What is the shortest bus route in Melbourne?

Working on my public transport map for Melbourne has made me discover a whole lot of bus routes that I never previously knew about.

It did make me wonder which one of the roughly 350 bus routes in metropolitan Melbourne have the shortest distance.

At 115 kilometres, the 901 is already well known for being the longest.

Transdev bus #8295 running route 901 towards Melbourne Airport, Ringwood

Flipping that around, the 509 along Hope Street in Brunswick has previously been claimed as the shortest route in Melbourne. It takes about 15 minutes to travel from Barkley Square to its terminus next to Citylink in Brunswick West, a distance of 3.5 kilometres.

However, there are quite a few other contenders for this title. Even one municipality across in Moonee Valley, the 467 from Moonee Ponds Station to Aberfeldie takes only 12 minutes to complete its journey of 3.5 kilometres.

Other finalists include (in ascending order of distance):

  • 773 (Frankston to Frankston South) – 9 minutes to travel 3.9 kilometres
  • 431 (Yarraville to Kingsville) – 11 minutes to travel 4 kilometres
  • 518 (Greensborough to St Helena West) – 14 minutes to travel 4 kilometres on its inbound leg
  • 929 (Pakenham Station to Pakenham North) – 10 minutes to travel 4.2 kilometres
  • 740 (Mitcham to Vermont East) – 17 minutes to travel 4.8 kilometres
  • 831 (Berwick to Kingsmere Estate) – 14 minutes to travel 4.9 kilometres
  • 779 (Frankston to Belvedere) – 13 minutes to travel 5 kilometres
  • 770 (Frankston Station to Karingal) – 20 minutes to travel 5.3 kilometres (towards Frankston Station)
  • 798 (Cranbourne to Selandra Rise) – 17 minutes to travel 6.2 kilometres
  • 898 (Cranbourne East to Cranbourne Station) – 18 minutes to travel 6.2 kilometres
  • 927 (Pakenham Station to Pakenham North) – 15 minutes to travel 6.6 kilometres

Honourable mentions

The fourth longest at the moment is the 777 from Karingal Hub Shopping Centre to McClelland Drive. It is a close contender for second place, but because of the loop in the shopping centre it comes in very slightly longer than the 441 at 3.3 kilometres.

The 441 in Werribee comes very close in third place. This tiny route of just six stops (heading towards Werribee Station) takes 8 minutes to go from one end to the other. Its total length from end to end is 3.2 kilometres – 300 metres shorter than the 509 and 467. But because it operates as a loop, if you were heading in the other direction (towards Westleigh Gardens), it is slightly longer at 3.8 kilometres.

Map from PTV showing bus routes around Werribee Station

In just over a fortnight, this route will no longer be one of the top 10 shortest in Melbourne. It will be extended further into the Riverwalk Estate as of 28 July 2019. It will now take 10 minutes for the bus to traverse the new route of 4.7 kilometres.

In second place is the 401, which has a route length of 2.6 kilometres from North Melbourne Station to Melbourne University. It is currently disrupted due to the Metro Tunnel works, terminating at Pelham Street, so this may change in the future once the new Parkville Station is built.

So which is actually the shortest…?

The crown for shortest bus route in Melbourne must go to the 673 from Lilydale Station to Lillydale Lake (yes there are two ‘l’s). This is a route of only 2.5 kilometres from end to end, not including diversions. However, it is timetabled to take 15 minutes – quite a long time to cover this distance. (Thanks to Peter Parker for pointing out this omission!)

Many of these short routes are legacies from many decades ago. Others are the beginnings of routes into new residential estates that are either proposed or under construction. At some point in the future, many will be extended as development continues to expand.

If I’ve missed any, please let me know in the comments. I didn’t do GIS analysis of route lengths although that would be possible. I might do a future post with a list of each route length in a spreadsheet or something similar.

Update: an earlier version of this post declared the 441 as the shortest. Peter Parker pointed out the 673, which, by distance, is actually the shortest. Thanks to everyone for your comments.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

11 July, 2019 at 10:09 am

It’s probably worth mentioning that the old 509 is not the restored 509. The old 509 was shorter (being purely an east-west route) but ran every 20 min. The new one is hourly but is longer. The 1978 map has the old alignment. http://bcsv.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Melbourne-PT-Map-1978.pdf

11 July, 2019 at 10:32 am

Check the 673 timetable again. Although it’s basically a linear route, PTV has set its timetable up like a loop. So the 15 minutes quoted is a return trip.

In relation to your method, a fairer way of calculating lengths is to take a return trip and divide it by two. This is because (like you found with the 441) there and back lengths can be very different. There is method in this madness for routes like the 496. There’s a need to split the route somewhere (if you are presenting timetables in an in-out format like PTV mostly do (but not for the 673).

In the case of the 496 you want stop timetables to indicate a destination to Laverton, not to a random terminus in the estate a few stops away. So what you do is you artificially split the route at the first stop after it ceases to be a linear route. This of course make the outbound route shorter than the inbound route (which goes through the estate before going back to Laverton). It’s an artificial split but better for stop timetables than splitting it exactly half way along the loop.

11 July, 2019 at 1:42 pm

You mentioned the 401 shuttle, what about the 601 to Monash University?

11 July, 2019 at 10:49 pm
– In reply to: David

Yes thanks, that’s another close one! Comes in at about 3.3 kilometres. So fourth place just behind the 441 🙂

Thomas Hobleyreply
14 November, 2020 at 8:28 am

Hi, you forgot about the route 684 as the longest route (165ks)

22 November, 2020 at 5:06 pm
– In reply to: Thomas Hobley

Thanks for your comment Thomas. I opted not to include the 684 as the longest route as it doesn’t really serve Melbourne. Its primary function is to service towns well outside the metropolitan boundary up to Lake Eildon, whereas the 901 is definitely an urban route.

15 May, 2024 at 12:08 am

About a month ago I was walking in Mitcham with my dog . He stopped to sniff at the bus stop , I happened to look at the timetable and noticed it has only 6 services a day and none on the weekend . It runs from Mitcham to Vermont East I have only ever known of the suburbs of Vermont or Vermont South ). The route is about 3.2 km long . Incredibly as we were there a bus came .

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