How to print your own personalised train/bus/tram timetable

One side of my fridge has my local train and bus timetables on it.

It’s very handy, and pretty easy to do.

Bentleigh station to the City timetable

Method one (quicker for trains, a little haphazard for buses and trams)

1. Go to www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au.

2. In the right hand side Station / Stop search, type the name of your station (or street for trams and buses) and click Go.

3. If more than one option comes up, click on the one you want and then click continue.

4. Choose the direction you want and click on the appropriate Stop Timetable PDF.

5. Print it, stick it to the fridge.

Method two (good for buses and trams if you’re not sure which is your stop):

1. Go to www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au/timetables.

2. Click the option you want: Trains, trams or buses.

3. Select the route you want, then click Get Route Timetable.

5. Click on the direction you want, eg “To city”

6. If bus or tram and your stop isn’t on the default list of timepoints, click the plus symbol as appropriate to get the complete list, then click on the stop name.

7. Choose the direction you want (if required) and click on the appropriate Stop Timetable PDF.

8. Print it, stick it to the fridge.

Notes and quirks

You can also search using the Station and Stop page, but you have to know precisely what suburb it’s in and the cross-street or location name used in Metlink’s database, which can be difficult for tram and bus stops.

Sadly the CBD to suburbs train timetables are pretty buggy. In the case of Melbourne Central to the Sydenham line, for instance, which should be straightforward, it lists trains only up until 12:29pm on weekdays , and claims there are no services on weekends — indicating it has some kind of phobia about services that run anticlockwise.

Other combinations from the CBD outbound sometimes indicate trains terminate at odd places such as Footscray and Caulfield; what it means then is that it’s showing you trains for other lines that service part of the line you asked for (which is probably useful in some cases, and not in others).

Oh, and watch out… the system has some stations in there twice, once for V/Line and once for Metro… even though they’re the same physical stations of course.

Quirks aside, it’s handy to have the timetable on the fridge rather than have to look it up online each time, or find the booklet.

Timetable Mastermind: confusion on the Frankston line 6pm-7pm

One of the things planners should be aiming for in making public transport easy to use is ensuring that the choices are few.

The new Frankston line timetable does this in the off-peak (and evenings) with a consistent pattern: Frankston to Flinders Street (direct), stopping all stations.

In peak, in theory, there are two patterns: Frankston to Cheltenham, then express to Caulfield, to South Yarra, then to Flinders Street (direct); and Frankston to Flinders Street via the City Loop.

On weekends everything stops all stations and runs via the Loop (fair enough given lower frequencies are unlikely to cause Loop congestion, and cause long waiting times if changing trains — arguably this should also be the case on weekday evenings after 7pm).

So that’s three main patterns.

The problem is there are lots of other variations, particularly during peak-shoulder periods.

Siemens train at Glenhuntly

In peak hour

If you’re going into the city it’s not too onerous. Go to the station, catch the next train to the City. If you’re at Cheltenham or further out and it’s peak hour, you might want to wait for an express for a quicker trip.

If you’re coming out of the city, and you’re going to a station closer than Cheltenham, you’ll probably just jump on the first train stopping at your station. If not, you’ll want to go to Flinders Street or Richmond, as most of the express trains (eg, faster) don’t run via the Loop, and overtake the stopping trains.

Okay.

Shoulder-peak

But the peak-shoulder period is a mess. Between about 3-5pm, and again between 6-7pm, they’re all over the place. The patterns are such that if you miss a train at Southern Cross or a Loop station, you’re likely to wait longer than is necessary for the next one.

In detail…

Between 6pm and 6:59pm (timed at Richmond), there are 8 trains to the Frankston line; the basis for a pretty good service. Even if they were evenly split between expresses and stoppers, that would be an average wait of 15 minutes between trains.

But they’re not evenly split.

There are expresses from Flinders Street, some of which also serve Southern Cross, but some don’t.

And there are stopping Loop trains. But there are other stopping trains direct from Flinders Street, and again, some of them also serve Southern Cross, some don’t.

If you’re at Flinders Street going to Cheltenham or beyond, it’s easy:
You get on an express: 6:09, 6:26, 6:46.
But it may not be obvious that you could also get the direct stoppers at 6:32 or 6:52, which don’t get overtaken by expresses.

If you’re at Flinders Street going to before Cheltenham, you want a stopper.
5:53 (via loop)
6:11 (via loop)
6:31 (via loop)
6:32 (direct, so it beats the 6:31 by 8 minutes)
6:51 (loop)
6:52 (direct, ditto).

If you’re at Southern Cross going to Cheltenham or beyond, and we assume that those trains running via Southern Cross really do work (they often don’t), we have:
5:56 (stopper via loop, platform 12; it doesn’t get overtaken)
6:16 (express via Flinders St, probably platform 13)
6:19 (stopper via Flinders St, probably platform 13; it doesn’t get overtaken)
6:38 (express via Flinders St, probably platform 13)
6:46 (stopper via Flinders St, probably platform 13; it doesn’t get overtaken)
7:00 (express via Flinders Street, probably platform 13).

If you’re at Southern Cross going to before Cheltenham, the stoppers are:
5:56 (via loop, platform 12)
6:14 (via loop, platform 12)
6:19 (via Flinders Street, probably platform 13)
6:34 (via loop, platform 12)
6:46 (via Flinders Street, probably platform 13)
6:54 (via loop, platform 12).

If you’re in the Loop wanting Cheltenham or beyond, you’d do best to go to Richmond and change to the first express that comes along; unless the stoppers at 6:35 or 6:55 turn up, as they don’t get overtaken by expresses.

If you’re in the Loop (say at Melbourne Central) wanting before Cheltenham, you’ve got the 6:01, 6:18, 6:38, 6:58. But you’ll wait longer than necessary because some of the stoppers are running direct from Flinders Street.

Are you following all this so far?

The upshot of it is that although there are 8 trains in that hour, because they’ve split them across three patterns, it’s confusing enough that most people will give up and wait up to 20 minutes — which is longer than they would have to wait if they’ve managed to decipher the timetable and know exactly where to go and where to change trains to get home quicker.

But nobody is likely to figure that out. It’s like the timetablers are trying to play some kind of mind game with the passengers.

The official route description

Just to illustrate how confusing the whole thing is, here’s how the Metlink web site describes the service patterns on the Frankston line:

To City

Trains will depart Frankston Station, Kananook Station… [list of stations snipped]… South Yarra Station, Richmond Station, City. Express services operate during peak periods – see below.

City stations are: Flagstaff Station (weekdays only), Melbourne Central Station, Parliament Station, Flinders Street Station and Southern Cross Station (Spencer Street).

City Loop: Direction of travel through the City Loop depends on the day of week and time of day. From 8 May 2011 most weekday services will operate direct to Flinders Street.

The main exceptions are weekday morning peak all stations trains which will operate to Flinders Street via the City Loop. Weekend trains will also operate to Flinders Street via the City Loop.

Weekday am peak direction services: Operate two main stopping patterns: A. Stop all stations to Flinders Street via the City Loop. B. Express service direct to Flinders Street. Most express trains stop all stations to Cheltenham, express to Caulfield, Malvern, express to South Yarra, Richmond and then direct to Flinders Street, with some extending to Southern Cross. Passengers for loop stations are advised to change at Flinders Street or Southern Cross.

Weekday off-peak, weekend and evening services: Stop all stations to City. From 8 May 2011 Weekday interpeak services will operate direct to Flinders Street, continuing to Southern Cross Station and then Werribee or Williamstown. Some counter-peak services operate express between Malvern and South Yarra. Note: the above is a general guide and some service variations exist. Please consult timetables for detailed information on stopping patterns.

Please note, I added paragraph breaks to that to help make it clearer. Ha! Oh, and I’ve excluded the description for the other direction.

In conclusion

You shouldn’t have to be a genius to get the most out of public transport: to get the quickest trip possible, and to minimise your waiting time.

The Frankston timetable isn’t too hard to understand during off-peak and the rush hour, but in shoulder-peak it’s utterly diabolical.

Update: This was finally fixed in 2014.

Changing trains is not evil

There’s intense interest in the new train timetable, which technically started today, but has its first actual changes tomorrow. The level of interest should be a reminder to politicians that public transport is still very much a live issue.

Media call for new #MetroTrains timetable

It should (hopefully) bring some genuine benefits in helping to fix punctuality and overcrowding.

There are some genuine cases where people at individual stations are disadvantaged. Altona (off-peak they’ll have to change up to twice to reach some CBD stations), Werribee (off-peak frequency halved for some stations), Frankston line travel times longer (they really need to fix the damn Siemens train brake problems once and for all), less fewer peak-hour trains to Laburnum, Camberwell, Glenferrie, and some others.

The change for the Glen Waverley line is that in the mornings, their trains won’t run through the City Loop. I’m afraid, however, I find it a little difficult to join in the outrage.

1. Flinders Street is not some godforsaken backwater. It’s Melbourne’s busiest (most popular) station, with 37% of patronage — and I would argue it’s only that low because of Loop operating patterns, which has it as (mostly) the CBD station with the longest travel time to/from the suburbs.

It’s the best station for serving much of the south and central parts of the CBD. It’s also closest to the Arts Precinct and St Kilda Road. People changing to trams to places like Melbourne Uni will probably find it makes little difference, because exiting Flinders Street is much quicker than getting through Melbourne Central’s maze-like exit.

Changing trains at Richmond (Burnley group)2. Those who do have to change from Glen Waverley trains to Loop services have a simple walk across the platform at Richmond, onto another train that runs about every three minutes in peak. It’s an easier change of trains than any other anywhere in Melbourne.

Even outside peak hour, there will be 12 trains per hour from Richmond into the City Loop until lunchtime (most on the platform across from where the Glen Waverley trains arrive). I would expect that to go up to 14 when the Dandenong line switches to every 10 minutes, a change which is hopefully coming before too long.

3. Glen Waverley trains will still run through the Loop after lunchtime, so no difference to afternoon patterns.

4. The change is to avoid conflicts at Burnley, and also between Richmond and Flinders Street. It’s not only allowing more frequent Glen Waverley trains, but (hopefully) will actually fix some of the punctuality problems.

5. Sandringham passengers have been changing to and from the Loop for fifteen years, under far less ideal conditions than will be inflicted on Glen Waverley passengers. They may not like it, but the line is busier than ever, and the semi-independence of the line now allows a train every 7-8 minutes in peak.

Changing trains is not evil

The City Loop’s four tracks are a bottleneck, while the ten tracks into Flinders Street (from the east — another four from the west) are underused. Given Flinders Street’s central location, I absolutely support having some trains bypass the Loop to allow more services, to fix conflicts/punctuality, and reduce overcrowding. We need more trains on the tracks, and this is how to do it.

People might not like it, but changing services is not evil. It’s a necessity in many bigger cities around the world, because not every train can go to every destination. This is described in more detail in this article: Why “transferring” can be good for you, and good for your city.

The question always must be: will the waiting time be short? Will the other service have the capacity? And is it as convenient as possible? Unlike for many other passengers around Melbourne, for Glen Waverley to City Loop, the answer is Yes, Yes (most probably), and Yes.

Quick review of the new Metro timetables

So, the new Metro timetables are out, and those of us with geeky tendencies have been poring over them.

(As one journo commented, it must take a special kind of person to work on these things for months on end.)

Sunday 17:08 to Pakenham

Here’s my summary:

In the west

Altona Loop trains originate at Laverton, meaning a lot more space, more likelihood of getting a seat.Thumbs up!

Altona Loop and Williamstown trains drop from every 20 minutes in peak to every 22 minutes. To be useable, timetables need to be either frequent or memorable. This is neither, and it calls into question why something wasn’t done during the $90+ million Laverton Turnback project to ensure 20 minute services could continue to run.Thumbs down!

Werribee trains more frequent and regular in peak, about every 11 minutes, and all bypass Altona Loop.Thumbs up!

Altona Loop passengers have to change at Newport outside peak hours. And again at North Melbourne or Southern Cross if they want a Loop station. It might be the first time that (Stony Point line excepted) passengers have had to change trains twice to reach some City Loop stations.Thumbs down!

Williamstown passengers will no longer have to change at Newport outside peak hours — the flip side of the Altona change.Thumbs up!

Stations between South Kensington and Newport get more consistent services, every 10 minutes interpeak and every 11 minutes during peak.Thumbs up!

Werribee and Williamstown trains upgraded to every 20 minutes on weekday evenings until about 10pm (then every half-hour).Thumbs up!

…but they won’t run through the loop, so some people may have to wait up to 30 minutes at North Melbourne.Thumbs down!

Burnley group

Belgrave/Lilydale line more AM weekday services after peak, including lots of expresses for people beyond Box Hill.Thumbs up!

Glen Waverley direct to Flinders Street on weekday mornings, and more frequent in peak hour. Cross-platform interchange at Richmond. Alamein/Blackburn trains will run via the Loop instead. This should cut delays to Burnley group lines (as well as the Dandenong line), as it reduces conflicting movements.Thumbs up!

In the afternoon, Glen Waverleys run via the Loop, whereas Alamein/Blackburn trains run direct from Flinders Street. It’s probably fairer, but is it also more confusing?

Note 7/5/2011: When I wrote this post I didn’t notice the reduction in trains stopping at Laburnum, Camberwell and Glenferrie.

The southeast

Dandenong gets trains every twenty minutes on weekday evenings until about 10pm.Thumbs up!

Longer trips on the Frankston line, which will have a concentration of Siemens trains (the ones with brake problems and speed limits) to try and get some predictability in the timetables (and improve the punctuality stats). For instance — old timetable 7:21 from Frankston arrives Flinders St 8:34 (73 minutes stopping all stations) — new: 7:20am from Frankston arrives Flinders St 8:36am (76 minutes stopping all stations). I wonder if this’ll work?

Frankston peak expresses extended for longer periods, into the shoulder peak period.Thumbs up!

Frankston shoulder-peak services don’t conform to the peak pattern. Very inconsistent and confusing, particularly with regard to loop operation in the PM. So much for the talk of more consistent stopping patterns.Thumbs down!

Frankston interpeak services now a regular ten minutes, all direct to/from Flinders Street, and through-routed to Newport (eg Werribee/Williamstown). Less confusing than the current half-Loop/half-direct pattern, and provides a cross-city connection.Thumbs up!

Frankston evening services all direct to/from Flinders Street. Only a 20-30 minute frequency, so potentially a change of trains and a long wait for Loop passengers. (Nothing wrong with changing trains, but the frequency has to be good.)Thumbs down!

Sandringham gets more peak hour services (to about every 7-8 minutes), including one or two originating at Middle Brighton (actually coming straight out of sidings at Brighton Beach, I assume).Thumbs up!

Sunday 17:08 to Pakenham

The others

Some other lines have a few extra services, or other minor changes, or no change at all. The Clifton Hill group is likely to get a shake-up when the South Morang extension opens, probably next year.

No weekend changes, despite increasing crowding, such as shown above — that’s the 5:08pm to Pakenham from Sunday afternoon. The Grand Prix was on, but all the fans were already at the track. Football at Etihad had finished, but there didn’t seem to be any fans around; they’d already gone home. The MCG football had just finished, but those fans were waiting for trains at Richmond. This was just a crowd of Melburnians heading home from usual (non-major-event) Central Melbourne activities.Thumbs down!

All services to run as six cars rather than three.Thumbs up!

Overall

In summary, some good, worthwhile upgrades that will in many cases will cut waiting times, and overcrowding and hopefully improve punctuality, but those at some stations will be left with a bitter taste (yeah the Altona people especially).

Of course it’s just one step in the evolution of the system. Hopefully the next revision won’t be too far off, and will be a clearer step forward for everyone.

Check out the new timetables here.

PS. Myki 28+ day Pass users need to get their February compo claim in today (or possibly tomorrow; it’s unclear). It’s worth two daily fares. Metcard Monthly and longer users have a couple more weeks to claim. Claim forms here.