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SmartBus a success – though not quite there yet

Following the success of the Warrigul Road SmartBus (route 700), the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) is calling for the State Government to fix bus priority along with further upgrades. This would help to bring the bus service into line with trains.

“The current timetable is confusing, with times that are sporadic,” said Jeremy Lunn, the PTUA’s Outer East Convenor. “These inconsistencies make it impossible for buses to connect with trains, severely limiting the potential of SmartBus”.

Trains operate to a consistent timetable, for example, every 15 minutes on weekdays off-peak. Yet although the route 700 SmartBus does have four buses an hour, times and frequencies vary widely.

“What this means is that there are gaps”, Mr Lunn said. “Some buses are 15 minutes apart; then there might be a wait of 12 minutes, then a gap of 20 minutes. Weekends are even worse, with bus times not even coming close to matching the trains.”

The main cause of the problem is that buses don’t have priority over other traffic. Fixing this problem would free up buses that are stuck in traffic and make future upgrades more cost effective.

Despite these shortcomings Mr Lunn said the bus route has proven extremely popular since the upgrade to SmartBus. “You often see a good crowd of people waiting to get on at the major stops”, he said.

“This shows that the demand is there, so now it is time take advantage of this by further upgrading the service.”

Mr Lunn said that once traffic priority is fixed, the timetable needs to be made consistent so that buses connect with trains. “Along with this, we’d also like to see buses running at least every 10 minutes in peak hour”, he said.

“Bus priority was meant to be a key component of SmartBus, yet it appears to be almost entirely absent on route 700. Without this, you really have to question how smart ‘SmartBus’ really is.”

“I challenge Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky to get these upgrades in place to show her governments commitment towards tackling traffic congestion and the issue of climate change,” Mr Lunn concluded.