Bus ride detour

What happens when your driver misses a turn?

Recently I had a bus ride that was a little out of the ordinary.

A few minutes after boarding, the bus missed a turn.

I realised after a minute or two, and checked with the driver if I was on the right bus. They said yes.

Okay. Maybe there’s some kind of detour in place. But it didn’t feel right.

A minute later, the bus driver started having doubts too.

Apparently they were unfamiliar with the route, and at that key moment, the navigation computer had decided not to give directions.

And there was nobody from HQ answering the radio.

So I helped direct the driver to get back onto the route… but the only easy way to do it got us up the road from the turn, so a few stops were missed…

…which we’d almost done when the radio came back to life.

The driver was advised to double back and loop round to ensure no stops were missed. (I should have thought of that myself, but it’s not a question I’ve ever been faced with before.)

By the time we were back on course, we were about 15 minutes late. Could be worse I suppose, though I wonder if the layover time at the end of the route would be enough to get back on time for the next trip.

The driver mentioned they’d driven buses for a while, but not around here – mostly interstate.

The indirect nature of the route certainly didn’t help. The spaghetti-like nature of the bus network is confusing for passengers – turns out it’s confusing for bus drivers as well.

Mistakes happen.

If you’ve ever wondered why your bus is late, this is one possibility.

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.

20 replies on “Bus ride detour”

How strange!!! And certainly a good reason to ensure that every driver has a paper map with them, especially their first time of that route.

Many years ago I remember seeing discreet bus route directional signs on lamp posts for bus drivers along the way to Bondi Beach. It seems rather an obvious solution if the route is not so straight forward. Melbourne’s bad.

I had this happen years ago on the 772 in Frankston South. The driver temporarily forgot what route they were driving, missed their turn then swore at themselves when they realised. An easy mistake to make since the other routes along Moorooduc Highway follow the route they were going to take.

The driver wasn’t able to double-back but despite that only missed one stop that didn’t normally see any pick-up passengers anyway. They were probably only a minute late into Frankston.

Last year I caught a route 305 bus out of the City one evening. (This route only runs into the City during weekday peak – at other times it terminates at Westfield Doncaster.) After getting off the freeway, the driver took a wrong turn down Bulleen Road instead of continuing down Thompsons Road. After some help over the radio and an interesting detour as far as Bridge Road and back, we caught back up to our route, about 15 minutes late. However, the driver was still not really sure where to go. In the end, the next route 305 bus caught up with us and those of us who hadn’t given up on the bus altogether were asked to switch over to that bus.

The other bus passengers seemed surprisingly unfazed by all this, which made me think it might not be too uncommon an occurrence on these peak-hour specials. I get the feeling Kinetic has a high turnover of drivers – this driver had probably never driven a peak-hour route 305 service before. He showed me the route directions sheet he was given, and it was quite possibly the most confusing set of directions I had ever seen. It consisted of cryptic instructions printed in a minuscule font size and didn’t include a map. If that’s the quality of information provided to Kinetic drivers, it’s a wonder that any of them find their way around.

CDC Melbourne has directional signs for their routes, as well as the SmartBus routes (I think there is still signage for 903 in Sunshine back when the route was operated by Ventura).

Just remembered that this happened on the old route 422 (St Albans-Delahey) when I was in high school and getting the bus home. The bus driver missed Longfellow Drive and ended up going Tennyson Drive (which was normally serviced by buses going to St Albans).

The route no longer exists, but the route number itself has been recycled (422 is now used for Sunshine to Brimbank Shopping Centre), which I do believe I mentioned in a previous topic.

@Tramologist, no, I’m not going to say which route it is. But I will say it was not route 612 as in the photo.

@JessB, I believe drivers also get shown the route before driving it, but if you’re a driver who drives many routes, I can see how it might be confusing.

It can be especially bad when doing rail replacements on an unfamiliar route. There’s any number of stories of those buses going off-course.

@Andrew, as indigohex3 says, that type of signage is common in Melbourne too. It can be pretty subtle, and I think only some operators install them. Here’s an example:

I had an instance about a year ago ago where the 220 inbound had been diverted for a few weeks due to West Gate Tunnel works on Footscray Road but on this particular occasion should’ve been back to normal. However this driver took the diverted route along Dynon Road and no-one appeared concerned. It meant a longer walk for me from Spencer & Dudley to Bourke Street in Docklands rather than from Footscray Rd, and the next 220 (which had gone the correct way) passed me on my walk. I sent some feedback to Kinetic and got this:

We forwarded a copy of your complaint to the driver management team for internal investigation, the team have confirmed via the on board tracking system that bus 399-MBF allocated to the 9:20am service has failed to follow the correct route. The driver did report the error to the operations control centre who advised the driver to make a diversion and continue on route. We can confirm the driver is still new and has unfortunately made an error and taken the incorrect route, as a result the driver has been interviewed and that appropriate action is being taken, this includes retraining and anonymous assessment.

Around the same time I also gave feedback to Metro when an outbound train incorrectly ran express through West Footscray, and got this:

We have investigated the Train Performance Report for the 30 March 2023, which confirms that the 8:41am service from West Footscray Station did not stop as scheduled. We can confirm that your experience has been brought to the attention of our Driver Manager, for investigation under internal procedures. It appears that on this occasion your service did not stop due to a driver oversight, and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience you experienced.

I also remember once a replacement bus taking an interesting route between Footscray and Sunshine that somehow missed West Footscray and I ended up at Tottenham instead.

And slightly related – last week it was replacement coaches between Wyndham Vale and Geelong, and it’s interesting to see that there are two ways to get from Wyndham Vale Station to the freeway – I guess that’s either individual coach company or driver discretion. I was pleasantly surprised on Monday night when the whole Geelong line was out and my coach home after 8.30pm went express to Footscray – been a while since that has happened. But I didn’t appreciate the over half an hour wait late on Friday night between the replacement coach getting to Wyndham Vale and the scheduled train departure time.

Ventura has busminder map for their drivers which other bus company’s should also get. Yarra trams use it but driver never connect it to the busminder.

I was just on the PTV website, and 410 is pretty confusing with one service going via Churchill Avenue and another service on 410 going via Duke Street. This used to happen with 513 (one going via Lower Plenty and one going via Greeensbrough), but the via Lower Plenty is now 513 while Greensbrough is now 514. My recommendation for 410 is to have 410 going via Churchill Avenue and use a different route number for Duke Street (probably use 405 for Duke Street instead of 410).

@danielbowen. In many bigger depots driver only get shown select few routes, normally what ever shifts they during their 2 or so weeks training

V/Line replacement coaches do have multiple route options which drivers can choose under their discretion.

This happened to us while we were tourists in Chicago. Waited at a bus stop for about an hour while the transit website kept telling us the bus we wanted was nearby, but it never actually turned up. Eventually we gave up and started walking back to the hotel.

On the way back, we were near another stop and saw the required bus arriving, so decided to get on. When it got to the corner it should have turned at to go past our original stop, it instead went straight on, and shortly afterwards started going through an underground carpark and out the other side.

Speaking to a local, apparently the route *used to* to go through the carpark but wasn’t supposed to any more, and it wasn’t the usual driver. And that bus was the only one serving that particular route that day.

Is it any wonder few Melbournians use the bus? If drivers don’t know the routes, how can we expect passengers to know? I think there’s a big information gap between the modes, bus routes need some kind of map(s) the same way that trains and trams have. The current system requires you to either have full faith in the journey planner, or to already know where all the myriad of routes go, and when.

I recall this on a bus from Mernda. The bus sailed on down the main road West instead of turning South into an estate where my intended stop was. It was some distance until the opporunity for a U-turn.

Not just busses either, I have had a couple of times a train run straight through Hawthorn, when it should have been all stations, without so much as a word. The first time it occured, I queried it (using the emergency call button), I was told “tracks were too slippery to stop”.

During the Skyrail construction from Caulfield to Dandenong, the stations between Caulfield and Oakleigh were closed for various periods, so trains were going express through the closed station. One one occasion Murrumbeena station was closed, but the train driver went express through Carnegie, then realized his mistake and had to go express through Murrumbeena as well, meaning that I got to my stop at Hughesdale a couple of minutes early!
Not much chance of a train doing a u-turn and going back to a missed stop.
It must have been during 2017, prior to the permanent closure of the old Hughesdale station in October of that year.

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