Last year I wrote about Chadstone’s Boxing Day bus debacle: delays, heavy demand, traffic jams, queues, and not a single additional bus deployed.
So, how was it this year? Spoiler: Almost the same.
Here’s some video, or read on.
So I wanted to head to Chadstone to look for a bargain. It’d be crazy to drive and get stuck in traffic, right? Let’s do the right thing and take public transport.
I boarded a 624 bus at Murrumbeena to go to Chadstone. Just like last year, it was slightly delayed (4 minutes) and packed.
The traffic on approach to the centre was very congested. Poath Road was busy, and so was Dandenong Road eastbound, with a traffic snarl at the southern entrance into Chadstone – no thanks to numerous drivers ignoring our old favourite rule 128 and blocking the intersection trying to get in. Our bus driver had to take the rightmost lane (of three) to get around it.
VicRoads had said they were adjusting traffic light sequences around the centre. A little enforcement of the rules would have helped a lot.
Dandenong Road buses were diverting “around the block” to Warrigal Road, where Chadstone management put a lot of effort into allocating a bus lane from into the bus interchange. Once we reached it, this worked quite well – kudos to them for this.
However the traffic lights to get in and out of the bus interchange need attention. It was a long wait to get in, and buses exiting again also had a long wait. We finally arrived 18 minutes late.
Some routes had to weave their way in, out again and back in to get to the correct stop in the interchange, making already delayed buses worse.
The crowds and queues of passengers at the interchange seemed just as bad as last year. This time, police were patrolling (not that they had much to do), and PTV and/or bus operator staff were helping direct passengers, as some of the usual stops were changed around.
Delayed buses caused flow-on effects right along the routes serving Chadstone. This 900 bus from Rowville and Chadstone arrived at Caulfield more than 20 minutes late to run its next service back, leaving passengers behind.
My conclusions from observing all of this
The traffic lights in and out of the bus interchange need adjustment. Making buses wait extended periods just adds to the delays.
The temporary bus lane worked well. Bus lanes from Warrigal Road to and from the interchange probably ought to be permanent. It’s 6 lanes (3 in, 3 out, expanding to 5 out at the intersection). It’s also a crying shame bus lanes weren’t provided from Dandenong Road the short distance to the bus interchange, when it was built.
Boxing Day sales are a known event. They happen every year. Everyone knows that huge numbers of people will turn up. We know lots of people will try to catch buses.
We know the traffic will be awful. Extra people in buses is fewer people in cars. This is a good thing, for the centre and for other people who do drive.
Boxing Day cricket attracts around 100,000 patrons. For this, they deployed (by my count) 27 extra train services, on top of the 10-20 minute standard public holiday frequencies.
Boxing Day at Chadstone attracts at least 120,000 patrons. For this, despite crowding year after year, they deployed not a single additional bus. Zero extra services. Smartbus routes mostly every half-hour, other routes mostly hourly, with some severe delays of 20+ minutes on top of that. It’s completely inadequate.
As I said last year: this is a planned special event for Chadstone. Is it treated as such under the Transport Act (see sections 192 to 204)? This can mandate traffic management and can require additional services funded by the event organiser – it’s very obvious that this is precisely what’s needed.
26/12: R903 will bypass Essendon DFO from first bus till last bus on Boxing Day, Wed 26 Dec in both directions. Stop ID 40896 will not be serviced.— Transdev Melbourne (@Transdev_Melb) December 25, 2018
Services to Altona: first stop on Mt Alexandra Rd, ID 40897; Services to Mordialloc: last stop before freeway, ID 40942
This problem is not confined to Chadstone, and not just on Boxing Day. Essendon DFO had all its route 903 buses divert away due to traffic concerns. Other suburban malls would have had similar issues, and bus crowding is a problem every weekend due to infrequent services.
There are plenty people willing and able to catch buses to major suburban shopping centres. They’re doing the right thing. It’s time the buses were fixed.
PS. Some off-piste responses to this issue on Twitter included:
- Bus drivers deserve time off. But hundreds of them worked on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The additional staff needed to run some extra services to hot spots like Chadstone is minimal in comparison.
- Bus passengers don’t spend as much, so shopping centres don’t care. Okay it’s true car passengers might fill their boot with stuff, but how many of them actually do? Specifically, how many return to their car multiple times before driving off? Shopping centres know they have finite parking capacity. Every person who arrives by another mode is an additional shopper. And as the photos show, plenty of people were willing to use the buses. Even more would if they provided a decent service.
- You could have shopped on another day! Really? So me personally not going to Chadstone on Boxing Day would have fixed the problem?
Another PS: the scene at 10pm:
Massive crowds at 10pm just as the centre closed. By 10pm, there were still Smartbuses every 30mins, but all the local routes stop at about 9pm or so. (Exception 822 and 623 which both left at 10.01pm sharp.) pic.twitter.com/ELkJgLJcxU— Declan Martin (@declanmartin75) December 27, 2018