Driven around the bend: Melbourne's meandering bus routes

Australia Victoria Melbourne

Slow, meandering bus routes are costing Melburnians time and money, argues this report.

Buses are a vital but underutilised component of Melbourne’s public transport system and are generally the only means of public transport within regional cities. Only one third of Melbourne residents live within easy reach of a railway station or tram stop, leaving two thirds with a choice between buses, driving themselves or social isolation. While proposed rail extensions to Rowville, Doncaster and Mernda will bring enormous benefits to those areas, overall across Melbourne they will still leave most households beyond walking distance to the rail network. Meanwhile, fringe residential development continues with little indication of how these new communities will avoid costly and unhealthy car dependence.

Unfortunately slow and infrequent services, along with limited operating hours, mean that buses are currently not a genuine option for many people, leaving them with little choice but to own more cars per household, incur higher car operating costs and battle traffic congestion. For those who are unable to drive, these poor bus service levels can trap people at home and deny them education and employment opportunities.

With each bus capable of carrying in excess of 50 people, bus services that are good enough to entice people out of their cars could help to cut congestion and pollution. On the other hand, bus services that fail to meet people’s needs are resulting in more car traffic, worsening air quality and overflowing car parks.

Competent network planning by the newly-established Public Transport Victoria (PTV) could unlock much of the unrealised potential currently lost on Melbourne’s meandering bus routes. Progress on creating a truly integrated multi-modal network that attracts a growing share of travel will be a key test of the government’s commitment to PTV and to Melbourne’s liveability.

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