24 hour transport

Posted: January 21, 2014 in Transport
Tags: , ,

The Victorian Opposition announced on Sunday that if elected it would introduce a $50m trial of all night public transport for Melbourne on Friday and Saturday nights for one year. Daniel Bowen wrote a good summary of it, and it’s worth reading for more details.

The main selling point of the proposal appears to be all night running of train services. Melbourne, like Sydney, currently shuts down its train network overnight and runs rail replacement nightride buses instead. However, as the previous link points out, shutting down the rail network is quite common around international cities (listing Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Amsterdam as examples). Those that do run all night tend to do so at 15-30 minute frequencies (Chicago, New York, and Berlin are given as examples here, while London will soon join that list). Meanwhile, the proposal is only for hourly services, which Daniel Bowen criticises for being too infrequent for the trial to be successful. The danger, he argues, is that it will fail if the trial is not with 15-30 minute frequencies. In other words, it should be all or nothing.

Decent frequencies are important in case a bus is missed and passengers are left waiting for the next one. This could occur either because a passenger arrives at the bus stop late or because the bus is full. Replacing nightride buses with trains may resolve the second problem, but only higher frequencies will resolve the first.

So how does Sydney compare?

While Sydney shuts down its trains overnight, it retains a strong overnight transport network made up of rail replacement nightride buses as well as regular bus services that run all night. In particular, additional services were recently added so that there would be a bus every 10 minutes between Kings Cross and Central Station between 1AM and 5AM on weekends. These were boosted as one part of a response to the alcohol fueled violence that has been getting mentioned a lot in the media. The NSW Opposition’s response to alcohol fueled violence involved a similar call to run trains all night on weekends between Kings Cross and Central, while committing to investigate doing the same on other lines too.

Much of Sydney enjoys 30 minute frequencies early mornings on weekends, with nightride buses running every half hour out to Blacktown, Macarthur, Hurstville, Bondi Junction, and Gordon. Virtually the rest of the rail network maintains hourly buses all night.

Nightride bus network with weekend frequency: 10 minutes (purple), 15 minutes (blue), 30 minutes (green), 60 minutes (orange). Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney Trains.)

Nightride bus network with weekend frequency: 10 minutes (purple), 15 minutes (blue), 30 minutes (green), 60 minutes (orange). Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney Trains.)

Areas not served by rail generally retain existing bus services overnight, many of them half hourly frequencies again. Buses go out to Bondi Beach at 15 minute frequencies until 2:30AM, then 30 minute frequencies for the rest of the night. Buses to Mona Vale operate at 30 minute frequencies. Past Mona Vale through to Mona Vale, as well as to Coogee Beach, Maroubra Junction, and Castle Hill buses initially run at 30 minute frequencies, reducing to 60 minute frequencies somewhere between 2AM and 4AM. Past Maroubra Junction through to Little Bay bus services run at 60 minute frequencies. And buses to Abbotsford run all night, but with a 2 hour gap between 3AM and 5AM.

All night bus network on weekends. Frequencies: 15 minutes until 3AM then 30 minutes (blue), 30 minutes all night (green), 30 minutes until 2AM-4AM then 60 minutes (yellow), 60 minutes all night (orange), all night but with a 2 hour gap from 3AM to 5AM (red). Dashed lines indicate express service which does not stop. Click to enlarge. (Source: Open Street Map, author.)

All night bus network on weekends. Frequencies: 15 minutes until 3AM then 30 minutes (blue), 30 minutes all night (green), 30 minutes until 2AM-4AM then 60 minutes (yellow), 60 minutes all night (orange), all night but with a 2 hour gap from 3AM to 5AM (red). Dashed lines indicate express service which does not stop. Click to enlarge. (Source: Open Street Map, edited by author.)

Other than the train shutdown, Sydney’s current overnight network appears to be exactly what Daniel Bowen recommends for Melbourne.

  1. Sam says:

    Yes – agree.
    Overnight Sydney’s buses are relatively quick, operate close to timetable and reliable. In the east they are often full. As Sydney trains are now always 8 carriages it would be highly inefficient to run them overnight when they would be largely empty.

  2. JC says:

    There is also a security advantage for night buses – perceived at least – because of the proximity of the driver and access to help in an emergency. (But the downside of the proximity is that it is harder to escape vomit…)

  3. Simon says:

    520 via Victoria Rd also runs hourly, weekends only. 151 deviates into Manly.

    And shouldn’t you include the Nightride network?

  4. artrlee says:

    What’s the reason for not running 4 car or even 2 car trains?

  5. @Artlee –

    Most of the costs for operating trains are fixed (stations, rail, station staff, trains, etc). Most of the variable cost is staffing (drivers and guards), as electricity is quite cheap. So if you’re going to run a 2 carriage train, you may as well run an 8 carriage one.

    Have a think about the last time you saw a 4 carriage train in Sydney. It was probably on the Carlingford Line, where there isn’t enough power on the overhead wires for 8 carriage trains, or long distance intercity trains.

  6. @Simon –

    Nightride buses were mentioned, as was the network map. Did it not show up for you?

  7. yaui says:

    Hi Bambul,
    My little pet peeve.
    The 393 and 395 services. Why do they stop at 11?
    (Last bus leaves Maroubra junction at 22.37. arrives 23.01)
    Surely they can run buses to CENTRAL until the last trains stop for the night?

  8. @Yaui –

    Speaking broadly, the network is designed to get people out of the city at night, not into it. That 10:37PM bus into Central actually becomes that last bus leaving Central at roughly the same time as the last train. If the last bus into Central was at the same time as the last trains leaving Central, then buses would keep leaving Central an hour after the trains stop. The issue then becomes, to paraphrase your earlier quote: “surely they can run trains into Central until the last bus leaves for the night”.

    Because of that, you’re probably going to have to settle for one of the all night CBD buses into Museum where you can get a train to Central or walk 5 minutes to Town Hall.

  9. MrV says:

    Running trains 24/7 is as much a fantasy as Sydney Lord mayors idea of turning the city into a city that never sleeps.


    Key problem (of many) – wages are too high. You can pay workers in New York $9 an hour to work into the small hours, but in Australia thats not going to happen.
    If a business isn’t profitable being open from 7pm into the early hours of the morning they will simply not be open.

  10. yaui says:

    @Bambul surely the network should be designed to get people that need to go via a train home too? I see your point but even then, they should be able to squeeze in one more service and run the last bus out of central at midnight when the trains mostly finish… Cleveland st and surry hills is an increasingly busy route late at night that requires getting ppl out of as well,…

  11. @Yaui –

    The all night bus network does connect to the rail network: at Museum, St James, and Circular Quay.

    Cleveland St has buses running on it until roughly midnight. I’m not aware of how much activity it has after midnight (from memory few people got on the bus at around 11PM when I used to catch it through there).

    It’s also worth keeping in mind that Cleveland St is at most a 10 minute walk from either Central Station or a bus stop on Anzac Parade (which has buses 24/7).

  12. Albert says:

    The all night buses still only run on some selected STA operated areas, plus Castle Hill. Where are the all night buses for areas around Blacktown, Penrith, Liverpool and Campbelltown?

  13. @Albert –

    Those areas get nightride buses, which are outlined in the post above. The Hills, Northern Beaches, and Eastern Suburbs all lack rail lines, so don’t get nightride buses. In both cases, there are black spots in sparsely populated areas where it is not viable to run public transport 24/7, though this may change if housing densities increase.

  14. Simon says:

    Right. I wanted a to-scale representation of the Nightride network on the same map as the one for buses.

  15. Simon J says:

    Have been doing some analysis on the VIC and NSW GTFS datasets. Put together this animated GIF showing how far you can get from Kings Cross on a Friday Night (specifically 18th March 2016) using a combination of public transport (all modes) and walking.

  16. Simon J says:

    And the link…

  17. Simon says:

    That’s a great graphic! Where’s the like button?

  18. @Simon L –

    I think you may want to use your surname initial so as to avoid confusion and not make it look like you are complimenting yourself!

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