Boxing Day is probably the single busiest shopping day of the year at many of the big department stores and shopping centres, and I’ve taken a look at Chadstone and how its public transport copes several times in recent years: 2019; 2018; 2017.
I went for a look again this year.
From what I can see, there’s been no substantial change to bus provision, just some tweaking by the looks of it.
- Standard public holiday services on most routes – hourly on most of them; half-hourly on the two Smartbus routes.
- Smartbus 903 diverted away from Chadstone, with shuttle connectors from Oakleigh station, and extra services from Burwood
- I can’t find any information about it, but I did see a shuttle from East Malvern station. (This notice is from 2020)
Warrigal Road was packed with traffic.
They did have some bus priority measures for the turn into Middle Road (shown below), but buses were getting stuck further north.
A bus priority lane on Middle Road was being widely ignored, with other vehicles using it. What are those bollards for? Let’s just drive around them, they don’t apply to me.
At 3pm the bus interchange itself was busy with people, though not as crowded as previous occasions. One media report said they were expecting 120,000 visitors on the day – down from 170,000 in 2017.
A customer service rep from Kinetic was there, and to their credit knew about routes other than just Kinetic’s routes.
That couldn’t make up for the fact that many of the buses were crowded, and delayed.
I observed some younger passengers altering their plans depending on which bus arrived first, which is possible if you’re connecting to a rail line, as different buses run to different stations. Smart thinking, but how many people do that?
Overall though? Much the same as previous years.
What I wrote in 2019 still applies.
They’ve got to get away from the thinking that a few shuttles to nearby stations is enough. It helps, but what is really needed is boosting services on all the local routes into Chadstone (as a starting point, just run the weekday service frequencies) and wider use of bus priority.
Public transport should be at its best moving lots of people. The crowds in the bus interchange and on the buses are evidence that people will use buses to go shopping.
Longer term, the proposed light rail or trackless tram could help, but only if it’s built in such a way as to keep hapless motorists off the tracks – and really it’s about the service quality (frequency, operating hours, reliability) more than the mode.
It is self-evident that there’s a whole lot of travel demand for big centres like Chadstone, not just on Boxing Day but every weekend of the year. As it stands though, with mostly infrequent buses stuck in traffic, public transport is missing a huge chunk of this travel. It’s just not even trying to compete for customers.
- Related: Yours truly talking to 3AW this morning about public transport patronage – it’s back to nearly pre-pandemic levels, except for the traditional CBD commuter peaks. But can the system adapt to meet demand?