A colleague of mine was recently waxxing lyrical to me about a new project he’s been following closely – so I’ve written this article about it in a similar vein.
In 2019 Sydney introduced a new bus service called the “B-Line”. This is a service connecting Central Sydney to Mona Vale 25km to the north.
The service comprises:
- Very high “turn-up and go” frequencies: every 2 minutes peak, every 5 minutes off-peak
- Huge span: It runs 7 days a week, 20 hours a day (begins 4:30am, ends 12:30am)
- Flash new vehicles – double-deckers kitted out with real-time information screens and announcements – a cut above the other buses in the Sydney network.
- Stops consolidated and upgraded into “Stations”. There are only 10 stations over its 25km length (a typical bus service might have around 60-70 over this sort of length).
- New sections of bus lanes and other bus priority.
- Six new park and ride facilities.
- Walking and cycling improvements around stations (including several elevated over bridges)
The bus priority, limited stations and almost zero wait-times mean travel times are faster than driving for many people. A quick Google Maps query returns a morning peak in-vehicle journey time from Mona Vale to the city of 66 minutes by bus and anywhere between 45-105 minutes by car.
In its first year it carried 5.9 million passengers, which interestingly is almost exactly what the Auckland northern busway carried last year.
The new service cost around AU$600 million in capital costs. Ffrom what I can tell over half of the cost seems to be made up of the 6 park and ride facilities, some of which required land purchase and some of which are multi-storey buildings.
The initial intention of the project was that it would be full-blown Bus Rapid Transit. However, for various reasons, as it evolved it was scaled back into “BRT-lite”. The buses run in bus-lanes for much of their trip but not all of it. My colleague thinks the success of the project has been largely down to doing a lot of small things really really well. The branding has been strong, the vehicles are very nice to ride in, although it is not fully segregated the bus priority it has works properly so it is faster and more reliable than driving, the whole ambience of the service has been created to make it feel more like catching a train than a bus. In his words there are a whole lot of things designed to make passengers feel “more important” than motorists when they use the B-line.
I think this sort of project could work well in a situation where full-blown Mass Rapid Transit (e.g. Bus Rapid Transit) is too hard to implement – too costly, too difficult politically, too much disruption etc. This “BRT-lite” achieves a lot of the benefits at lower cost and is much easier and faster to implement. It could also be a stepping-stone on the way towards something else.
Links for anyone interested in further reading…