Skybus express – every 10 minutes, at 10 km/h

A number of things hamper Skybus’s reliability and speed. The most obvious ones are a lack of priority lanes, and even a lack of enforcement of the “Express” (taxi and bus) lanes on Citylink.

But when you use Skybus, another thing stands out — the long slow access road that stretches from the terminal to Adderley Street.

Skybus: 10 kmh zone at Southern Cross

Skybus: 10 kmh zone at Southern Cross

The access road stretches for about 600 metres, and while it’s understandable that safety is important, to have an “express” bus start and end its journey in a long 10 kilometre per hour zone just seems a bit silly to me.

Last time I used it, there were speed humps along the way as well, which made for a bumpy ride, and I suspect leave a bad impression on passengers in terms of ride quality.

Along with enforcing the Express lanes, surely this is an easy fix? Even bringing the limit up to a moderate 40 or 50 (at least in the extensive non-undercover section) should allow safety but a faster ride?

Of course, longer term the service is struggling under increasing passenger numbers, despite being a minority mode for airport passengers. There comes a point where buses will no longer cope, and higher-capacity modes are needed.

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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 “Skybus express – every 10 minutes, at 10 km/h”

It’s the nanny state we live in when it comes to most things days but particularly public transport. The fact passengers have to disembark when trains are coupled and un-coupled, speed restrictions on V/Line trains on days over 35 degrees and the access road used by busses into Southern Cross as you’ve pointed out. When your business is moving people from A to B time is everything. I understand safety is also a high priority but a lot of these procedures that have been put in place can surely be replaced with a common sense approach in getting people from A to B a little faster.

A speed limit of 10 is only allowed in Victoria if it is a Shared Zone, in which pedestrians have priority over vehicles. I bet that bus doesn’t run through a Shared Zone! So what they have there is an internal rule for the operator or station owner, the breach of which would result in some kind of internal disciplinary action but certainly not a breach of traffic laws. It might be a breach of workplace safety laws though, because those are entirely separate. You’ve found a stupid practice similar to booting passengers off the train so V/Line can add a carriage, as reported by Marcus Wong today.

Skybus is such a rip-off I’m surprised it’s as popular as it is. I reckon if the public bus/train alternative via Broadmeadows was actually advertised you’d see Skybus with half the numbers it currently gets. As it is it’s nothing more than a lucrative cash-cow.

That’s also typical of many streets in which there are regular bus routes and many of those humps are gratuitous as there are no pedestrians around.

For those that haven’t read it, Marcus’s post on V/Line’s ridiculous practice of kicking people off trains to couple/de-couple (except at Ballarat!) is here.

@Jon, the Broadmeadows option is certainly much cheaper, but how much is your time worth? $18 for 20 minutes (which it achieves outside peak hour), with departures every 10 minutes – vs about $3.76 for an hour, with departures every 15-20 minutes (and not synchronised at Broadmeadows).

How is Skybus a ripoff it is only $18 one way, it is only that it is not subsidised, but that causes other problems for our public transport network as long distance fares are too cheap.

@Llib and @Jon
I think there are a couple of reasons why Skybus is so expensive. (i) Skybus won the bid to run the (monopoly) service and pays the Victorian government a considerable fee for this right; (ii) Skybus pays the airport operator a large fee to use the road outside the terminal. Skybus must recoup these fees in its ticket price. And as Llib points out, it’s not subsidised.

I think it’s still cheaper for two people to catch one taxi to the airport from the city, or close enough.

I have never used Skybus. Business trips my boss pays for a taxi to/from the airport for me. Family trips we drive to the airport and leave the car in LT car park. At around $45 for a week, this is cheaper than all four of us catching Skybus both ways and a lot quicker/more convenient as we’re coming from the southern suburbs anyway.

I’m not sure about the correlation between various countries’ legal systems and their degree of Nanny State (risk aversion), but it’s worth noting that New Zealand has no right to sue for personal injury.

Compensation is handled by ACC. While there is some criticism, it is clear that the “No Fault” nature of this scheme leads people to take sensible rather than overbearing precautions. The system is also a lot more efficient (in terms of costs incurred per $1000 of victim compensation).

I really hope we can have this sort of discussion in Australia, at some stage, so that public transport staff (amongst everything else) do not have to be overcautious all the time.

Again the term “expensive” is subjective and many people are accustomed to lower direct costs both for public and private transport.
Travelling via both types of transport are both extensively subsidised by our government which are paid for indirectly by the public via taxes, rates and other charges etc.

I know I am getting off track here but the fact that we subsidise private car use is the reason we have to also subsidise public transport fares because of low patronage as well as the fact that governments have to continually widen roads and freeways due to that as well.

The price for a taxi using the Silver Top fare estimator from Southern Cross to the Airport in peak times was $61 so you would need 4 people in the cab to make it cheaper.

In regards to driving yourself you need to factor in fuel, tolls, insurance, extra maintenance etc it is not only the cost of parking while the Skybus has factored this all in the cost of their ticket as well as profit, access charges and fees to the government on top of that.
Additionally the choice of using a bus over a car imposes less costs on our society via congestion, pollution, safety, health etc.

I am still not arguing that its more expensive to drive rather than to catch a Skybus as you seem like a rational consumer and also factor in convenience as well as cost.
I would say many Skybus users are visitors and residents who probably do not own a car and live or are staying in the inner city as access to Southern Cross is much easier than the middle and outer suburbs of Melbourne.

In conclusion to reduce the cost of ticket via competition, subsidies could be possible although subsidies would create issues similar to what’s happened with our longer suburban train lines that are now overcrowded as well increased taxes.

Competition could also be a solution but also attempted with our train system in the 1990’s and hard to implement.
Even if competition could successfully be implemented, lower ticket prices would probably not decrease much as running a bus service into an airport would still have large access fees as the Airport is a natural monopoly itself.

Please note the skybus price includes hotel transfer service for hotels in the city / southbank / East melbourne area . Not many locals would use the hotel transfer service but people from outside Melbourne staying in city hotels use this service. Most large cities in Europe I have been to such a service costs more than $18.

Even if the speed limit was raised, the bus won’t go much faster in that stretch you mention. They use double deckers or bendy buses quite often, and from the bus stand inside SXS, the bus has to flip almost a complete u-turn to get its face towards the Adderley St exit ramp.

The speed humps are inside the terminal, and it also appears that cars from other authorised personnel (no idea who they would be…bus drivers? station personnel?) are parked so that they would pull out in front of the bus should they need to to go…unless all that is removed, I don’t see them making the buses any faster on that stretch.

Those humps probably wouldn’t make much of a difference time wise, however many buses don’t deal with humps well and make it uncomfortable for passengers. The real time savings in peak times will be in a dedicated lane on the Tulla.

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