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Masks, and PT tweaks from Monday

Some things worth noting in PT this week.

Masks now recommended

On Friday, the Chief Health Officer recommended that Melburnians now wear masks outside home when it is not possible to stay physically distant from others – including when using public transport. Obviously this has been prompted by the current rates of COVID-19 community transmission in Melbourne.

Unlike in some places around the world, the CHO specifically recommends masks over bandanas or scarves.

There are single use masks available for sale, and reusable cloth masks can be made at home, or purchased. There seem to be a number of local companies making reusable masks in a variety of designs.

Given the CHO advice to use a mask with at least three layers, my humble suggestion is to look for those that have a pocket for a filter – this results in at least two layers built into the mask itself, and a third (or more) can be easily inserted.

And you’ll want a few, so you can put them in the wash, and always have another one ready to go.

PT changes

This blog post is mostly however about the government’s announcement of some tweaks to PT services around Melbourne, also as part of a response to COVID-19.

This is good stuff.

CBD trams get a rejig. The long-planned change to move route 12 (St Kilda via CBD to Victoria Gardens, normally short A-class trams) from Collins Street to La Trobe Street is finally happening, replacing the short shuttle route 30.

In turn, Collins Street capacity will be boosted by instead running the large E-class trams as shuttle services (11A and 11B) to relieve crowding.

This is doubly good because it will add capacity along Collins Street West to Docklands, where the trams are normally packed in peak hour.

The Yarra Trams information is subtly different on the route numbering, and flags that this change is until 1st November only, though I suspect it makes sense for it to be permanent.

Meanwhile, buses are going cashless permanently. This had already occurred on a temporary basis due to COVID-19, and seems to have gone pretty smoothly.

And all-door boarding is to be phased-in during the next 18 months on all bus routes. (Rear door boarding is in place currently on some routes.)

This is really good news – it should help reduce stop dwell times and speed up journeys, particularly if accompanied by on-road bus priority and timetable adjustments to take full advantage.

Obviously this needs to be backed-up by Myki top-up improvements and a strategy for revenue protection.

On the trains, 95 extra services are being added in the peak shoulder, across numerous suburban lines.

Going all a bit Neville Shunt, I did a quick comparison of timetables to identify where the extras are being added. Some are just before the height of the peak, some after – in other words it appears they’re bringing those trains out of stabling slightly earlier, and/or putting them back slightly later – making better use of the fleet and infrastructure.

In the lists below, I’ve bolded the additional service, and for context shown the two services either side.

Werribee line:

  • AM peak from Laverton to City: 6:11 6:27 6:32* 6:44 6:54
  • This change also means 6:21 Werribee to City no longer runs via the Altona Loop. It’s now five minutes earlier, reaching Laverton at 6:27 then express to Newport. The additional 6:32 train originates at Laverton and runs via the Altona Loop.
  • PM peak from City to Werribee: 3:17 3:37 3:47 3:55 4:06

Sunbury line:

  • AM peak from Watergardens: 5:35 5:53 6:04* 6:11 6:29
  • PM peak from City: 3:16 3:24 3:31 3:36 3:44

Craigieburn line:

  • AM peak from Craigieburn: 8:55 9:10 9:19 9:30 9:50
  • PM peak from City: 6:19 6:27 6:32 6:39 6:47

Mernda line:

  • AM peak from Mernda: 5:23 5:43 5:58 6:03 6:15
  • PM peak from City: 3:09 3:24 3:34 3:45 3:59
  • Some of the surrounding PM trains have been adjusted to make space for the extra.

Hurstbridge line:

  • AM peak from Heidelberg: 9:01 9:07 9:13* 9:20 9:40

Lilydale/Belgrave lines:

  • AM peak: from Ringwood: 5:05 5:20 5:28 5:35 5:50
  • PM peak from City to Ringwood: 6:33 6:35 6:41 6:49 6:58

Glen Waverley line:

  • AM peak from Glen Waverley: 9:02 9:17 9:25 9:32 9:47
  • PM peak from City: 6:27 6:39 6:46 6:54 7:09

Cranbourne/Pakenham lines:

  • Some trains scheduled previously to start at Westall now originate at Dandenong instead. (Possibly they already did this but were “non-PSR” services not listed in the timetable). But also there’s an extra train:
  • AM peak from Westall: 8:57 9:06 9:11* 9:16 9:26
  • PM peak from City: 6:43 6:53 6:58 7:03 7:13

*In some cases I’ve shown departure times from where the additional service starts, eg it doesn’t serve the whole line.

The Frankston and Sandringham lines also have extras. Their changes are effective from late July when the Frankston line re-opens after level crossing works. As far as I can see, these have not yet been loaded into the PTV web site timetable.

Update 27/7/2020:

Frankston line (commenced today 27/7/2020) (s=stopping all stations, e=limited express)

  • AM peak from Mordialloc: 8:54 9:04 9:09* 9:14 9:24
  • PM peak from City: 6:25(s+Loop) 6:31(e) 6:41(e) 6:46(s) 6:49(s to Mordialloc) 6:56(s) 7:06(s)

Sandringham line (commenced today 27/7/2020)

  • AM peak from Hampton: 8:56 9:07 9:14* 9:22 9:37 (the extra doesn’t serve Sandringham)
  • PM peak from City: 6:31 6:46 6:54 7:01 7:16

North Melbourne Station, 7pm Saturday

Extra services are good, though obviously this is not completely ideal – I’m told that to get these running quickly, they’ve mostly just slotted them into the timetable where they could fit, resulting in some uneven frequencies. Fair enough.

Hopefully these resources will be more effectively used after the next, more thorough, timetable revamp. (A big one is on the way when the new trains come into service, but these have been delayed.)

Those issues aside, in the short term it will help those passengers who have to travel (including essential workers in medical and supply chain roles) keep physically distant, and also cut waiting times in shoulder peak periods. And it’ll help even more once things start to get back to normal again… whenever that may be.

Whether you’re travelling or not, stay safe!

5 replies on “Masks, and PT tweaks from Monday”

Do you know why they are introducing all door boarding on buses “over the next 18 months”? Drivers have been opening all doors at stops when buses are full quite often in the past so it is not a technical issue.

Often the front door of buses in Commercial/Malvern Roads don’t open. Why not for all buses now? It is not like the drivers actually check that you touch on your Myki. The changes are good and well done at studying timetables. It does my head in.

Hi Malcolm, Iโ€™m involved in the All Door Boarding project and itโ€™s not quite as clear cut as saying all operators have been doing it – there are a variety of approaches in use and it will take some time to standardize it across all operators. The removal of cash from buses on a permanent basis provides bus companies with more options to protect drivers during C19 as well as faster buses, better user experience, etc. Lots of work to do but we want to start with the busy stops first. But the outcome will be really good.

Tram and train changes are very encouraging. The tram changes are long overdue, and if they remain after November, will hopefully also help address tram bunching on Collins at peak times. I think most of this is attributable to long dwell times as people try to shoe horn into small, high floor old trams. Having some larger low floor trams should definitely lead to much lower dwell times. My experience is that bunching is much less pronounced on Bourke St, which obviously has almost exclusively large low floor models (it still occurs from time to time here, but more often at peak hours).

The shoulder peak train services are encouraging, but here’s hoping it genuinely is the first step towards more frequent all day services.Post COVID Melbourne may well involve people actually only working in the office for parts of the day, or physically attending meetings and then returning home (rather than to the office), which should definitely spread demand for PT over the breadth of the day and away from the peak (something transport bureaucrats would have been dreaming of for years)

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