Having the bus pull out just as the crowd off the train approaches is not good customer service

For the second time in a week, I’ve watched as tonight’s 6:31pm route 703 bus pulls out just as the train (due at 6:30pm) departs Bentleigh station and a crowd of people off the train approaches the stop.

Now, I accept that buses should run to time. And the operator contract probably penalises late-running (bearing in mind only around 5% of bus services actually get monitored).

But I think most people would take the view that the bus could wait another — perhaps — 30-45 seconds to allow the approaching (and very visible, even in a mirror) crowd of people to board.

Given most (if not all) those people already having a valid ticket, I’d be surprised if the schedule couldn’t be made up on the way to the next timepoint.

Not that it matters a great deal, given this specific bus service is timetabled to terminate at South Oakleigh depot at 6:44pm and go out of service.

Me? I didn’t want that bus. I am lucky enough that I can walk home from the station. But it’s common to see a dozen or more boarding each bus from the station in peak hour, and each person on the bus means one less car clogging up the station carpark and local streets.

Yes, it’s true the next bus was only 15 minutes away. But that’s 15 minutes needless waiting for those people, and just the type of bad customer service that leaves people wondering if perhaps they should abandon PT and head back to their cars instead.

Ventura, you can do better.

  • For bonus “grade-separation is needed” points, check the ambulance — again — delayed by the boom gates.
  • Correction: the train wasn’t the 6:30pm; it was an earlier one running late. This isn’t significant — the bus driver should still not leave when he’s not late, and a big crowd of people is approaching the stop.

Update Thursday: Feedback from Ventura Buslines (via Twitter):

“Daniel the company policy is to look around for any passengers that are wanting to board the bus.”
“The driver has been spoken to & the time for waiting has been changed to 1835 to ensure passengers can get to the bus.”

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

13 replies on “Having the bus pull out just as the crowd off the train approaches is not good customer service”

“it’s true the next bus was only 15 minutes away”
In reality, a lot of people aren’t going to wait 15 minutes. On most days, you can travel a fair distance by car in a quarter of an hour.

15 mins is a long time when you’ve got kids to pick up from care (with big fines for being late), dinner to prepare etc. it’s even more frustrating to hear this bus terminates after this trip.

No wonder people drive to stations. Not that that is easy either. When I catch a train from Bentleigh and arrive not long after 8am, I usually end up closer to McKinnon station because the parking situation is so dire.

I live in East Bentleigh so it’s a good 30 minute walk to the station. I could catch a bus but I can’t afford to be at the peril of buses given I need to be home on time to pick up the kids. Plus, to catch the 701 bus near my house to Bentleigh station would mean I’d also have to buy a zone 2 fare so way too cost prohibitive for me!

@Julian, tricky to pulse a 15 minute bus service with trains every 9-10 minutes in peak. Ideally funding would boost all Smartbuses to every 10 minutes, but in the meantime, the sign indicating approaching trains should be fixed, and a protocol put in place whereby (unless they’re several mins late already) buses wait X minutes for approaching trains and their passengers.

@Melinda, yeah the zone probably discourages some people from using the 701. It’s good that at least the 703 is zone 1 (overlap) as far as Monash Medical Centre (and to Brighton)

On 30th November, exactly the same thing happened, except this time the bus pulled out 1 minute before the departure time, as passengers approached. The smartbus sign was still showing “due in 1 minute”, as the bus departed. Clearly the driver was desparately trying to avoid passengers boarding. I complained to Ventura, who said they would “have a word with the driver”. But, this ridiculous behaviour appears to be a daily event at Bentleigh.
There are however, some drivers who do wait for the train passengers, and get heaps of thanks from those boarding. It’s also noticeable, that with Myki, boarding times are at least 3 times quicker, as no-one has to buy a ticket, so there is now a bit more”give” in the timetable.
Ventura should be asked to re-train some of their drivers to have a bit more commonsense, and make the top priority to allow passengers to travel on their buses!.

Does this particular service originate from the station, or come from somewhere else ?

If you are a passenger on the bus coming from somewhere else already, it’s quite annoying to be held up more than a minute or two are some intermediate point.

@Daniel – I’d question why the service is running at 15 minute intervals then. Even 18-20 minute intervals that pulse with the train would likely work better for most users.

@enno – If the intermediate point is a transit hub then its likely that more people would benefit the buses waiting a few minutes than people on the service would be disbenefitted.

@enno, the 703 originates in Brighton. I don’t think most passengers would have a problem with it waiting an extra 30-60 seconds to allow another ten people to board.

@Julian, this route intersects train lines at Brighton, Bentleigh, at Clayton, Syndal and Blackburn. It doesn’t make sense to try and pulse it to a single station — and it’s an impossible ask to pulse it to a bunch of them. High frequency is the key.

This is the basis of the Every 10 Minutes To Everywhere campaign:

Great to see Ventura offering a meaningful, committal response in this instance.

When I lived in Balwyn North, the 302 bus frequently departed my stop early–often in excess of five minutes.

Ventura’s response: because my stop wasn’t an official timing point, the timetable was only “a rough guide” and I’d need to wait at the stop according to the timetable of the previous timing point to ensure that I’d make the bus.

Put another way, “if you don’t want to miss the bus, be waiting at the stop up to nine minutes before the printed departure time.”

Can’t say I was too impressed.

” it’s quite annoying to be held up more than a minute or two are some intermediate point.”

I don’t think most passengers would have a problem with it waiting an extra 30-60 seconds to allow another ten people to board.

Indeed. It’s quite annoying to be held up MORE THAN a minute or two. One or two minutes is OK.

It would be good if Ventura told all of their drivers on low frequency services to wait for train passengers… The 675 in Mooroolbark has hourly phasing in the afternoons and most drivers are watching the clock rather than potential passengers from the train which may delay departure by 1-2 mins. Providing feedback to PTV about this just generates their standard response of we’ll pass the feedback on… Frustrating.

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