Sometimes the little things matter. Sometimes a bit of thought can result in a better outcome.
Logic says that when they put in a new bus route to serve the station, it should stop at the station.
Eastbound it shares the 701 stop, which is about 100 metres from the station (positioned so the 701 can do a loop around so it can terminate there). Westbound it shares the 703 stop 120 metres away from the station.
At the time this seemed fair enough — it was the end of 2015, and the station precinct was about to get knocked down and rebuilt for level crossing removal. The closest bus stops would be out of action for a time.
But it’s been many months since the new station opened. The 703 now stops just metres from the station entrance.
Having the Night Bus use the stops closest to the station would be beneficial:
- Easier train/bus interchange
- Better security at the bus stop from being visible from the station concourse, where the PSOs patrol and station staff are on duty
- Passengers could use the benches and the waiting room while waiting for the bus — useful on cold winter nights
- A more logical, intuitive location for a Night Bus stop apparently designed to serve the station
- As with the current location, no clash with daytime bus services, as the 703 doesn’t run after midnight
This is just one example of course. Are there others where the service nominally connects at the station, but the stop is some distance away?
And this issue may be obvious, but it’s a pointer to other problems.
Other problems with Night Bus
Some routes have stops chosen for their proximity to stations or hospitals, but stop names have been based on the nearest obscure cross street, which is meaningless to most people:
Odd stop names. Why emphasise minor streets? Why Bent St not Bentleigh Station? Why Ward Gr not Moorabbin Hospital? pic.twitter.com/oS1AYegtv7
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) December 29, 2015
In some spots, they haven’t thought too much about where the Night Bus stop signs should be installed:
Speaking of poor placement, check this Night Bus sign in front of a traffic light in Punt Road. pic.twitter.com/Iom3KtXkXk
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) March 6, 2016
Timetabling is also a problem. In the case of Night Bus 979, there are hourly trains and hourly buses, but they don’t connect at Bentleigh – hop off a train from the city at 33 past the hour; you’ve just missed the eastbound bus at 25 past the hour. Instead they have timed connections at Elsternwick on the Sandringham line. It makes sense in some ways, but how does one explain that to passengers?
These issues might underscore problems with the design of the Night Bus network. While the 24-hour tram and train services have been relatively successful (despite poor frequencies, particularly on the trains) the buses have been less so. I suspect a big part of that is the routes being totally different from the daytime routes.
Even in the Doncaster area, where the backbone of the network is four Smartbus routes, they chose not to run those routes through the night, but instead run a completely different route that does a long loop around Bulleen and Templestowe. (I know there are proposals to revert to using the Smartbus route structure. Even at lower frequencies, this makes a lot of sense.)
Possibly there are some areas where it’s logical to provide night service that is not based on the daytime routes, but these should be the exception rather than the rule.
The stop placement, stop names, passenger familiarity with the routes — all these are solved by running 24 hour routes instead of special night-only routes. This means there’s a great opportunity to improve Night Bus services, and I hope PTV’s review of the Night Network will give this serious consideration.