The last posting showed Elsernwick as an example of a good transport interchange where passengers could easily transfer between train, tram and bus. South Yarra is another. Although both locations feature a lowered railway and lack level crossings, grade seperation is not a prerequisite to construct an effective transfer point.
A transport interchange typically comprises several bus stops often located outside railway stations. They are provided at major railway stations, suburban shopping centres and universities. Examples of interchanges include Ringwood, Dandenong, Oakleigh, Chadstone Shopping Centre and Monash University Clayton.
Interchanges may be under cover and include a walkway or escalator linking it to the nearest shopping centre or railway station. Through car traffic is either excluded or calmed, so passengers can easily transfer between services.
Buses must generally deviate from their route to pull in to the interchange. This generally improves pedestrian access from major trip generators, but at the expense of operational efficiency and travel times, especially for through passengers. Where traffic light priority is missing or ineffective (such as outside the Monash Clayton campus), a 100 metre deviation into an interchange can add as much as five minutes to bus running times.
Transfer points encompass interchanges but are used here to mean are any location where two routes intersect. In their simplest form they comprise two pairs of stops with easy pedestrian access between them and any nearby railway station. Examples range from many suburban railway stations, major intersections to CBD railway stations such as Melbourne Central. Buses and trams normally 'pass through' rather than 'enter' a transfer point, so they do not slow through passengers.
Transfer points are essential to designing an accessible transport network, but for too long have been overlooked in favour of large, higher-profile interchanges. Rising traffic combined with poor pedestrian access have eroded the usabilty of many. Passengers who arrive in time for a bus or tram connection may find they cannot board due to poor pedestrian links between stops. Such delays commonly extend journey times by 12 to 30 minutes and mean that many short-distance local trips involving a transfer can take up to an hour to make.
Station redevelopments, urban design and local pedestrian and traffic management all make or break transfer point effectiveness. As demonstrated in the Melbourne Central case (discussed later) issues of management and control are also critical.
The following are brief summaries on various transfer points and interchanges around Melbourne. Broadmeadows
Broadmeadows is a busy suburban rail terminus and the site of a major shopping centre.
The bus interchange is located immediately south of the shopping centre, but is some distance from the railway station. Passengers transferring between train and bus must cross the busy Pascoe Vale Road at either pedestrian-actuated lights or via a large footbridge. Passengers should allow between 5 and 10 minutes to make this transfer.
The overall urban environment is extremely pedestrian-hostile and no one with a choice would make a transfer here. Glenroy
Glenroy comprises a railway station and bus interchange with shops to the west. Metlink signage has recently been added. Access between station, buses and local shops is good. Box Hill
A major suburban centre, with offices, civic centre, TAFE and hospital close at hand. Box Hill railway station is one of the busiest outside the CBD.
Box Hill's concept of forcing passengers to go through a shopping centre to move between train (basement) and bus (top level) is not conducive to passenger convenience or travel speed. The new tram extension terminates some distance from the centre, rather than turning into the mall to be nearer the station. Glenhuntly
Glenhuntly is at the south-eastern edge of the extensive network of reasonably frequent train, tram and bus services across Melbourne's inner-southern suburbs. It contains one of Melbourne's four train/tram level crossings.
The ease of transfer between train and the Glenhuntly Rd tram is mixed.
Alighting train passengers wishing to travel towards Elsternwick can board at the stop east of Royal Ave or west of the railway line. Royal Ave is sufficiently quiet not to present a significant barrier to pedestrians. Because there is no pedestrian underpass, and alighting passengers must cross the tracks through gates, the choice of stops is useful when one side is closed due to a passing train. Overall ease of transfer is good, though passenger information is currently limited.
Transfer to eastbound trams is less straightforward. The stop nearest the station is adjacent to the railway line across Glenhuntly Rd to the station. No official crossing is provided at this point, but access is quite easy during quiet times (eg off-peak weekdays and evenings).
The main exception to this is just after a train has been through, which of course is the exact time that passengers will wish to transfer to the tram. When the boomgates are down traffic is banked up. As soon as the boomgates lift there is an uninterrupted stream of traffic, which often contains the tram one was intending to catch.
There are pedestrian crossing lights west along Glenhuntly Rd towards James Street. This requires a walk away from the tram stop and then towards it again. Also, the crossing is not particularly pedestrian-responsive as it is on an excessively long cycle.
This poor responsiveness combined with the distance between it and the stop (approx 100m) means that total waiting and walking time has caused the tram to be missed. Yet a better located crossing and quicker-acting lights could have allowed a connection to have been made, without time penalty for the tram.
Because this poor design increases average transfer times, it increases the likelihood that passengers find walking quicker than waiting for the next tram, particularly at night. Melbourne Central
This is the CBD's second-busiest railway station. Prior to 2004 it provided direct and convenient access to trams on Elizabeth and Swanston Streets. Redevelopment in 2004 curtailed this easy access to Swanston Street trams. Signage inside and outside the station is almost non-existent, and local knowledge is required to successfully use it as a transfer point.
Melbourne Central is a cautionary tale of how a previously good transfer point can be destroyed by a botched redevelopment that was approved by an incompetent (and subsequently sacked) planning minister. Although the general principle of integrating retail and transport facilities is good, such redevelopments must not harm passengers' ability to transfer. Crucially, control of railway stations and bus interchanges must not be surrendered to non-transport interests who have motives other than passenger amenity.