Bus route backflips in Blackburn

Last year in Blackburn, minor changes to bus routes resulted in mass community outrage, followed by a sudden backflip by Public Transport Victoria.

Route 901 bus at Blackburn station, but the signage has no mention of the route!

The story starts in August 2013, when following a public tender process, new entrant Transdev took over the operation of a number of bus routes across Melbourne. Included in the new contract was:

A requirement for the operator to conduct a comprehensive review of all services included in the franchise to identify opportunities for improvement and implement a “greenfields” timetable change by the end of April 2015.

Behind this requirement was the intent to make Melbourne’s bus network more efficient – remove little used bus routes and deviations, and redirect the resources towards bus routes that passengers will actually choose to use. The side benefit to this was no net increased in the level of government funding.

The first sign of these coming changes was in June 2014, when Public Transport Victoria publicised their new timetable, only one month before it came into operation.

Their website was very vague, with the metropolitan bus page not being much help.

  • Major bus network changes in Brimbank, City of Port Phillip, Manningham and Bacchus Marsh
  • Minor bus network changes in Banyule, Boroondara, Darebin, Hume, Maroondah, Whitehorse, Wyndham and Yarra

Not to mention, who the hell knows the names of local government areas besides the one responsible for picking up the rubbish bin outside their house?

It took a while before people actually found about their local bus routes being cut back – this piece from the Manningham Leader was the first newspaper article to publicise the changes.

Manningham bus commuters blast Transdev’s announcement of service cuts from July 27
Anna Chisholm
June 30, 2014

Manningham commuters are about to be dudded again with the announcement Transdev will be scrapping a number of bus services, starting next month.

Scrapped routes include 201, 203, 205, 286, 303, 313 and 315.

Transdev told Manningham Leader in early June it would finish collecting data on passenger numbers, punctuality, frequency and timetables during the third quarter of the year.

Leader has today asked why the review and changes were fast-tracked.

Public Transport Victoria (PTV) spokeswoman Helen Witton said the changes would provide simpler routes and more frequent services that better connect with trains.

She said there would be improved connections to key stations like Croydon, Ringwood, Mitcham, Blackburn, and Box Hill railway stations.

Many local residents were very vocal.

But public transport users have taken aim at Transdev, Public Transport Victoria, and the State Government on the Yes to Doncaster Rail Facebook page.

Commuters vented their anger about the timetable changes on the Yes to Doncaster Rail Facebook page.

The storm of angry comments was directed at changes to time tables and reduced routes to the city — including the 908 SmartBus and 305 which will no longer operate to the city during off-peak times and weekends.

The Doncaster Rail Advocacy Steering Committee’s Facebook group members posted over the weekend, saying a number of routes in Manningham would be scrapped as of July 27.

The post revealed some routes would have reduced frequencies and operating hours.

“This was done with absolutely NO consultation with the community, unlike other areas of Melbourne who seem to get special treatment,” the post read.

“Some people will be better off, but generally, PTV has decided to reduce services in Manningham as they believe our public transport is good enough.”

The spokesperson from Public Transport Victoria said that the changes were a response to previous consultation.

PTV spokeswoman Helen Witton said the changes would remove duplication in the bus network and provide more direct services.

She said Transdev undertook a detailed market research study in late 2012 with both users and non-users of bus routes in the Manningham area.

“Transdev’s planning team also consulted with relevant local councils and took into account current traffic and patronage data before submitting their proposals to PTV for review and approval,” she said.

“PTV and Transdev also receive regular feedback from customers who consistently tell us they want more direct, simpler routes and more frequent services that better connect with trains, and this is what this network and timetable change delivers.”

And a Transdev manager also mentioned the reasoning behind the changes.

Transdev stakeholders and marketing general manager Emilie van de Graaff previously told Manningham Leader the scheduling of 52 bus routes was under review by Transdev and Public Transport Victoria, as part of Transdev’s franchise contract.

She said the review was aiming for a “more effective use of existing resources”.

“A lot of bus services are running around empty, which is costing money,” she said.

“They could be used in other areas where more services are needed.”

Ms van de Graaff said Transdev had clear targets to increase patronage by improving services by 2015, as part of their contract with PTV.

However the timetable changes occurred despite the backlash, with bus stops along the withdrawn route 286 being covered up with temporary signs.

Disused bus stops in Blackburn, following the removal of the route 286 bus

Leaving bus shelters in streets that no longer saw buses.

Disused bus shelter in Blackburn, following the removal of the route 286 bus

The removal of bus route 303 was also a sore point, so in September 2014 the government back flipped, and found $860,000 to source an extra bus to reinstate the service.

Transport Minister Terry Mulder reinstates bus services from North Ringwood to the city
Thomas O’Byrne
Maroondah Leader
September 02, 2014

Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder has apologised for making an $860,000 blunder and restored two axed bus services in Melbourne’s east, following fierce opposition to the bus’ scraping.

In a victory for commuters, Mr Mulder announced today that the government would reinstate the bus route 303, a peak hour service from North Ringwood to the city, which was scrapped in July amid a major shake-up of the bus network.

Eastern Metropolitan Region upper house Labor MP Shaun Leane told Maroondah Leader last week that his party would restore the 303 route if elected in November.

Mr Mulder laid blame for the “mistake” at the feet of bus operator Transdev and said the company’s public consultation process had failed to identify the route’s value to the community.

“I would just like to apologise for what has happened … we’re always prepared to acknowledge that we don’t get something 100 per cent right,” Mr Mulder said.

Then Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder blamed Transdev for making the changes.

“We did rely on this particular case with the operator (Transdev) conducting all of the research with the passengers.”

Mr Mulder said a new bus would need to be sourced and refurbished for the route 303 at a cost of about $860,000.

Asked if the Coalition was playing catch-up on public transport policy, Mr Mulder said it was “easy to make an announcement from opposition.”

Mr Mulder said this was the first time Public Transport Victoria was not heavily engaged in community consultation but the department would take a “far greater role” in the future.

The Minister said Transdev had made the decision to axe the two bus routes following public consultation.

“We understood, at the time, that those matters had been conveyed to the council and customers were aware of what’s going on,” Mr Mulder said.

“But quite clearly, the message I got back from (Liberal candidates) Dee Ryall, Tim Smith and Robert Clark was that was not the case.”

Leader has contacted Transdev for comment.

Note that the government was more than happy to take credit for “listening to the public”.

Eastern suburbs bus improvements commence on 13 October 2014
September 02, 2014

Following suggestions from Member for Mitcham Dee Ryall, Member for Box Hill Robert Clark and Liberal Candidate for Kew Tim Smith who listened to community feedback and fought hard for the restoration of some bus routes, Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder today announced that improvements would be made to some Transdev Melbourne eastern suburban bus routes from Monday 13 October 2014.

Eastern Freeway bus route 303 (Ringwood North – Melbourne CBD) will be reintroduced, while bus route 271 will be deviated to restore trips to Blackburn streets. Public Transport Victoria (PTV) will also consider how best to reintroduce a bus route along Kilby Road, East Kew.

Mr Mulder said that at community drop in sessions in August, PTV and Transdev staff listened to concerns about what the 27 July 2014 timetable changes meant for individual passengers.

“The community feedback indicated that fine tuning of existing bus routes in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs was warranted to help passengers travel to jobs or university in Melbourne’s CBD and the North Carlton area,” Mr Mulder said.

“Route 303’s resumption will reduce crowding at the Middleborough Road and Eastern Freeway on-ramp, also benefiting route 906 and 318 passengers. Route 303 will operate along its previous route and have four peak period morning and afternoon trips on weekdays.”

Ms Ryall said that this was great news for local residents.

“I am thrilled that my representations on behalf of local residents has assisted bus route 303’s reinstatement,” Ms Ryall said.

Mr Mulder said that Mr Clark suggested the rerouting of bus 271.

Bus route 271 will be altered to have a similar route as the previous 286 in the Blackburn area along Marchiori Road, Goodwin Street, Elm Street, Fir Street and then onto Blackburn and Box Hill stations, returning via Goodwin Street.

Mr Clark said that the alteration of route 271 would make travelling to school, Blackburn station and Box Hill easier for residents living near Goodwin and Elm Streets.

“Pedestrian access across Whitehorse Road to route 901 is difficult. This warranted the Coalition Government’s reconsideration of the July timetable change,” Mr Clark said.

Mr Clark said that he was very pleased the Napthine Government was able to work with the local community to devise a solution to better meet residents’ transport needs.

Mr Mulder said that PTV would examine how a Transdev bus route could be reintroduced to Kilby Road, East Kew by April 2015.

“Under Melbourne’s existing bus route contracts, this requires negotiation with Ventura,” Mr Mulder said.

Mr Smith said that he would continue to liaise with Mr Mulder.

“I look forward to working with Mr Mulder to ensure that East Kew residents again have access to a freeway bus route that uses Kilby Road,” Mr Smith said.

Information on the revised bus network and timetables will be available at www.ptv.vic.gov.au and www.transdevmelbourne.vic.gov.au in the coming weeks while passengers may also call PTV daily between 6am and midnight on 1800 800 007.

As well as bringing back the route 303 service, the existing route 271 bus was diverted via the back streets of Blackburn to replicate the removed route 286 service. Good thing they only covered up the old bus stops!

Bus stops back in use in Blackburn, after route 271 was altered to follow former route 286

Since then

Transdev is currently working on a new timetable for the rest of their bus network, and this time they have released their plans to the public long before the timetable itself is due to come into effect. The official consultation period commenced on December 1, 2014 with the changes supposedly due to occur in April 2015.

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21 Responses to “Bus route backflips in Blackburn”

  1. James A says:

    I was heavily involved last year in the campaign against the changes, especially with the Yes to Doncaster Rail Facebook page. The issue was the complete lack of consultation the first time round, and a lack of interest or desire to change plans based on feedback this time. In my area (North Balwyn), uncovered bus stop flags are still sitting around on main roads advertising routes that either no longer exist or have been diverted… 7 months later… The whole thing has been one huge farce.

    • llib says:

      Changes need to be made, as taxpayers we cannot afford to have empty buses driving on routes that meander around back streets. It is a waste of money and does not attract people away from cars.

      We need to streamline the bus routes and increase services on those routes to attact patronage and act as a feeder role to the trains and trams.

      • Marcus Wong says:

        The downside of any change to public transport services is that the existing users will always complain – the fact they are bothering to use the service means it suits their needs already, and in most cases any change can only make things worse.

        A good example of this was the extension of suburban services to Craigieburn and Sunbury. In both cases, the locals grumbled and whinged about the removal of their express V/Line services and said they would never catch the train again, but in reality the number of passengers surged, as all the people once put off by the piss-poor frequencies finally had a service that was useful to them.

      • Jason says:

        @Llib, with changes planned for April, while they have got rid of or reduced the services on some low patronage, they have also cut service levels on high patronage, while at the same time 364 gets extend creating more overlap with 906 in the low area of Warrandyte.

        • Llib says:

          @Jason I am not sure which services you are referring to in terms of high patronage services being cut. If these so called high patronage services were reduced can you state exactly which ones and if that was the case wouldn’t the locals complain about that route instead of forcing the reinstatement of a line with 8 daily services such as the 303 and forcing the 271 to meander around the back streets.

          My argument in this case would be to cut back the 364, even get rid of it altogether as its in the middle of nowhere and divert the buses into a smartbus route or another high patronage line.

          • Jason says:

            @llib I’m not referring to Blackburn area, but high patronage Transdev routes that are to get cuts to service levels in April is routes mostly in western suburbs. While as i said in my earlier post, 364 gets an extension for what’s a low patronage area.

            Also the July changes last year say cuts to the busy Johnston St routes, which as result now got overcrowding issues

  2. Llib says:

    ” As well as bringing back the route 303 service, the existing route 271 bus was diverted via the back streets of Blackburn to replicate the removed route 286 service. Good thing they only covered up the old bus stops!”

    After looking at the map of route 271 I cannot imagine that people would lobby for such a service, it should not even exist as a route at all. The worst thing about this scenario is that you actually need more buses to service a useless route because it is covering more ground and going through the streets in a zigzag fashion. If you had a more direct route you wouldn’t require as many buses not only lowering costs but also attracting patronage which would lower subsidies.

  3. James A says:

    While I agree with everyone’s points regarding meandering routes in back streets, you’re just reading the propaganda and are severely misinformed about what is actually happening. The 216, 219 and 220, three extremely popular and frequent routes in the western suburbs that experience significant overcrowding, are being scaled back. The 908 SmartBus was truncated last year with passengers forced to change onto the 907 which is hopelessly full, EVEN in the off-peak, by the time it reaches the Park+Ride. Transdev has been forced to contract Crowns Coaches to run school services as they need more buses to run morning peak DART services. Johnston Street routes are cut from about 6 minute frequency to 10 minute frequency, although due to poor timetabling, usually ends up as two buses every 20 minutes. Meanwhile, PTV and Transdev are planning on ending the SmartBus branding and regularly run non-air conditioned, high-floor MkII buses on the 907 in peak, the most highly patronised freeway route. Yes, people just need to accept change as it’s always for the better, right?

  4. Llib says:

    Propaganda is a loaded word and I definitely do not agree with the policies and strategies of the State government/Transdev. In fact I believe our state and federal governments are running an infrastructure policy (or lack therof) that will ensure Victoria has a transport system from the last century. For now the focus is on the Blackburn area and at the moment I will back the lesser of two evils and that is Transdev who were trying to straighten out route 271 and make other changes to genuinely streamline the services. The greater evil is the locals or at the least the ones who yell the loudest and unrealistically want a bus running right outside their house as they cannot walk a few hundred metres to the nearest main road.

    If this comment is not propaganda I don’t know what is:

    “Mr Clark said that he was very pleased the Napthine Government was able to work with the local community to devise a solution to better meet residents

    • Jason says:

      @Llib But these changes in many cases are not really delivering improved services where needed. As well as the 216/219, 220 changes planned for April. Last year the Johnston St and route 908 changes have cause issues like overcrowding. Again no real benefit. The talk of much improved services under Transdev is just that, talk!

  5. Llib says:

    Well clearly the lobbying efforts should focus on exactly what you said about Johnston St and route 908 not the 271 and 303. I don’t see any protests in regards to either of these routes. However the main DART routes of 905 to 907 have better frequencies of 7.5 minutes to 15 minutes while the 907 has 10 minute frequencies in the off peak which is pretty good for a service that terminates in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. Clearly it looks like Transdev have focused on main corridor routes such as this and looks to clean up the garbage in the form of 303 and 271. Maybe they could work on Johnston St and 908 but that comes down to future government funding for extra buses, which the Andrews government has done nothing about yet.

    Call it propaganda and change for changes sake but this is better than the situation beforehand when the during the pre smartbus days there were 20 minute frequencies in peak time and many other bus routes having no Sunday services and finishing at 6pm during weekdays.

  6. Jason says:

    @907 along with the 901/902/903 in south east are the only main corridors getting improvement. While other main routes/corridors are getting nothing or cut backs. And there actually has been complaints about them, but Transdev not willing to do anything.

    As for funding, well Transdev extended the 235/237 from Market St to Vic market, despite the fact it get almost no patronage , it will still go to Vic Market, while as already discussed in many case busy routes are getting cuts. Yep keeping low patronage sections while cutting busy services makes a lot of sense.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The extension of routes 235 and 237 from Market Street to Queen Victoria Market is incredibly pointless – the majority of passengers only use the bus to/from Southern Cross Station, yet the ‘new’ service duplicates an existing tram service along Collins Street, while also getting stuck in traffic!

      I’ve been told the actual reason for the change was operational convenience – Transdev wanted to simplify the number of locations where bus routes start/end for rostering reasons, and killing off Market Street was an easy way to achieve it.

      • Jason says:

        @Marcus, but operationally it’s costed more buses and Kms , that could of been used elsewhere. Not to mention dead running is much more now under Transdev, with silly things like Sandringham bus out to Sunshine.

      • Jason says:

        Also many 235/237 buses have to go back to Market St after their run for their meal brake, more waste in Kms!

  7. Jason says:

    As for the days before smartbuses true, but some of these transdev changes are taking things backwards.

  8. Llib says:

    I never defended Transdev as a whole and duplicated routes as well as useless extensions are just as bad if not worse than meandering routes. Strangely though none has protested about the 235 and 237 as well as the 364. Instead they protested about the 303 and 271 which has made bus services worse.

    I can probably think of many ways that we can improve bus routes without even requiring extra buses but if we were to buy 100 buses (less than the cost of 1 level crossing removal) that would make a large difference to frequencies on routes that you complain about plus other.

    • James A says:

      I’m all in favour of streamlining routes away from main roads and improving frequencies. The only case where I think this has gone a step too far is in the northern Bulleen area in the April changes. If you take a look at the map and operating hours chart, you will see that some people will have walks of up to 1.5kms on a weekend!! The 283 will not operate on weekends. Now that’s just insane.

      Another point that no one seems to have touched on is the absolute lack of consultation in the first round of July changes. The only consultation referred to is market research done by Transdev in December 2012. The truth is that Transdev Melbourne did not exist in December 2012 as Ventura still had the contract. Additionally, even Council was not consulted and found out about the changes the week they were announced.

      In the current round of April changes, yes, “consultation” is occurring, but it seems to be more of ticking a checkbox then genuinely engaging the community. I attended one of the feedback sessions, and of the Transdev reps told me that he isn’t interested in what I have to say because the network’s already decided. This is demonstrated by the fact that there have been no changes since to the proposal.

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