaghetti.
Some areas miss out of course. I for one am really hoping a significant upgrade to western suburbs lines (Werribee/Altona/Williamstown, and Sunbury) when RRL is completed.
But it’s good stuff. If they gave us a package this significant every year, the government would be kicking goals.
I’d be interested in comments on other changes people have noticed… and how their trips are affected.
Update Tuesday 15/7/2014: Some great comments being submitted – keep them coming.
I wanted to particularly note that passengers on bus route 303 have been active in calling for their route not to get cut. While I have reservations about peak-only routes because it can be confusing for potential users, particularly where they largely duplicate other routes, some users have shown evidence that suggests the buses have more than the 20-24 people per service the stats say they have.
— Steve Oxley (@steveoxley99) July 13, 2014