sydney: new efforts at frequency mapping (guest post)

Kevin McClain is currently a Project Officer at Easy Transport, the Regional Coordination Office for Community Transport in Northern Sydney.  He holds a masters degree in Transport Management from the University of Sydney.

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about Frequency Mapping on Human Transit starting with this post. Here in Australia we have seen frequency maps for Melbourne and Brisbane, but other than this map, we haven’t seen one for Sydney. Inspired by the efforts so far, I set out to try and make a frequency map of the services in Northern Sydney, the region where I currently live and work.  This effort was also driven by the desire to reduce the number of resources a transport user would need to consult in order to plan a trip.  Currently there are seven different system maps for services in the Northern Sydney Area alone: five bus maps (each covering different areas), one rail map and one ferry map.  Ultimately I ended up developing two maps: One frequency map of all of the services in Northern Sydney and one map of all frequent services across all of Sydney.

I work for Easy Transport , which provides transport information for seniors and people with disabilities. We also serve as the regional coordination office for Community Transport in the Northern Sydney Region and provide travel training to residents.  Our Northern Sydney map was developed to be a tool that could be used by the travel training program and potentially help promote our service. 

One of the challenges I have struggled with is the fact that there are a variety of service types in Sydney (buses, trains, ferries, and light rail) and people seem to want to be able to tell the difference between the service types when they look at a public transport map.  This makes frequency mapping more difficult.  In the Spokane map, all services are provided by bus.  There is no need to show service types.  Creating a map that shows service types and then shows frequency within each of those service types quickly gets complicated. 

For the Northern Sydney map I started by showing bus, train and ferry frequencies at the following levels 1-15 min, 16-30 min and 31-60 minutes.  This quickly proved to be too much, therefore the train lines were modified to show only stations that had frequent services (1-15 minutes) and stations that didn’t (Click here to download high resolution PDF.)

Northern Sydney V1

One alternative is to show only frequent and infrequent services (1-15 minutes and 16-60 minutes). While this reduces the amount of information available, it also makes the map more legible.  (Click here to download high resolution PDF.)

Northern Sydney V2

The map of all frequent services across all of Sydney is less complicated.  Only the suburban train services and frequent bus services are shown.  [JW:  Sydney has no frequent all-day ferry services.]  Train frequency was again shown on a station by station basis.  This version has the same colours for the train lines as are used in the CityRail map.  (Click here to download high resolution PDF.) 

Sydney Frequent V1
While this alternative does not have the colours of the train lines.  (Click here to download high resolution PDF.)

Sydney Frequent V2

One of the main points of both maps is to show where the frequent bus services are in Sydney.  While train frequency is also important, there has been a recent expansion of frequent bus services across Sydney with the introduction of the Metro bus services (in red on the map of all frequent services).  I think that it is important to show how these new services, along with existing frequent bus services, fill in some of the gaps.

Each of the maps show the trade-off between providing more information and a clear map that emphasizes the frequent services.  Try planning a trip on one version of the map and then the other.  Does the level of information provided affect the routes you chose?  Are you able to figure out where the routes are going?  Are there areas that are particularly confusing? Which version of each of the maps do you prefer?

These maps are still in draft form and I would welcome comments and suggestions about how the maps might be improved.  And yes, there are errors on both of the maps.  Corrections or any frequent routes that I might have missed are also welcome.   You can send me feedback either by commenting on this post or by emailing me at [email protected]


7 Responses to sydney: new efforts at frequency mapping (guest post)

  1. Chris, Public Transport November 23, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    While I agree that a map of frequent services in Sydney is a good idea, I’d first like to see a map that shows ALL bus routes in the area, both government and private. For the passengers, the notice on government bus maps that “Sydney Bus Services Do Not Operate In This Area” suggests that no buses operate in the area, which is incorrect, and it is a total pain to look at every single private operator website (even if you knew what all the operators were) to find out info.

  2. Matt in Sydney November 24, 2011 at 12:41 am #

    Kevin – Great work! It’s fantastic to see this sort of information coming out of ‘the community’ rather than waiting for the powers that be to provide them. Let’s hope they’ve moved on from the days of legal action for copyright infringement.
    A couple of comments and questions:
    – What are the days of the week and service span required for ‘frequent service’?
    – While showing the detail for all bus routes on the one map will always be challenging, I typically look for major road names to understand where the routes operate. You may be able to fit the major arterials in, such as Anzac Pde, Military Rd, Victoria Rd, M2 motorway etc.
    – Not looking to pick errors etc but I would expect Burwood to be one of the most frequently served stations in Sydney, and therefore not grey as shown.
    Thanks for your efforts!

  3. Kevin November 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Matt – Thanks for your comments.
    For this map I looked at service between the peaks on weekdays. When the map is finished I am planning to have a chart with the 15 minute map that gives more information about how frequent the buses are outside that time frame.
    Regarding Burwood, you are not the first person to question this, however Burwood does not actually have 15 minute service between the peaks. For example the timetable for Citybound services starting between 12PM and 1PM is:
    12:05 – Northern Line
    12:23 – Inner West Line
    12:24 – Western Line
    12:35 – Northern Line
    12:39 – Inner West Line
    12:53 – Inner West Line
    12:54 – Western Line
    There is an 18 minute gap between the first and second service.
    In addition, even if the 12:23 train ran at 12:20, I would still be hesitant to call it 15 minute service because the Inner West Line stopping pattern is so different from the Northern and Western Lines.

  4. Alex November 30, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    I noticed a couple of mistakes on that map.
    1. There’s frequent buses between Merrylands and Parramatta, every 10 minutes all day on weekdays. Don’t remember the route numbers, but they’re run by CDC.
    2. There’s frequent buses (every 15 minutes) between Mount Druitt and Bidwill, run by Busways.
    3. There’s frequent buses (every 15 minutes) between Liverpool and Miller, run by CDC. However the service is only hourly on Sundays.
    4. The M92 dosn’t terminate at Lidcombe, it is extended to Parramatta via Rosehill Station.
    But overall, a very good map. It’s interesting to see that every station (besides Camellia) on the Carlingford Line has a frequent bus service to Parramatta station, where there are much more frequent services. The Carlingford Line therefore is really only needed to shuttle passengers between stations on the line.

  5. Nate Wessel December 1, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    My first impression is that the map is BEAUTIFUL 🙂 Good colours, good shapes and angles. It makes me want to examine it more!
    What throws me off is the overly large stop names/bubbles/circles. I found myself using a large symbol like that on my map of Cincinnati ( to indicate three major transfer points(downtown Cincinnati, downtown Covington, and a suburban hub), but I still tried to keep it as small as possible, since it represents a physically small area. You’ll see on the Downtown transit hubs for example that the ellipses are only as large as they need to be to accept all of the lines terminating there.
    If yours were indicating neighborhoods rather than stops, I would be ok with the large size.
    For example, on “101.PDF”, why is “Narrabeen”(top right) so much larger than “avalon”? It’s not clear to me.
    I would also suggest adding major street names to bus routes(and rail if relevant) where space allows.

  6. Jarrett at December 1, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    Nate. I expect the answer is that Narrabeen is a connection point.

  7. Andrew December 1, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Notice the rather large contrast between Sydney and Toronto here. In Sydney the frequent rail network is much more extensive than Toronto, but the frequent bus network is sparse. In Toronto only the subway runs frequently, the commuter rail mostly runs only in rush hour, except for one line which runs hourly outside rush hour. The subway system covers a much smaller portion of the city than CityRail in Sydney. On the other hand almost every arterial road in the city of Toronto has a high frequency bus route (Finch, Eglinton etc.); although the bus routes outside city limits are much less frequent there are a number of routes that have 15-20 minute or better off peak service outside city limits (e.g. 1 Dundas, 19 Hurontario, Viva Blue).