Case Study: Brunswick and Coburg

Among Melbourne suburbs, Brunswick is generally considered one of the most ‘public transport rich’. Certainly its north-south tram routes, running at frequencies between every 3 and every 12 minutes throughout the day, are the envy of other Melbourne suburbs. And Brunswick and Coburg have levels of public transport use that are high by Melbourne standards, though unremarkable in comparison with ‘world’s best practice’.

But if you live in Brunswick or Coburg, you’ll know that the provision of decent public transport is in reality highly selective. For historical reasons, the north-south routes that take you into the city are serviced by high-frequency trams, while the east-west routes that cater for most local travel are serviced by low-frequency buses. Many of these buses don’t even run on Sundays, and none
run after 9pm despite Brunswick’s importance as a dining-out and nightlife destination. So while the system mostly works for central-city commuters, it is virtually impossible even in this supposedly ‘public transport rich’ part of Melbourne to complete any journey with an east-west component in a time competitive to travel by car.

This glaring inadequacy in east-west services is the main reason that most arterial roads in Brunswick and Coburg suffer from chronic traffic congestion. The volume of cars using these roads (mainly for shopping and business trips over short distances) also slows down the trams and buses, creating a vicious circle.

This is the real east-west transport challenge facing this part of Melbourne, and the solution is as simple as bringing the east-west bus services up to the same standard as most of the existing north-south tram services. Currently, the most frequent bus runs less often than the least frequent tram!

Current service frequencies in Brunswick and Coburg (minutes)
Service Peak hour Weekday Saturday Sunday Evening Last service
North-South (trains/trams):
Sydney Rd (19) 4-5 6 6-12 6-15 20-30 Midnight*
Lygon St (1/8) 3-6 6 6 6-10 10-15 Midnight*
Nicholson St (96) 5-8 6-8 10-12 10-15 15-20 Midnight*
Melville Rd (55) 3-8 12 12 12 20 Midnight*
Upfield Train 20 20 20 20 30 Midnight*
East-West (buses):
Brunswick Rd (504) 30 30 30-60 no service no service 6:00pm
Dawson / Glenlyon (506) 10-15 20 15-25 no service 40 8:50pm, 6:00pm Sat
Victoria / Blyth (508) 12 16 30 35 30-60 About 9:30pm
Hope St (509) 20 20 20** no service no service 6:30pm
Albion St (503) 15-20 25 25-50 no service no service 6:40pm
Moreland Rd (510) 20 20 30-40 40 20-40 8:25pm
Reynard / Harding (512) 20 20 40** no service no service 6:15pm
Bell St (513) 13 20 30-35 30-35 30 about 9:30pm
Bell St (903) 15 15 30 30 30 Midnight; 9pm Sunday
O’Hea / Murray (527) 15 20 20 50 30-60 9:00pm

* Services extend one hour later on Friday and Saturday nights.
** No service Saturday afternoons.

Under our ‘Every 10 Minutes to Everywhere’ proposal, many of these east-west bus routes would be upgraded to run every 10 minutes, from 6am to midnight seven days a week.

Off-peak tram services and the Upfield train would also be improved to run at least every 10 minutes. This would result in public transport becoming usable for all trips in the Brunswick and Coburg area, removing the artificial divide between north-south trips and the rest, and creating an intersecting ‘metro’ network for travel from any one point to any other. A much higher proportion of shopping and business travel, and local journeys for work, study and recreation, will become possible by public transport.

As a result, public transport use across the board should approach the relatively high levels of use currently seen for north-south travel. As a proportion of local travel shifts from cars to public transport, a modest reduction in local traffic congestion levels can be expected, ensuring that trams and buses get a faster run down streets like Sydney Road.