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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Connecting Buses and Ferries

Achieving reliable bus and ferry connections can be a challenge, but it pays off handsomely when they work well.

There are examples in the Sydney Ferry network of both good and bad connections.

Cremorne Point on the Mosman line generally works well. The off peak frequency of both the ferry and connecting 225 bus line is 30 minutes. The 225 bus terminates at  Cremorne Point with a 13 minute layover. It arrives five minutes before the inbound ferry to Circular Quay departs at :05 and :35 past the hour. It leaves three minutes after the outbound ferry is due to arrive from Circular Quay at :10 and :40 past the hour. This allows one bus to connect with both the inbound and outbound ferry.  

Because the 225 bus line is generally reliable, with just a short section of its route on a congested main road, the bus is well patronised with transfers from the ferry.

It is also a highly legible transfer, because every bus you catch in the direction of the wharf connects with the ferry. And every ferry arriving at Cremorne Point connects with the bus. 

Simplicity and reliability make effective connections.

A connection point that does not work well is Balmain East. On first blush, you might expect it would. On week-days, the ferry operates at 30 minute intervals all day. The ferry outbound from Circular Quay departs Balmain East just two minutes before the inbound ferry. This means one bus should be able to can connect with both ferries.

But the connections are neither reliable nor legible.

To appreciate the problem, some understanding is needed of the Balmain peninsula. By Sydney standards, it is densely populated with two main transport corridors:
  • Darling Street, which runs from the ferry wharf at the eastern end to Victoria Road at the western end.
  • A second corridor runs from Birchgrove in the northern corner to the intersection of Robert Street and Victoria Road in the south.
The two corridors cross at the Balmain shops, adjacent to the Post Office.

Four main bus lines operate on these corridors (there are actually more but I won't complicate the story more than I have to), all at 20 minute intervals on week-days off-peak:
  • 445 bus runs the length of Darling Street from Balmain East, continues across Victoria Road and terminates eventually at Campsie in Sydney's south west.
  • 442 bus also starts at the ferry wharf, but turns south at the Post Office towards Mullens Street before crossing the ANZAC Bridge and terminating in the Sydney CBD.
  • 441 bus starts at Birchgrove and runs south, also following Mullens Street down to the ANZAC Bridge and terminates in the CBD.  
  • 433 bus starts part way along Darling Street at Gladstone Park. It follows Darling Street to Victoria Road, where it turns south, then west along the A4 before turning off to Glebe and finally the CBD.
In addition to these four lines, numerous buses operate at high frequency on Victoria Road.

The line structure is complex. It's complex because it suffers from what could be described as the "Australian disease" - an habitual preference for avoiding transfers in the bus network, especially for CBD commuters.
Despite the number of buses operating, the connections to the ferry do not work well:
  • all the bus lines can be subject to traffic delays, so reliability is poor. 
  • a 20 minute bus interval does not mesh well with a 30 minute ferry interval. If a transferring ferry passenger wants to travel to Rozelle in the western end of the peninsula, only every second service connects with the appropriate bus (445).
There is a simple way to fix this problem, without increasing capacity. There should only be two bus lines on the Balmain peninsula - the 441 and 445 - but operating at a minimum of 10 minute intervals all day. That's twice the current off peak frequency.

Passengers on the 445 line east of Balmain shops who need to go to the CBD can transfer to the 441 bus where the lines intersect adjacent to Balmain Post Office. Those who need to go to Glebe can take the 445 and transfer at Lilyfield for a Glebe bus.

As both lines have minimum headways of 10 minutes (and could be five minutes in the peaks), waiting time at the transfer point at Balmain shops is short.

And passengers who disembark from the ferry have only a short wait for the connecting bus, with consistent access to anywhere on the Balmain peninsula.
The good news is that fixing the ferry/ bus connections can also lead to a high frequency/ more legible timetable for all bus users, not just those transferring from a ferry. 

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