‘Spaghetti’ bus network entrenches inequity


Elsie Lange

Hume council and the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) have welcomed a new report finding Melbourne’s bus services could be improved, especially in growth areas.

Among its findings, the Infrastructure Victoria discussion paper released this week said that buses were rarely a competitive alternative to other transport due to limited operating hours, and inefficient routes which made buses less appealing to use.

A challenge highlighted in the report was that existing networks contributed to a “major equity problem, especially for outer and new growth areas of Melbourne”.

“Bus services in these areas can be infrequent and have limited operating hours. If the bus service is not convenient, families can be forced into car ownership… This lack of choice adds to the cost of living and contributes to locational transport disadvantage,” the report said.

Hume mayor Joseph Haweil welcomed the report and introducing expanded bus routes was pivotal, as the region “urgently needed” public transport investment.

“It is vital that our community can get to work, see their doctor and visit family and friends using a bus network that is fast, reliable and built for the future,” he said.

PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen said Infrastructure Victoria was “spot on” in their findings, and growth areas were expanding while bus networks were not keeping up.

“For basic journeys, like getting to the shops or railway station, many of the bus routes are just completely inadequate,” Mr Bowen said.

“If you glance at the bus maps for a lot of these areas, the routes are very confusing. It’s like looking at spaghetti.”

IV chief executive Dr Jonathan Spear said with better route designs, cheaper fares and more frequent services, “buses can deliver safe, affordable public transport where it is needed most”.

It is understood the state government is completing a major review of the bus network in Melbourne’s north and north-eastern suburbs as part of a plan to develop a better network. This included an online consultation with communities in Hume to understand how people use buses.

Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll said the government was “deeply invested” in supporting and upgrading the state’s bus network, through its bus plan, new school bus services, its Zero Emissions Bus Trial or the introduction of FlexiRide services.

Infrastructure Victoria will publish a final report including recommendations in late 2023.