melbourne in transit

A blog about public transport network design and operation, covering topics such as route structures, services, passenger information, marketing and more.

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Location: Melbourne, Australia

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Composite timetables the way to go

When viewing a timetable at a bus stop or on the web, do you wish to see at a glance when the next service is to your destination?

Enter the much under-rated composite (or combined) timetable!

A composite timetable is simply a single sheet that carries times for all related routes that pass your stop.

Transperth's composite timetables at bus stops look something like this:

Route 99 10:10 A via B
Route 37 10:15 B
Route 99 10:25 A via B
Route 38 10:30 C via B
Route 99 10:40 A via B
Route 37 10:45 B
Route 99 10:55 A via B
Route 38 11:00 C via B

When you arrive at the bus stop, you usually know where you want to go (let's say it's B). Your watch says 10:33. It requires just a single glance to know that the next bus is at 10:40, but if the 10:30 is running late you might just catch that one too. A look down the times shows services to B run frequently, so you can visit the shop over the road and still reach B on time.

Single route timetables, each in their own timetable case, are more common in Melbourne. You might see something like this:

Route 37 10:15 B
Route 37 10:45 B

Route 38 10:30 C via B
Route 38 11:00 C via B

Route 99 10:10 A via B
Route 99 10:25 A via B
Route 99 10:40 A via B
Route 99 10:55 A via B

Compared to seperate timetables, Perth-style composite timetables are more user-friendly and make trip planning easier.

Composite timetables are also a low-cost marketing tool. Service frequency is critical to service quality and therefore patronage. Single-route timetables undersell service quality over the common sections of routes, whereas combined timetables emphasise it. And this can't be a bad thing in a city where the average bus route runs every 40 minutes or so!

The common sections of routes tend to be links between railway stations and major trip generators such as universities and shopping centres. These same high patronage growth potential routes are the ones that will benefit most from the installation of composite timetables.

Combined timetables are no less relevant on the web than they are at bus stops or on paper.

Adelaide Metro provides a good example of composite timetables on its website. Looking up Route 102 also provides times for the related Route 105. Together these two routes form a 'Go-Zone' of frequent service along their common sections, which is apparent from the timetable.

A Melbourne equivalent of two routes combining to provide a more frequent service is the 888 and 889 Smartbus service down Springvale Rd.

Unlike Adelaide, the online timetables for these routes are seperate, even though composite timetables exist at stops and in paper form. Unless you open the route map, closely related routes are not mentioned. Again this undersells the service; the passenger could not be forgiven for thinking the weekday service is only every 30 minutes, whereas a superior 15-minute frequency is actually provided.

600/922/923 and 802/804/862 also have large overlaps and would benefit from composite timetables. Though these routes have combined timetables at stops and in leaflet form, people may never get to see them if they are discouraged by what they see on the web.

In summary, composite timetables are recommended as a cheap way to properly promote all available services. And as we all know, buses are infrequent enough without making them look worse than they actually are!

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