Recently at Melbourne Airport, I hunted down the Myki machines and the PTV buses.
The airport bus most people think of is Skybus – it’s a premium service, and I find it very convenient for heading to and from the CBD or across town, because it’s got stops right outside the terminals, it’s frequent and usually fast, and has train connections at Southern Cross (if you don’t mind a bit of a walk).
But for those on a budget, or heading to nearby suburbs, regular PTV route buses might be a better option. Just be prepared for a long walk at the airport from most terminals.
Buying a Myki at the airport
You can’t buy tickets on PTV buses, so if you don’t have a Myki card (and can’t use Mobile Myki on Android) your first task is to find a Myki vending machine. You might also need a vending machine if you need to top up an existing card – though you can also top up instantly using a credit card on any NFC Android or Apple phone.
If you do need a vending machine, there are several in the ground floor/arrival levels of terminals T2, T3 and T4.
(The PTV web site, which lists a five step process to find Myki outlets but has no direct link to the relevant map page, says T1, not T2… but I couldn’t find one in T1.)
In T2 the Myki machine is near a water fountain. In T3 and T4 they’re in amongst the other vending machines.
Finding the buses
So now you’ve got your ticket. Your next task is to find the bus interchange – or as they like to call it at MEL, the Ground Transport Hub. You’ll need to ignore all the prominent Skybus signage and instead look for “Public transport” on the signs.
Follow the signs, and walk down past T4… if you’re lucky, it won’t be raining.
The bus interchange is in the ground floor of the T4 car park. Follow the sign to the buses.
If you’re paying attention, you’ll spot this map of the various bus bays, which includes Staff services, buses to some of the many airport car parks, V/Line coaches, and private buses to regional cities.
I’m not sure this signage is as good or prominent as it could be, given I got asked for directions while standing nearby.
You might see a bus parked in bay 16. That’s the Set Down Only bay, so the buses can layover until their next trip. Keep walking. You’re almost there.
You’re now about 800 metres from Terminal 1, and here’s Bay 17! That’s the one for the 901, which goes to Broadmeadows, the closest Metro station (and then a long trip via Epping, Ringwood and Dandenong to Frankston). It seems nobody’s bothered to update the operator name on the sign from Transdev to Kinetic.
Nearby you’ll also find bays 18 and 19 for the other local routes, to Airport West and Sunbury (478, 479, 482). I assume they share bays because they’re so infrequent it’s unlikely there’d be two waiting at once. It’s a shame – they’d be very useful for locals (including thousands of staff) if they ran a decent service.
For some reason they haven’t thought to put a Myki vending machine here, where the buses arrive and depart.
If you’re waiting for the 901, hopefully one will arrive soon, as on weekdays at least the service is reasonably frequent, mostly about every 15 minutes. Only half-hourly in the evenings and weekends though, despite heavy travel demand.
If you’re planning on taking the 901 all the way to Frankston, you’ll need a strong bladder and perhaps a snack and a water bottle. The full trip takes about 4.5 hours, and many of the evening buses don’t make it that far before services stop for the night.
You’ll save 2 hours or more – even with sometimes infrequent connections – by using the 901 as far as Broadmeadows and catch a train to Flinders Street then another train to Frankston.
Skybus to Southern Cross, then a train, is slightly quicker again, saving perhaps another 15-20 minutes for the additional premium fare cost.
The PTV Journey Planner lets you choose the mode(s) you want, for instance you can switch off Skybus if you want the trip by standard fares. The Google Maps planner can exclude trains, but can’t distinguish between standard and premium fare buses.
One day, hopefully, there’ll be a railway station at the airport which will make this all easier (though it’ll likely be a premium fare like Skybus). Even better, hopefully it’ll be a quick walk from the terminals, or even directly under the terminals – which is the option preferred by the Airport.
But in the meantime, if you need to buy a Myki and find the PTV buses at Melbourne Airport, now you know how.
More reading: The cheap way to Melbourne airport
EDIT: Added more info for bus 901.