Transdev bus routes are changing – some proposals good, some bad

Transdev are seeking survey responses to their planned bus network changes for 2015, and unlike last time, they are properly doing community consultation. But if you are interested, today is the last day you can submit feedback.

Last week I went along to the Transdev session in Sandringham, and spoke to reps there about various points, mostly related to the changes in that area.

Transdev: Is this Klingon for "St Kilda via Elwood"?

From my point of view most of it looks okay, but there are some issues.

Most route changes make sense; and make the network more legible. The removal of the crazy-confusing 600/922/923 split is particularly welcome.

Splitting the long orbital bus routes makes sense to better match demand, and improve reliability by not having four-hour-long routes, particularly as few people use them end-to-end. (No, really — the 901 and 903 are currently about four hours end-to-end.)

Relief for crowded 903 buses along Warrigal Road on weekends is excellent, with services every ten minutes on Saturdays, and twenty on Sundays.

Most northern suburbs Smartbuses will no longer be every 15 minutes — mostly going to every 20 minutes weekdays (including peak), every 30 minutes Saturdays, and every 40 minutes Sundays. Weekday off-peak and Sundays this could synchronise better with their trains which are generally every 20 minutes, but the peak service won’t, and it’s pretty poor. Note this includes the 912 (currently part of 901) to Melbourne Airport.

Part of the problem is that currently semi-rural areas like Kurrak Road in Yarrambat get a bus every 15 minutes — over-servicing that area while other more populated suburbs miss out on frequent services — a classic example of where a single level of service on one really long route isn’t a good idea. But under this proposal, that service will still be every 20 minutes. Perhaps further splitting of the orbital routes needs to occur so that those resources can be directed to where they’re actually needed.

As part of these changes, the 901 and 902 will swap through the north, between Broadmeadows and Greensborough, making for a more direct route to the airport from Doncaster, Eltham, Greensborough, and Keon Park.

The 600 will be curtailed at Sandringham, no longer serving Elwood, but it will have will have timed connections with the 248 for most of the day at Sandringham, enabling (for example) Brighton to Black Rock trips without too much trouble.

Cutting service route 600 St Kilda Street in Brighton I don’t see as an issue given close proximity to New Street. Parts of Brighton are arguably over-serviced anyway, given the area has a lot of well-to-do people who seem willing to use trains, but largely unwilling to use buses.

But Elwood loses out along Ormond Road due to the loss of the 600. The remaining 606 service runs only every 40 minutes on weekdays, including peak — a far cry from the 80s when I was a kid, when there’d be 6 to 10 route 600 buses per hour in peak to cope with loads feeding to the trains at St Kilda. There was speculation 606 would get a frequency boost, but as this is run by another operator, the Transdev people couldn’t confirm — part of the problem of getting one operator to do network planning. A boost to the 606 should definitely happen if the 600 is being removed. That or the 630 could be extended from its current termination point in the middle of nowhere in Elwood, along the 606 route to St Kilda, with a level of timetable co-ordination to provide a good combined service.

The dotted line on part of route 600 in Cheltenham is a once-a-day schools diversion. This leaves a large area (particularly Weatherall Road) unserved for most of the day – and an old couple at the session noted they currently use that bus (the 922) and will be about a kilometre from a service. Transdev say they get very few passengers in that section (perhaps mostly thanks to so many golf courses in the area, rather than houses). It’s similar to Hope Street, Brunswick, I think — this is probably an area that should be considered for some kind of Neighbourhood Bus along the lines of the services run by City of Port Phillip.

Frequency cut along Hotham Street 248 on weekends goes to 40 mins (a big cut on Saturdays, which currently has 15 minute services), while Orrong Road 249 (the new number for the southern end of current route 220) goes to 20 minutes… seems a bit arbitrary, though of course 248 largely parallels the train through Brighton. The 249 will continue to duplicate trams for much of its length, but at least the 248 route doesn’t join it going all the way into the City. (The plan to run one of those routes further north to Burnley and Victoria Gardens seems to have disappeared — the 248 will instead terminate at the Alfred Hospital.

Keeping the 249 (currently 220) as high frequency maintains good service through Southbank, which is welcome. The disconnection of the 216/219/220 in the City makes sense for the same reason disconnection of the Orbital routes makes sense, to improve reliability given not many people travel through the City.

Altona – not in the local area, but some talk raised of their end of the 903, which is getting cuts. Their peak service is going to every 20 minutes, but it was pointed out that a reliable 20 minute peak service is actually better than their morning peak service now, which due to the length of the route doesn’t actually meet the 15 minute frequency going into Altona until about 10am. It would also better connect with trains (as far as is known, when Regional Rail Link opens in April or so, Altona peak trains will move from the impossible-to-remember 22 minute frequencies to the much more sensible 20 minutes).

Transdev admitted the halving of off-peak Altona 903 services from 15 to 30 minutes is bad (and also won’t synchronise with trains), but said several times that most of their patronage counts were based on Myki data, so if those buses are well-used, they implied large numbers of passengers are not touching-on/paying. One Transdev rep commented this was a quandry: even if they know what’s happening, do they upgrade (or maintain) bus services for areas with users that don’t pay? Indeed… but of course that’s penalising whole neighbourhoods (and hordes of potential users) for the actions of only some.

They said they’ve only done other types of passenger counts were they knew there were specific surges in patronage not indicated by the Myki data, such as school runs where lots of students with Student Passes aren’t touching on (and they’ve talked to some schools to ask them to tell students to do so).

However, as you’d expect, bus drivers have a reporting mechanism to flag overcrowded routes.

Transdev: Proposed southern suburbs bus network

Route 223, a remnant of the Footscray tramway era, is getting cut back to every 20 minutes, every day (including in peak), and no services after 9pm (7pm Sundays). Not sure about this — currently it’s every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday, and the Footscray to Highpoint section seems quite busy, particularly when traffic delays occur. This cut may result in overcrowding, as I’m assuming they can’t magically prevent the delays.

Some City to Doncaster DART buses upgraded to every 20 minutes on weekends — good!

Dead running: Unfortunately I forgot to ask if the current situation where buses “dead run” out of service right across town between Sandringham/Brighton and the Footscray Depot (due to lack of depot space at Sandringham) will be solved. Hopefully.

TransDev Melbourne bus in full PTV colours

The route structure looks good — less so the service frequency

I don’t have intricate knowledge of the whole network, but from what I can see, the proposed route structure looks pretty good. Less confusing, less duplication. It’s the service frequencies on some routes which let it down (as they often do) — particularly the abandoning of the Smartbus promise of a bus every 15 minutes (on weekdays) on the quieter parts of the orbital routes, with resources moved to busier sections.

One Transdev planner said this change would be setting the scene for some years, with future revisions likely to be only minor, but they’d be hoping for service frequency upgrades as more funding comes through.

This seems to stem from the former Coalition government’s aim as part of the 2012 re-tendering process of making Transdev upgrade the network but at no extra cost to the taxpayer — a noble aim, given inefficiencies such as copious dead running — but in our growing city, with strong demand on parts of the network and huge potential on other parts, extra funding is needed to boost services.

I’ve submitted an online survey (the survey questions made this a bit tricky as I live in the south-east, but most often use Transdev services in the west), and they urge as many people as possible to do so.

One gentleman at the information session said he was upset by many of the changes (but didn’t seem quite able to articulate why, at least not while I was close by), and said he’d be writing to the minister. He was encouraged to do the survey as well, but refused. Not sure why, if one objected so strenuously, one wouldn’t use all avenues available to get their opinion across.

So, if you use Transdev bus services, be sure to look at the planned changes, and fill in the survey — remember, it closes today!

Updates — April 2015

Update 13/4/2015: The Age: Hundreds of bus services in Melbourne’s west and north face being cut to service city’s east

Update 14/4/2015: Looks like the plan is on hold for now, pending changes to the proposal. State government: Labor Backs Investment In Better Bus Services And Community Consultation / The Age: Plan to cut buses in Melbourne’s west and north quashed by Andrews government

This is good news. As I’ve noted above, some parts of the plan — particularly cutting north/western suburbs services — didn’t make sense. Other parts do make sense: splitting the orbitals, and extra services to relieve crowding. Here’s a picture from the Warrigal Road 903 on a Sunday afternoon (when buses are only every half-hour).

Crowded 903 bus, Sunday

It seems the eastern routes have hit the virtuous circle of increased patronage -> improved services -> increased patronage (and leading to crowding). Rinse and repeat.

Sadly the western routes have hit the opposite, in part because they haven’t been allowed to reach their potential for patronage growth: precious few frequent services, and those that are there in theory are flawed, missing frequency goals and having poor connections to rail services.

And the real problem here is that the current Transdev contract allows them minimal wiggle room to increase resources overall. So it’s no real surprise that they are moving more services to where there’s crowding.

Apart from finding genuine efficiencies (such as reducing dead running), the real answer is to recognise that all of Melbourne needs more bus services, and to resource the operators appropriately.

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22 Replies to “Transdev bus routes are changing – some proposals good, some bad”

  1. Hi Daniel,

    I would be interested in your opinion of the route split for the 901 route.

    Previously it went to the airport, I am all for splitting routes due to the benefits you outlined. However if commuters towards Knox or Deep Creek wanted to continue on for the second half of te route towards the airport they now have to take ANOTHER bus to Doncaster SC then catch the 912.

    How come the route split didn’t start the new second half of the route at Deep Creek. Now what people have to do is ride the original bus route, get off, ride another bus to Doncaster then get off and catch another bus just to continue the journey.

    Whereas if they terminated it at Doncaster instead of Deep Creek it means you don’t have to catch 3 buses.

    If you look at the 903, it ends at Northland SC but then the new 913 ALSO starts there meaning people don’t have to take a bus trip to a new location for another connecting service.

  2. Is the design of the routes an improvement over the old ones. Outside of frequency, are they actually more logical and direct or are they still convolutes with random deviations.

  3. Also note worthy change is 216 will only be 20 mins, instead of 15 mins where 216-219 are combined, not sure if such a cut is good idea of such a busy roue. Peak hour it’ll also get less buses at 10 mins!

    Also be less services between City and Footscray.

    They say changes are due to patronage but in above examples they are very busy routes and cutting services isn’t helping, meanwhile 364 is extended to the Pines, so be much overlap in Warrandyte, seems a bit of overkill, especially since funds are limited .

  4. “Cutting service route 600 … given the area has a lot of well-to-do people …”
    Yeah, but these well-to-do people have kids attending schools near that route and the bus is how they get home! Otherwise, it’s mum’s four wheel drive in the morning and afternoon.

  5. I have two serious gripes in respect to the proposed Transdev changes, and want to report it to the body taking opinions, except I keep putting it off, and now I have lost the contact details.

    Daniel, could you please provide details of where I can best send my expressions of feelings in respect to these changes?

    Ok, I shall list the two main gripes and other points here.

    ** STANDOUNT #1 ****
    The overlap between #906 and #364 between The Pines and Warrandyte.

    I say the current arrangement must be ‘the most wasteful change’ they could ever work out to do. The dumbest duplication of services ever, and it is brand new after these changes.

    What I say should happen is, #906 should follow the whole #364 to Ringwood, and drop the #364 all together.

    We do not need full SmartBus frequencies beyond Warandyte, have half of the weekenders terminate at Warrandyte, half of the Mon-Fri cut short at The Pines.

    As said, I am a great fan of The SmartBus due to its technology, especially at bus stops. There is no need to add any PIDS beyond Warrandyte from the start, as the only major point being Ringwood, already has a PIDS that can service both routes. Three or four other locations can get theirs added later.

    *** STANDOUT #2 ***

    The new 901 is to terminate at ‘The Pines’. How confusing for Frankston passengers, with ‘The Pines estate’ down that way.

    Furthermore, it does not connect well enough with either the 911 nor 912. I would suggest extending the new #901, via the current #901 to Greensbourgh.

    **** STANDOUT #3 ***

    Sorry, I do not know the new numbers for these, but I am in reference to the old #219 and #220 south of the city.

    Now, there is way too much duplication with these bus routes following tram lines for most of the way.

    There has been a lot of talk to divert one or both of these via Burnley to Victoria Gardens S/C.

    Why is that not happening right now?

    **** Matter #4 **

    In respect to the Orbitals, namely the 903. They where a great and fun idea. I have always said there needs to be an alternating service between ‘full orbital’ and ‘semi orbital’.

    There is really no need to cut them to improve frequency. They just need to operate a lot of short workings.

    None the less, the breakup does make a lot of sense. It would be far better to have overlaping sections rather than absolute all-change at nodes as is the plan for the #903

    In respect to the #903 breakup,
    —I fear any cut to frequency between Essondon and Sunshine, and hope they could perhaps divert the new #913 to Sunshine. Perhaps divert that from DFO and not go via Essondon RS, and keep #933 as proposed.

    — Also, the #913 in my mind should at least connect with somewhere along the Hurstbridge railway line. Keep the proposed #903 to Northland. Create a good and overlaping connection between Northland and Heidelberg RS. Should the #913 get blocked, you still have the 903 and vice verser.

    Perhaps #903 could be sent up to LaTrobe University?

    — What about the proposed #902 to Werribee?

    Will we ever get anything along that section now?

    A new bus route from Werribee to Sunbury via Airport West and Melbourne Airport would be a better idea for that.

    *** BEFORE I CLOSE ***

    Most of these changes are the result of the ‘anti-bus Liberal party’. Now we have a more ‘Pro-bus Labor party’ I can not help but wonder how much of these changes may be reversed, or in deed how many new or expanded services may be introduced during this year.

    While the PTV are keen to drop the SmartBus,at least brandwise, I still hold out hope that we may yet again see a massive expansion of the SmartBus network over the next year or two.

  6. I tried doing the online survey. But, I find them so long and such a waste of time.

    Not one question could I give a true answer to, so I gave up. What a joke.

    There is nothing at all that beats a decent email message, telling it all how I see it.

  7. There are still convoluted bus routes such as 626, 822, 828, 701 and a ridiculous deviation in 624 which I did use many years ago (before I got my licence) and sometimes being the only passenger. They need to make more significant changes these are not enough.

  8. What is the go with Port Melbourne area routes?

    There is nothing said anywhere about them. I have been informed that, they are not shown as there shall be no chance to the Transdev routes in the Port Melbourne and Fishermans bend areas.

    However, by not providing the complete list of Transdev routes you are adding some confusion to the changes.

  9. @Jason (1), I don’t know enough about that area. I guess the obvious question would be: How many people currently use the bus from Knox or Deep Creek to the airport? Bear in mind from Knox to MEL is 3 hours on the bus; there would be quicker ways to do it, even excluding Skybus, such as bus to Ringwood, then train to Broadmeadows, then pick up the 901 again for the last stretch.

    @Jason (2), that’s what I’ve been told in the past. Lack of space at Sandringham, so they have to bring buses across from Footscray. Maybe there’s more to it.

    Fewer services from Footscray to the City, particularly off-peak, yes. But then, there are few intermediate destinations, and it parallels one of Melbourne’s most frequent train routes.

    Yes, it seems Warrandyte will be over-serviced, as Jim also notes.

    @Roger, one extra bit of info: they were considering extending some 600s into Brighton at school times to assist, but didn’t see the worth outside those times – people could change to the 248.

    @Jim, in case it’s not clear, the southern end of 220 will become 249, and continue more-or-less as is between the City and Gardenvale. The 216/219 will become the 248, and run from the Alfred via Elsternwick station, then to Brighton and Sandringham.

    Unfortunately I think the 902 to Werribee is well and truly dead. It’s notable that the west has very few Smartbus services, and the only one that really goes down that way, the 903 to Altona, is getting cut.

    @LLib, as Jason says, those routes are from different operators. An unfortunate part of these upgrades is that they are heavily tied to just one operator.

    @Jim, I linked multiple times to the Transdev web site listing all the changes. You should go there if you want an authoritative list of routes being modified. Transdev’s Port Melbourne routes changed last year.

  10. Perhaps there should be a rationalisation where all the bus routes are gradually transferred to one operator so there is at least some logical planning, or at the very least route and schedule planning should transfer to one operator while those smaller operators just supply the buses and drivers.

  11. I attended the session in Manningham, and the overall mood from the PTV and Transdev reps was “this is it”. One rep from Transdev didn’t even want to talk about it, telling me to go and fill out a survey as speaking to him is no use. There are a multitude of issues, and I can’t help but think there’s been more cuts than improvements, so Transdev is actually making more money.

    A few issues in the Manningham area:
    -There will be huge coverage gaps in the relatively dense Bulleen area. During weekdays, travellers will face walks of over a kilometre. On weekends (when new route 273 will not run), you could be walking for, wait for it, a whopping 2 kilometres to your nearest bus service!! In a dense suburban area without any other form of public transport! Transdev rationalises this by pointing to lack of usage of the Manningham Mover (270/272) based on Myki data, but they don’t seem to realise that the old minibuses that ply this route generally don’t have myki readers, and if they do, they don’t work… The 400m to a local bus and 800m to a high-frequency service standard is dead.
    -It’s not clear if 903 will go to 10 minutes on Saturdays. The info boards at the Manningham session showed it at 15 minutes. This sort of contradictory info in terms of frequency and operating hours are everywhere.
    -It’s still unclear if there will be improvements to interchanging between the 907 and 908, or the 207 and 907 to make up for truncations with those routes. I tried transferring from a 907 from Doncaster East to a 207 into North Balwyn recently, but the latter departs 1 minute before the 907 arrives, meaning a 29 minute wait in the evening for the next service.
    -There’s a lot of promotional info about more direct routes, but the proposed changes to the 284 and 285 to create one long winding route that doubles back on itself show how much of a joke that is.
    -Only positives I can find is 10 minute frequency on 907 on weekdays and extension of 207 to The Pines, providing a direct connection to Shoppingtown, and northern Boroondara.

  12. @Daniel, true about the frequent off peak trains, but the less off peak services will likely struggle as the frequency is like the old holiday timetable on 216/219/220, and when had that often people got left behind.
    Also 216/219 corridor between Footscray and Sunshine will get less services, probably not best idea given how busy it is.

    Dead running to Brighton/Gardenvale has been common for years, but it’s only recently has Footscray been doing 600/922/923 and now got more dead running not less. Why Footscray do these routes ? No logical reason really, as now got Sandringham buses that bus out and go special to Sunshine.

  13. Another cut is Southland to Sandringham routes, even in peak, currently in AM it’s up to every 10mins but under the changes only every 15mins, which won’t help with heavy school loadings.

    @JamesA contradictory info was common at many of the sessions, in some cases if there was a downgrade, they say it’s just a typo, and at some sessions the marketing person was giving out wrong info as she didn’t know the routes!

    Some of the cuts talked about probably come down to fact the contract is to be at no extra cost, so if one route is improved, another is cut back. So not really getting the great improvements that were talked about when this contract went to tender.

    Added to this is a shortage buses(no funding for extras though, so guess no network will use less) and poor maintenance as well as increase in graffiti, then another than few small improvements here and there, the services under this contract don’t seem be much better. All that talk of much better services being just that, talk.

  14. L2, That route is more about trying to link South Morang with Greensbourgh, and nothing whatsoever about servicing what is in between.

    A simple extention of the #86 tram to South Morang is what the area really needs.

  15. Transit Jim – are you saying L2’s alternate link is doing nothing for servicing the areas in between, or the existing route? If it’s the former, L2’s link actually services a much high density area than the existing 901, and therefore services MORE en route as well as being a direct connection between GB and SM. I’m not sure how ‘simple’ a route 86 extension is relative to realigning a bus route!

  16. Just wondering.

    With the proposed removal of 922 from Weatherall Road. Would it make any sense to extend route 631 to Beaumaris Concourse SC via the 922 route alignment? Obviously take into account that 631 is operated by Ventura whilst the proposals affect Transdev operated routes. Would the 631’s service frequency and operating hours contribute to an increase in ridership considering it would provide a direct service from the Concourse to Southland whilst also serving Sandringham College and Beaumaris North PS or is it unviable?

  17. Regarding the Sandringham depot, I’ve been told by some bus drivers that there’s rumours the depot may move to Warrigul road, which would remove a lot more dead running than current dead running between Sandringham to Footscray depot.

    Furthermore, I think its vitally important that the 600/922/923 route is maintained through Sandringham to Southland SC as a single combined route 600 running at every 20 minutes or better. This would connect with every 2nd train on weekdays (assuming Sandringham line goes from a 15 minute to a 10 minute service) and every train on weekends. Current evening services are adequate. In peak hour a 10 minute service should still remain, with additional school day only services in Beaumaris North.

    Another suggestion is have a half hourly route go along Bay road, Sandringham then down to Reserve road and out east towards Cheltenham and Southland SC. This would run with route 822 (operated by Ventura) at a 15min combined frequency along Bay road, which will help with the new apartment developments along Bay road, whilst also maintaining a service through Beaumaris North.

  18. @Daniel while it’s true what you say about the western halves of Smartbuses, the other changes out west are on busy routes i.e 216, which is known to have overcrowding issues. How this can have cuts, but out east 364 gets extended creating more 364/906 overlap(where there is little patronage)when resources are limited is a question that needs to be asked.
    Hopefully now that it’s back to the drawing board, some of the issues get resolve and we don’t see much a such a bad proposal the second time around.

  19. It’s funny how things turn out isn’t it? The orbitals were never cut. And a matter of fact the orbital runs are the only runs growing in passenger numbers. While the rest of the runs are dying off. Plus more frequent buses don’t make the system better, better bus lanes and roads do.

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