One day in 2008, M and I went to a party, and I blogged about the trip there on mysterious tram route number 7. I concluded:
In my book, in most cases the secret numbers shouldn’t be used. If a tram is travelling along a substantial part of the route, it might as well use the same route number. Most people won’t care that it doesn’t make it quite all the way. Or it could use a suffix such as D for Depot — though that would probably require the few 3 digit route numbers to be cropped back to two for simplicity.
I should probably point out at this point that my personal views do not necessarily represent PTUA policy, but they did in this case, and the Sunday Age got interested in the story.
Age 14/9/2008: On our tramway’s secret service. Yarra Trams said they wouldn’t be changing anything, and noted the rather astounding (I think) statistic:
they account for 10% of the kilometres that Melbourne’s trams travel each day and 8% of the network’s travel time.
In 2009 I noted that in Collins Street the problem was getting worse, with tram routes 29 and 47 both running to Kew Depot, but via different routes.
Fast-forward to 2011. It was highlighted again in May via the PTUA’s Problem Of The Day:
It’s hard enough navigating public transport without throwing in mystery route numbers. There are dozens of them on the tram network — not on maps, not in the timetables.
A new operator took over in late-2009, and unlike their predecessors, they are interested in this issue, and getting rid of obscure route numbers which barely anybody knows about, and bear no resemblance to their parent routes. (Whether or not it had gained media attention, one would hope it would be an aspect of operations they would have reviewed when taking over.)
Mysterious route numbers such as 81, 121, 77 and 92 will be phased out to help passengers to get to their destination on the next available tram.
The so-called phantom routes do not appear on the network map or timetables. They are services that are necessary to get trams to and from depots or to reposition them on the network.
This route renumbering initiative will make catching these services much easier. The new route identification format for these services will feature their parent route and the letter ‘a’ or ‘d’.
The letter ‘d’ means the tram terminates at the ‘depot.’
The letter ‘a’ means the service is ‘altered’ and is not running the full length of the route.
It’s a small thing, but a worthwhile exercise to make that underused 10% of tram service kilometres more useful to people. Bravo, Yarra Trams.