Thursday, 29 August 2013

Transperth’s Service Change Proposal for Beaufort St corridor, Morley and Embleton

Transperth is planning to introduce two new bus routes, the 950 and 348, to replace the 21, 22 78 and 79, and is inviting public comment. There is consultation at Morley Galleria, today and on Saturday.
Route 950 is to operate between Morley Bus Stn and QEII Medical Centre, via Beaufort St, Esplanade Busport, and the University of Western Australia (UWA).
It is to be the most frequent single bus route in Perth, with headways proposed to be every 3 to 4 minutes during weekday peak hour, 7-8 minutes during weekday off-peak/midday, and every 10 minutes during the day on weekends, with evening headways to vary between 15 and 30 minutes throughout the week. Services are proposed to start operating earlier, and finish later, with frequent services also provided for a longer part of the day. Additional services will operate between Esplanade Busport and UWA during peak hour, with headways to be as small as every 1 to 2 minutes.
Routes 67 and 68 (Perth to Mirrabooka), 23 (Perth to Claremont), 102 (Perth to Cottesloe) and 107 (Perth to Fremantle) will operate alongside the 950. The 950 will be operated primarily using low-floor accessible buses, although older high-floor buses will be used for some peak hour trips.
Since the 950 includes the whole routes of the 22, 78 and 79, these routes will be withdrawn.
The 21 will also be withdrawn, but the section of the route in Embleton will be replaced by the 348. The 348 will run from Morley Bus Stn to Bayswater via Embleton, following the 48. To access the CBD, passengers from Embleton must transfer either to the 950 at Morley (taking the 48, 341, 348 or 955), or a Midland Line train at Bayswater (taking the 48 and 348). A few stops on Lindley St and Priestly St, currently only served by the 21, will not be served by buses anymore, but alternative bus stops are available close by.
The 48 and 348 will be frequency co-ordinated, with buses every 20 minutes during weekday peak hour, half an hour on weekday middays and Saturdays, and every 60-90 minutes on Sundays.
It is encouraging to see routes like the 950 being introduced in Perth. The phenomenal frequency of this route is testament to the high demand for public transport in parts of Perth, and the appetite for even more service. Services will be simplified, as there will be one bus route available that is very frequent and operates early in the morning and late into the night.
Some passengers will have to transfer or walk further to access public transport that was previously very close, or destinations that previously could be accessed on one bus. Examples include Embleton passengers wishing to access Beaufort St or the CBD, or passengers bound for UWA or QEII Medical Centre arriving at Wellington St Bus Stn (in this case the option of a direct ride between Wellington St and UWA/QEII was taken away a while ago for CBD roadworks, but it appeared as if that ride would be restored after construction finished). However, this is balanced by the one seat ride between Morley/Beaufort St and UWA/QEII now possible thanks to through routing. Removing the 21 reduces the clutter of infrequent routes in Embleton, and in any case it is now easier to access Bayswater Stn. As an aside, I wonder if peak hour Midland Line services will be increased any time soon, as there may not be enough room on already crowded trains to accommodate more Embleton passengers in peak hour.
It is encouraging that the span of services is widening, with earlier and later services proposed for the 950. With Northbridge and Mt Lawley on the route, it 24 hour service might be considerable, although this probably won’t be implemented, since the 4am trains and Nightrider buses were cancelled in June. While the 348 doesn’t appear to be proposed to operate at night, but this is in line with current 21 services, and anyway the whole route of the 348 will get night services on the 48.
In line with routes that start with a 9 and end with a 0 (the 920 and 940), perhaps the 950 should be limited stop. The current 66 route will not be changed, and it is unclear what role the 66 would play, as the 950 would run far more frequently than the 66. Perhaps the 950 could become an all-day version of the 66, providing fast, limited-stop service to Morley.
On the other hand, Beaufort St’s urban fabric is quite fine grained, and a limited stop 950 would not likely serve the Beaufort St corridor adequately. The 67 and 68 would have to run much more frequently  to serve local demand, and short-turns would be necessary since travel demand on Grand Promenade and in Bedford is much lower than demand on Beaufort St.
A peak hour only, or weekday only, limited stop 950 might work, but it could unnecessarily complicate matters, undoing the simplification done by uniting Morley to Perth via Beaufort St services under a single route number. I think that route 66 services should be bolstered to every 5 minutes during peak hour, with 950 frequencies reduced to every 5 minutes during peak hour if funding is scarce.
66s and 950s every 10 minutes on weekday middays are a possibility, although having two services all day could be a complexity (even if a small one). Therefore, extending the special route number 66’s service outside of peak hours, where many riders are commuters and make the same trip daily, and into the interpeak when more spontaneous non-work/education trips are made, may reduce the sheer simplicity that encourages spontaneous use of public transport.
There would arguably also be a lower proportion of people travelling from Morley, or the suburbs beyond, right into the CBD, and more people accessing or moving around the small-scale café, dining and entertainment precinct along Beaufort St, including suburbs such as Mt Lawley, Inglewood and Highgate. Long distances between stops would insufficiently cover the Beaufort St strip.
The 60-90 minute frequency of combined 48 and 348 services through Embleton are interesting. Firstly, the current service headway of the 48 on Sundays is 90 minutes, so logically speaking inserting a 348 to create a 60 minutes gap between a 48 and 348 would produce a 30 minute gap between the 348 and another 48. This range of frequencies from every 30 minutes to every 90 minutes is unnecessarily complicated and could bear simplifying.
I would suggest increasing the frequency of the 48 to every hour, as will that of the 43 and 55, so that Sunday frequency on Guildford Rd is an even 20 minutes. The 43 could be replaced with a 41 and 42, for a consistent 15 minute headway throughout the week, although this is not really necessary. It would be possible to run the 348 every hour on Sundays, leading to consistent 30 minute headway throughout the week, although again you wouldn’t necessarily have to run the 348 on Sundays, as an hourly frequency on the 48 is still simple and par for the course for Sunday services away from major PT corridors.