Edition 4: December 2023
In the news
The 6 December edition of The Age newspaper included an article on Infrastructure Victoria’s support for increased and improved bus services across metropolitan Melbourne, and included a quote from Cr Naim Kurt, Mayor of Hume and then-Chair of the NCA.
Bus-only lanes aired as gridlock quick fix
A network of dedicated bus corridors is the quickest and cheapest way to address Melbourne’s transport woes and the state government should start building one within five years, Victoria’s infrastructure adviser says.
More than a third of Melburnians have never caught a bus, despite eight out of 10 living within 400 metres of a stop, with infrequent services, slow and complex routes and limited operating hours making them an unattractive option.
Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide use ‘bus rapid transit’ to provide
a service similar to trains, with fast, frequent buses running in
dedicated lanes and stopping at sheltered stations.
State government agency Infrastructure Victoria said Melbourne’s
underused bus network needed an overhaul so it could be an
alternative to driving on the city’s increasingly congested roads,
especially in outer-suburban growth areas without trains or trams.
In a report to be released today, it calls for reforms to attract an
extra 164,000 bus passengers every day and remove 63,000 cars
from the roads, including a bus rapid transit network to serve middle and outer suburbs.
Infrastructure Victoria acting chief executive Allison Stewart said bus infrastructure could be built within two to five years, rather than seven to 12 years for rail projects, and cost 70 to 80 per cent less.
“With fiscal constraints on the government ... this would be a much faster way to get services to areas that don’t currently have any kind of quality public transport,” she said.
It also recommends starting to build bus rapid transit corridors across Melbourne by 2028.
The report calls for an immediate increase in timetable frequency in outer suburbs. Existing routes should also be redrawn to be faster and more direct, with journey times further reduced by giving buses priority at traffic lights.
Average wait times are 40 minutes on weekdays and 50 minutes on Sundays, Stewart said.
Bus fares should also be ‘substantially’ reduced, with Infrastructure Victoria surveys of 4000 Melburnians suggesting every $1 reduction in fares would increase patronage by 19 per cent.
As part of its research, Infrastructure Victoria conducted modelling on 10 possible bus rapid transit routes that could fill existing public transport gaps in middle and outer suburbs.
Some of the suggested routes follow land corridors reserved for rail lines but have never been built, such as a link between Epping and Wollert, while others would be built on existing roads.
The report estimates that network would cost $3.5 billion to $4 billion to build and would attract 83,100 passengers a day by 2036 – mostly people who do not use public transport now.
The network would deliver benefits worth $2.60 for every dollar invested thanks to travel time savings, cost-of-living relief to families who would no longer need a second or third car, and by providing greater access to employment, education and services.
The $18 billion North East Link toll road will include the city’s first dedicated busway when it opens in 2028, reducing peak travel times from the Doncaster area to the city by 30 per cent.
But it will still hit heavy congestion at Hoddle Street, and the report recommends a busway along that inner-city thoroughfare.
Existing bus lanes on Hoddle Street are disjointed and only operate part of the day, meaning average bus speeds vary between 15km/h and 40km/h.
Stewart said Victoria should also develop a funding scheme to pay for bus routes in new fringe suburbs to address a lag between housing development and services that leave growing communities without transport options.
Hume City Council Mayor Naim Kurt said unreliable or non-existent public transport meant residents in Melbourne’s north either drove, causing congestion, or were cut off from education and services.
“A journey that takes 20 minutes by car shouldn’t take over an hour by bus, as it does in many cases,” said Kurt.
“We need more frequent bus services, efficient connectivity and better access.”
An Allan government spokesperson said it welcomed Infrastructure Victoria’s research, which supported reforms it was already rolling out including new routes and simpler routes