A further 15 routes through suburbs such as Hawthorn, Knox, Mordialloc and Lilydale typically carried 50 people or fewer on an average weekday in 2017.
Professor of Transport Studies at Monash University Graham Currie said that buses only run once every hour or two on some outer suburban routes, which contributes to their unpopularity.
“A lack of any reasonable service means they are very unattractive and are never likely to carry many people,» Professor Currie said.
He said many of the least used buses are on «gap» routes, filling in holes in the network to cater for the elderly, pensioners and other people on low income who have no other way of getting to where they needed to go.
«There are strong social justice reasons for some of these low ridership bus routes,» Professor Currie said.
«Nevertheless they are expensive to run and policy should consider more cost effective options for providing service.»
Some of the night buses introduced in 2015 are struggling to attract customers, according to the figures obtained by the Victorian Greens.
These buses are expected to carry fewer passengers than day-time services, but the numbers remain remarkably low.
Three bus routes carried no more than 100 passengers over the course of the entire financial 2016-17 year.
Five night buses driving through Ringwood, Croydon, Lilydale and Dandenong carried either one passenger, or none at all, on an average Saturday or Sunday in 2017.
Some of Melbourne’s day-time buses have faced a significant fall in passenger numbers, with passenger numbers on routes through St Albans, Caroline Springs and Chadstone falling by roughly a third over the two-year period.
Greens’ transport spokesman Sam Hibbins called on the government to invest more in promoting the bus network, and said the government must deliver its promises to shake up the network.
“We had a bus review around 10 years ago, this government promised to implement the findings and they haven’t done that.
“We need to look at making bus routes more direct and frequent, because the evidence shows that when you put on enough services and make the bus routes more direct, more people will catch them.”
Since 2015, the government has spent about $650 million a year on metropolitan buses and about $100 million on the regional network.
Millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money has been spent on advertising campaigns to promote the bus network but overall patronage growth dropped by 0.2 per cent in 2017-18 to 117.8 million trips, while train and tram passengers increased.
The Andrews government sought to improve bus performance when it renegotiated contracts for many of Melbourne’s bus operators last year.
Public Transport Minister Melissa Horne vowed to remove archaic bus routes that skip major residential and business hubs when she entered government last year.
A department spokesman said unpopular services are largely on the urban fringe and operate a low number of services outside of peak periods, at a low cost.
He conceded that many of Melbourne’s bus routes have suffered due to poor running time, and a swath of unpopular buses having their frequency updated this year.
“Victoria’s Night Network is an important part of Melbourne’s night economy whether that’s supporting shift workers to get to and from their jobs or helping people living in Melbourne’s suburbs to get home after enjoying a night out,” he said.
“The Victorian Government continues to invest in and review bus networks across metropolitan and regional areas, in order to deliver the best possible services for passengers.”
The Age has approached the minister for comment.
Timna Jacks is Transport Reporter at The Age