Is this a real tram ‘network’?

Yarra Trams proposed new routes (unchanged routes not shown)

The Age reported on Yarra Tram’s new plans for Melbourne’s trams during the week. My perpetual beef with The Age is they don’t provide links to background material and in this case they didn’t even provide a diagram. Not good enough in the digital age! So, here’s a presentation by Yarra Tram’s Clement Michel, as well as the accompanying map of the company’s planned new routes.

The presentation highlights the problems with current tram operations that prompted the proposed changes. For example, the No. 96 took 20 minutes to journey from East Brunswick to Spencer St in the morning peak in 1950 but now takes 28 minutes. It spends 50% of the time moving and 17% boarding — but 33% stationary. That compares poorly with tram and light rail systems elsewhere.

The new routes are intended to complement other initiatives, such as greater priority at traffic lights and segregation from traffic. A key purpose is to relieve pressure on Swanston St-St Kilda Rd, which is clogged with a tram every minute and has the friction of 31 traffic lights between Melbourne University and the Domain. Part of the proposal is to route some services via the western end of the CBD.  Some Swanston St passengers would have to change trams e.g at Domain Interchange.

It is also proposed to effectively “halve” some long routes and introduce cross town or feeder services (similar to the existing Footscray to Moonee Ponds service) so that loads can be better balanced. Long routes can be inefficient because the number of trams is constant along the route but the loads vary. The changes would mean higher frequencies can be targeted better to busy areas.

An example of the proposed changes is the existing West Preston to St Kilda service. The proposal is to split it into two services — a St Kilda to East Melbourne route operating via Spencer and La Trobe Sts, and a West Preston to Docklands service.

Another example is the No. 72 from Camberwell which currently takes circa 90 minutes to travel to Melbourne University in peak hour. The new plan proposes to terminate the No. 72 at Gardiner train station and run a relatively short cross-town shuttle service in the downstream leg between the station and Camberwell. In a similar vein, the existing No. 64 which currently runs from Melbourne University to East Brighton is proposed to terminate instead at Malvern rail station. A new cross-town shuttle service would operate north-south between East Brighton and Kew, along Hawthorn and Glenferrie Rds. It would give passengers the option of transferring to the No. 64 at Malvern station or taking any one of five other city centre bound tram services that the route crosses.

I like the implicit suggestion in this plan that trams can be coordinated with rail — it’s not always necessary to have duplicate tram and train services (although I expect there would be considerable difficulty in removing either!). The idea of cross-town services makes sense — these services already exist, but they don’t have to suffer the inefficiencies of travelling all the way to the CBD (much less to points on the other side of town). I also think the logic behind more transfers is inexorable and we’ll need to get used to more of them as public transport patronage increases. The key task for Yarra Trams and the Government is to sell the advantages.

I don’t know if Yarra Trams has got the detail right on individual routes and it’s a fair bet the plan doesn’t go far enough, but I think the proposals move us further toward the concept of a multi-modal network built around frequent services and transfers. It’s a pity this thinking isn’t in the brief for the proposed Rowville rail line — a light rail service connecting Huntingdale rail station with Monash University, Clayton employment areas and Rowville could make a lot more sense than heavy rail (I don’t mention bus because politically something on tracks is now the starting point).

23 Comments on “Is this a real tram ‘network’?”

  1. justin lynch says:

    35 years out of alma mater, but where is the #42 Mont Albert tram on this route map??

    • Daniel says:

      The 42 was extended to Box Hill, through-routed to Port Melbourne and renumbered to be the 109. But it’s not on the map because the map concentrates on the southern suburban routes which Yarra Trams is proposing to modify.

  2. Dave says:

    Increased network resilience with shorter routes too; disruptions are less likely to propagate far outside of the actual affected location.

    Provided they can get the transfer points right (and not just at the termini; including at intra-route transfer opportunities) should be a good move.

    On the transfers; take an average example – Toorak Station. It connects to the 72 tram (8-12 mins, 20 late night), the 605 (City>Gardenvale, 15peak /30 offpeak) bus and the 220 (Gardenvale>CBD>Sunshine) premium bus service (15 min all day, longer hours). So, some reasonable connection opportunities.

    However, the station entrances are mid-platform – an irrelevance with myki. The walk from the station platform, up the (south-facing) ramps, then back the way you came northbound the closest transfers (cnr Malvern/Orrong Rd) is about 300-400m depending on where you got off on the platform. This is approximately a 4 to 5 minute walk, before you include time spent waiting at traffic lights to get to the bus or tram stop required, and waiting time for those services themselves.

    Current layout
    Proposed layout – Move or duplicate the entrance ramps to the northern end of the platform (100m from the northern end of the platform, 200m from southern end), consolidate the tram stops to one side of the intersection to avoid unnecessary street crossings (and consequent delay), and move the bus stops closer. (Not quite possible with the buses with the current routing, but shown for concept).

    Of course, add some amenity like proper shelters, good lighting, and real-time departure information (for every mode, at each stop location…) and then you can get used to transfers easily! : )

  3. Russ says:

    Almost certainly doesn’t go far enough, especially when the planned metro will connect up Domain and MelbUni. Seven lines up Swanston St. is over-kill. I’d like to see them
    – re-route the 96 via Montague St. into Docklands and down Collins St before turning at Spring to Brunswick.
    – redirect the 67 onto the 96 light-rail line to double the Docklands bound trams and merge it with the 11.
    – Extend the 16 to Moreland in place of the 67 marked above.
    – Redirect the 6 and 3 via the 55 line terminating at Haymarket which should be traffic-lighted and turned into an interchange.

    That would mean 4 trams on Swanston St (3 from Domain to MelbUni East), 3 from Domain to MelbUni West via William St and Southbank, and 2 from St Kilda Junction via Docklands. A much more even distribution to major nodes.

  4. Dave says:

    Original link broken… Proposed layout

  5. Dave says:

    @Russ; Haymarket is being traffic-lighted:

    No plans for an interchange… but if the proposed Parkville Station ever gets built (I think it was proposed under Grattan/Royal Pde, or close to) an exit popping up into a Haymarket tram interchange would make it a decent spot. Not so good for pedestrian access over the busy roads, though.

    The VicRoads treatment of Haymarket is ‘interesting’ – delete the Queensberry southbound tram stop, bike lanes which sort of exist, but then stop (to go from Elizabeth St to Royal Pde, it looks like you need to divert via Peel St, then re-enter on the Peel St green light phase across to Royal Pde). I’m also not sure the 4 lanes northbound from Royal Pde will do much to help lane weaving, but anyway…
    I’m also not sure that the lights on the northbound Elizabeth St entrance will be any improvement for pedestrians… at present cars bank up over the ped crossing, the lights go red… and the cars continue, often trying to weave through pedestrians…
    As Peter Parker likes to point out, lights will only slow pedestrian movements here (and for waiting drivers), whereas zebra crossings allow a zero wait time for the peds, and minimal interruption for vehicles.

    • Russ says:

      Dave, thanks for that. The trouble with the bike treatments is what they should really aim to do is merge the bikes into a lane 50m before the intersection (or more – at Grattan is easiest for Southbound bikes trying to enter Peel St.) and paint a narrow bike lane across the edge (or instruct drivers that bikes can take the whole lane on the roundabout (as they always should).

      The lights northbound at Elizabeth St. are relatively new. My experience (and I crossed it every day) when they were a zebra crossing (and on the zebra crossing exit onto Peel St.) was hairy to put it mildly. The non-crossing area on the exit to Elizabeth and the flashing lights crossing that drivers drive straight through is worse, but I suspect once the intersection is full traffic lighted the pedestrians will be better off.

      Whoever needs to set the light timings is in for a challenge. That’s a secondary problem for anyone on a bike: they need to get through the intersection or they’ll have cars entering to their left.

  6. jack horner says:

    These ideas seem generally positive.

    Agree that running trams each 12 minutes to distant suburban termini seems extravagant. Surely each 15 minutes, with short stoppers making 7 1/2 minutes in inner areas, is better.

    The aim should be for the entire public transport network to be based on 7 1/2, 15, 30 & 60 minute cycles, for interchange and memory timetable purposes.

    Concerning the proposed yellow line (Toorak to William St): surely it would make more sense to run Toorak to Swanston St and another route to William St, because that increases the capacity of the Domain interchange, since the two can run side by side through the interchange, instead of the Toorak – William St line having to cross all the others.

    Concerning Dave’s very good suggestions for Toorak rly station interchange: there must be dozens of places in Melbourne that are just begging for this sort of work (eg short diversion of the Queens Parade tram to run directly past Clifton Hill station; extend 109 to Box Hill station; better interchange at Malvern and Caulfield, etc etc). There should be a long term, high profile, themed ‘infrastructure for better interchange’ program for these projects. Access to most railway stations effectively being barrier-free, there is no reason why you cannot build many more access points to platforms where that improves interchange walks.

    • Russ says:

      Jack, I don’t think that matters for the Toorak tram as it will have cars to its left, the other trams entering the interchange being stuck at lights behind.

      You are right about the infrastructure at interchanges, but a lot of them would be controversial without a base of sound reasoning for why they need to be done. That’s possible, but it means creating a proper strategic plan that outlines the aims for the system, instead of just a shopping list of projects with a flashy advertising campaign.

      • jack horner says:

        Agree, I was jumping a step by assuming that improving the network effect would justify this sort of program. But you would need to do the numbers.

        • Dave says:

          I would imagine you would undertake these sort of works as part of scheduled stop/track renewal or upgrade to DDA standards, where the case was justified for the additional works required, thus slowly improving the interconnectedness over time.

  7. poneke says:

    For example, the No. 96 took 20 minutes to journey from East Brunswick to Spencer St in the morning peak in 1950

    I keep seeing this statistic trotted out in various reports and I have to keep repeating:

    The Number 96 was a BUS in 1950. It was converted to trams in 1956.

  8. suze2000 says:

    Have any of you actually taken a tram up St Kilda Rd during peak hour?

    They are PACKED.

    My evening tram is generally full up three stops after I get on it and after that only stops if someone rings the bell. Great for my evening commute as it speeds my journey to Flinders St, not so good for any of those other poor commuters who are further down the line and the tram isn’t stopping for.

    There needs to be MORE trams on St Kilda Rd, not less. And they all need to be the bigger capacity ones, not the tiny old ones.

    • Russ says:

      Suze, two things: firstly, this is partly a perception issue. Trams generally come in bunches, you get on the first tram, as does everyone else so it is packed, but there are more trams behind. Adding more trams doesn’t necessarily fix that.

      Secondly, the number of trams on a stretch of road is not necessarily the same as the number of tram lines over that stretch. If trams are scheduled a minute apart, then 8 tram lines mean individual tram lines are limited to 8 minute frequencies. Four tram lines could have the same number of trams as now at 4 minute frequencies.

      • Julian Wearne says:

        Yep, all spot on.

        Traffic light priority should in theory help space the trams out a bit better too. Less time waiting at a light means less trams banking up behind you when they catch up.

  9. BrisUrbane says:

    I’d like to know why trams aren’t through routed on Elizabeth St. Is there a reason for that?

    • poneke says:

      I’d like to know why trams aren’t through routed on Elizabeth St. Is there a reason for that?

      Because the Elizabeth St terminus is a stub at Flinders St. The trams can go no farther.

      It has been thus since cable tram days.

      Elizabeth St is the only CBD tram street where the services do not continue to other places at each end, but this is because there is nowhere for them to continue beyond their stub terminus.

      Bourke St trams uses to be a similar stub at Spencer St but they were extended from 1987 into Spencer St when the St Kilda and Port Melbourne “light rail” lines opened (because such an extension was practical. No such extension is practical for the Elizabeth St lines. Look at a map and you will see, maybe).

      • jack horner says:

        With my ‘infrastructure dreaming’ cap on, I suggest it would be possible to extend the Elizabeth St line to Sturt St South Melbourne, and that could take some of the traffic to St Kilda Rd workplaces at vastly less cost than the metro rail tunnel.

        Fly over Flinders St; tastefully drill through the first storey of the station building (I have a heritage-expert past, and am sympathetic to the inevitable concerns, but I think it can be done); interchange stop above the rail platforms; new bridge to Southbank; pass the back of the concert hall at high level; return to street level between City Rd and Nolan St.

        That’s a lot of structure; on the other hand, it is only 700 metres. A few hundred million? Still less than a tenth of the cost of the metro rail tunnel.

        The new route would be preferred for train/tram trips to St Kilda Rd because of easier interchange than the present interchange on Princes Bridge. More use of the William St line (though that should also be encouraged) can’t do that.

        I expect the heritage/ urban amenity objections would be the main difficulty. BTW this is just an idea. Always subject to cost-benefit analysis.

  10. rohan says:

    Thanks for the map Mr Davies- I spent ages looking for such a thing and couldnt find it, so drew my own over existing map – glad to see I was more or less correct.

    First thing that got me was the separation of the 112 into two lines – just as it was from the 1920s till the late 1990s ! (except now the southern half to go up Spencer to Latrobe. They were stuck together ‘to reduce congestion’ but really so that there were fewer trams to run, though the through connection was/is nice for some. The lack of trams on Colins been fixed recently with re-routing of 48 from Flinders to Collins, and now the peak hr route 11 as well.

    I do like that the result has more lines cross town, more like a european system, and not everyone needs to go to swanston street any more.

    My experience is that the greatest crowding is within the inner city area – on Brunswick Street, seats become available by Princes Street – so it would make sense for most routes to have a shorter shuttle versions, though system not built for that – returning trams hold up through trams. No system ideal, but would be good if somehow coped with current numbers. Longer trams would help at peak hr, but are wasted running to La Trobe Uni with 3 people at 10pm tuesday nights.

  11. rohan says:

    oh yes, I forgot – hook turns for all intersections !

  12. Jimontrack says:

    I still say that the best solution for William Street is to go back before 1987.

    There you had all the existing Swanston Street routes, but most of those had a pair of routes, where the second was a ‘peak only service via William Street’.

    You can cut the services down to say 20 minutes on each route, but as you have two routes you would have a combined 10 minute service out from Domain Interchange on each pair of routes.

    The YT plans would do well to ‘clog up’ the domain interchange of people trying to change between the trams.

  13. S P Herceg says:

    At last better thought out route system – now we need deal with Melbourne’s over-crowded trams …could something like these make the trip a little more pleasant?

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