Night Buses are not running on New Year’s Eve tonight.
Most trams and trains are running all night — and it’s more trains than last year; half-hourly after about 2am, rather than hourly as last year. There are also some regional trains and coaches after midnight.
Night Bus routes are designed to fill the gaps between the trams and trains — especially the latter in the outer suburbs.
Not running them means many suburbs will have no public transport at all between about 10pm tonight and 7am tomorrow morning — including Mornington (and the rest of the Peninsula, population 155,000 people), Point Cook, Rowville, Mernda and others. Doncaster will have Smartbus routes extended until 2am, but nothing after that.
The Age ran a story on Friday: No way home for hundreds of revellers after Night Buses cut for New Year’s Eve
Almost all trains and trams will run all night on New Year's Eve. But Night Buses, which are designed to fill the gaps to places like Rowville, Mernda, Mornington and Point Cook, won't run. How does this make any sense? https://t.co/QYE7FWNm0r
— PTUA (@ptua) December 28, 2017
The story included this truly ludicrous response from the State Government:
A spokeswoman for Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan has argued that the Night Bus services would not run this year because New Year’s Eve falls on Sunday, and the late night services run on Friday and Saturday nights. … “As New Year’s Eve falls on a Sunday, Night Network services do not operate”
Um, what? Trains and trams don’t run all night on Sundays either, but they do for New Year’s Eve.
Why would you run the Night Buses every weekend, but not on the biggest night of the year?
After they’d had some time to think about their response, PTV changed their tune to something a little more plausible: they claimed to journalists that only 50 people used Night Buses last NYE… but they also claimed that normal weekend Night Buses are “very popular”.
Let’s assume the 50 people quoted excluded the Doncaster Night Buses. If that service was used by hardly any people, then this year they wouldn’t be running four Smartbus routes to Doncaster every 15 minutes until 2am.
Doncaster aside, if Night Bus passenger numbers are low on NYE, logic would imply they’re even lower on most weekends.
Does Night Bus need a re-design?
Most of the time, official patronage figures for Night Bus are very hard to come by.
But this claimed low patronage on NYE casts into doubt the entire Night Bus network design.
If Night Bus patronage is not reaching expectations, then authorities should review the network, which currently is completely different to daytime bus routes, and partly duplicates rail services.
There are some broader Night Network considerations, including:
- more frequent trains — which would only incrementally increase costs, given so much investment in station staff and PSOs and other support staff to just keep the network running all night, and the current hourly timetable has some excessively long layovers
- using buses instead of trains on the outer-ends and/or quieter sections of the rail network
On Night Buses specifically, one option would be running major routes (eg Smartbuses, or at least the busiest sections, and a few other bus routes targeted at gaps in the rest of the network) as 24 hour services on weekends and New Year’s Eve. Time them where possible to meet trains from the City.
Like the 24 hour trains and trams, 24 hour buses would be more understandable for users, and more likely to get good patronage. The current Night Bus network of different routes to daytime means someone heading out before midnight but coming back after midnight has double the work to figure out how to use the system.
(The way they are programmed into Journey Planners also seems to cause issues. Night Buses are limited pick-up, but will drop you off at any stop. This seems to be beyond the understanding of the JP algorithms.)
Indeed, if Night Bus patronage is generally poor, and Night Train/Tram usage is more healthy, then we’ve got the ironic situation that the train/tram routes designed by the ALP in opposition are performing better than the bus routes designed by the professional transport planners at PTV.
Keeping it simple is the key. After-midnight services should be (some of) the same routes that run in daytime, rather than a completely different network.
- PTV: Public transport for New Year’s Eve: Sunday 31 December 2017
- Until Friday, Night Bus 970 (Carrum to Rosebud) was shown in PTV’s timetables and Journey Planner as running. They’ve finally fixed this, but at the time of writing, it’s still in Google Maps’ journey planner. PTV has also made numerous other errors in its Christmas/New Year information, as detailed by Craig Halsall in this 58-item-long (so far) Twitter thread.
- PTUA 29/12/2017: No Night Buses on NYE “ridiculous”
- PTUA 25/2/2017: PTUA calls for Night Network to stay – but must be made more efficient