melbourne: updated frequent network map reveals grid gaps

Here's a new Frequent Network Map for Melbourne, by Campbell Wright, showing where you can get around easily all day if you aren't willing to wait long for public transport.  Download and explore it here:
PNG.  The image below is obviously illegible but the zoomed-out look shows us important things.  


What I notice:

1.  The inner north of Melbourne, immediate north of the CBD, should be a public transport paradise.  It's historic, very dense and has a grid street pattern for easy walking to transit.  It has frequent north-south trams on all the major streets, but it lacks the frequent crosstown services that would make a complete east-west grid for everywhere-to-everywhere travel.  The routes are there, as you can see here and here , but except for the one Mr Wright draws, none are frequent enough to make adequate connections, so their role is largely symbolic. This is probably because there are too many overlapping infrequent routes, and they need to be considated into fewer stronger routes.  

2.  The inner east and inner north grids are poorly stitched together.  There are frequent crosstown routes in both but it's hard to get from one grid to the other, except by coming almost downtown, to Hoddle Street, or going way out, to Bulleen where the blue 903 crosses.

3.  Melbourne has lavished great attention for years on the four orbital Smarbuses, inverted U-shaped routes that are obvious as north-south bands across the far right of the map.  What Melbourne really needed was a high-frequency grid, with crosstown (perpendicular to radial) lines concentrated in areas of high demand so that you could go from everywhere to everywhere with a simple L-shaped trip.  The Smartbuses oversimplified the grid concept by insisting, for no reason I can discern and at great cost, that these services all had to be complete U shapes wrapped all the way around the city. regardless of the markets through which they pass.   

You can see the effect.  Parts of Melbourne that could support high frequency crosstown service, like the inner north, or the Port Melbourne-St Kilda corridor, don't have much of it, while a fortune is spent on a vast outermost U (the grey line) which creates no grid effect because it lies far beyond the end of most frequent radials.  It's also far, far to long to be operated reliably, as are many of the Smarbuses.  The reliability can be assured only by inserting substantial break time along the way for schedule recovery, which would mean that they don't really flow continuously in the way that the route number and brand would suggest.  

4.  Only with a Frequent Network map like Mr. Wright's can you see Melbourne's network in a way that would help you understand it as an instrument of freedom, something that you might use for many purposes as part of am empowered life.  While the State of Victoria has recently taken over public transport information, their published maps still make it very hard to see the network this way.  If you arrive at the website wanting to see a real map of your transit system, and you figure out that you need to click Maps / Metropolitan Maps, you're asked to choose between train, tram, and bus.  Again, the assumption is that you must be looking for a particular transit technology, and that nobody would ever be interested in simply understanding how all public transport — with the technologies working together to form a network — might be useful their lives.  

What's more, maps of local buses are chopped up by Local Government Area, arbitrary boundaries that slice up the map in ways that further conceal patterns of usefulness.  And of course, there is no Frequent Network map, like you'll find in Brisbane, and like Mr Wright as sketched above, to help you figure out which services are coming soon and which require you to build your life around them.

So if you know how to get around Melbourne freely and easily all day, bookmark Mr Wright's map.  For now, it's one of Melbourne's most important bits of public transport info.

8 Responses to melbourne: updated frequent network map reveals grid gaps

  1. Daniel Bowen November 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Great work from Campbell Wright.
    You can see a similar (but less nicely presented!) set of 15 minute maps for Melbourne, comparing Peak, Interpeak (as shown above), weekends (Saturday to be precise) and evenings (10pm) here:
    On Jarrett’s point about the Smartbuses, yes, it’s true they are trouble-prone, with scheduling issues due to length (punctuality problems and/or long layover times along the route). But they do help to create a grid (if somewhat widely spaced) in conjunction with the radial rail system (not all of which is shown in Campbell’s maps, because some lines run only every 20 minutes interpeak).
    In fact it’s arguably better to think of the Smartbuses as a large number of feeder/crosstown routes all strung together. Few people, after all, are going to travel their whole length (Frankston to Melbourne Airport via every point in the known universe takes about 4 hours – the more direct route mostly using radial rail services should take less than half that).
    A proposed additional Smartbus, the “blue” orbital, would have provided an inner-city crosstown route which included the inner-northern suburbs.

  2. Morgan Wick November 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Since you used King County Metro’s old map to illustrate the need for useful information on system maps, have you seen their new map?

  3. Craig November 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    Although it’s a good first draft, there are some errors & omissions – including leaving off the Alamein Line branch. I won’t bore you all with the various errors with the bus route lines I picked up.
    Many combined corridors have been left off – the idea to include the 513 & 527 along Bell Street/Northland corridor was a good one, just a shame this wasn’t done in many other parts of the map. It doesn’t take extensive knowledge to include these routes – the PTV website highlights most of them as combined timetables. I’d also have liked to see the map show the standard destinations though for routes that aren’t fully shown on the map, rather than misleading information like 513 is West Coburg to Heidelberg!
    Although I can appreciate the reasoning behind why a giant chunk of the train network was left off the map, it does make the map look quite bare, even if you started adding landmarks to the map.
    Possibly the solution would have been to show the 15 min or better segments of the network in modal colour of blue, and then the 20 min lines in a faint grey to at least show their existence (& maybe dashed lines for those >20 minutes). There is little point showing the 901 or 902 driving through the north if people can’t see any reasonable options to connect with them! I could imagine someone in the City using this map & deciding to take the 86 then 902 to reach Greensborough rather than waiting the extra few minutes for the much faster rail option!
    Given the scale, maybe the map could even show the various 20 minute interpeak bus routes in grey as well, maybe with less detail such just route labels without the text boxes at terminuses.
    Maybe a supplementary weekend version should be developed too, given the poor cousin our buses are on weekends.
    Overall, a good idea but needs some work to before being worthy of the public domain.

  4. Julian Wearne November 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Glad to see a post on Melbourne Jarrett.
    The map indeed does highlight some of the shortcomings of the Melbourne network, not in the least the inability to find good information from the government agencies that are responsible for making the system legible to the general public. Interestingly, the PTV website and its predecessor the Metlink* website used to have a link that was to an interactive Metropolitan wide map. Unfortunately once you clicked the link it simply took you to a page saying that the map was being developed and would be coming soon. Which was “coming soon” since at least 2006. I asked a few times on when the map would be finished and I got some strange excuses. One stated that Metlink didn’t know all the routes themselves, so they had to send out teams of people with GPS trackers to mark the routes properly! For an organisation that is responsible for the timetables and routes that seemed a mighty odd excuse, surely as they’re responsible for signing off on a new route, they would have all that information beforehand. If not, asking the private bus operators for the information seems like an easier thing to do than sending out people to ride the buses all day with GPS devices… I hope they still plan on releasing this interactive map eventually, but even then I ponder its usefulness as I’m sure it will not include route frequencies.
    *The agency responsible for timetables, maps, etc before the Baillieu Government created the PTV which is supposedly responsible for coordinating services between modes, no idea if anything has actually been done in that regards yet, it seems the organisation is little more than the previous Metlink and a bunch of staff from the Department of Transport… but I digress.

  5. Daniel Bowen November 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    @Julian, Metlink was never responsible for designing or signing-off routes. They were purely a comms organisation.
    PTV subsumed Metlink, and *is* responsible for network design. They have done some work in timetable coordination, for instance bringing a pulse network to Sunbury:

  6. Julian Wearne November 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    You’re right Daniel, confused in the midst of too much study. The Department of Transport however were responsible for at the very least, signing off on routes and passing that information on to Metlink to help develop their map should not have been too difficult.

  7. Lukas Nott November 29, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    More scary is what is not shown… the extents of Melbourne not covered by the mapping. Most of Brimbank and all of the Melton/Wydham and Casey/Cardinia Growth Areas… A map of the whole of Greater Melbourne Metro Area would clearly show the disparity between inner and outer Melbourne. The people on the fringe being given no alternative but to drive. I think that’s even more worrying than cross town connections.

  8. neil wright July 22, 2014 at 6:04 am #

    It’s pertinent to note that Campbell was 17 years old and studying for his VCE (university entrance exams) at the same that he was developing his map. And yes, he’ll be embarrassed when I mention his ATAR was 99.4 but credit where credit is due.