sydney: a new frequent network diagram

As the state government that rules Sydney begins rethinking the public transport network, a new Frequent Network diagram has appeared just in time.  (For more examples of this blog's frequent network mapping campaign, see the Frequent Network category.)

Download the whole thing, which covers all of greater Sydney inside the national park ring, here.  If you work on transport in Sydney, or just want to understand how to get around spontaneously, print it and put it on your wall!  I believe this is the only diagram in existence that can help you find your way around Sydney via frequent services, or understand their current structure.  (Yes, a geographic version would be helpful; perhaps, inspired by this, somebody will draw one.)

Below is the portion covering inner-city Sydney.  That's the largest continuously dense area of the region, and the one you are most likely to know as a tourist.  The CBD and Harbour Bridge are at the northern edge of this diagram, the airport is in the south, and the beaches are in the east.

Syd 15 min

The artist is Kevin McClain, who has just moved to Seattle to join the Accessible Services section at King County Metro.  He tells me it's to be published on the Easy Transport website – a North Shore organisation devoted mostly to special-needs services.  It's odd that such an organisation has produced the most useful diagram of Sydney for people who just want to get around all day without waiting long, but that's exactly what this is.  

The maps published by the bus operators — download here – emphasise the complexity of the network by making all the routes look equally important, thus concealing patterns of frequency that would show the customer where they can move freely and easily.  In this it's like most transit maps from before the advent of frequent network mapping.  (For many great examples of frequent network mpas, see my Frequent Networks category.)  The Government deserves credit for fostering the Metrobus product, which is meant to be the future frequent backbone of the network, but there are still many frequent corridors that don't carry the Metrobus logo and M-number, so a Metrobus map is not quite a frequent network map.  The branding of Sydney services is still a work in progress.

The map reveals many issues that are hidden on the current public maps (download here).  Those maps make all the routes look equally important and thus give the impression of intimidating complexity.  

Public transport in Sydney has historically functioned in modal silos, with rail, bus, and ferry planning largely unrelated to each other and sometimes even seeing each other as competitors.  That's meant to change under the new integrated transport authority, Transport for New South Wales, which has begun thinking about all the modes together.  I hope this diagram will help them visualise the problem and conceive new solutions to it.

If you care about people who move around all day, who are inclined not to drive, but who value their freedom and won't stand for being stranded for long stretches of time, this is your public transport network.  The gaps in this network are the gaps in people's freedom.  Can Sydney do better?

8 Responses to sydney: a new frequent network diagram

  1. Simon August 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Many of those routes considerably stretch the definition of “frequent” to include 30 minute frequency e.g. 391/2/5/6 376/7.

  2. Kenny August 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    It’s not just for people who are “inclined not to drive”. I normally feel that when I travel by public transit I am free, but when I travel by car or bike I am tied down. At each stop on the journey, I have an anchor where I am parked, and I need to find such an anchor at the next stop. I can’t go somewhere, eat lunch, walk a few blocks to go to a museum, walk a few more blocks to go shopping, and then leave from there – I have to come back to where I started, or else move the vehicle at each step of the way. There’s some lack of freedom with transit too, in that I have to get to a stop, but in many cases, the stop for the next transit vehicle (or the station for the bike share) is closer than where I would have parked.

  3. Simon Russell August 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    Has it been taken down? Getting a 404 at the link.

  4. anonymouse August 26, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Oh… wow, that Sydney bus map is terrible. Not in the least because it’s not a bus map, it’s four separate bus maps. And I guess that makes sense with a network as vast and disjointed as Sydney’s, but they could still do so much better. While each region maps at least shows buses from other regions, and there’s some kind of vaguely logical coloring scheme in each region, they’re not the same between regions! So a bus route that’s brown in one region is green in another, which just makes it that much harder to follow routes across region boundaries. And in my experience, that’s one of the places where buses have a lot of potential, because if I wanted to get to the CBD, I could just take a train, but there are not that many circumferential train lines.

  5. Brad August 27, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    A very good effort. Kudos to Kevin McClain for his work. It’s not perfect, and there’s always room for improvement — but is there such a thing as “the perfect map”? You may as well talk about “the perfect flower” or “the perfect symphony”. The fact is, he’s done a better job than anyone else has of trying to map Sydney’s frequent network — a job made more difficult because routes in Sydney which operate frequently through the work week can often be dead as a doornail on weekends and at night time, which the table off to the right helpfully tries to explain.
    The errors I’ve spotted are sins of omission, not commission: The 888 from Campbelltown to Rosemeadow isn’t shown though it operates at a 15-minute frequency throughout the day on weekdays. The 870/871/872 south of Liverpool station, north of Campbelltown station, and common segments in between where they don’t diverge (e.g., Ingleburn station to Westmoreland Road Leumeah) aren’t shown either. Also the 380 isn’t shown (the all-stops version of the limited-stops 333 to Bondi Beach which, like the 333, runs every 10 mins).
    I look forward to seeing future versions. Especially a to-scale version 🙂

  6. Mike Williams August 29, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    You have to separate out “frequent” and “reliably frequent”. So I can see some services that are timetabled at a certain frequency but which do not operate as such.
    Then you have the services which stop in the early evening, so if you were travelling after 6/7pm then you’d be mislead into thinking there was a frequent service, but there may not be any service.

  7. Craig Simpson December 7, 2012 at 1:33 am #

    the 870,871,872 is a bus service that essentially duplicates the rail line, but takes 90 minutes to do so. The train takes 22 minutes so why does this bus service even exist I ask. close to nearly all the areas serviced by this route except maybe the casula area are within 5 minutes of the train station. these services would be better looping back from glenfield instead.

  8. Roger February 4, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    separate maps for separate operations might be the way to go, but that would be quite a project. You could do a couple just for this blog though, using this network diagram tool.

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