It’s time for my annual blog post about the mess that is Boxing Day public transport at Chadstone.
It happens every year at Chadstone and the other big shopping centres: hordes of shoppers descend. Demand fills the car parks, which spills onto the access roads, delaying buses.
Demand also fills the buses to bursting. And because of traffic congestion, some buses actually get diverted away from the shopping centres, making the whole thing worse.
Here’s Channel 9’s story. (Yes there’s some of my footage in here.)
So was anything different this time?
A key difference this year was the addition of extra Oakleigh to Chadstone express shuttle buses. Funded by Chadstone themselves for the summer, these seemed to be plentiful. And although Oakleigh station is undergoing refurbishment which means it’s difficult to get between the bus interchange and the Citybound platform, the shuttles were frequent and well used, taking some of the load off the other routes.
Last year’s bus priority from Warrigal Road to the bus interchange appeared to be the same, and again worked well. Buses avoided trying to enter via Dandenong Road, and came in from the east – longer for some, but they got a good run once inside Chadstone’s property.
There has been minor infrastructure changes that allow all bus bays to be used, meaning the confusing temporary arrangements from years gone by don’t have to be enacted.
Buses from Warrigal Road still queue at traffic lights to enter the bus interchange. Given all routes were diverting via Warrigal Road, this meant more far delays than necessary. It should be obvious that the lights need to prioritise buses over other traffic.
Worse, the problem of buses having to enter, loop around, exit and re-enter the bus interchange (with long waits twice at the traffic lights) just to get to their bay still affects some routes, for example the 900 towards Caulfield, one of the busiest. See below.
While the Oakleigh shuttles helped, other routes were still overwhelmed by demand. The 625 I caught to Chadstone was 10-15 minutes late, and standing room only from Oakleigh.
There was heavy traffic on the Dandenong Road approach to the centre, from the east, and a bus driver told me it was the same on Warrigal Road from the north.
When I got to the centre, I watched for a while as a queue for the 900 to Caulfield grew longer and longer, and the bus got later and later. It eventually arrived 28 minutes late, and was so crowded that people were left behind and had to wait for the next one.
See it in this short video below. (For some buses, passengers decided to board at both doors. When the 900 arrived, they all patiently queued, meaning it took some minutes for the bus to load.)
What needs to happen
- Extra buses on route services, not just the Oakleigh to Chadstone specials
- Spare buses to cover for delayed services (similar to the “Block car” occasionally used by the trams)
- Better on-road priority for buses approaching the centre
- Ensure buses get priority at the traffic lights in and out of the bus interchange – and longer term make changes so buses don’t need to loop around it so much to reach their bays
- Better on-the-ground advice for passengers – it might be quicker for some to connect to trains on the Dandenong line via the Oakleigh shuttles or walk to Hughesdale station
- Improved pedestrian access to Poath Road. Hughesdale station is only a ten minute walk away, but is via a pedestrian-hostile not-very-direct route that’s hard to find
Ultimately, the State Government and Chadstone management needs to take public transport seriously, starting with more frequent services on all routes. It’s a planned major event every year. So plan it.
More people on buses and other public transport means fewer in cars clogging up the roads and the car parks.
It’s not just Boxing Day – weekend bus frequencies are appalling – mostly hourly – on most Melbourne bus routes all the year round.
And it’s not just Chadstone – many big shopping centres suffer these same problems.
Chadstone must be envious of Southland, where shopper numbers are no longer constrained by the capacity of the car park. pic.twitter.com/jBlV81HjKX— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) December 22, 2019
Southland now has its station. Eastland and some of the others also have rail access. Southland station is busy, and for passengers travelling parallel to the rail line, means reaching the centre is now easy, expanding Southland’s catchment beyond the constraints of its car parks.
How – especially in the short term – can the same be achieved for Chadstone and other centres?