Wednesday, 4 September 2013

When public transport doesn't connect

A friend told me a tale today.  This is a tale of missed opportunity.  Perhaps it is also a tale of mean spirits.

My friend relies on public transport to go everywhere. My friend can get around on the trains easily enough, but relies on a bus service to connect to the train service. The problem with that last sentence is evident in the phrase: "relies on a bus service to connect to the train service". It does connect. As long as you're not picky about arriving everywhere 40 minutes early or 40 minutes late.

My friend was to meet me at Flinders Street this morning 7:45am. I received a text message at 7:22am to say she had already arrived. We live on the same train line, so I wondered why she wasn't on the same train as me, leaving at 7:26am. It was the buses!

My friend told me that the last bus of an evening leaves the station at 9:00pm. The station where she most regularly travels to and from (Yarraville) has a level crossing. Commuters disembarking an outbound train are left on one side of that crossing. The buses leave from the other side of that crossing. When a train is at the station, the boom gates on the crossing come down so everyone has to wait until the train has left the station before they can walk across to the buses. Imagine the heart break as 9:00pm approaches, but a late train has meant arrival at the station almost right on that time. You're stuck on the opposite side of the tracks, the bus driver can see that a train has just come in and that the boom gates are down and chooses to drive off before the gates go up and people can get to the bus!

Situations like this are one of the reasons that people don't like to travel by public transport.  Situations like this can be fixed by planning the services to connect better and ensuring that drivers are instructed to wait for the boom gates to go up after a train has arrived before leaving.

So because of where my friend lives - about 10 minutes drive from where I live - she had to leave home at 6:45am for a 7:45am meeting in the city.  I left home at 7:15am, walked to the station and was ready to catch a 7:26am train which delivered me to Flinders Street at 7:40am - less than half an hour, while she had almost that amount of time to wait.

This is not the public transport system that one expects in the world's most livable city! But I guess it's what happens when you privatise the systems and they're all run by different people.

Do you catch public transport?  If not, what stops you?  What do you like about it?

1 comment:

  1. This is typical of a lot of stations that have level crossings - the train arriving conveniently stops the traffic so the bus leaves despite a trainload of arriving passengers.
    They fixed it at one station near me by signalising the exit road (so the bus still had opportunities to easily leave with or without the boom gates).
    The other problem is there's no incentive for bus companies to actually collect passengers - the contracts (last time I checked) were based pretty much on their costs. So waiting 60 seconds for 20 extra passengers provides no financial gain, and the possibility of your shift running long.