Melbourne timetables scrutinised

A study of Melbourne public transport timetables shows the city lags on frequent, easy-to-use services

Melbourne timetables scrutinised
Melbourne timetables scrutinised

October 4, 2012

Getting Melbourne’s work-a-day commuters to switch from private cars to public transport modes will continue to stumble while the city’s timetables lag on frequency, a study released this week shows.

The Public Transport Users Association outgoing president Daniel Bowen says the study confirmed what most Melburnians think – that trams run frequently, trains are a mixed bag, and that most buses do not offer the type of frequent service that makes them a competitor to car travel — forcing most households in middle and outer Melbourne to be car-dependent.

"Frequent services are critical to getting people out of the traffic," Bowen says.

"People don’t want to live their lives by timetables. They want to get to the stop or station when it’s convenient for them, and not have a long wait.

"And if they have to change services on the way to their destination, they want to keep moving without a long wait for a connection."

Bowen argues this as the basis for the world’s biggest cities providing networks of frequent services, seven days-a-week, across its suburbs.

"It’s also why Melbourne’s trams, trains and the few frequent bus routes have booming patronage, getting cars off the road, but bus routes with poor service are mostly used only by those who don’t have a choice," Bowen says.

The study looked at which routes run frequently, every 15 minutes or better, and compared peak times, off-peak weekdays, weekend and evenings. Where appropriate it considered corridors where multiple services run to provide a higher frequency, such as St Kilda Road’s trams.

During peak times, 97 percent of tram routes run frequently, 79 percent of train lines, and 21 percent of buses routes run every 15 minutes or better.

At off-peak times, 90 percent of trams, 46 percent of trains, and 13 percent of buses met the 15 minute threshold.

On weekends during the daytime, 90 percent of trams run frequently, 29 percent of trains, and just 2 percent of buses.

In the evenings almost no public transport corridors run every 15 minutes – just 10 percent of trams, 4 percent of trains, and 0.3 percent of buses.

The PTUA has constructed maps of the four time periods which show, particularly outside peak times, vast areas of Melbourne without frequent services.

The PTUA’s findings since its last study in 2006 show the number of frequent train lines has increased, trams have decreased slightly thanks to the introduction of some peak-hour only routes, and buses have jumped thanks to the rollout of Smartbus routes, but are still the lowest proportion of routes running frequently.

"Trains and trams get plenty of use, even late at night," says Bowen.

"Even those bus routes that have upgraded to Smartbus are very popular. More are needed to ensure more of Melbourne has a genuine alternative to car travel."

Bowen says most of Melbourne has only buses every 30 to 60 minutes.

"This has to improve to help get more people out of the traffic, cut congestion, and reduce the impact of rising fuel prices."

The PTUA campaign ‘Every Ten Minutes To Everywhere’ advocates a backbone network of trains, trams and Smartbuses, providing every Melbourne suburb with frequent services, every day of the week until midnight, ensuring commuters can get from anywhere to anywhere in Melbourne easily by public transport.

"If the (Victorian) government is serious about keeping Melbourne moving, they need to provide a simple to understand, frequent public transport network to all of Melbourne," Bowen says.

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