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.
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.
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.
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.