Would the 67 tram benefit from removal of the level crossing?

I was pondering what benefit would the 67 tram gain from the Glenhuntly level crossing being removed?

Well thanks to the 37 day rail shutdown in July, we know.

Looking at punctuality figures for the last 12 months, this tram route achieved its highest figures for the year in July — in fact my little archive of Track Record figures indicates it’s the best result since at least February 2009.

67 tram punctuality

For comparison I’ve included similar routes in the area: trams 3 and 64, which share much of the track with route 67, but don’t have any level crossings, as well as route 72.

Some other observations from the figures:

  • July punctuality was even higher than January, which is traditionally high due to quiet roads during school and university holidays. There was also a 9 day rail shutdown in January.
  • The second-highest figure was June, which included the early part of the rail shutdown (from 25th June) — which also coincided with the school holidays
  • The rail shutdown period resulted in heavier road traffic in the area. Some rail passengers switched to cars. Also notable were truck movements, and also bus movements, intersecting the tram line at Bambra and Grange Roads — this may have affected trams if Vicroads adjusted signal timing to assist buses. All this means tram punctuality might be even better with the crossing removed permanently and trains running.
  • All the tram routes on the graph show a similar pattern — with July 2015 and March 2016 being particular lowlights. It probably reflects the sections they have in common, along St Kilda Road and Swanston Street.
  • In most months, route 64 has the best punctuality figures. Unlike the others, it has dedicated lanes for most of its route, all the way from Melbourne University to the corner of Hawthorn Road in Malvern. It also doesn’t run through any busy shopping centres; just some minor ones. It’s still not outstanding though (peak from last 12 months is 86.7% in January), perhaps reflecting the lack of traffic light priority along the route — something in common with almost all tram routes in Melbourne.
  • The green line along the top is route 67 Timetable Delivered (aka the inverse of cancellations). This didn’t seem to be affected in the same way as punctuality.
  • Route 72 until January included the Gardiner level crossing, since grade separated. As noted in a previous blog post, this has not resulted in a huge uplift in punctuality, but that route suffers severe traffic challenges along parts of its route, particularly in the Camberwell and Prahran shopping centres, arguably worse than the other routes shown. (Burke Road removal does seem to have improved train punctuality.

We know from route 72 that level crossing removal won’t solve all of a tram route’s punctuality problems, but it does appear that removing the Glenhuntly crossing would help the tram a fair bit. It would also help trains (especially expresses), since they have to slow down when crossing the tram tracks — it’s the slowest single point on the Frankston line.

And of course, level crossing removal also helps pedestrians, cyclists and emergency vehicles — as well as buses (on nearby Neerim Road, which would have to be done as well given its proximity) and motorists.

But to really speed up trams, we still need action on traffic light priority to reduce the red light time affecting trams.

  • Footnote: in the top photo, I broke my own rules about photographing LED displays; need a longer exposure time.
  • Buses along Neerim, North, Mckinnon and Centre Roads would also have been affected (with the latter three permanently benefiting from the project), but we don’t know how much, because no punctuality figures are published for them.
  • Glen Huntly and Neerim Roads aren’t on Labor’s list of 50 crossings to remove by 2022. Personally I hope the community and governments (of both sides) will have got a taste for these projects, and they’ll continue a rolling program of grade separation until all the worst ones, including these, are gone.

15 thoughts on “Would the 67 tram benefit from removal of the level crossing?”

  1. 1
    expat says:

    The thing with Glenhuntly Rd is that I’m not sure how they now “could” separate it.

    Am I correct in remembering from past conversations that the main reason it’s always been in the “too hard” basket has been that the groundwater problems there are massive (built on the old swamp, as is the racecourse – significantly worse groundwater issues than Bentleigh/McKinnon), meaning it’d probably have to be rail-over.

    But elevated rail might make too much of a roller coaster dip down to Ormond? Trying to remember the distance between the stations.

  2. 2
    L2 says:

    That tram doesn’t go anywhere. Just terminate the route at the west side of the station and replace the remainder of it with a frequent bus that continues to somewhere useful, which will probably get twice the patronage that the tram does past Glenhuntly.

    Win-win for everybody except gunzels.

    Or if you want to bring in the change slowly. Terminate the 67 at Glenhuntly Station (west side). Remove the overhead tramway power across the tram square but keep one rough track for depot transfers, with trams pulled by a recovery truck. Should be able to increase train line speed, trains in FNQ cross over cane railways at line speed.

    Introduce a new route 68 from Glenhuntly Station (east side) to Carnegie Terminus. Bring in a new bus 668 Carnegie Terminus to Chadstone, meeting every tram, and watch people start using it, and watch them start complaining about having to change vehicles at some silly tram terminus.

    Then introduce the perfect solution, just get rid of the tram past Glenhuntly and extend the 668 bus. Everybody wins, except gunzels.

  3. 3
    Me again says:

    L2’s post raises an interesting question — could lower-patronage tram services be replaced with buses, especially where they have to share the road anyway? I could see some benefits and drawbacks.

    Frequent intra-suburban services is possibly the biggest missing piece of our transport infrastructure, in my humble opinion. The lack of it means that you’re pretty much obliged to have a car with you to cover even small distances in reasonable times. It also makes train travel into the city far less viable for a lot of people who do not live within walking distance of the nearest station.

    If we can get that, I don’t mind that much if I have to travel on a bus or a tram.

  4. 4
    David Stosser says:

    Something I’ve never quite understood about punctuality figures – are they the % of total services, or % of services remaining after discounting the cancelled runs?

    @L2, why not just start with the 668 ex Glenhuntly and watch what happens to 67 patronage east of the level crossing? (Or extend the tram to somewhere ‘useful’?)

  5. 5
    Alpal says:

    Not sure why tram punctuality numbers matter. When cities are reintroducing light / rail, they don’t bother with many street runs because streets are inherently difficult for trams; parking, cars reversing into car parks, cars turning right, car smashes.

    So as long as we know there is a tram roughly every 10 minutes, then that will, more or less, happen.

    The 67 route seems to me to be three routes:

    1. Terminus to Glenhuntly station
    This part is far better replaced with a bus from Glenhuntly Station, then along Glenhuntly Rd, left into Koornang Rd and right into Dandenong Rd to the Chadstone mall and then onto Oakleigh Station. (This would also provide a decent enough link for the Sandringham, Frankston and Dendenoing Corridor trains too….)

    2. From Glenhuntly station to Elsternwick station

    3. From there along Brighton/ St Kilda Rd.

    Very few would travel along all three sections, it would be a waste of time.

    As long as they come along roughly every 10 minutes and the various connecting trains run roughly similar headways, it all seems workable without getting worked up about punctuality.

  6. 6
    Alpal says:

    Another reason why tram punctuality figures don’t matter: don’t rely on printed timetables or the table at the stop – use tramtracker on the phone.
    My tram stop is 150m from the house so we all leave the house when the next tram is listed as being 2 minutes away. Superb system.
    Now if we could only have that sort of system on buses.

  7. 7
    Jo Smaw says:

    Buses also have real time if you use the PTV app.

  8. 8
    TranzitJim says:

    There is no doubt that, those booms would be down quite a lot, especially during peak hours, and naturally one can say, delays for trams would be great.

    I would oppose replacing any section of the route with buses. More so because of how short it is.

    ++ Lack of room for a bus to turn around in
    ++ How many buses would you need
    ++ Passengers shall face the same level crossing delays as the trams you replace.
    ++ This way, you have the same thing all the way through.

    I would prefer that selected trips terminate short at Glen Huntly depot, say the extras in peak hour?

    Pitty it is too late for ‘sky rail’ between Caulfield and Patterson.

  9. 9
    Glen Eira Resident says:

    I’m not sure why anyone would advocate closing any part of the 67 tram. I take the tram between Elsternwick and Carnegie pretty frequently to visit family, and there are definitely still a lot of people remaining on the tram as it enters the Carnegie section. I’ve known plenty of people in southern Carnegie who use it as a feeder to the Frankston line (it’s easier than trying to get to Carnegie Station). I also don’t know where at Glenhuntly Station there’s supposed to be room for a bus terminus. If you want to take a bus to Koornang Rd, Chadstone or Oakleigh Station, you can just walk one block north to Neerim Road. Those buses aren’t frequent though!

    Really I think the 67 tram needs extending. If it were me I’d extend it south/southeast; suburbs like East Bentleigh have shockingly bad access to public transport at the moment, and are having a major high-density development put in at Virginia Park nonetheless. The route 3 would be another that could be extended that way (via East Malvern and Murrumbeena Stations).

  10. 10
    Thiscouldbeover says:

    @Alpal
    Tram punctuality numbers can matter .
    Its great if if the Timetable says every 10 mins but its no good say for example get 20 min or so gaps cause of constant late running(thankful trams perform much better than many bus routes in regard to on time running)

  11. 11
    XD says:

    It’s obvious why the two Glen Huntly crossings were not selected by the ALP government for removal: they are in a safe Liberal seat (55% majority at the last election on a two-party preferred basis). The Frankston line corridor is famously full of marginal seats, with Bentleigh a wafer-thin marginal (50.8%). That’s how ‘the 50 most dangerous and congested crossings’ is defined in the real world.

  12. 12
    Tim says:

    The hell closing the 67 tram. I used to walk from the terminus to Murrumbeena before I knew about the No 3 terminating at Darling Rd. Are a lot more people who use that than people realise. Much with the current train shutdown in Carnegie they underestimated the number of buses they needed for just those two stations due to penny pinching. I kind of prefer getting the 67 tram home now as I only do it on the weekend and then walk up Grange Rd. No 3 to the end is too far away and I have to cross the highway (easier to get off at Caulfield Station.)

  13. 13
    Daniel says:

    I’m happy to say I’m not aware of any plans to close the eastern part of the tram route, nor any other tram route. If anything it needs extension to Carnegie and/or Chadstone.

    @expat, yes I suspect the rail line would need to be elevated. There is plenty of space either side (to Caulfield and towards Ormond) to do this. Note that midway between Glenhuntly and Ormond, the rail line already passes over the Dorothy Avenue bridge.

    @alpal, agree to an extent – at most times of day, frequency is now more important on trams than specific times. Doubly so thanks to innovations like Tram Tracker. But you can’t guarantee frequency if punctuality is unreliable.

    There is an argument for splitting some of the longer tram routes, but as someone who spent years commuting on the 67 from Glen Huntly (the suburb) to St Kilda Road, I don’t think it stacks up on this route.

    As Jo noted, realtime information is now available for all Melbourne metropolitan buses, via the PTV app.

    @XD, I’m sure the location of the crossings played into the decision-making process, however the Glenhuntly crossing in particular has more impact on Frankston line trains than any other on the line, thanks to the speed limits.

  14. 14
    enno says:

    If you think that buses are an answer to the significant problem of trams being held up by red traffic lights …. then you probably have not travelled on enough buses.

  15. 15
    Adrian says:

    Punctuality KPIs aren’t the whole story. Who really cares if five empty trams in the middle of the afternoon arrive on time if one during peak hour packed full of passengers ends up running ten minutes late?

    How about a KPI that shows the number of passengers delivered on time?

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