Bustitution

No time at the moment for any ambitious deep dive blog posts, so here’s a slightly rambling follow-up to last week’s Caulfield to City rail bustitution.

For the entire week, I was lucky enough to avoid travelling in peak hours, but overall the feedback was that it was a lot smoother this time. There were delays of course – buses just can’t do the job of trains – and footy fans in particular (who if they are not regulars, are less familiar with the changed arrangements, and tend to travel at busy times) had some issues.

Overall, it a big improvement from Easter – perhaps fewer operational mishaps, and more passengers becoming familiar with alternative routes.

Peak hour bustitution at Caulfield

What is a little disappointing is that – like so many things with public transport – despite significant organising and resources, often it’s relatively little things that fall short.

For instance: I travelled outbound on Sunday morning, when buses were replacing trains between the City and Westall/Moorabbin. The road network isn’t stretched at this time, and passenger numbers aren’t huge. But still there were little hiccups.

Frankston line buses were running to three patterns:

Express (E) – Arts Centre to Moorabbin non-stop, for longer distance trips

Limited Express (L) – Arts Centre to Caulfield non-stop, then all stations to Moorabbin, for people between the City and stations between Caulfield and Patterson (including me)

Stopping All Stations (S) – from the City to Caulfield, stopping all stations – for shorter distance trips between Richmond and Malvern.

This all makes sense; it helps minimise the travel time, and splits passengers into groups so the numbers are more manageable.

Not that you’d know about this if you saw the timetable guides provided on the web site, which showed a diagram for only one route, and timetable information (arguably too much; it’s very difficult to read) for two.

There were detailed brochures flying around the place which did have the route detail, and these had been handed out to passengers at stations in the weeks beforehand. But if you didn’t get given one of these, they were hard to find.

So where do I catch the bus?

The signage was excellent around Flinders Street station – provided you wanted the E or L buses. For the S… not so good; I didn’t see it anywhere.

In fact, even basic information on where to catch the Stopping buses was contradictory, as shown in these two tweets from Metro that morning.

This one said you catch the Stopping buses from Spring Street, near Parliament:

This one a few hours later reckoned Fed Square.

Talking to some People That Know, it sounds like there were different arrangements on each weekend (presumably for some good reason) and some of the info for weekend 1 got muddled with that for weekend 2.

Waiting for a bus

On that Sunday morning, it was good to see there were lots of staff and lots of buses deployed at the Arts Centre.

The boarding point for a Limited Express bus was incorrectly signed for Express buses. Thankfully there were enough staff to advise arriving passengers which queue they should use.

Express bus signage at the Limited Express bus stop

I found a line of people waiting for a Limited Express bus, and a line of Express buses arriving, waiting and leaving with virtually no passengers aboard.

Some people had obviously been waiting for a while. A stream of Express buses continued to arrive while I was in the queue.

Lots of Express buses, barely any passengers wanting to use them

Eventually the dispatchers decided to reallocate an Express bus to the Limited Express service, and off we went.

Unlike during weekday peaks, the buses moved pretty quickly, and we got to Caulfield after about 20 minutes, and then Bentleigh perhaps another 10 minutes after that. About the same as the train journey, if you don’t count the walks to/from the bus stops.

Are the buses free, or paid?

There was the usual confusion over whether passengers should touch-on their Myki cards. Many regulars know that you don’t have to touch on, but the last time I looked, the “bible” (the Fares & Ticketing Manual) still claimed that you should (at the railway station, which in this context makes no sense, as it could be hundreds of metres away).

The bus Myki readers (as usual) were left on, and at least one passenger did use them. Can they not be switched off? Why does Myki not have a “free ride” mode?

At busy stops, some passengers (quite reasonably) expected that the bus driver might open both doors for boarding. I mean, given free rides, why not, to speed up operations? And yet this still doesn’t happen with any consistency.

Indeed, there is a bus operator that’s been set up specifically for running train replacements. Their buses actually have No Entry signage on the rear door. If no fares are payable, why do this?

Rail Replacement bus

More bustitution coming soon

As usual, the point of all this minutiae is to identify the big picture.

There’s lots of projects in the next few years, right across the rail network. Which is good.

This means lots more bustitution is coming. A little more care and effort, and it could be a lot smoother for passengers.

14 thoughts on “Easy like Sunday morning

  1. The PTV put on extra trains on the Sandringham line in recognition that many Frankston line passengers would use the Sandy line. For some reason the PTV website (although apparently not the app) only showed the 5:16pm and 5:29pm trains from Flinders St and not the 5:23pm. The same thing happened in April. Why hasn’t the PTV fixed this?

  2. Roger, have you tried contacting PTV about it? They might not even realise the issue themself until someone tells them about it.

  3. Daniel, the No Entry signage you picture seems to be a sticker which the 2nd hand bus operator didn’t pull off – the bus in picture is ex-Perth.

  4. Personally I’ve given up on the buses after the Easter works mess and now drive to Elsternwick from Carnegie (I’m early enough that parking is still plentiful) to use the Sandy line as I go into the CBD before work for gym then head back to South Yarra for the office.
    I was catching an AM replacement bus from Parliament to Sth Yarra which was generally empty but got a little confused when one driver said he’d stop at Richmond & SY but then go express to Caulfield? This wasn’t on any of the pamphlets I’d seen (and they were confusing enough despite having experienced a couple of years of bustitution already!). I also saw a couple of people use their Mykis when they got on at Richmond and it was never mentioned touch on wasn’t required.

  5. Thanks #number. No.My past experience in phoning the PTV was too painful and I was clearly wasting the staff member’s valuable time.

  6. I used the replacement bus from Caulfield to Armadale and Caulfied to Toorak and it was very smooth. Not large numbers of passengers in the am and hardly any for the reverse journey in the evening peak. I think this was partially due to school holidays and university break.

  7. I’ve found it is quite pointless to call and complain. You will most often get an idiot who doesn’t know what you are talking about. The less common is the special category of idiot who won’t admit that they don’t know something and therefore logically resort to complete nonsense.
    I write to my State MP. It keeps them in the loop, and the eventual answer nearly always proves that the Minister’s advisers who answer are idiots too.

  8. “Their buses actually have No Entry signage on the rear door. If no fares are payable, why do this?”

    Faster loading/unloading at “in between” stations. It’s fine to use all doors for shuttle services, but marking one for entry, one for exit stops loading passengers blocking other passengers from unloading.

  9. For issues with the PTV timetable I use their online contact form rather than phone them. That gives them a few days to look into it and respond, and their responses are usually a bit more helpful than what you might get on the phone.

  10. @Darren, I disagree. Enter by front door / exit by back door is only going to be quickest if the number of people boarding and alighting at a stop is roughly equal, and none of those alighting use the front door.

    I’d suggest this is unlikely at any stop, but especially given the context of bustitution, particularly in peak where it matters, where at most stations/stops there are likely to be a lot of people boarding or alighting, but not both.

    Separate to bustitution specifically, a number of big cities have moved to all-door boarding for regular bus routes, to cut dwell times. It should be considered for Melbourne too, given much of the fare compliance role is no longer in the hands of bus drivers.

  11. Given that all myki readers can touch on/off regardless of where they are located in the bus (or tram), there really is no point in restricting door access, front boarding/rear exiting is merely a relic from the days of the driver/conductor issuing physical tickets. Boarding at the front door in a tram is even more annoying, especially with the A and B class trams which have a very narrow door at the front and large doors everywhere else. The ex-Perth buses used by T2B on rail replacement don’t even have myki readers as they are only ever going to be used as rail replacement buses, so boarding at the front door is even more pointless during bustitution, especially when buses are packed.

  12. If you are requiring tagging on and off buses, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot if you want shorter dwell time.

  13. Will they use buses for the proposed 48 hour strike?

    At least this time, people would be so familiar with those buses, bus drivers and passengers alike, should help with a more seamless bus replacement of the trains during this strike.

    Do we have enough buses to replace all trains?

    Will we need to make use of trams too this time?

    Like, bus from Preston to Mernder, with connecting tram from Preston to City?

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