In a media release distributed on Tuesday morning the Andrews Government has announced it will not proceed with proposals to alter the bus network which Transdev Melbourne operates. For a summary of the now rejected proposal, see this Age report from Monday.
Transdev Melbourne - an operator which runs approximately 30% of Melbourne's bus network - originally sought to cut elongated routes, such as the orbital smart bus routes, and reduce frequencies on multiple northern and western routes in order to boost capacity in the east and south where patronage growth is reportedly strongest.
The Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan has stated "rather than cutting buses in one area to increase buses in another, the Andrews Labor Government will develop a more balanced bus network plan in consultation with the community." Furthermore "demand for buses is growing faster than any other mode of transport, and we need to make sure they continue to meet the needs of our community.”
The State Government is now set to establish a new Ministerial consultative group encompassing new transport forums based around municipal areas. The bodies are set to look at ways to 'expand and improve public transport, including buses'.
One can only hope the new Ministerial consultative group conducts a root and branch - or spoke and hub - review of Melbourne's entire bus network. Smart buses are the offspring of the previous Bracks/Brumby Labor government and it appears the current Labor Government doesn't want to mess with that legacy as much given they have now rejected a proposal which would have seen the elongated orbital routes broken up into smaller segments.
In the series of news reports about the proposed changes a common theme became apparent: the longer smart bus routes were used more in some sections (east and south) compared to others (north and west). The proposal sought to address this by splitting routes so that buses ran over shorter routes in order to improve punctuality.
There's logic in the idea of splitting routes but I can't find much logic in reducing frequencies in a city where the population is growing - especially through the northern suburbs where there are over 100 projects which will yield 9,000-10,000 apartments across the municipalities of Moonee Valley, Moreland and Darebin.
While many of the proposals, projects at sales and those currently under construction are focused on the radial public transport routes in suburbs closer to the centre of the city, it would be naive in the extreme to assume the current light and heavy rail networks will be sufficient to cater for the influx of people who will be moving to these municipalities and travelling between them.
South of Bell Street a dense network of cross-town bus routes currently exists however frequency is patchy with some routes running more often than others and the proposed changes would have seem a reduction of services on Bell Street itself.
The announcement of new transport forums is positive however I believe the consultantive groups should be cautious given the Government has announced they will be based around local government areas. Does that mean each municipality will hold its own forum or will the forums focus on groups of municipalities in the different regions of the metropolitan area?
The worst possible outcome will be if forums are conducted in municipal pockets where hyper-local interests are likely to overrule regional transport goals thus entrenching oddities like dog's leg deviations, bus termini that fall short of connecting with other public transport modes, low frequencies and reduced hours of operation.
Lead image credit: Wikipedia.