On the buses

I’ve been on a break at home, having a rest and trying to get stuff done around the house.

Alas, this is now at an end, and while I guess I’ve had a rest, I certainly haven’t got all the stuff I planned done. And people telling me “nobody ever does” isn’t helping.

My break was timed to miss most of the big south-east rail shutdown.

  • Moorabbin (Frankston line) and Westall (Dandenong line) to the City have been replaced by buses between 2nd and 13th of January.
  • The Sandringham line was also bustituted between Elsternwick and the City between 2nd and 5th of January.

This is all due to works for the metro tunnel near South Yarra station, in preparation for building the tunnel portal there. There are also works preparing the Dandenong line for the High Capacity Metro Trains.

Here are a few snaps of the view around South Yarra station, comparing October with last week. (Sorry they don’t all match up exactly; I wasn’t that organised.)

October, looking southwest:

South Yarra - Metro tunnel works October 2018, looking SW

…and a similar-ish view a few days ago:

South Yarra - Metro tunnel works January 2019, looking SW

More striking is this: October looking southeast:

South Yarra - Metro tunnel works January 2019, looking SE

…and a few days ago – the hill and all the trees are gone!

South Yarra - Metro tunnel works October 2018, looking SE

And here’s a view from a few days ago from near Chapel Street, looking northwest:

South Yarra - Metro tunnel works October 2018, looking NW from near Chapel Street

At Caulfield there also seemed to be a fair bit going on:

Caulfield station: works January 2019

Also observed: at South Yarra the extensions to platforms 5 and 6 are nearing completion.

Upgrades and new infrastructure are important, and if you’re going to close rail lines, early January is the time to do it.

The question is: how good is the information provided to people, and how smooth are the replacement buses?

I would say: not too bad. Buses always struggle replacing trains, but I think they’re getting better at this.

Some observations about the bus replacements

Here, if you feel so inclined, is a brain-dump of observations:

The earlier they can advise people, the more likely some affected passengers can avoid it, such as booking leave. I was lucky enough to be able to do this. The more notice the better. (In this case, details were published on 11th December, about 3 weeks out. I think they can do better.)

Some people will always miss the notices, and just rock up to the station. So prominent signage on approach and at station entrances is helpful.

Some of the notices need review. I have my doubts about the detailed bus timetables posted at stations – their usefulness and their scope for incorrect interpretation.

The signage pointing the way to the temporary stops seems pretty good. Big and bold.

Signs at replacement bus stops could improve. They generally don’t have any detail, such as bus stopping patterns, or days of operation. There were sightings of people waiting at the stops a day early – the signage was up, but the trains were still running.

Likewise, last year some of the signage came down a few hours early, leading to confusion on the final night.

Location of the stops seems okay – from what I’ve seen, it’s consistent with past occupations, mostly along main roads to ensure a relatively quick ride.

An exception is citybound at McKinnon, where they can’t make up their mind if it’s outside the pub again (where staff tend to be located, and there’s a temporary shelter), or 50 metres up the road (where the bus stop sign has been installed).

Supply and despatch of buses seems to have mostly been good, though there have been some long queues in the City in PM peak.

Less confusion around Myki touch-on (the buses are free). But there seems to be no consistency around whether all-door boarding is used or not.

Information needs to be consistent. Signage tends to say “to City”, which is very clear. But many announcements I’ve heard at stops have said “to Flinders”. This is less clear. On one bus I was on, when it was announced that “this bus is express to Flinders”, 80% of the passengers got off the bus, then most of them got back on. I think “City” would be better.

Also: “to Flinders“? I know that’s how some refer to it, and I know I’m being a pedant, but it’s really “Flinders Street”. Flinders is a completely different place.

The replacement bus routes have split different passenger groups to different services, and seem to have worked well. Lighter than usual traffic at this time of year certainly helps.

Rail replacement bus, Frankston line, AM peak, January 2019

Travel time from my limited samples: Bentleigh to City (Arts Centre) is around 40-46 minutes, depending on time of day. Routes varied – some buses take Dandenong Road/St Kilda Road, others take Burke Road and Citylink. I haven’t sampled other routes – how’s it been?

They still haven’t fixed the Patterson bus zone, which remains 7am-7pm Monday to Saturday, despite rail buses running until around 1am (and all night on weekends), and even regular buses serving the stop every day until around 10pm. Should I just go park my car there every Sunday until they fix it?

The rail shut down has meant there has been extra pressure on nearby routes: trams and buses that run towards the City or connect with other rail lines that are still running. Little or no effort seems to have been put into additional services – apart from the Sandringham line, which is part of the Frankston replacement route for some passengers this week.

Sandringham line at Flinders Street during Frankston/Dandenong line shutdown, PM peak, January 2019

Only some of the replacement bus routes are in the PTV database, typically the all stations services, so planning a trip may result in travel times that are longer than reality. This may be related to the terrible timetable display web pages, but a resolution really ought to be found. (The Beta PTV web site shows promise.)

There have been some BIG issues with the PTV timetable data recently. South Gippsland coach routes still have non-existent (during works) Metro train connections from Dandenong to the City, which gives incorrect results in the Journey Planner for some trips. And lots of other data is showing up with errors, such as Peninsula bus route 788 missing most of its trips.

What else have people (who have perhaps been commuting more than I have!) seen during the shutdown?

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.

19 replies on “On the buses”

Definitely agree with the bit about calling it “Flinders” when it really should be “Flinders St/City”.

There were a couple of German tourists who were asking at Westall if this bus goes to the city (or they may have asked if it goes Flinders St) and the metro staff replied saying it goes to Federation Square…the tourists then got off the bus (but then clarified and got back on). Sure the bus stops at Fed Square but goes to show language is important.

I don’t like how the signs on the poles would say “From City” etc.

The signs should state “To Westall” or “To City/Flinders St”.

Also inadequate signage at Russel St Extension Extension about Express buses and stopping all station buses.

Also much more could have been done for bus priority along Flinders St between Batman Ave and Russel St extension. The right green arrow to turn into Flinders St also barely let more than 2 buses through and saw lots of blocked intersections holding up trams and replacement busses. Not sure why they couldn’t organise a cop or two just for peak hour …

I’ve only taken one replacement bus in this current big shutdown. I was halfway between Richmond and Flinders St and needed to get to Westall, so it was a quick ten minute walk to Fed Square to get an express bus. When I got there, an express bus had just left and the one behind it had its door closed, but wasn’t moving. Confusingly the driver seemed to want to wave me towards the bus which had just departed, which was waiting to turn right into Flinders St. They waved me back towards the original bus, which had reopened its door and was admitting passengers again. The driver claimed he hadn’t opened the door for me because he was about to move the bus up the street a few metres, but this didn’t end up happening. A little perplexing.

Anyway, after all that the trip was fine. Comfy coach about a third full. Batman Ave / Citylink / Monash Fwy / Blackburn Rd / Princes Hwy / Westall Rd. 30 mins, departed about 2:20pm on January 2nd.

until the 13th. dammit that’s when I am going.

They seem to do really poorly predicting demand for bustitution, sometimes.

I would say that the one thing I found confusing was that the brochures treated Frankston and Pakenham/Cranbourne separately. Maybe there was another brochure I missed, but it made it hard to work out what your options were for the stations between Caulfield and the city – I generally catch the train from Cranbourne so had a copy of that brochure, but on some of the days I knew I would be leaving from Caulfield and couldn’t figure out why there was no express bus – there was, it was just in the Frankston brochure. Apart from that, as someone who normally drives around bustitutions this one has been not too bad. I

For Westall, Clayton and Huntingdale commuters going into the city, the train replacement bus service to East Malvern Station no longer goes via Oakleigh Station. Compared to previous shutdowns, the new route has reduced the travel time by at least 10 minutes by avoiding the slow right-hand turn from Princes Highway into Warrigal Road and the Warrigal Road overpass at Oakleigh Station.

I got tripped up last week heading into the city one evening. I knew there were no trains on the Frankston line, as I live right near the Ormond bus stop and had seen the signs. What the signs didn’t make clear was that none of the lines were running through South Yarra, even though this makes sense. So initially I planned to drive to Caulfield until I realised that was no help, then I decided to catch the Sandy line, only to realise that wasn’t running either. So I drove in. As a regular commuter I worked it out quick enough but others may have struggled. And yes, I could have just caught the bus.
All this week I have been catching the bus from Ormond and it has only added about 10-15mins to my commute, mostly cos I live right near the bus stop. The last 2 days have been busier but generally there have been plenty of buses so you didn’t have to wait long if you couldn’t get a seat on the first bus (standing all the way to town with the braking habits of some drivers was not going to happen). And the walk from the Arts Centre to Flinders st is quite pleasant, it’s an area I don’t get to often as I work in Docklands so it’s nice to see what’s happening around there (and to sample the pop up bars before hopping on a bus!)

Thank you so much for the photos. I guess I should look out the window instead of reading my book on the train.
I couldn’t agree with you more regarding “Flinders”. If there is an announcement at Frankston station saying the next train goes to “Flinders” where does that mean? My guess is that most PTV/Metro staff haven’t heard of the seaside town.
Full marks to Metro/PTV for running express buses, Elsternwick-Parliament. I basically got to work and then home at the usual time.
The Sandy trains were packed this week due to Frankston people using it. But the extra services helped. Also, heaps of staff at Brighton Beach station (who always tried to shepherd me into the Moorabbin bus while I walked down South Road toward my home).

The other issue with communication was that altered train timetable pre- 7am (Franskston line at least) We were advised of the train replacement buses but not an altered timetable which caught many out. As you stated they could do a better job at advance notice of the works so we can plan leave

On the Frankston Line, I found everything to very very good. Short waits for buses, clear signage. Just one problem – the bus stop at Brighton Beach wasn’t at its usual place outside the station like last time, but about 400 metres away at Xavier College. I’m not sure why there was such a long walk, there didn’t seem to be a big queue of buses or anything. Fine for me, but quite the trek for the older passengers.

I did a mix of the V/Line replacement to Traralgon and the Pakenham line bus replacements. As you mention Daniel, they are getting better at this and the time of year means that a lot of coaches normally on school bus duty were available for use. The express bus in the morning from Traralgon only stopping at Morwell then straight to the city was great, only extended the commute by 10-15 minutes. The return Gippsland busses were similarly quick but the express buses out of the city were pretty much at capacity last week as you have working people trying to get home to Moe/Morwell/Traralgon combined the holiday traffic connecting at Traralgon to buses for Bairnsdale and beyond.

On the Pakenham line things ran more or less as advertised and added the expected hour or so to the door to door travel time. The PTV Journey planner was useless though, they should take a leaf out of Adelaide Metro’s app. That knows when trains aren’t running, has all the special rail replacement bus routes and timings programmed in and give real time bus location and ETA.

In the first week I found the express bus from Moorabbin to the Arts Centre very good and quick in the mornings; slightly slower in the evenings. I used the Sandringham line instead of the Frankston line once it was open. I found the Brighton Beach bus stop outside Xavier simply too far – we walked past long lengths of empty kerb to get to it and on a hot afternoon a few people were tired and annoyed. Later I drove to Sandringham Station instead – found its car park and surrounding streets full around 6.10am. Long walks from remote on-street car parks there too.

I’d rate the latest bustitution a fail .

No indication at Southern Cross, how to get to Flinders St. Not even any information that there were no trains to get to Flinders Street.

Eventually found a worker who said go to Flagstaff and then change. The necessary change was very non-obvious at Flagstaff.

No signage for buses at Flinders Street. None. Eventually told to catch a train to Sandringham and change to a bus there. Fortunately I realised to get off at Brighton Beach.

Walk about halfway to Moorabin before being allowed to get on a bus, because residents complained about temporary greater use of an existing bus stop. Crikey. Residents of Newcastle NSW get a whole street of parking converted to a bus layover area, while residents of Brighton, who are probably on vacation anyway, can’t cope with temporary increased use of an existing bustop ? Pathetic !

The residents of Brighton also couldn’t cope with the closure of the New St level crossing in years past!

Ok, as somebody who uses the Pakenham line, and used some of the replacement buses, here is my feedback.

*** The December shutdown – Out from Westall ***

Why could the trains not continu to Springvale?
+++ There is a crossover there, which was used in the January shutdown.
+++ Even if you still changed at Westall for all beyond, you at least remove the need for many buses.
+++ I find Springvale to be easier to use anyway, as you only need to go up or down, not up and down again at Westall.

The free travel vouchers they gave out at Westall where interesting. A card, which gave the holder 7 days free travel system wide.
++ But I had to use my Myki to get to Westall, and if I was only going to travel on that one day???
++ Why is it not so hard, to just refund all Myki cards of which have touched on/off at Westall?? Save a lot of paper, and much bother too.

Between Berwick and Narre Warren, most buses took the highway route, via the middle of Berwick. But, one wise driver chose to, use the freeway in that section, finding he bypassed a lot of traffic lights in the process.

None of the buses used the bus only lanes of which did exist at many places along the route between Dandenong and Pakenham. Often, I was sitting in a rail-replacement bus, stuck in traffic, while I watch the local bus get the jump at each set of traffic lights too.

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