The mess that is Chadstone buses on Boxing Day – 2019 edition

It’s time for my annual blog post about the mess that is Boxing Day public transport at Chadstone.

It happens every year at Chadstone and the other big shopping centres: hordes of shoppers descend. Demand fills the car parks, which spills onto the access roads, delaying buses.

Demand also fills the buses to bursting. And because of traffic congestion, some buses actually get diverted away from the shopping centres, making the whole thing worse.

Here’s Channel 9’s story. (Yes there’s some of my footage in here.)

So was anything different this time?

Good points

A key difference this year was the addition of extra Oakleigh to Chadstone express shuttle buses. Funded by Chadstone themselves for the summer, these seemed to be plentiful. And although Oakleigh station is undergoing refurbishment which means it’s difficult to get between the bus interchange and the Citybound platform, the shuttles were frequent and well used, taking some of the load off the other routes.

Queue for 900 bus, and Oakleigh extra bus, Chadstone on Boxing Day

Last year’s bus priority from Warrigal Road to the bus interchange appeared to be the same, and again worked well. Buses avoided trying to enter via Dandenong Road, and came in from the east – longer for some, but they got a good run once inside Chadstone’s property.

There has been minor infrastructure changes that allow all bus bays to be used, meaning the confusing temporary arrangements from years gone by don’t have to be enacted.

Bad points

Buses from Warrigal Road still queue at traffic lights to enter the bus interchange. Given all routes were diverting via Warrigal Road, this meant more far delays than necessary. It should be obvious that the lights need to prioritise buses over other traffic.

Worse, the problem of buses having to enter, loop around, exit and re-enter the bus interchange (with long waits twice at the traffic lights) just to get to their bay still affects some routes, for example the 900 towards Caulfield, one of the busiest. See below.

Chadstone: how the 900 bus reaches its bus bay (during Boxing Day diversions)

While the Oakleigh shuttles helped, other routes were still overwhelmed by demand. The 625 I caught to Chadstone was 10-15 minutes late, and standing room only from Oakleigh.

There was heavy traffic on the Dandenong Road approach to the centre, from the east, and a bus driver told me it was the same on Warrigal Road from the north.

When I got to the centre, I watched for a while as a queue for the 900 to Caulfield grew longer and longer, and the bus got later and later. It eventually arrived 28 minutes late, and was so crowded that people were left behind and had to wait for the next one.

See it in this short video below. (For some buses, passengers decided to board at both doors. When the 900 arrived, they all patiently queued, meaning it took some minutes for the bus to load.)

What needs to happen

I’ve covered all this in the previous posts, but really, what’s needed includes:

  • Extra buses on route services, not just the Oakleigh to Chadstone specials
  • Spare buses to cover for delayed services (similar to the “Block car” occasionally used by the trams)
  • Better on-road priority for buses approaching the centre
  • Ensure buses get priority at the traffic lights in and out of the bus interchange – and longer term make changes so buses don’t need to loop around it so much to reach their bays
  • Better on-the-ground advice for passengers – it might be quicker for some to connect to trains on the Dandenong line via the Oakleigh shuttles or walk to Hughesdale station
  • Improved pedestrian access to Poath Road. Hughesdale station is only a ten minute walk away, but is via a pedestrian-hostile not-very-direct route that’s hard to find

Ultimately, the State Government and Chadstone management needs to take public transport seriously, starting with more frequent services on all routes. It’s a planned major event every year. So plan it.

More people on buses and other public transport means fewer in cars clogging up the roads and the car parks.

It’s not just Boxing Day – weekend bus frequencies are appalling – mostly hourly – on most Melbourne bus routes all the year round.

And it’s not just Chadstone – many big shopping centres suffer these same problems.

Southland now has its station. Eastland and some of the others also have rail access. Southland station is busy, and for passengers travelling parallel to the rail line, means reaching the centre is now easy, expanding Southland’s catchment beyond the constraints of its car parks.

How – especially in the short term – can the same be achieved for Chadstone and other centres?

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.

17 replies on “The mess that is Chadstone buses on Boxing Day – 2019 edition”

What needs to happen to the bus interchange is (using your picture as reference) to have the traffic lights move to the road pair on the right and then swap the direction of the leftmost road. The turnaround needs to be modified so now buses coming from the right can u-turn. The left pair of roads would then be modified to Left-only access while the right pair modified for two-way access. This is perhaps the least expensive way of modifying the interchange to better handle the buses and allow them to skip a double-wait at poorly timed traffic lights. A permanent right-turn bus priority lane coming off Dandenong Rd and up the shopping centre, as well as one up Warrigal Road, would definitely help as well.

I guess bus improvements don’t really make good social media posts. I’m not saying the Andrews government hasn’t done great things compared to the alternatives, but if it doesn’t make a great meme-y facebook video with big construction and statistics, it doesn’t seem like it’s something they consider important.

I agree that weekend buses are nothing short of a disaster in general. Hourly, and that’s when they bother to turn up within a 15 minute window of the advertised time, must be so bad for the people who don’t live next to most of the stuff they need. I live in Carnegie and find that Chadstone, despite being theoretically just 10 minutes away, is so much of a hassle to get to and from that it’s not really much worse for me to just catch a train to Melbourne central for most shopping needs. Isn’t that absurd when you think about it?

Two kilometre queue on the Monash inbound at Warrigal Road at 11.30am. Off ramp outbound full but not overflowing. Who benefits from improvement to the bus services to and from Chadstone? Ultimately Chadstone Shopping Centre. I avoid it as it has become too big and parking is a nightmare, so it doesn’t get my dollars, but even as Glenn above says who lives ten minutes away, it doesn’t get his dollars either. Compared to what is spent on the shopping centre itself, it would be not be much to fund permanent dedicated bus lanes and improved efficient facilities, and they can stump up towards the cost of a tram or light rail in the longer term. This is an investment for the shopping centre and will pay dividends. As I am sure you know, city traders for years paid an underground City Loop rail levy and have reaped the benefits of so many more people visiting the city.

Before and after Southland Station opened shopper statistics would be interesting to see.

As far as I know, block cars are being used daily for the extended am and pm peaks on normal weekdays at Melbourne University terminus since Yarra Trams won the the last contract with the promise to improve on time running. I expect they will return in February.

We went past both Highpoint and DFO on our way out of town for a camping trip. We passed on the Gordon St side of Highpoint, so no idea what was happening on the Rosamond Rd side, where all the buses enter the bus bays. When we went past traffic was only banked back to Maribyrnong College, so the trams would’ve been fine but some delays on the 409 bus. Past DFO, no wonder the 903 was missing it – even traffic (like us) wanting to get onto the freeways outbound from Bulla Rd had some delays as cars in the wrong lanes tried to cut in. Plenty of delays off the freeway going inbound too. Pity for anyone wanting to get off the freeway at Bulla Rd and not go to DFO.

Let’s cut to the chase, Victorian transport authorities are clueless at running a decent bus network in Melbourne & have been for as long as I can remember. And as for shopping centres such as Chadstone they have very little interest in the provision of bus services because most of their clientele arrive in their own motor vehicles. It is an indictment of our planning rules that Chadstone was ever allowed to become so large when purely reliant on road access.

Actions from easiest/quickest/cheapest:
1. Increase number of buses and improve bus priority on roads (these two go hand in hand – shorter bus travel times means higher frequency for the same number of buses).
2. Grade-segregaded bus lanes (ramps) on Warrigal Rd over Dandenong Rd and at the eastern entrance to Chadstone, for uninterrupted bus travel from Oakleigh Station to the shopping centre
3. Light rail from Caulfield to Monash/Rowville
4. Underground train. My scheme would have a branch line run from Oakleigh to Chadstone, then East Malvern (interchange with Glen Waverley and extended Alamein line) and rejoining the Dandenong line tracks at Caulfield. This has the dual benefit of connecting Chadstone to 4 train lines, and of addressing the fact that the Dandenong line between Oakleigh and Caulfield can’t be triplicated or quadruplicated.

All these projects should start now as the system is already at overcapacity.

Shuttle buses from East Malvern would not only service the Glen Waverley line, but could also make use of the massive car park there, at a time when there are not so many people commuting into the city (other than those going to the cricket). A shuttle from Alamein could also be useful for people near that and the Ringwood lines.

The challenge would be finding a route and/or priority that gets the buses somewhat close to the shopping centre without getting stranded in the traffic snarls.

Block buses can be good but issues arise if everything running late but delays not constant as then driver has trouble blocking all buses get back on time. Instead of block buses i think special run times for Boxing Day be better given its well known trips not just maybe but will take longer

Mike: Only one operator, made a half-decent attempt at improving the buses. Ironically, it was those run by the government itself: MetBus (which became Melbourne Bus Link and now Transdev). At one point, the Met buses were the only ones to run later than 9PM on weeknights, with several buses still following a similar timetable (for example, the 216/219/220/246 running right up until midnight seven days a week, something that all nine SmartBuses don’t even attempt to do, and the ex-MBL routes run more frequently as well, SmartBuses being a measly half an hour in the early mornings, at night, all weekend, and on all public holidays). The Met was also (apparently) the first operator in Melbourne to order air conditioned buses, way back in the late 80s (MAN/Ansair “MK2”) – said buses have only just been retired after 30 years of service (some of which are actually still running in other states). Meanwhile, Ventura and Invicta were still ordering buses without AC as late as 2001, despite their newest buses being low floor models since the mid 90s (anyone remember the Invicta LoRider buses?)

Of course though, the eastern half of the Met’s buses went to National Bus (later Ventura when National Express went kaput) and they tended to be the black sheep in the eastern suburbs (at least around Mitcham/Ringwood/Croydon, I don’t know anything about the Doncaster area), with early finishes and no Sunday services on several routes (even under Ventura and Transdev not much changed with the 2xx/3xx routes), long after Invicta, Grenda, Ventura etc. had many (but sadly, not all by a long shot) of their services upgraded to 9PM seven days a week in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Still, even a few of the National routes retained the midnight runs from the Met era, such as the 366 (now merged with the 367 to become the 380 Ringwood-Croydon loop service, albeit with an hour cut from the evening timetable as part of the “upgrade”, although the 367 half of the route gained three hours as it used to finish at around 6 on weekdays and as early as 4:30 on Sundays, with a two hour wait between all five of the buses that did run on Sunday). On the weekend, the 380 is still lacklustre (hourly) even today and fails to meet the standard 9PM finish time.

@Mike, fully agree. The people in charge of Melbourne’s bus network have never used the buses themselves, which is why they have no idea how bad it gets on days like this.

Sometimes I wish Chadstone shopping centre has a bus only entrance which does not link whatsoever with the car parking.

[…] Urban planning outcomes can take decades to achieve. Are we heading in the right direction? Hopefully – it’s hard to say. We’re seeing urban consolidation in some areas, but the State is still investing in huge motorways (Sydney too, mind you) and the big centres like Chadstone and Fountain Gate keep expanding, with little or no effort into improving their public transport access, despite strong demand. […]

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