The SmartBus program was originally a policy initiative of the Kennett Liberal (conservative) state government of Victoria, Australia in the late 1990s, However it has been slowly implemented under the current Labor government headed by (formerly) Steve Bracks, now John Brumby. Undertaken as a part of Metlink, the program seeks to eventually establish a series of key suburban bus routes, and orbital bus routes around Melbourne. Key aspects of this program include more frequent services, extended hours of operation to include late evening and Sunday services, improved timetable information at bus stops, and priority at traffic lights.

SmartBus Routes

On 5th August 2002, the first stage of the trial was implemented, with the following services being chosen as pilot routes:
* 703 Middle Brighton to Blackburn via Bentleigh, Clayton, Monash University, Syndal & Forest Hill Chase "(operated by Ventura)"
* 888/889 Nunawading to Chelsea via Forest Hill Chase, Glen Waverley, Springvale, Keysborough and Edithvale (888)/Chelsea Heights (889) "(operated by Grenda's)"

These two routes received extra funding for more services, thus their timetables were re-written with up to 20% more services on 703 and up to 50% on 888/889. Sunday services were also added to 888/889, which previously did not have a Sunday/Public Holiday service.The aim was to find out if increased services and better reliability would increase patronage. The project was deemed successful when in 2003, on the 1st anniversary of SmartBus, the Victorian Government released a media statement that the SmartBus program increased patronage an average of 25% between 703 and 888/889. [ [$FILE/MediaRelease031002-Smartbus.pdf Media release: Outstanding performance marks first anniversary of SmartBus ] ]

Due to the success of the trial, SmartBus services were made permanent in Melbourne and they have now expanded with 3 more SmartBus routes. They are:
* 700 Box Hill to Mordialloc via Wattle Park, Holmesglen R.S, Chadstone, Oakleigh R.S and Mentone R.S "(operated by Ventura)" (started 14th June 2005)
* 900 Caulfield to Rowville (Stud Park S.C) via Chadstone, Oakleigh, Huntingdale and Monash University. "(shared operation between Grendas & Eastrans (Kefford))" (started 16th October 2006)
* 901 Frankston to Ringwood via Dandenong R.S, Stud Park SC and Knox City SC. "(shared operation between Grendas & Invicta)" (started 24th March 2008)

Some "Smartbus" features also feature on the privately operated Skybus Super Shuttle route linking Melbourne Airport and Southern Cross Station in the Melbourne CBD, however this service is still not officially stated as a SmartBus service.

In the near future, there will be up to 3-5 more Smartbus routes which will operate in Melbourne.

In context, SmartBus routes are chosen because of their excellent 'cross-town' abilities, linking numerous train/tram lines, as well as offering more services to major arterial roads, along with extended hours of operation to suit retail trading hours.

Orbital Bus Routes

According to the Melbourne Transport Plan,ref_label | MTP | 1 | a in the coming years, the Victorian Government plans to roll out a series of Orbital Bus Routes around Melbourne. These routes will include:
* Blue Orbital: Sandringham to Williamstown (including parts of current 246, 504 or 508, & 472) via St Kilda, Richmond, Clifton Hill, Moonee Ponds and Footscray.
* Red Orbital (including current 700 and 291 and parts of 527, 513 and 411): Mordialloc to Altona via Chadstone, Box Hill, Doncaster, Northland & Sunshine.
* Green Orbital (including current 888/889 & 560): Chelsea to Werribee via Springvale, Glen Waverley, Nunawading, Eltham, Greensborough, Keon Park, Broadmeadows, Keilor and Deer Park
* Yellow Orbital (including new route 901, 286 along Blackburn Road and 293 north of Doncaster): Frankston to Melbourne Airport via Dandenong, Knox, Ringwood, Doncaster, Greensborough and Epping.

The first orbital route to be in rolled out in its entirety (red) is already months behind schedule and is set to delay the installation of all other routes. This is to be followed by Yellow, Green, and finally Blue.

SmartBus features

SmartBus aims to provide a premium bus service to commuters with quality stops and tram-like frequencies. However, SmartBus has attracted much criticism due to poor implementation, low standards, as well as inconsistancies between routes:

* Services are offered at least every 15 minutes during weekdays in the daytime (from 5:30am - around 7:30pm/8pm), with services to carry on every 30 minutes till around midnight. Weekend services to operate half-hourly from 6am until 10pm (midnight on Saturday). Realistically, Saturday services operate every 20-30 minutes during the daytime, though 40 minute frequencies operate on route 888/889 Nunawading - Chelsea. Routes 700, 900 and 901 are the only SmartBus routes to run until midnight on Saturday nights, while the 703 and 888/889 run only until around 9:00pm. Because of this, SmartBus has received much criticism by travellers and the public, due to not operating until midnight to help party-goers, late night travellers from the city, etc. On Sundays, frequencies range from every 30 minutes to 40/45 minutes from 6:30am (Route 700), 7:00am (Route 900/901) or 7:30am (Routes 703 and 888/889) till around 9:30pm. Sunday services on the 703 have also been criticised, with Sunday services terminating short at Bentleigh Railway Station.
* Connections to other services. Connections are often designated, though they are poorly implemented due to conflicting frequencies (weekend buses are half hourly, and are supposed to connect with each train operating at 20-minute frequency), or services depart shortly before train arrivals (such as route 700 on weekdays at Box Hill, or route 900 at Huntingdale).
* Real-Time passenger displays are available at selected high-patronised bus stops along SmartBus routes, though many PIDs were turned off since November 2005, after they continuously malfunctioned. As of August 2006, new PIDs began to be installed, with new SmartBus colours of orange and grey (replacing the old Green/Black colour scheme). By early 2007, these had been installed at numerous bus stops on all 6 routes, though still have many glitches and are not available across the entire system.
* The ability to request a traffic light green extension or an early green to allow the bus to pass through an intersection when it is running late, in turn assisting the driver to help keep on time and to reduce journey times for passengers.
* Priority "head start" lanes at intersections.
* Bus stops that are in conjunction with the Commonwealth Discrimatory Act, with tactile tiles and better signage, as well as lower ground to allow the elderly or wheelchair-bound passengers easier access to buses.
* Dedicated bus lanes on routes 900 (North Road) and 901 (Stud Road).
* More low floor buses with ramps to accommodate elderly and wheelchair-bound passengers as stated above.


# ^ State Government of Victoria / Department of Infrastructure, "Melbourne Transport Plan", 2004: p. 47.

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