How will the redesigned Sydney CBD bus network work?

Posted: September 4, 2013 in Transport
Tags: , , , , ,

Note: I’ts been pointed out by Simon in the comments that buses feed in from Chalmers St, not just Cleveland St, and that those buses from there that continue through the city do so via Elizabeth St. These buses were all assumed to terminate at Railway Square, so it does not change any of the figures used below, though it should probably increase the number of buses on Elizabeth St (both now and in the future) by perhaps a few dozen.

The current CBD bus network is a spaghetti like tangle of lines that are difficult to understand and even harder to run efficiently. It can, however, be broadly broken down into 3 main corridors: Elizabeth St, George St, and York St/Clarence St. In total, 1,010 buses enter the CBD area during the busiest hour of the AM peak (Source: Sydney’s Light Rail Future, p. 18).

The current CBD bus network is complex, inefficient, and leads to unnecessary congestion. The current proposal would consolidate buses into 3 main North/South corridors and 1 East/West corridor. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney's Light Rail Future, p. 17)

The current CBD bus network is complex, inefficient, and leads to unnecessary congestion. The current proposal would consolidate buses into 3 main North/South corridors and 1 East/West corridor. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney’s Light Rail Future, p. 17)

Elizabeth St

This is busiest in the Northbound direction during the AM peak. It is primarily fed by buses from William St (45/hr), Oxford St (99/hr), Campbell St (23/hr), and Foveaux St (33/hr), and Chalmers St (85/hr). Many of the Chalmers St buses (those coming from Cleveland St) terminate at Railway Square, rather than continuing on to Circular Quay, so that equates to about 200 buses on Elizabeth St in the Northbound direction.

There are also Southbound express buses coming off the Eastern Distributor (56/hr) at the Northern end of the CBD, but this is not the peak direction so causes little congestion.

George St

This is currently the main bus corridor in the CBD and is busiest in the Northbound direction in the AM peak. It is primarily fed by buses from Cleveland St (85/hr), Parramatta Rd (175/hr), and the Anzac Bridge (113/hr). Most of the Cleveland St buses terminate at Railway Square, rather than continuing on to Circular Quay, so that results in about 288 buses on George St in the Northbound direction. The 2 main feeder roads into George St merge at Town Hall, and North of this point there are a significant number of half empty buses, causing unnecessary congestion.  By running high capacity trams along this corridor and forcing some passengers to transfer onto half empty vehicles heading towards Circular Quay, there exists a real potential to raise both speed and capacity.

South of Town Hall, buses on the York St/Clarence St corridor also travel along George St. However, this is not the peak direction  so causes little congestion.

York St/Clarence St

This is busiest in the Southbound direction during the AM peak. It is fed exclusively by buses from the Harbour Bridge (379/hr). Buses from the Northern Beaches terminate at Wynyard Station, while buses from the North West continue South to Central Station. The latter travel on George St South of Town Hall Station.

Proposed changes

A number of changes are being looked at to reduce the number of buses travelling through the CBD. These include diverting buses from York St to the Cahill Expressway (implemented in February 2013), converting buses from North West Sydney to the CBD into feeder buses for the North West Rail Link (NWRL), making buses from the Anzac Bridge through-route to William Street and vice versa, reducing the number of buses when the new South East Light Rail Line opens, and moving any remaining George St buses to Elizabeth St to make way for a pedestrianised George St with light rail.

Initial proposed changes to the CBD bus network in the AM peak. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney's Light Rail Future, p. 18)

Initial proposed changes to the CBD bus network in the AM peak. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney’s Light Rail Future, p. 18)

York St: Diverting buses that currently travel along York St to the Cahill Expressway began on 18 February 2013, with those buses now terminating at Market St and Pitt St. Passengers are able to show their ticket to continue South on another bus, which is a promising sign for integrated fares. This resulted in the removal of about 60 buses during the morning peak, or about 33 buses arriving in the CBD between 8AM and 9AM.

Once the NWRL comes online in 2019, a further 160 buses during the morning peak (which according to some rough estimates is about 103 buses between 8AM and 9AM) will be converted into feeder services for the NWRL. Together with the Cahill diversions, this will reduce the number of buses on York St in the AM peak from the current 379 in the busiest hour to about 243 buses. These buses will also now terminate at Town Hall rather than continuing to Central, and passengers will have to transfer at Town Hall onto an East/West bus or a North/South tram or train if they want to travel further into the CBD or elsewhere.

2013-08-24 Bus numbers on York St

George St: 158 buses currently enter the CBD from the Anzac Bridge (113/hr) and William Street (45/hr) before continuing through to Circular Quay via George St. These will instead become East-West through-routed buses, requiring passengers to get off at either George St for a connecting tram, Elizabeth St for a connecting bus, or either for a connecting train in order to get to their final destination in the CBD. The previously mentioned buses, trams, and trains should by then have spare space due to some passengers disembarking, thus allowing a much greater capacity within the CBD via a more efficient use of the existing public transport infrastructure (rather than running lots of half empty buses and trains as is currently the case). Druitt St will become bus only between York St and Clarence St in order to accommodate this.

Elizabeth St: Once the George St and South East Light Rail Line comes online by 2020, an additional 93 buses will be removed, from Parramatta Road (33/hr); Foveaux St (33/hr); and Oxford St (27/hr), while an additional bus will be added to Campbell St (1/hr). This will result in the Foveaux St/Albion St routes disappearing, with passengers being shifted nearby either to buses on Crown St/Campbell St or trams on Devonshire St. Together with the removal of Anzac Bridge/William St buses, this will reduce the number of buses on the combined George St and Elizabeth St corridors from 488 buses to 238 buses. That in turn will allow all these buses to travel exclusively on Elizabeth St, which will see its number of buses increase from 200 to 238 in the busiest hour, thus becoming the main bus corridor in the CBD.

2013-08-24 Bus numbers on Elizabeth St

This loss of 92 buses during the busiest hour of the AM peak represent a loss of capacity equivalent to 4,600 passengers (assuming 50 passengers per bus). However, this will be offset by the 9,000 passengers per hour capacity of the new light rail line. Government figures suggest that this will result in a 50% increase in passenger capacity along the Anzac Parade corridor from the current 10,000 per hour to 15,000 per hour.

Express buses along the Eastern Distributor will remain, as these service the Northern end of the CBD and travel in the counter peak direction, thus don’t significantly contribute to congestion. The redesign will also include a new North/South corridor along the Western edge of the CBD up to Barangaroo, though details on this are limited.

Integrated fares

For many passengers, these changes mean transferring from one vehicle to another, generally from a bus to a tram or vice versa. Passengers on Anzac Bridge/William St buses will need to change in order to continue travelling into the Northern end of the CBD, many passengers from North West Sydney will need to catch a feeder bus to a NWRL station and then catch a train the rest of the way, while passengers from South East Sydney might similarly need to catch a feeder bus before transferring to a tram to get into the CBD. All of these are multi-modal journeys, and would require passengers to pay a multi-modal fare.

Currently, this means a myMulti, which represents a fare penalty, with different passengers being charged a different fare for travelling the same route depending on how many vehicles they used. This is despite transfers generally being more efficient, from both a passenger time and operating cost perspective.

Opal does have a fare cap ($15/day and $60/week), but these would still be well above the cost of a myBus Travel Ten ($7.36/day and $36.80/week) or even a myMulti1 ($44/week).

It therefore makes a lot of sense for an integrated network (which relies on transfers) to be accompanied by an integration of fares. If it doesn’t happen with the Opal roll-out, then it should happen when the CBD bus network is redesigned at the end of this decade.

  1. Tony Bailey says:

    And Chalmers Street services inbound to Elizabeth St?

  2. mich says:

    I keep pointing out the need for integrated fares to our Liberal MLA, and he just doesn’t get it. How many trams does it actually take, to have a capacity of 9000 people an hour in one direction ?

  3. 300 people per tram, 30 trams per hour (one every 2 minutes).

    My understanding is that single mode fares will be integrated under Opal (thus removing the fare penalty from transferring to another vehicle). In addition, trams will be brought into the bus system for fare calculation. So there won’t be any fare penalty when passengers get a bus and then change to a tram, which is good news.

  4. David says:

    The proposed bus network map seems to have buses going eastbound on Foveaux Street (currently westbound). Not sure this is just lazy design or indicative or possible road changes under the City Centre Access Plan?

  5. David –

    One map shows buses on that street. Another does not. The reality is, we won’t know for sure for another 7 years. So this is all just speculation right now.

  6. Simon says:

    David, I don’t think that arrow is meant to be directional. It just shows that the buses will run along that axis.

    Bambul, seems to be a typo in the post. In the George St section it should be Chalmers St, not Cleveland St, shouldn’t it? And I’m not aware of any Chalmers St buses which terminate at Railway Square.

  7. Simon –

    Yes, Chalmers St is the corridor that feeds buses in right now. As I remember, the 372/393/395 come from Cleveland St onto Chalmers and then terminate at Railway Square. I would assume that these are the buses that are removed when the light rail becomes operational.

  8. Simon says:

    That graphic paints a bright picture which has no explanation. Why exactly would Parramatta Rd buses reduce? Transfer being unpopular and therefore less PT use is the only real explanation. Similarly for William St, Foveaux St and Chalmers St.

    Even more importantly, during construction Oxford St passengers will not be diverted to the trams so those buses will need to continue. Increased Eastern Distributor services might be a partial answer though.

  9. Simon says:

    Ok, fair point, 372/393/395 would need to use Chalmers St to get between Cleveland St and Eddy Ave and these are presumably included in the 85/hr. These runs correctly aren’t included in the base case of Elizabeth St congestion though but other Chalmers St runs such as the 309/310 etc should really be.

  10. Tom says:

    You (and the light rail papers) have left out growth on the corridors, which, from the north, is significant. Particularly, if you deduct 103 NWRL services which could only be removed in 7+ years, you also have to add in 20 or so buses a year =140 buses in growth buses.

    Further, with nearside termination from the north, where do the drivers of the long trips from Palm Beach and the Hills layover? And key, will we have sufficient sidewalk space in Clarence St and Carrington St for the amount of waiting passengers when all passengers have to board at one or two stops, rather than spread out across 5-6 stops like today?

    I would comment there needs to be total removal of on street parking to create sufficient space for the above points, the question is are our politicans gutsy enough to do so?

  11. MrV says:

    I will love to see how 30 trams per hour is going to go with the current George St traffic.And by the time the Lord Mayor has her way filling the CBD with cycleways, will the trams be all that efficient. I can’t see how if each intersection has to have traffic light sequences for Cars/Buses, Trams, Cyclists and Pedestrians. You’re going to be better off getting off at Central and walking. Seems like it will replace bus jams with tram jams.

    In fact I think the ultimate solution is just to have an elevated travellator, or carousel (similar to an airport baggage handling system). Put it at about the height the old monorail line was and run it from central to circular key. Would allow people to walk longer distances around the CBD in less time and free up the current sidewalks from power-walking CBD workers.

  12. Simon says:

    Let’s count the buses along Chalmers St 7:40am-8:39am (@Devonshire St)
    372: 5
    393: 8
    395: 1
    M20: 6
    M50: 7
    X09: 4
    X10: 3
    309: 7
    310: 4
    343: 17

    Total Eddy Ave: 14
    Total Elizabeth St: 48

    I’m assuming the M20 runs up Elizabeth St to Park St still, but I’m not counting the M30 because it’s not clear that it will.

    I’ve obviously missed some, but even the 48 figure shows Elizabeth St having near as many buses in the AM peak as George St does in the proposed scenario. 238+48 = 286 vs 288 on George St.

  13. Simon says:

    In fact, there are a number of bus trips from Parramatta Rd which terminate at Park St, before most of the Victoria Rd buses join. So there isn’t really any point on George St where there are indeed 288 buses/hr.

    Perhaps Eastern Distributor routes can be ramped up, but even that option is far from infinite.

  14. Frosty says:

    You could terminate X09,X10,309,310 at Redfern & Green Square Stations so people could go on a train into the City.You will remove 18 buses and improve patronage further at Green Square

  15. mich says:

    I’d like to see an explanation of where exactly all the buses that come to the CBD along Broadway ( from Glebe Point, Leichhardt, Newtown, Stanmore etc ) are going to go ? Where exactly are all those people going to get out of those buses and onto trams ? George St ? Eddy Avenue ? Convert the block of Pitt Street between Eddy Avenue and Railway Square into a bus interchange ? If the buses from Broadway have to pull up on the park side of Eddy Avenue, will all the people have to cross the road to get to the tram ? And where will they catch the bus for the outbound journey ? How far will these tens of thousands of people have to walk in the rain ? They claim it will be “seamless”.

    I used to catch buses from Leichhart to the north end of the CBD every day, for years. Although the traffic was slow, I usually had a seat and something to read, so didn’t care much. A transfer to an unreliable tram and mosh-pit conditions to still travel at no better than walking speed to the north end of the CBD looks like a deeply undesirable non-improvement to me, but fortunately, I don’t live there any more. I’d rather spend 20 minutes sitting on a bus than 15 minutes standing on a tram.

  16. Mich –

    The current plan is an interchange at Rawson Place (which will become a bus and tram only street). Northbound buses will stop on the Western side of Pitt St and Southbound buses will stop at the Rawson Place interchange, so no streets will need to be crossed. Buses will continue North to Circular Quay via Elizabeth St, so anyone who wants a one seat journey can continue to do so, while those who prefer a faster journey can change to a tram.

  17. MrV says:

    Mich – Promote my enhanced travellator idea. No need for any PT vehicles in the CBD at all just a bunch of moving sidewalks! If it was elevated then you wouldn’t even have to wait at city blocks to cross the road.

    So crazy it might just work!

  18. mich says:

    Thanks, Bambul, that’s useful to know. I am still unconvinced that trams will be either faster or more convenient than buses. If the bus stop is on the west side of Pitt Street between Eddy Avenue and Rawson Place, well the buses will still have to deal with the very slow light phasing to get from Broadway into Pitt St, and again with the very slow light phasing at Eddy Avenue, and there is space for only 2 buses to pull up between Eddy Avenue and Rawson Place, so good luck with that. And the trams will have to turn right out of Eddy and then left into Rawson, which won’t make those light phases any faster.

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