Poor connections leave passengers waiting

Bus, BentleighA study by the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has highlighted the poor co-ordination between train and bus timetables on many routes around Melbourne.

It found that just 37.5% of train arrivals have bus connections at stations — 39.8% on weekdays, 32.3% on Saturdays, and just 25.3% on Sundays.

Of those connections, 42.5% require passengers to wait more than 10 minutes — 39.7% on weekdays, 56.7% on Saturdays, and 58.6% on Sundays.

The average connection time is 11.2 minutes — 10.3 on weekdays, 12.6 on Saturdays, and 14 minutes on Sundays when fewer buses run.

“Good connections are vital for public transport, because many trips simply can’t be made using a single service”, said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “To make connections quick and easy, the network either has to have careful timetable co-ordination, or have frequent services. But most of Melbourne’s public transport has neither.”

The PTUA study, which used Metlink timetable data published by the state government as part of its “App My State” initiative, compared train arrival times from the city with bus departure times from stations. (Bus to train connections are usually better because most trains run for longer hours and more frequently than buses.)

“These figures show there just aren’t enough buses running, and those that do run are not properly co-ordinated with train timetables. Only some areas are lucky enough to have train services — buses have to fill the gaps, but they’re falling far short.”

The study found that the best train to bus connections were provided by the two ‘TrainLink’ services, route 571 from Epping station to South Morang, and route 896 from Cranbourne station to Cranbourne East, with almost 100% of trains met by a bus, and nearly all connections being well-timed to minimise waiting.

Smartbus routes also did well on weekdays, when they run every 15 minutes or better for most of the day.

“The TrainLink buses shone out, which is not really surprising, because these are the only bus routes in Melbourne which have been specifically designed to be co-ordinated with trains”, said Mr Bowen.[1]

“Elsewhere, the connection times vary widely. In the best cases, most trains are met by a bus, and the buses are timed to depart the station about 5 minutes after the train arrives.

“But there are many other cases with long waiting times. In some cases the bus regularly departs just before the train arrives.”

On Sundays, the 630 bus leaves Gardenvale Station for Elwood, one minute before the train from the city arrives, ensuring a 19 minute wait for passengers.

On Sundays, the 418 bus leaves St Albans station two minutes before the train arrives, ensuring an 18 minute wait. On Saturdays it has a consistent 14 minute wait.

On Saturdays and Sundays, most connection times at Berwick station from the train to the 835 bus to Narre Warren South are either 21 or 36 minutes.

“Poor and inconsistent train to bus connections across Melbourne is what ensures our station car parks are packed every weekday”, said Mr Bowen. “You can use the same ticket on a bus as on a train, but few people do it because buses are so infrequent, and most connections at stations are so poor.

“Nobody wants to sit at a stop for half-an-hour waiting for a bus home. People will instead either drive to the station, or just give up on public transport altogether and drive all the way to their destination.”

As part of its ‘Every 10 Minutes to Everywhere’ campaign, the PTUA has called for an overhaul of Melbourne’s public transport network, with frequent services every 10 minutes or better on train, tram and main bus routes, seven days-a-week until late.

Mr Bowen said that a shake-up of the management of public transport was also needed, to ensure that bus routes would be co-ordinated with train times to ensure quick and easy connections.

“An independent public transport authority could properly plan and co-ordinate all modes of public transport, to form a true city-wide network, with timetable co-ordination to give Melburnians the option of travelling from anywhere to anywhere, seamlessly.

“If you’re driving, you don’t have wait 15 minutes to leave the freeway and turn onto an arterial road. Neither should you have to face a long wait transferring from a train to a bus”, concluded Mr Bowen.

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[1] Route 896 is described by Metlink as a “TrainLink service, featuring connections with every train at Cranbourne Railway Station.” Similarly, route 571 “is a TrainLink service between Epping and South Morang, featuring connections with every train at Epping Railway Station.”

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Notes on the study, and its source data:

  • This study has been generated from the Metlink TransNET database from December 2009, released by the Victorian Government as part of its App My State initiative
  • The Director of Public Transport has emphasised in releasing the TransNET data that its accuracy cannot be guaranteed, and that the data will not be updated as timetables change
  • The study looks at train times from the city, and connecting bus routes, on the basis that most trains run more frequently than buses, so the timing of these types of connections has more impact on overall travel times, and usage.
  • A “good” connection was defined as 3 to 10 minutes. A bad connection is above 10 minutes. (Less than 3 minutes is not counted as a connecting service, as any delays to trains and the time taken to walk between the train and the bus stop is likely to exceed 2 minutes.)
  • We have used bus stop descriptions “x Station” to find connecting services in the TransNET database, which means bus services that stop close to stations have not been included (eg route 701 from Bentleigh). In other cases, the TransNET data does not include timepoints near stations (eg route 605 at Armadale station), so these have also been excluded.
  • CBD and surrounding stations with very high frequency trains have been excluded, including North Melbourne (bus 401) and Richmond (bus 246)
  • Bus routes have been counted as combined routes if they are listed as such by Metlink
  • Smartbus route 888/889 has also been excluded, as this changed to route 902 in early April 2010, with a new timetable. Other timetable changes are not reflected in this data.
  • Some minor routes which have a small number of services per day may skew the percentage “Good Connection” results for those routes, eg bus 279, which twice a day travels to Blackburn station.
  • The study includes connections which may not be particularly useful for the majority of people, for instance a bus route that departs the station and then travels back towards the city in the direction the train has come from, eg buses 600/922/923 from Sandringham to St Kilda goes back towards Brighton Beach. (However, people do sometimes use such services to reach intermediate points between stations.)