Why no Footscray Rd bus lanes?

Three rail lines closed from the west, and the worst bus delays are precisely where they could allocate bus lanes.

Plenty of media interest in public transport issues in the past few days, as the winter school holiday closures take hold, and a surprise fare rise announced for 1st of July.

Particularly galling is the totally predictable delays for the western suburbs rail closures, given a shortage of buses and drivers, and the refusal of authorities to allocate bus lanes.

Major disruptions due to the Big Build are now in their 7th year. A few weeks here, a few weeks there… it all adds up to the sense of fatigue people are feeling, and their lack of confidence that trains will be running when they need them.

If you’re struggling with Williamstown/Werribee line bus replacements this week, you won’t be delighted to hear that the same section will close again when the Spotswood level crossing is removed in a year or two. It raises the obvious question of whether all these projects could be sequenced more effectively.

Over on the Dandenong line, this year there have been planned bus replacements every single week of 2023 so far except one in March – and even that week, there were Loop closures.

But the key question right now is how they run these bus replacement operations.

The key element missing is bus priority. In the case of the western suburbs, they should have put a temporary bus lane on Footscray Road and other locations to ensure buses didn’t get stuck in traffic.

The journey from Sunshine to the City normally takes 18 minutes by train.

At the height of the peak on Tuesday morning, Google Maps said the trip by road was taking 38-40 minutes, with the section on Footscray Road being the major source of delays.

Sunshine to Flagstaff: 38 minutes, delays on Footscray Road

More impressively, in the Tuesday evening peak, the direct journey from Flagstaff back to Sunshine was 47 minutes, so slow that Google Maps suggested the quickest road journey was a long detour via the Ring Road.

Google Maps showing quickest journey by road from Flagstaff to Sunshine in evening peak

So the peak journey by road is taking about double what it takes at night (with little traffic), with delays worst along Footscray Road – precisely where there’s space for bus lanes.

Effective bus priority would reduce travel times for passengers, but more importantly it would mean each bus could more quickly do another run, cutting waiting times and crowding.

They did it on Ballarat Road in 2014 when the Sunbury line was closed for Regional Rail Link works; they could do it again now.

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.

6 replies on “Why no Footscray Rd bus lanes?”

You’re not alone, it’s the same in every Australian city – except where there are permanent bus lanes. I’ve seen it done in Europe for train replacements, but here they prioritise moving car traffic along.

Totally agree, we need bus lanes when trains don’t run so buses can get people to where they need to be straight away. But unfortunately, this is happening in the western suburbs, and sadly no one cares about the western suburbs.

And this is for the West Gate “Tunnel”, something that the western suburbs DIDN’T ask for, but somthing that Transurban asked for and got straight away. And many of those who opposed East West Link have gone missing in action. If they were so opposed to a tollway where they live, why are they not protesting against one in the western suburbs? And Daniel Andrews got in on the opposition to East West Link, yet he builds a tollway in the western suburbs? We shouldn’t blame Metro for this, but we should blame the government and Transurban for this mess.

However, I am concerned that this mess will pave the way for extremists who will promise the world and when they get in, they will ignore the western suburbs, like both Labor and the Liberals.

Yes, the total failure to allocate bus priority is what made the recent Belgrave/Lilydale shutdown (Ringwood to Camberwell) completely unworkable.

There are reports today that the completion of the West Gate “Tunnel” has been delayed by three more years, which means more closures for the western suburbs, although the Sunbury line may be lucky with the completion of the Metro Tunnel being late next year/early 2025. However, if you are on the Werribee and Williamstown lines (and possibly Sunbury), its another couple of years while a project that Transurban asked for (and not the western suburbs) is completed.

While Footscray Rd has bad delays, itโ€™s actually Dudley St where lot of worst delays are. So even with Footscray Rd Bus lanes, you still have major delays

Its not about the Western Suburbs getting any special (mis)treatment. The Clifton Hill group is a disaster every time they close it down, and the lack of bus priority adds an hour to the trip, which sees more people drive, making things even worse.

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