How does the new local bus route fit into the network?

Good news: New bus route 627 starts in June, running from Moorabbin to Chadstone via East Bentleigh and Murrumbeena.

Excuse the micro-transport-blogging about this specific route in my local area, but (as usual) there are considerations that are relevant across the network.

This new route fills some gaps in the local network, including East Boundary Road (which is meant to be part of the Principal Public Transport Network, but currently has sections with no public transport), and sections of Tucker Road and Jasper Road. New bus stops are under construction.

Route 627 bus stop under construction

The route will make trips to the huge Chadstone Shopping Centre easier for people in Moorabbin and parts of Bentleigh and East Bentleigh who currently don’t have direct services – remembering that changing along the way is not a good experience given low bus frequencies, especially on weekends, which are the busiest shopping days.

The 627 will add another connection to the Frankston line from the Dandenong line, which can be useful when major delays (planned or otherwise) hit one line or the other, and it’ll serve the new McKinnon Secondary campus, though it won’t connect to the existing campus.

It adds to frequency on about 3.5km of route 822. (It also shares parts of routes 701 and 703, though not really in a way that adds very useful frequency.)

It runs more frequently on weekends than many other suburban bus routes: every 40 minutes instead of the typical hourly frequency. It’ll mostly run half-hourly on weekdays.

The bad news: The route structure is a zig-zag. Not particularly intuitive. This is partly due to challenges with the T-junction at the southern end of Tucker Road.

This route has been laid over the existing local bus network, without any other changes. Ideally this would have been an opportunity to straighten out route 822 to run along East Boundary Road, with this new route filling the gap, and/or straighten out route 626 along McKinnon Road (so that route could connect the two McKinnon SC campuses).

Combined timetable

I wanted to talk in detail about the timetable.

The new 627 adds useful frequency to the section of route 822 between Chadstone and Leila Road (and as far as south as Centre Road if people can walk for a few hundred metres).

But the timetabling doesn’t make the most of this.

If I were planning it, I’d be particularly careful to aim for even frequencies southbound, departing from the most likely trip sources on the shared section: Murrumbeena station (particularly on weekday afternoons) and Chadstone (particularly on weekend afternoons).

Ideally northbound frequencies would be as even as possible too of course, but this is a secondary priority, since people can more easily time their departure from home. Timing your connection from a train arriving at Murrumbeena, or the arrival of another bus or the end of your movie at Chadstone, is a bit harder.

Unfortunately the planners haven’t quite hit the target here. Here’s how the combined service looks at Murrumbeena southbound on weekdays after 3pm:

  • 3:13 (822)
  • 3:23 (627)
  • 3:43 (822)
  • 3:54 (627)
  • 4:14 (822)
  • 4:24 (627)
  • 4:43 (822)
  • 4:55 (627)
  • 5:18 (822)
  • 5:25 (627)
  • 5:48 (822)
  • 5:56 (627)
  • 6:19 (822)
  • 6:26 (627)
  • 6:45 (822)
  • 6:55 (627)
  • 7:14 (822)
  • 7:28 (627)
  • 7:48 (822)
  • 7:58 (627)
  • 8:28 (627)
  • 8:44 (822)
  • 9:04 (627)
  • 9:28 (627)
  • 9:37 (822)
  • 10:04 (627)
  • 10:47 (822) (last bus)

Trains are every 10 minutes or better until 10pm, so the aim isn’t for buses to meet specific trains, but instead to provide a good frequency so that nobody has to wait too long for a connection.

Instead the combined bus departures are irregular. At the commuter peak, gaps vary as widely as 7 to 23 minutes. Not so good.

Given a total of 4 buses per hour, a consistent 15 minute combined service would have been better. (Back in the 1980s, the predecessor to the 822 was the 655, which ran every 15 minutes in peak as far as Stockdale Avenue, East Bentleigh – a bit further than the combined 627/822 route will run.)

These shortcomings aside, there’s a clear opportunity to grow commuter patronage to and from the station, which is great.

The last two bus departures for the night are scheduled 5 minutes after (then not so frequent) train arrivals – which is good – even better if bus drivers can wait a little while if the train is late.

Bus 822 at the old Murrumbeena station

There’s a quirk with travel time.

On the new route 627, Chadstone to Murrumbeena is timed at 7 minutes.

On the older route 822, it’s 9 minutes… despite the two routes being identical on that section. And there’s a similar discrepancy in the other direction.

It appears route 822 hasn’t been re-timed since the level crossing was removed and the route was straightened out to avoid the side street detour so it could stop outside the old station. That’s an issue which affects many routes serving stations rebuilt through the Level Crossing Removal Project.

Weekends

How does the Saturday afternoon shopping rush look from Chadstone? Much better: each bus leaves every 40 minutes, and they’re pretty evenly spaced until 5:31 when the 822 drops back to hourly – then it’s a bit messier, for instance both routes are timed to depart at 6:11pm.

And weirdly, the 627 gets more frequent after 7:30pm.

  • 2:11 (627)
  • 2:29 (822)
  • 2:52 (627)
  • 3:09 (822)
  • 3:31 (627)
  • 3:51 (822)
  • 4:11 (627)
  • 4:31 (822)
  • 4:51 (627)
  • 5:11 (822)
  • 5:31 (627)
  • 6:11 (822)
  • 6:11 (627)
  • 6:51 (627)
  • 7:11 (822)
  • 7:31 (627)
  • 8:04 (822)
  • 8:06 (627)
  • 8:36 (627)
  • 9:00 (822)
  • 9:06 (627)
  • 9:36 (627)
  • 10:00 (822)

What about Sunday afternoon from Chadstone? Not so good – route 627 is every 40 minutes, but route 822 is only hourly, so it’s messy.

  • 2:08 (822)
  • 2:11 (627)
  • 2:51 (627)
  • 3:08 (822)
  • 3:31 (627)
  • 4:08 (822)
  • 4:11 (627)
  • 4:51 (627)
  • 5:08 (822)
  • 5:31 (627)
  • 6:08 (822)
  • 6:11 (627)
  • 6:51 (627)
  • 7:08 (822)
  • 7:31 (627)
  • 8:00 (822)
  • 8:06 (627)
  • 9:00 (822)
  • 9:01 (627)
  • 10:00 (822)

The obvious solution would to upgrade the 822 to match the 40 minute frequency on Sundays, and to also tweak the weekday timetables to match better.

Bus 822 navigating a side street in Bentleigh East

Shared stops?

No doubt along the common part of the route, the two routes will share stops, including at Murrumbeena station.

At the Chadstone bus interchange? Unclear. Hopefully either a shared bus bay or adjacent bays.

Route number

Another point: Why was the new route given the number 627?

627 used to be the number used for what is now the 625 and 626 when they were one, long, confusing route.

Would it be better as, say, 820, to help sell the shared section with 822? (The route numbers 821, 823, 824 and 825 are already taken.)

Or are there future planned network changes that are coming into play here?

Queues for buses at Chadstone, Boxing Day 2018

The big picture

I’ve focussed on a local route, but the same principles apply across the public transport network.

The addition of extra services (and extra service kilometres) is very welcome. But as I noted in a 2014 blog post, these upgrades should not be planned in isolation.

The real aim is to help each new upgrade improve the overall network.

While the bus system needs more resources, there are lots of gains to be made from reviewing and revising the network: moving towards direct routes, where possible along main roads, and using the efficiencies gained to increase frequency.

The patronage growth in Smartbus routes shows this works, but it’s also been shown in other areas such as Brimbank.

The windy indirect routes are not useful to most people – and as this Twitter thread shows, it’s something of a myth that buses that stop everywhere suit people with limited mobility.

Monday’s State Budget provided not a lot of new funding for buses, so it makes sense to ensure the network is as efficient as possible at meeting suburban travel demand.

Hopefully this new route will help, and other upgrades will follow.

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11 Replies to “How does the new local bus route fit into the network?”

  1. Great to see added frequency to north-south buses in Bentleigh East!
    Although I might point out the existing Centre Rd/East Boundary Rd not be much use to the Chadstone-bound 627. The bus stop currently used by the southbound 822, is located on the south-eastern side of the intersection…

  2. Thanks Daniel. This skew-timetable problem is also seen on the combined 781/4/5 routes between Frankston and Mornington, that overlap on the entire section through Frankston South / Mt Eliza as far as Mornington Secondary. There was a golden period for about 3 years around 2006 when these actually did operate a combined 20-20-20 clockface timetable at Frankston in both directions (and even 15-15-15 for a while on weekdays matching the then 15-minute headway on the trains). But for the last decade it’s been a mess: ex-Frankston on weekdays is still mostly OK, but the rest (weekends in particular) has been sabotaged to now be either 20-10-30 or 15-18-27. And invariably that half-hour gap coincides with a train arrival or departure that just misses the bus by a minute or two.

    Paul Mees used to point out this problem even occurred in the middle of the city. Going to St Kilda there’s a choice of two trams (16 or 96) that take different routes but have similar travel times. But in the evenings when the frequency dropped to every 20 or 30 minutes, they were scheduled to depart from Swanston/Bourke at almost exactly the same time, meaning the double route provided no advantage at all.

  3. These skewed timetables seem to be a feature of Melbourne’s public transport system. Another example used to be the 216-219-220 southbound buses which often seemed to travel in pairs, but of course that issue has largely gone away, but for the wrong reason in that these routes have been drastically cut back. Likewise, Frankston and Sandringham trains often run side-by-side between the city and South Yarra and vv (perhaps not a big deal, but still….).
    From casual observation, there seem to be other instances too.
    I wonder how the issue comes about? Is it because the scheduling is tweaked to fit in with drivers’ rosters? Or is it just that the powers-that-be give a low priority to co-ordination issues such as this?

  4. On Saturdays from Glen Waverley station to Springvale station via Springvale Rd:
    -The 885 departs at 11 minutes past the hour
    -The 902 departs at roughly 11 and 41 minutes past the hour
    The 885 duplicates the 902 almost entirely, except for a short diversion between Wellington Rd and Police Rd.

  5. Hi Daniel
    Slightly off topic, but still on buses – I was recently quite shocked to discover that the 800 along Dandenong Rd has an appallingly low frequency of 1 bus every hour on Saturday am and 1 every 2 hours in the pm. After a car trip out to Dandenong with my husband I decided there was something I wanted to look at on Dandeong Road and he could drop me and I would catch the 800 home. I did my little bit of op-shopping and trudged along without the benefit of any footpaths (another story) to a bus stop, blithely assuming there would be a half reasonable frequency. At the bus stop the timetable indicated that the next bus was only a few minutes away, fortunately, because if I had missed it there would have been a two hour wait for the next one. SO buses are at 7.28, 8.28, 9.28, 10.28, 11.28, 12.26, 2.26, 4.26 and then they stop altogether. THis seems to me totally inadequate for a bus heading to a major shopping centre (Chadstone) on a weekend. Is this why parents have to drive their kids everywhere? Why can’t we do better than this? Oh – and guess what? There are no buses at all on Sundays. Last I heard, Chadstone is not closed on a Sunday. The bus was not full but there was never less than 12 people on it, meaning 12 cars off the road. If the frequency was higher I’m guessing it would be much fuller.

  6. another fine analysis, Daniel. You seem to be the first expert to have noticed that it is easier to time your departure from home, than your return journey. That is , provided you know the timetable, and how long it takes you to walk to the bus stop.

    Concerning Mornington, the 788 also services Mt Eliza and Main Street Mornington, so that is 4 buses an hour usually from Frankston, but the timing is often very poor.

    Going from Mornington can even be worse, as if you are in Mornington, the 4 routes all have to be caught at different bus stops, some in different directions.

  7. Ange, the reason Melbourne’s buses are so crap is because the minimum service standards are not actually enforced by the State Government, unlike, for example, trains running on time, where Metro and V/Line get fined if their punctuality is below a certain percentage. If Metro suddenly decided to finish their last trains at 4:26PM to cut costs and maximise profits, World War III would be declared.

    Start throwing fines left, right and centre at bus companies which fail to comply with the bare minimum service levels of every 30 minutes from 6AM to 9PM seven days a week, things might even improve; people might even attempt to travel on a bus if they didn’t have to wait an hour for it (or if it was actually running to begin with e.g. Sundays). Large companies like Ventura and Transdev should seriously know better, but since there is no pressure to lift their game, they don’t do anything. I often wonder if “Since 1924” meant the bus company or the timetable!

  8. “Minimum service standards” aren’t enforced because they are an aspirational target by government, and not something bus companies are required to meet – they only need to run the services that the government has contracted them to run. If bus companies failed to provide *those* services, they would be penalised.

  9. What about bus operator zones, or the likes. While I understand that, there has been a buyback of bus licenses recently, do they already take affect, or will there still be some time before we can take advantage of this?

    The new 627, I guess would be an EastTrans route, where I guess the 820s is, ex Morabbin Transit, now Ventura area

    There are clearly massive changes and improvements that need to be done, Melbourne wide. The problem in the past has always been, different bus operators and their operating zone or area. Now, or at least very soon, we should be able to, wipe the slate clean of all the current bus routes, and start again fresh, with a whole new fresh network. This time, having a more sensible bus network.

    I am not familiar with the area and its bus routes as I would like to be, so I need to ask these questions
    ++ Does #627 try to service roads of which previously not had a bus service before?
    ++ How different would #822 vs #627 be in length over its length? Does one take a longer route over a portion, and, if so, while they may be 10-20 at Chadestone, they may work out to be 15-15 further down the route.

    I dont mind skews in frequency where there is a different catchment area for each of the routes. such as, you should run a shorter route service just ahead of a longer route service, to even out the loading over the overlaping section. I cant see this being a real issue with #822 and #627

  10. New services like this should be well promoted to ensure rapid uptake of the new service. Commercial advertisers still realise there are benefits in “junk mail”, to put their message before consumers who would not seek it out themselves. It could be something like a card with a fridge magnet printed with the map and combined timetable. It could be delivered to all homes within 800m of each bus stop, and an offer of free travel on the 822/627 until the end of June for any individual or group that shows the card. This is the sort of offer that could shift people’s travel habits. The amount of revenue forgone would be minimal because it usually takes 6 months for patronage on a new service to reach an equilibrium, and would easily pay for itself by increased patronage after the free period.

  11. It’s a brand new route, but PTV has already spelled it wrong! On their website the route is spelt “627 Moorabin Station”, missing the second “b” in “Moorabbin”.

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