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.
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.
Then you’ve got these detailed PDFs which manage to drown you in frequency information but simultaneously not tell you about all of the three route variations (Stopping/Limited Express/Express), nor mention where to catch them. #MetroTrains #bustitution pic.twitter.com/zJSv6JAfCz— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) July 14, 2019
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.
There are express buses as shown by this map but they are working as required and arranged locally. pic.twitter.com/yK6sNayTuZ— Metro Trains (@metrotrains) July 14, 2019
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.
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.
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?
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.