Why is the Night Bus stop for Bentleigh station not at Bentleigh station?

Sometimes the little things matter. Sometimes a bit of thought can result in a better outcome.

Logic says that when they put in a new bus route to serve the station, it should stop at the station.

When the signs for the new 979 Night Bus went up at Bentleigh, I noted that they were not at the route 703 stops next to the station.

Eastbound it shares the 701 stop, which is about 100 metres from the station (positioned so the 701 can do a loop around so it can terminate there). Westbound it shares the 703 stop 120 metres away from the station.

At the time this seemed fair enough — it was the end of 2015, and the station precinct was about to get knocked down and rebuilt for level crossing removal. The closest bus stops would be out of action for a time.

But it’s been many months since the new station opened. The 703 now stops just metres from the station entrance.

Having the Night Bus use the stops closest to the station would be beneficial:

  • Easier train/bus interchange
  • Better security at the bus stop from being visible from the station concourse, where the PSOs patrol and station staff are on duty
  • Passengers could use the benches and the waiting room while waiting for the bus — useful on cold winter nights
  • A more logical, intuitive location for a Night Bus stop apparently designed to serve the station
  • As with the current location, no clash with daytime bus services, as the 703 doesn’t run after midnight

This is just one example of course. Are there others where the service nominally connects at the station, but the stop is some distance away?

And this issue may be obvious, but it’s a pointer to other problems.

Other problems with Night Bus

Some routes have stops chosen for their proximity to stations or hospitals, but stop names have been based on the nearest obscure cross street, which is meaningless to most people:

In some spots, they haven’t thought too much about where the Night Bus stop signs should be installed:

Timetabling is also a problem. In the case of Night Bus 979, there are hourly trains and hourly buses, but they don’t connect at Bentleigh – hop off a train from the city at 33 past the hour; you’ve just missed the eastbound bus at 25 past the hour. Instead they have timed connections at Elsternwick on the Sandringham line. It makes sense in some ways, but how does one explain that to passengers?

These issues might underscore problems with the design of the Night Bus network. While the 24-hour tram and train services have been relatively successful (despite poor frequencies, particularly on the trains) the buses have been less so. I suspect a big part of that is the routes being totally different from the daytime routes.

Even in the Doncaster area, where the backbone of the network is four Smartbus routes, they chose not to run those routes through the night, but instead run a completely different route that does a long loop around Bulleen and Templestowe. (I know there are proposals to revert to using the Smartbus route structure. Even at lower frequencies, this makes a lot of sense.)

Possibly there are some areas where it’s logical to provide night service that is not based on the daytime routes, but these should be the exception rather than the rule.

The stop placement, stop names, passenger familiarity with the routes — all these are solved by running 24 hour routes instead of special night-only routes. This means there’s a great opportunity to improve Night Bus services, and I hope PTV’s review of the Night Network will give this serious consideration.

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.

8 replies on “Why is the Night Bus stop for Bentleigh station not at Bentleigh station?”

You are correct that little things matter.
I recall that at one stage the PT bus (not Skybus) that served the airport had the airport stop listed on the PT timetable as “Dnata”. This was because the bus stop was located opposite a freight depot (of that name) south of Terminal 4. And of course all the bus signage at the airport terminals pointed to Skybus or country buses.
The problem is that the people who plan and run our PT don’t actually use it and think anyone who does use it (mainly pensioners, kids and homeless – so who cares about them?) should think themselves lucky to have any PT at all.

I still would rather use the tram or the train instead the night bus. I can use the No. 67 tram to get home close to where I live and the train to get off five minutes walk from my place. If you time it right you can get a late tram even during the week. You just have to get a depot tram and get off at the right place.

The 978 and 979 busses both start from Elsternwick and go to Dandenong, one via Monash Uni, the other via Bentleigh I guess. Both miss connections with the Frankston and Dandenong lines which they cross, making the Sandringham trains busier. One night at 4am on a saturday morning I was the only person on the bus, another time the bus didn’t even show up. Easier to get an uber from closest train station (I’m a 30min walk from Clayton)

Not a night bus service, but Geelong’s route 24 terminates at an ‘interchange’ (and it is publicised as such) with North Geelong Station – but really is about a 160 metre walk to the closest platform. There is a reason for this, being that the bus requires a loopback street, but surely it could do a lap of the car park and drop directly outside the station entrance and the Geelong Arena.

Although it’s a user unfriendly, the Route 979 Night Bus isn’t designed to connect with the Frankston Line. Commuters who wish to connect with the bus are expected to travel to Sandringham and change there for a timed connections.

The following map shows where the buses connect. The long bubbles are where the train/bus interchange is timed, whereas the bus route simply crosses lines without a symbol where there’s no timed connection (such as Bentleigh):

I’ve had the same issue when taking the 944 to Point Cook. Although connecting to the Werribee Line at Altona, the connection doesn’t time well so you’re expected to take the bus all the way from the city.

There are a lot of places where buses make tedious detours into station carparks which take 10 minutes with the unhelpful traffic lights, and the result is that nobody gets on, or off.

In other cases, the nearest main road, which might be 500 metres away, is good enough.

In your case, it is the same road, and there is presumably no impediment to using the other stops which you have marked, on exactly the same road. That just seems to be gratuitously obtuse.

In Craigieburn, there seems to be some confusion between a night bus stop and a nearby normal bus stop. The night stop (pole and concrete slab) was installed 150m away from an existing 533 stop with a shelter. (I suppose one reason the location might have been chosen is for personal safety reasons – it is more “open” and visible.) The PTV app has multiple pins on the night bus stop location and nothing at the 533 stop, which now also has two bus stop symbols on that map but no pins! I have seen people standing at the night bus stop during the day. I have also seen the 533 stop there.

Comments are closed.