Three bus stops outside Huntingdale, Victoria

Monday was Labour Day, and I went for a long morning walk. Well okay, I caught a 703 bus from Bentleigh to Centre Road/Huntingdale Road — despite the PTV app incorrectly claiming it wasn’t running most of the day.

Then I walked to Huntingdale Station, then west along North Road, and gradually back home. Here are some things I saw along the way.

Huntingdale has got a new bus interchange. There’s some confusion about the cost — in 2015 the State Government said it was $7.6 million ($5 million for the bus interchange, a 2014 election promise, and $2.6 million the rest for parking). PTV now says $11.6 million. Hmmm.

Anyway, the upgrade is a good accompaniment to the 601 shuttle bus to Monash University, which was first introduced in 2011, running on semester weekdays every 4 minutes 7am-7pm, then every 8 minutes until 9:30.

Although not finished yet, at first glance the interchange looks rather good – apart from the 601, it’s also used by, the 900 Smartbus (Caulfield, Chadstone, Monash, Rowville) and route 630 (Elwood to Monash, eastbound). They enter and do a short loop around to exit.

It provides a much quicker and closer connection to the railway station, and means passengers don’t have to cross Huntingdale Road to change to a bus to the university.

Huntingdale Bus interchange

Sensibly, the 601 to Monash University has the prime spot, next to the station entrance. The 630 to Monash also stops nearby.

The 900 is over the other side. I’m betting this is to try and prevent people who just want Monash Uni swamping this service, so people going further can get onto it.

Universities Some universities don’t observe public holidays that aren’t national public holidays. Labour Day is one of these, so there were quite a few people headed to campus.

Thankfully the 601, normally a weekday-only route, also runs on such days. Other bus routes were running a Saturday timetable.

On this day, buses were replacing Cranbourne/Pakenham line trains, so passengers were actually changing off other buses. Given the large numbers of people involved, perhaps when there are rail works on university days, should they run some rail replacement buses via campus?

601 at Huntingdale Bus interchange

The 601 buses are prepaid-only (no Myki purchases or top-ups on-board), and board by all doors, to help speed things up. Ironically most people queuing used the back door, so it was almost as slow as boarding by just the front door.

Just as the near-full 601 completed loading and headed off, another one arrived. One of the challenges for this route is keeping buses coming through at an even frequency.

Crowds on some mornings in the past few weeks have resulted in long queues, and apparently this happens every year at the start of semester. This was the scene on 7th March (via Darren):

Queue at Huntingdale bus interchange (via Darren)

The long wait for a bus to campus was cited last week in The Age, with queues contributing to one campus commuter giving up on public transport. (The article reckoned she’d drive the following day. That was the day that a truck breakdown in the Burnley tunnel caused widespread disruption, so it may not have been any less painful!)

While some would like to see a rail link, the obvious short-term upgrade is more buses, even just for a few weeks when demand is highest… or bigger buses — it looks like the new interchange can handle long articulated buses, and hopefully the same can be said for the stop at Monash, and the route between them.

(Double-deck buses would also cater for more people, but have longer dwell/loading times, negating the benefit somewhat.)

Also at Huntingdale, they have installed a new style of bus stop sign. The “B” is a bay indicator, rather than a Sydney-style B for Bus.

Huntingdale Bus interchange

I’m surprised to see it says “Hail bus”. I wouldn’t have thought that was needed at the terminus of a point-to-point shuttle.

Note the absence of any operator or PTV or even Transport For Victoria branding.

It also looks like further (automated?) signage is coming. (Around the interchange there are also some Smartbus signs, not yet activated.)

Anyway, I kept walking and found this on North Road – a rather splendid looking brick bus shelter.

Looks like it’s a few decades old. Being north-facing it may not provide much shade, but at least unlike its newer cousins, it’s not plastered with ads, and it doesn’t block the footpath as it’s set back (onto council land).

Bus stop on North Road

Further along, I found this stop on Warrigal Road near North Road. Someone’s forgotten to take down this old sign from the former operator, Ventura.

Old Ventura Bus sign in Warrigal Road

Also here: the intersection was recently resurfaced. It seems to me they missed an opportunity to provide a jump-start lane for buses. With or without a “B” priority light, it would help the busy route 630 buses get ahead of the other traffic.

Warrigal Road/North Road intersection

Similarly, the bus jump start lane at Wellington Road/Princes Highway westbound should be made 24/7 instead of peak only. Cars clog it up outside peak times, which just seems silly.

Buses play a vital role in filling gaps between the trains and trams. The alignment along North/Wellington Road to Monash University and Rowville is a big gap.

In public transport, “software” — routes and operating hours and frequencies that meet passenger needs, is essential.

But “hardware” (infrastructure) is also important.

It’s good to see the upgrade at Huntingdale, and it’d be even better to see upgrades to the 601 service to keep up with demand.

More bus priority, especially an easy win such as at Warrigal/North Road would also be very welcome.