Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt on the 822

Incumbent Elizabeth Miller has gone strong on “saving the 822“, promoting via Facebook and an ad the front page of the local Leader newspaper last week, apparently trying to imply that Labor is proposing to scrap the route completely.

822 bus ad

822 promotion (Elizabeth Miller Facebook page)

Having put the claim out there on Facebook, the Liberals have done nothing to quell people’s fears that the route might be scrapped. Comments on the Facebook post have included:

  • Its the only way i can get to work and school :///
  • You cannot remove the 822.. its the only bus route running along east boundary road.. its central for anyone that lives around bentleigh area as its our way to Chadstone & Southland… You have gotta be joking.
  • Our children use the 822 a lot. It is needed for children for school outings as well. … I also see many elderly using that bus as I believe it travels to southland and Chadstone which allows for them to shop and also catch up with friends. This is only a small part of how useful that bus route is. Think before you remove. Elizabeth Miller keep up the good work.
  • For me and all the other passengers of the 822 bus rely on this bus because it gets us to our everyday destinations and without it would be a dissapointment! If you fet rid of this route you will make peoples lives much more difficult.
  • please save the 822 bus.

This is classic FUD — Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. There is NO plan to scrap the route.

I asked the Labor candidate Nick Staikos about it, and he said their intent is the logical move of the route off the backstreets and onto East Boundary Road (as proposed in the 2010 bus reviews), for a speedier trip and to better space out the north-south bus routes — there’s a huge gap between the Frankston line and the 822, with no services on Jasper or Tucker Roads.

But they’d do any change with community consultation to make sure as many people as possible are happy.

Part of that change might be moving the 701 from Mackie Road onto Marlborough Street to cover the section removed from the 822. As I wrote a few months ago, that’d be a good solution as it would remove duplication on Mackie Road (which also has the 767).

It would be difficult to have the 701 turn right from Marlborough Street onto North Road could be troublesome with no lights at that intersection, but the 2010 plan had it following the current 822 route as far as Duncan Mackinnon Reserve, then heading back towards Oakleigh.

Labor aren’t talking about proposed bus frequency upgrades. The 822, like most suburban buses, is appallingly infrequent, particularly on weekends. Public transport spokesperson Jill Hennessy mentioned there was some kind of bus strategy coming, but so far we don’t know what’s in it. See below.

There’s obviously some detail to nut out, but nevertheless the Liberals’ posturing is nonsense. It seems to be trying to imply that everything is fine with the local buses… clearly not the case. One way of reading it would be that “only the Liberals” will fail to do anything whatsoever to improve them.

Fact is, local buses in Bentleigh do need improvement. Making the 822 a main road bus is a good start. Making it and other routes more frequent is also vital.

  • PTV stats show the 822 has about 450,000 boardings per year — around 1600 each weekday, 575 Saturdays and 388 on Sundays — the latter not being too bad, given it’s only an hourly service, but given it serves too of Melbourne’s busiest shopping centres, there’s a huge potential to carry more people if it ran more frequently.
  • Labor has said several times they would make an announcement around buses… This is important, as many areas only have buses. The policy has just been released today, and in summary is a $100 million package of upgrades. I haven’t digested the detail yet, but it’s got specifics on a number of routes, particularly the growth areas most dependent on buses. I can’t see anything in the Bentleigh area — not the 822, and also not the 703, which was promised an upgrade to full SmartBus status in the 2010 election by Labor.

Update: Labor’s Public transport spokesperson Jill Hennessy has spelt it out on Twitter:

Update 25/11/2014: Partly for anybody clicking through from Jarrett Walker’s blog post, here’s the map of the current route, highlighting the diversion through Crosbie Road, Marlborough Street, Stockdale Avenue and Gardeners Road (including one-way sections) proposed to be changed to run direct along East Boundary Road (which is not shown in full on the map, but is a continuation of Murrumbeena Road) instead.

Bus 922 map

It’s also worth noting that it was not just Labor and the 2010 bus reviews that proposed this change.

Elizabeth Miller herself also called for the change shortly after she won the seat of Bentleigh:

Since taking office as the member for Bentleigh I have been shocked to discover that the former government made no provision for public transport to and from GESAC’s front door.

I call on the minister to investigate with his department the appropriate alteration of existing bus routes, including the 822, to provide a bus stop outside GESAC on East Boundary Road, Bentleigh East, to ensure that as many residents as possible of Bentleigh and neighbouring communities are able to access this wonderful new facility.Hansard, 24/3/2011

By earlier this year, she had changed her mind:

The 822 bus currently services this facility [Glen Eira Sports and Aquatic Centre) on Gardeners Road at its rear. The bus service to the facility is well patronised. I note that the opposition is currently conducting a petition to state otherwise.Hansard 25/3/2014

Sydney trip day 2: Friday

Posted 12/11/2014. Backdated to 7/11/2014.

On the morning of day two in Sydney, after a sleep-in, we breakfasted. I’d looked at UrbanSpoon and concluded that every venue reviewed has its share of whingers — it’s a matter of identifying who is complaining about Real Stuff and who is complaining about trivia or a freak bad experience. The Royal in Darlinghurst seemed to have fewer whingers than praisers, so we headed there. They served up some very nice eggs on toast, and a (I’m told) superlatively tasty mushroom dish.

Paddington, Sydney

Escape attempt? The old Darlinghurst Gaol

We then strolled the short distance through Darlinghurst (past the old gaol) to Paddington to have a look along Oxford Street. Although it’s something of a traffic sewer, it’s also got a lot of shopping. A specific shop was M’s aim, and it did not disappoint — though we were highly amused when a delivery bloke asked if she was Judith Lucy. Despite only a passing resemblance, this is in fact a semi-regular occurence.

Next we walked to the Art Gallery of NSW, which on the map isn’t very far from Kings Cross, but in practice involves cutting through numerous backstreets. Thank goodness for Google Maps and GPS on my phone.

Brougham Street, Woolloomooloo

Match sticks (Almost Once, by Brett Whitely), near Gallery of NSW, Sydney

Art Gallery of NSW

The Gallery is in a spectacular building set in the gardens. We’d aimed to do this on a weekday as we wanted to look at the new “blockbuster” exhibition: Pop to Populism — I figured it’d be packed out on weekends.

It had all the greats of the pop art world… Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and many others including Australians like Brett Whiteley and the not-as-well-known-as-he-should-be Mike Brown. I found myself admiring Brown’s work “Hallelujah”, which scandalised the art world in the late 60s, and then I remembered that he is Age reporter Clay Lucas’s dad, so I couldn’t resist letting Clay know they had four of his works on display.

In a neat coincidence the exhibit shop had Robert Milliken’s book on rock music journalist Lilian Roxon on display, which has a section on the influence my dad played in her story.

Art Gallery of NSW: Roy Lichtenstein: In the car

Art Gallery of NSW: works by Mike Brown

We had lunch in the gallery cafe — delicious but a tad overpriced, as gallery lunches often are, but you can’t help but hope the profits go back into the institution.

From there, a quick walk around the eastern side of the CBD, then back to the hotel. (Have I mentioned how handy it is staying in a hotel that, if it’s not in the city centre, is at least close to a frequent fast train?)

Sydney Hospital

The plan (on local friend KW’s recommendation) was to see Sculpture By The Sea, an event on its final days, at Bondi Beach.

Given we were close to the station, the logical route seemed to be the train to the terminus at Bondi Junction, then the bus.

Bondi Junction wasn’t planned to be the train terminus — various plans had it contining on to North Bondi and Rose Bay, or Randwick, University of New South Wales and Kingsford. Later proposals have suggested extending closer to Bondi Beach, but it hasn’t happened.

While the terminus is well set up as a bus/train interchange (up the escalator from the platforms and you’ll find yourself in a bus interchange, making transfers theoretically easy, unlike say Melbourne’s Box Hill), there were so many people heading to Bondi Beach that the well-advertised route 333 bus connection had a queue of perhaps 150 people.

We joined the back of the queue, slowly shuffling along each time a bus turned up, which according to the timetable was every 10 minutes — on paper that’s frequent for an Australian bus route, but in practice completely inadequate for the passenger numbers.

After perhaps 15 minutes (im)patiently queuing, it was our turn. I watched a bloke come up and queue-jump, and growled at him: “mate, the queue starts over there“. He mumbled something back. He didn’t back off, but he certainly didn’t get aboard ahead of me.

The bus was one of the extended, articulated variety, and was packed to the gills. But at least I could overhear travel advice from that most reputable of sources — English tourists who knew their way around Bondi — so I knew which stop to get off at.

Bondi Junction: Queue for buses to the beach

Bus 333 to Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach: Queue for bus back to Bondi Junction and Sydney city

Bondi Beach: Queue for bus back to Bondi Junction and Sydney city

The queues for the bus back were just as crowded, as you can see from these pics. It seems to be a classic case of where the buses are inadequate for the loads — there’s obviously scope to increase bus services, but in the long term if the popularity of Bondi Beach continues to increase, extending rail might make more sense.

It might also be possible to re-organise bus routes so that they duplicate the trains less. Many Bondi routes go all the way into Sydney’s CBD. But the fare structure penalises bus/train transfers, so this is difficult. (I’ll have more on that in my post about Opal and Sydney public transport.)

Bondi Beach

At Sculpture By The Sea there where some terrific artists display sculptures, as the event name would suggest, by the sea. It was busy, but not as busy as was expected on the closing weekend. (For that, authorities actually recommended people walk three kilometres from Bondi Junction instead of wait for a bus.)

Unfortunately one work had been removed due to vandalism, but there were still dozens on display.

As in any great gallery, there were some terrific works to admire and reflect upon, and it was a very scenic walk from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach.

Sculpture by the sea, Bondi, Sydney

Sculpture by the sea, Bondi, Sydney

Sculpture by the sea, Bondi, Sydney

Rather than walk back and catch the packed 333 again, we caught a local bus from Tamarama back to Bondi Junction station. It too was packed, but the bus driver managed to squeeze everybody on, rather than turn people away. From there a train back to the hotel.

For dinner we stomped around Victoria Street in Darlinghurst looking for something to inspire us, and eventually settled on Sel & Poivre, a French restaurent. All the wait staff seemed to have authentic accents, and the food was utterly delicious.

From there we had a walk around Paddington, and a long exploratory detour via Rushcutters Bay to get “home”.

Quicker to wait for the hourly bus, or walk?

Last weekend I tried an experiment, for a PTUA video

In the highly marginal electorate of Bentleigh, having just missed the bus, is it quicker to wait for the next service, or walk to Southland?

Given walking speeds and a five kilometre distance, perhaps the answer (at least for reasonably fit, able-bodied people) is obvious…

More frequent weekend buses is easy. Most of the bus fleet sits around in depots all weekend. As with more frequent off-peak and weekend trains and trams, the only costs would be fuel, maintenance and drivers.

Labor has pledged to re-route this bus — the 822 — onto the main roads, which would help with travel times. But it’s not clear if that would include other network changes in the area, or more frequent services — this is one of many bus routes which is still less frequent in peak hour and on Saturday mornings than it was 25 years ago.

Thanks to Jeremy for help with the camera.

Bentleigh area bus routes: Don’t just tinker; we need a proper plan

As we move towards the election, in the marginal seat of Bentleigh, candidates are rightly pondering public transport issues. Trains are already getting a makeover thanks to recent frequency increases and the Bayside rail project.

So then… what of the buses? These are important — many people use (or could use, if they were better) buses to access their nearest station, as well for local trips.

This applies all across Melbourne of course, but I’m going to look at some specifics in the Bentleigh electorate.

Significant routes in the electorate include the not-quite Smartbus 703 (east-west along Centre Road), 822 (north-south along East Boundary Road), and the 630 (east-west along North Road). There are numerous other routes as well.

Glen Eira/Bentleigh area buses

The candidates’ proposals

Elizabeth Miller (sitting; Liberal) — as far as I’m aware has not expressed a particular view on buses, though in the past when I have asked she has enquired with PTV on the 703, and reported back that they believe an upgrade between Bentleigh and Clayton is warranted due to demand/crowding, but that Bentleigh to Brighton may not be viable (eg on Sundays) as there isn’t sufficient demand. Not sure how you measure demand when the service doesn’t run.

  • 12/9/2014: A commenter below notes a petition being distributed by Elizabeth calling for the 822 bus to stay where it is.

Nick Staikos (Labor) — Nick has a petition (which I have signed) running on moving the 822 out of the side streets onto East Boundary Road, as a way of better serving Glen Eira Swimming and Aquatic Centre (GESAC). He’s also said we should expect bus-specific policies from Labor in the near future, and noted that Labor policy at the last election was to upgrade all of route 703 to full Smartbus status. (Will update when/if anything is announced.)

  • 12/9/2014: It’s unclear if Nick supports other changes in the 2010 bus reviews, but at Wednesday’s MTF forum, he made it clear that he is aware of them.

Sean Mulcahy (Greens) — agrees with moving the 822, but has told me he wants to see it done as part of wider network reform.

  • 12/9/2014: Sean said at Wednesday’s MTF forum that the Greens policy is to implement all the bus review proposals, subject to community consultation.

Chandra Ojha (Independent) — wants to see service upgrades on route 703, and also other routes including 701, 626, 630 and 824.

(I’ll update this section as other policy positions emerge.)

The 2010 bus reviews

The 2009-2010 bus reviews included a great deal of local input, and came up with a variety of proposed changes that would work together as a network.

Broadly, routes categorised as Principal or Main were proposed to be straightened-out and made more direct (which is a good thing if you want more people to consider bus travel against driving their cars). Local routes fill in the gaps for people unable to walk to a Principal or Main route.

Some changes were flagged as requiring road upgrades first, such as traffic lights so that buses can more easily make right hand turns into main roads.

Bentleigh area, proposed bus routes from 2010 reviews

I’m going to go into some detail here, as the proposed changes were not widely publicised. Skip over this bit if you’re not interested in the specifics.

Principal routes

630: proposed to get better timetables to benefit the Huntingdale to Monash end (this happened indirectly with the introduction of the 601 shuttle), and an extension at the western end to St Kilda

703: adjustments to the route in Brighton to make it more consistent with other routes

767: straightened out to continue down Bignell Road (may require traffic signals at South Road), and peak-hour deviations removed

811/812: combine into one route, and remove peak-hour deviations through Moorabbin (replaced by changes to 631), and minor changes in Brighton and around Southland

823: Extend to run from Elsternwick to Mordialloc along Nepean Highway, and more frequently

Main routes

822: Truncate at Southland (instead of running to Sandringham), and move it off the side-streets behind GESAC to run direct down East Boundary Road (Marlborough Road section replaced by 701)

825: Extend existing route Sandringham to Moorabbin up to Caulfield via Jasper Road (arguably this duplicates part of the Frankston line, though it would also better serve some local trips not suited to the wide spacing of railway stations)

Local routes

627 Elsternwick to Chadstone section re-routed to be straighter, avoiding Ormond station — this wasn’t done; it’s a questionable outcome to disconnect it from the Frankston line

627 split into two routes — this was done, it’s now the 625 and 626. This is good; it was incredibly confusing before.

701 re-aligned to replace route 822 in Marlborough Street in Murrumbeena, and extended from Bentleigh along Brewer Road and Marriage Road to Brighton — this hasn’t happened. They also considered changing the 701 from heading to Oakleigh to instead go to Murrumbeena, though this isn’t reflected on the map.

They also made recommendations on service levels — at the time, they expected train frequencies to be standardised to 15 mins, and what’s happened instead is a (good) move towards 10 minutes.

You’d never want to cherry-pick of course, but from the looks of it, a good first stage of changes would be re-routing (but not truncating or extending) routes 822, 701 and 767 in East Bentleigh. That’d be cost-neutral, I would think.

Not hard to see why pedestrians, cars, buses, ambulances get delayed in Clayton. Grade separation needed!

PTV’s 2014 proposal: the 703

Earlier this year PTV released a “stage 2″ report on the Rowville corridor — mostly concerning bus services in the area in the interim ahead of any rail line being built. It proposed the 703, which serves Bentleigh, be split into two routes:

  • Blackburn Road to Monash University and Clayton Station — eg the northern half, running every 10 minutes
  • Clayton Station to Bentleigh and Brighton — eg the southern half, running every 20 minutes

The logic was that the Clayton grade-separation is years away and causes long delays to buses, and also that the northern half of the route is much busier.

This makes some sense, but there are two main issues — firstly passengers from the Brighton and Bentleigh areas would have to change buses at Clayton (and walk across the tracks) to get to Monash and beyond. Wait times might not be too bad heading north if the northern half of the route runs frequently, but you’d risk long waits heading back the other way if you just miss your connection.

Secondly, it represents a big reduction in service from the present 15 minute weekday frequency. The government obviously realised this as they quickly put out a press release which welcomed the overall report but specifically said they didn’t support the frequency change.

The report didn’t specify if the proposed frequency would apply all week including weekends (which would be an upgrade), or just on weekdays during daytime/peak (a downgrade).

Unfortunately we don’t know what PTV has in mind for the rest of the network because only the rail plan has been released; not the plan(s) covering buses and trams. However we do know they intended to sort routes into tiers, and upgrade the most important routes to high-frequency operation.

Buses idle at depot

Now what?

There are other issues of course apart from network structure. The frequency of services needs addressing, particularly on weekends when many people are travelling, some routes are over-crowded, almost all have long waiting times, and hundreds of buses sit idle in depots doing nothing.

But just concentrating on routes (and noting that more direct routes make service upgrades more viable)…

Better connections with stations and other local amenity, and a route structure which ensures buses are more competitive with car travel (while still effectively serving people who have no choice) is vital for all those areas beyond walking distance to the trains. The changes proposed in 2010 are probably a great basis for network reform — for the most part it’s hard to think of reasons why they shouldn’t be implemented.

It’s all very well for (some) candidates in Bentleigh to say they’ll move the 822 onto the main road, but you shouldn’t be fiddling with individual routes in isolation. It should be part of a plan to ensure a cohesive, usable network.

We suggest you don’t hit this bus

This is an old pic, but a classic. I thought I’d lost it, but it showed-up while sorting through some old files on the computer.

I did once ask someone at Ventura about it — he said one of their staff had taken the photo, and from memory also said there had been no serious injuries — which means you don’t have to feel guilty if amused.

Old pic of an accident, car hit a Ventura bus advertising car insurance. From memory there were no serious injuries, so you can laugh guilt-free.