Bus route 401 – the way of the future?

Melbourne’s newest bus – route 401 – started operation today, and it seems to be quite a departure from existing Melbourne bus practice. Running from North Melbourne station to Melbourne University, it eschews basically everything we expect from a Melbourne bus. It is high frequency (every 3 minutes peak, every 6 minutes off peak), has very few stops, doesn’t allow the driver to sell tickets and runs as a spur from a trip generator to an interchange station.

Some of these developments – such as the high frequency and direct link between a railway station and trip generator – are very positive indeed. The limited stops idea is interesting, but the bus should really also stop at Abbotsford St. to connect with the 57 Tram. Furthermore, it’s disappointing that it won’t be running after 7:30pm or on weekends. It’s a start though and it’s nice to see a departure from the entrenched mindset. I didn’t see anyone aboard today, but given time it should start getting some decent patronage.


10 Responses

  1. Is there any ticket purchasing options aboard at all, such as a ticket machine? I know they probably have little expectations of students anyway, but that’s practically asking people to fare evade.

    Also, I concur on the Abbotsford street stop, though I guess the walk from the Grattan St/Flemington Road tram stop isn’t too bad.

  2. Oops, just realised I was thinking of the number 59 tram, not the 57. In that case, it should definitely link at Abbotsford street.

  3. Jess, my understanding is that you still need to validate your metcard when you get on the bus – it’s just the driver won’t sell you one on this service.

    I can’t see it being a major problem as the service is targeted towards people already using the train. The lack of stops discourages local patronage that may need to buy a ticket.

  4. I agree – this bus does only what a bus service should. Run in a straight line, and frequently, and have a high profile.

    Too many of Melb’s bus routes are too long, too circuitous, too slow and too infrequent and have low profile.

  5. I take the 401 frequently. love it but fear that the lack of punters might lead to its demise. I would say half the buses have no people on them. the other half (leaving after classes, esp in the afternoon) can get quite busy 5-30 passengers. serving only the hospital and the uni means a pretty limited set of customers, and noone ever seems to get on and off at the hospital…

    still perhaps the point of it is that it takes (marginal) pressure off melb central station and the trams that go to uni, so it doesn’t need to pay for itself fully.

    incidentally, i think running cross town services near the city centre is the best idea *ever*. the moscow metro has a radial syste with a circle line about 4km outside the cbd (http://www.wtr.ru/moscow/eng/metro/metro.html) and it is always busy.

    even more incidentally, the moscow metro is also the best metro i have ever used. 3 min maximums waits, artwork and chandeliers in the stations, well engineered stations. beautiful central planning 😉

  6. Thanks Jason. I don’t catch the 401, but always make a mental note of patronage when I see the buses. Agree it doesn’t look so good on the patronage front from what I’ve seen, but apparently the DoT is very happy with the numbers (according to railpage). It would be a great shame if it failed, because it is a great step forward in bus provision in Melbourne – 6min offpeak frequencies are what we should be aiming for across all of zone 1.

    I’ve never been to Moscow so haven’t seen the metro – but some of the pictures I’ve seen of the stations have been amazing! Just goes to show the communists didn’t get everything wrong…

  7. The frequency of this new bus service is what should be the standard on all major roads and on expressway buses in melbourne. Id go further with this standard of high freq and make it as follows:

    Weekdays Monday to Friday.

    4am to 5am every 10 mins, 5am to 10am every 3 mins, 10am to 3pm every 6 mins, 3pm to 8pm every 3 mins, 8pm to 11pm every 10 mins 11pm to 1am every 15 mins.

    Friday night: 11pm to 4am every 15 mins.

    Weekends and Public hoildays:

    4am to 6am every 10 mins, 6am to 8pm every 6 mins 8pm to 11pm every 10 mins 11pm to 1am every 15 mins.

    Saturday night and eve of public holiday: 11pm to 4am

    This standard needs to be applied to all smartbus routes, Eastern Expressway routes and all main road services.

    Then maybe the buses in Melbourne will be viewed as high frequency service like the trams.

  8. Came back from the airport via Skybus/Nth Melb/401 today. Of course, because of our reversing City Loop arrangement, I couldn’t go the easier SC->Melb Central-> Route 19 that I would have preferred. Bring on loop normality, if there can be such a thing here.

    Anyway, the combo worked pretty well, but I was the only passenger on the 401 just a bit after 9am. There was a survey person counting numbers, and I suspect in the next little while there might be some service changes on the route – maybe making the 3-min headways confined to a shorter peak period or similar. Even I couldn’t see the point running buses at 3min for few passengers – 6min would have been ok. I asked the driver if it was normally as empty and he indicated usually ‘just a few more’.

    5/6 min is still ‘turn up and go’ in my book (3 min median wait) and if it frees up a few buses/drivers for another 401 style service, I’m all for it. On the other hand, I hope they don’t decide patronage is low so frequency falls through the floor to 10 or 15 mins offpeak.

  9. The route 401 is great, problem is that the bus doesn’t stop at the Flemington rd/Grattan st BUS STOP when you hail it. What’s the point?

  10. […] was the first example of a useful bus service in […]

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