Boxing Day buses at Chadstone: still big problems

Last year I wrote about Chadstone’s Boxing Day bus debacle: delays, heavy demand, traffic jams, queues, and not a single additional bus deployed.

So, how was it this year? Spoiler: Almost the same.

Here’s some video, or read on.

So I wanted to head to Chadstone to look for a bargain. It’d be crazy to drive and get stuck in traffic, right? Let’s do the right thing and take public transport.

I boarded a 624 bus at Murrumbeena to go to Chadstone. Just like last year, it was slightly delayed (4 minutes) and packed.

624 bus to Chadstone, Boxing Day 2018

The traffic on approach to the centre was very congested. Poath Road was busy, and so was Dandenong Road eastbound, with a traffic snarl at the southern entrance into Chadstone – no thanks to numerous drivers ignoring our old favourite rule 128 and blocking the intersection trying to get in. Our bus driver had to take the rightmost lane (of three) to get around it.

Traffic at Chadstone, Boxing Day 2018

VicRoads had said they were adjusting traffic light sequences around the centre. A little enforcement of the rules would have helped a lot.

Dandenong Road buses were diverting “around the block” to Warrigal Road, where Chadstone management put a lot of effort into allocating a bus lane from into the bus interchange. Once we reached it, this worked quite well – kudos to them for this.

Bus lane from Warrigal Road to bus interchange, Chadstone, Boxing Day 2018

However the traffic lights to get in and out of the bus interchange need attention. It was a long wait to get in, and buses exiting again also had a long wait. We finally arrived 18 minutes late.

Some routes had to weave their way in, out again and back in to get to the correct stop in the interchange, making already delayed buses worse.

Buses queued at Chadstone to exit the bus interchange, Boxing Day 2018

The crowds and queues of passengers at the interchange seemed just as bad as last year. This time, police were patrolling (not that they had much to do), and PTV and/or bus operator staff were helping direct passengers, as some of the usual stops were changed around.

Buses at Chadstone, Boxing Day 2018

Delayed buses caused flow-on effects right along the routes serving Chadstone. This 900 bus from Rowville and Chadstone arrived at Caulfield more than 20 minutes late to run its next service back, leaving passengers behind.

Queue for bus at Caulfield to Chadstone, Boxing Day 2018

My conclusions from observing all of this

The traffic lights in and out of the bus interchange need adjustment. Making buses wait extended periods just adds to the delays.

The temporary bus lane worked well. Bus lanes from Warrigal Road to and from the interchange probably ought to be permanent. It’s 6 lanes (3 in, 3 out, expanding to 5 out at the intersection). It’s also a crying shame bus lanes weren’t provided from Dandenong Road the short distance to the bus interchange, when it was built.

Boxing Day sales are a known event. They happen every year. Everyone knows that huge numbers of people will turn up. We know lots of people will try to catch buses.

We know the traffic will be awful. Extra people in buses is fewer people in cars. This is a good thing, for the centre and for other people who do drive.

Boxing Day cricket attracts around 100,000 patrons. For this, they deployed (by my count) 27 extra train services, on top of the 10-20 minute standard public holiday frequencies.

Boxing Day at Chadstone attracts at least 120,000 patrons. For this, despite crowding year after year, they deployed not a single additional bus. Zero extra services. Smartbus routes mostly every half-hour, other routes mostly hourly, with some severe delays of 20+ minutes on top of that. It’s completely inadequate.

As I said last year: this is a planned special event for Chadstone. Is it treated as such under the Transport Act (see sections 192 to 204)? This can mandate traffic management and can require additional services funded by the event organiser – it’s very obvious that this is precisely what’s needed.

This problem is not confined to Chadstone, and not just on Boxing Day. Essendon DFO had all its route 903 buses divert away due to traffic concerns. Other suburban malls would have had similar issues, and bus crowding is a problem every weekend due to infrequent services.

There are plenty people willing and able to catch buses to major suburban shopping centres. They’re doing the right thing. It’s time the buses were fixed.

PS. Some off-piste responses to this issue on Twitter included:

  • Bus drivers deserve time off. But hundreds of them worked on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The additional staff needed to run some extra services to hot spots like Chadstone is minimal in comparison.
  • Bus passengers don’t spend as much, so shopping centres don’t care. Okay it’s true car passengers might fill their boot with stuff, but how many of them actually do? Specifically, how many return to their car multiple times before driving off? Shopping centres know they have finite parking capacity. Every person who arrives by another mode is an additional shopper. And as the photos show, plenty of people were willing to use the buses. Even more would if they provided a decent service.
  • You could have shopped on another day! Really? So me personally not going to Chadstone on Boxing Day would have fixed the problem?

Another PS: the scene at 10pm:

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.

20 replies on “Boxing Day buses at Chadstone: still big problems”

As I mentioned on Twitter, extra Chadstone buses have ran in the recent past:
2013: Chadstone put on a shuttle from Caulfield but only hourly, although the aim appeared to be off-site parking at Caulfield Racecourse
2014: CDC ran extra buses from Oakleigh, these appear to have been funded by PTV

In both cases, these services ran most of December

Further details –

Apart from the other issues, the buses themselves are not able to move crowds very well.

It’s great to see all-door loading used (is this standard policy now?), but the second door is only single-leaf so there’s no chance of loading and unloading people faster, zipper-style (there should be card readers on either side of the doorways too).

The buses shown in the footage aren’t actually all that full inside because they don’t load effectively, a common problem in Australian buses because they don’t have another door behind the rear axle and people don’t want to get trapped in the cave at the back when their stop comes up. The high floor at the back is also a deterrent, but it’s good to see PTV recognising this by encouraging low-floors on future orders.

I suspect that penalty rates are one deterrent against operators rolling out extra buses at closer headways on weekends and public holidays but wouldn’t the use of artics go some way to addressing that? Same number of drivers driving higher-capacity buses. What’s the rate of acquisition of artics in Victoria? Population is always growing and higher-capacity vehicles are needed more and more to carry the increased patronage.

Research (random paper found that mode choice affects the spend at shopping centres, but also the overall spend over time. Car – spend more each visit less, overall less spend, Active modes – spend less each visit but visit more, overall most spend (with walking topping out the overall spend, many small trips). Combine this with other research where small business owners perceive the car mode as twice as important as what it actually is, it’s not surprising you’re seeing what you are seeing.

It’s true that modern shopping centres are car-oriented, simply because shoppers can carry far more away in a car boot than by hand. Hence the design of malls is very car/parking-oriented. It’s part of their business strategy. However, as can be seen in Daniel’s images, a large and increasing number of people are also shopping by public transport, a trend also in Sydney where traffic congestion on weekends is an additional disincentive to driving. It seems very obvious to me that this trend has caught Melbourne public transport planners off guard.

Can we maybe install bus-sensitive transit lights around Chadstone for a start? The ones that turns green/white as soon as they detect a bus? (Or, say, within 15-30 seconds to allow for conflicting traffic to clear?) And then expand that to other shopping centres and maybe major bus/tram routes?

>If you are too poor to own a car, you are too poor to go shopping.

Is that the stereotype around here? Because getting caught in car traffic isn’t ideal either. Not that I care about shopping on Boxing Day, but perhaps if I do, I’ll remember to come by helicopter.

I feel like with the era of online shopping and the far better deals you can get online, big ‘shopping trips’ with the car as less important than having shopping centres accessible and integrated with the community (which means accessibility on public transport/active modes). The big emphasis on cafes, restaurants and entertainment and ‘experiences’ at shopping centres reflects this, rather than the model of buying a whole bunch of stuff in very occasional trips.

There are plenty of people in the inner-city, inner-suburbs and along rail line who can afford cars but have other spending priorities, including their mortgage/rent to live in said locations and shopping.

I own 2 properties, 40 acres in Gippsland and an appartment in Murrumbeena, I don’t own a car, I don’t need one and feel it’s environmentally irresponsible. I can, however afford to shop, I walk to Chadstone. Enno bite me you ill bred ill educated nob. Let me guess you drive a ’92 Pulsar and live in Cranbourne (with a morgage) another thing I don’t have. Loser

I live near 822. It’s never on time or early so you miss it only runs every 30 hour more buses should be put on now railway is fix. When you look on PTV is says one time then at bus spot another then on goggle another get it right. If someone is waiting for a bus good idea if you stop for them. Maybe have bus drivers that no the root there taking so they can drop you at correct stop.

Keep calm guys – enno is probably being sarcastic (though it’s hard to tell sometimes).

The point is well made though. There are increasing numbers of people who choose to have no car, but have a high disposable income. (In fact they may have a high disposable income because they have no car).

@Craig, thanks for that. Also of note is Highpoint’s practice of providing free taxi rides to locals during the Christmas season.

@TonyP, all-door boarding is not current policy or regular practice, though technically there’s no reason it couldn’t be. In this case it appears the driver used their discretion to try and cut the dwell time.

Articulated/bendy buses are also not common; there are only a few of them. Obviously some infrastructure would need changes to cater for them, eg turning circles; bus zones/stops made bigger. Likewise there are only a small number of double-deckers; I suspect most routes could handle those without too much trouble.

Another casual observation from your photos/film Daniel is that just about all those people crowding the bus stops are young, maybe couples but childless. No sign of the mum and dad, two kids, multiple bags of the weekly shopping or furniture flatpacks, they’d all be in the carpark. So, like Sydney, there is a growing sub-class of shopping centre users with smaller shopping needs, but who go there also for entertainment, socialising etc. Governments, operators and mall owners have been slow to catch up with this growing trend.

Artic buses have the same turning circle as a 12 metre rigid. The main consideration is the length of the stopping space at the bus stop. All bus stops nowadays should be designed for artics given the projected population growth of the city. They will be needed en masse in the future. Double deckers are very inefficient at turning over crowds, good for long-distance expresses only.

It’s rarely ever the buses’ fault that it’s packed. It is most likely the fact that there is one or two buses per hour on weekends and public holidays. Even a bus the size of an E class tram would be packed like sardines if the only option was that or waiting another hour for the next.

As for the person suggesting the 742, the bus timetable is already pathetic during the week, let alone on public holidays. I sometimes catch it at the other end of the route (Eastland) and it’s just useless unless you deliberately wait around for it.

The solution is to get a DeLorean, go back in time, and ensure that major retail developments such as Chadstone, Knifepoint, Norfflands and Pacific Werribee are built near train lines, so that stations can be integrated in the future (or present, if you’re reading this in 2018. Or past, if you’re reading this in 2019).

Apparently no-one actually suggested getting the 742 from Oakleigh, that was from another post (or even another site) I was reading! That’s what I get for trying to multitask!

Last Boxing Day, I dropped my younger daughter off at Chaddy about 200 metres from the front entrance, did a U-turn and drove home. Then I picked her up several hours later from Macca’s diagonally opposite.
We live 15 minutes drive away so it was feasible and hassle-free really.

[…] At Chadstone, some bright spark decided that the thing bus passengers needed was a waiting room, dubbed the Transit Lounge. I think they tried to imply it was “airport-style”, but if so it’d be the scummiest airport you’ve ever seen – just a few seats and a chip machine, though at least it would provide air-conditioned relief on hot days. Since then the bus interchange has been completely rebuilt. (What bus passengers at Chadstone still need is, of course, more buses.) […]

The 802, 804 and 862 only run every 40 minutes on weekdays, I don’t know how bad they are on weekends. It would only take a few more buses to double the frequencies of each of those, at least on Boxing Day.

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