Sunday, September 11, 2016

BCC to demolish RBWH for Brisbane Metro depot

RBWH to be demolished for Metro depot
BrizCommuter has heard from uninformed sources, that Brisbane City Council (BCC) plans to demolish Royal Brisbane & Womens Hospital (RBWH) to make way for the new depot site for the planned Brisbane Metro Subway System.

The depot for the Brisbane Metro was originally planned to be at the former Go Print site in Wooloongabba. However, the state government recently scuppered that plan as that site was already proposed to be used for a Cross River Rail station. BCC have thus changed the site to be near the other end of the Brisbane Metro at Herston. Here is what the BCC spokesperson maybe had to say:

After we had to look for another site for the depot for "World Class" Brisbane Metro Subway System, the RBWH site in Herston was at the top of the list. There are three fantastic reasons why demolishing RBWH and building a metro depot on the site is a great opportunity, and shows that Brisbane is truly a "New World City":

  • The Brisbane Metro was originally designed to stop one stop short of the RBWH at Herston. Rather than extending the Metro an extra stop at huge expense to the ratepayer, then why not just remove the huge trip generator that is RBWH instead.
  • As the Brisbane Metro has less capacity than the existing busway, then we need to try and make less people use it so that everyone can get a seat. By demolishing RBWH, we will have less staff, patients, and visitors taking up all of those seats. Plus Liberal voters don't use public hospitals anyway. 
  • We get a great backhander from developers for demolishing buildings, especially if they are heritage listed, like a few of the buildings at RBWH. We can also sell the land rights above the depot, and have a great retirement. 
When the BCC spokesperson was asked about the effect on patients not having a hospital anymore, the reply was "well that's the state government's problem" 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Redcliffe Sardine Line?

Queensland Rail 3-car unit train
As predicted by BrizCommuter over a year ago, it looks like Queensland Rail's (QR) ongoing lack of trains, delays to the Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR), and the opening of Moreton Bay Rail Link will create the perfect storm for more train overcrowding misery for unlucky commuters.

Since the January 2014 timetable, there have not been enough trains to run an optimal peak service on many lines. This has resulted in overcrowded Ferny Grove, Cleveland, and Shorncliffe Line services where only a 3-car unit is used, and also unacceptable 15 minute gaps between pm peak services on the Ferny Grove and Cleveland Line.

The lack of trains at the inception of the 2014 timetable was due to the Bligh government failing to purchase an add-on order of trains at the end of the run of class 160/260. The NGR train order was then delayed doing the Newman government era. Some poor procurement decisions by the Newman government are rumoured to be behind the delays in the NGR trains entering service.

As there are not enough trains, it is highly likely that when the new Redcliffe Peninsula Line (previously known as Moreton Bay Rail Link or Kippa-Ring Line) opens, that some existing 6-car services will be reduced to 3-car units. This may result in overcrowding, and possibly even passengers being unable to board trains. If this eventuates, it is likely that this will generate very bad publicity for QR and the Palaszczuk government, even though neither are at fault for the lack of trains.

BrizCommuter knows of many commuters who have been indefinitely put off from using public transport due to overcrowded 3-car services, and the Inner Northern Busway overcrowding a few years ago. In the latter case, 0% have gone back to using public transport.

It is also concerning that QR have not yet informed commuters which train services will be "cut in half" to 3-car units.  Thus it is likely that on the 4th of October 2016, whilst some commuters may be using trains for the first time, some unlucky commuters are going to have a very nasty surprise!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Anna nails the Quirky Metro coffin.

Whilst many could question the Anna Palaszczuk government for not doing much, BrizCommuter is happy to see common sense prevail, and Anna nailing the coffin of Graham Quirk's ridiculous Brisbane Metro Subway System thought bubble. 

For new readers to this blog, what are the problems with the Brisbane City Council's Quirky Brisbane Metro Subway System?
  • Busway congestion could be resolved by an almost $0 bus network reform, instead of spending $1.5b+ (more realistically $3b) on a totally unnecessary Metro system. 
  • It would increase journey times, as passengers would have to change from bus to metro at Wooloongabba and Herston to access Brisbane's CBD.
  • It goes against Graham Quirk's excuse for lack of bus network reform of providing one seat journeys. 
  • It has lower capacity than the existing busway.
  • It does not serve RBWH, PA Hospital, and UQ, three major trip generators on the busway network. In fact it annoyingly stops just one stop short of both RBWH and PA Hospitals.
  • Important parts of the design, such as the interchange design  have not been properly considered.
  • It does not provide any new journey opportunities, unlike the urgently required Cross River Rail. 
  • It is providing political distraction from the urgently required Cross River Rail.
  • It does not solve Brisbane's rail capacity issues, unlike Cross River Rail.
Anna Palaszczuk has refused to allow the state government owned Go Print site in Wooloongabba to be used as a depot for Graham Quirk's Metro. This site is earmarked for a Cross River Rail station, and transport orientated development. Of course, it should also be noted that state government own the busway infrastructure that Brisbane City Council's Lord Mayor Graham Quirk wants to covert into a metro. 

So is the Brisbane Metro completely dead and buried? Given the high level of delusion of Graham Quirk and his councillors, BrizCommuter is sure that will continue with this political stunt for a while. It is important that Anna Palaszczuk's state government get on with Cross River Rail before the next state election. If the LNP win, you can be sure that they will continue with their destructive public transport policies.  

Friday, September 2, 2016

Redcliffe Peninsula Line - very POSH!

Coming soon to Kippa-Ring
In a reasonably surprise mood the Moreton Bay Rail Link / Kippa-Ring Line which will finally open in October, will be called the Redcliffe Peninsula Line. This is not surprising as not many people have ever heard of Kippa-Ring, and who wants to name a train line after a smelly fish anyway? The Redcliffe Peninsula sounds rather POSH, and BrizCommuter is sure that first class passengers will travel Port Out Starboard Home.

As Queensland Rail (QR) have obviously gone upmarket with their line naming, here is a few suggestions for renaming the rest of QR's train lines:

  • Ferny Grove Line to be renamed to Hinterland Mountain Railway  (useless fact: Keperra is the highest point on QR's CityTrain network). 
  • Caboolture Line to be renamed to Pine Rivers Odyssey.
  • Sunshine Coast Line to be renamed to Sunshine Narrow Gauge Railway.
  • Shorncliffe Line to be renamed to Trans-Swamp Express.
  • Airport Line to be renamed to Airport Limousine Line.
  • Doomben Line to be renamed to Thoroughbred Line.
  • Cleveland Line to be renamed to LotaLand Line.
  • Gold Coast Line to be renamed to Golden Bullet Express.
  • Springfield Line to be renamed to Magical Forest Railway.
  • Rosewood Line to be renamed to On The Way To Grandchester Line. 
  • Ipswich Line to be renamed to Brisbane Valley Scenic Railway.
  • Beenleigh Line to be renamed to The Line for Everyone Else.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Newmarket Go Slow?

SE Queensland's public transport network is excelling itself with slow progress at the moment - nearly 1 year late Next Generation Rollingstock trains, the 7 months late Moreton Bay Rail Link, Cross River Rail planning going around in circles, and of course the ongoing incompetence of Brisbane City Council's bus network. So lets through another one into the mix - Newmarket station accessibility upgrade.

BrizCommuter first reported on this upgrade back in early March, when strange things started appearing at Newmarket station, and of course Queensland Rail (QR) had failed to inform customers of what was going on. The strange things turned out to be constriction of temporary side platforms, so that ageing island platform can be refurbished with a new lift and bridge. So how long does it take to build a temporary platform? A few weeks? No, QR have managed to take over half a year and counting. In fact the construction has been so slow that it has become a discussion point laughing stock of passing Ferny Grove Line commuters.
Newmarket's still incomplete temporary platforms - 3 months ago!
In the mean time in Melbourne, surface tracks on the Frankston Line were closed, a deep cutting dug out, new track, bridges, and sub-surface stations constructed, and trains started running again in just 37 days.
Fast construction in Melbourne
In the Banana state, nothing happens quickly!

Friday, August 26, 2016

PityGlider - BCC getting more farcical

Artists impression of Brisbane City Council
For many years, BrizCommuter has been reporting on the incompetence of Brisbane City Council's (BCC) inefficient and confusing bus network, operated by their subsidiary Brisbane Transport. Things took an even more farcical turn this week when Deputy Mayor Cr Adrian Schrinner threatened to cancel the Maroon CityGlider, bus route, over poor old BCC having to pay $10m for some roadworks ahead of the construction of a casino that will bring in $$$ of rates and trade to Brisbane.

The laughable thing about Cr Adrian Schrinner's dummy spit, is the Maroon CityGlider was an unnecessary political promotional stunt in the first place. So what is wrong with the Maroon CityGlider?

  • It duplicates existing high frequency bus routes including the route 385 (The Gap BUZ) throughout most of it's route. 
  • It uses different stop locations to the route 385, causing confusion to passengers.
  • By duplicating the 385 route through Paddington instead of travelling via Redhill/Waterworks Rd, it leaves the highly populated Redhill/Waterworks Rd without a high frequency bus service. 
  • It was a political stunt ahead of a council election, that ignored any existing network planning, and thus added even more inefficiency to Brisbane's bus network.
  • It follows a bizarre route, and mainly carries air between Wooloongabba and Langlands Park (the Southern terminus). 
  • It doesn't stop at Wooloongabba busway station after events at the Gabba - BrizCommuter has yet to work out how to catch a bus from the Gabba after an event as there are no signs or information! 
Just to make Cr Schrinner look more of a fool, BCC rejected TransLink's bus network review in 2013, leaving Brisbane with it's messy, confusing, and inefficient bus network. Due to BCC's own incompetence in not resolving busway congestion with bus network reform, BCC now want to spend $1.5b+ on the totally unnecessary Brisbane Metro Subway System. Yes, $1.5b, and bit more than the $10m you are having  dummy spit over Cr Schrinner? Brisbane's bus network operations urgently need to be removed by BCC's control, as due to BCC councillors political self interest, Brisbane "The New World City" is looking more like Brisbane "The Farcical Backwater". 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Too much expresso?

It seems that QR like serving up expresso, so much that those trying to travel outbound to or from Oxford Park, Grovely, and Keperra in todays am peak, might as well have stayed in bed.
3 outbound Ferny Grove services were effectively cancelled for users trying to start or finish their journeys to or from the above mentioned stations. With two consecutive trains expressed, this created a gap between services of 45 minutes instead of the timetabled 15 minute frequency. Most of the affected travellers would have been school children, who shouldn't really be left to wait around on train platforms for longer than necessary.  

Whilst it could be argued that by expressing these services reduced the impact on the majority of users travelling inbound, BrizCommuter thinks that QR were serving up too much expresso this morning. 

Oh, and just to add, one of the inbound trains that ran late, was one of the dreaded 3-car unit services, with reportedly hundreds of passengers left behind at inner Ferny Grove Line stations yet again as the train was full.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Still doing the go card rort?

...unless you travel short distances a lot. 
Back in 2014, BrizCommuter wrote his most popular blog post "Doing the go card rort" which has helped many a commuter (mainly long distance commuters) to know how to reduce their weekly public transport costs on Brisbane's overpriced public transport system. The post was also picked up by the media on many an occasion. The go card rort is possible due to the "9 then free" fare structure, and lack of zone based daily and weekly capping.

So with new fares in January 2017, and the replacement of "9 then free" with "8 then 50%", is the go card rort still possible? In this scenario, BrizCommuter looks at the three rort scenarios for a (new) 5 zone/(old) 13 zone commuter such as Nerang or Landsborough to Brisbane Central. With no rorting, and 10 peak journeys, the weekly cost will be $92.88.

The Easy Rort

This involves one lunch time one zone off-peak journey on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. This will result in 50% fare journeys from Wednesday evening (inclusive).

Weekly Cost = $85.08
Weekly Saving = $7.80

The Pro Rort

This involves two one zone off-peak journeys on Monday and Tuesday. Maybe during morning tea, and lunch. 50% fare journeys from Wednesday morning (inclusive).

Weekly Cost = $82.48
Weekly Saving = $10.40

The Extreme Rort

This involves three one zone off-peak journeys on Monday and two on Tuesday. Maybe during morning and afternoon tea, and lunch. 50% fare journeys from the peak journey home on Tuesday (inclusive).
2.56x5= 12.8

Weekly Cost = $79.88
Weekly Saving = $13 (over $600 saving a year)


Whilst the new fare system was designed to reduce the rorting that was occurring with the go card system, doing the go card rort will still be possible for longer distance commuters after the change to "8 then 50%" in January 2017. As the savings by doing the rort are far less than the old fare structure, then it is likely that only the keen or miserly will continue to do the rort. However, this continues to show the new fare structure is simply re-arrangeing the deck chairs on the Titanic, and that a account based fare system that allows for daily and weekly zone based capping is urgently required for Brisbane and SE Queensland.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Locked Out at Enoggera!

Some commuters at Enoggera train station had a bit of a shock last week when they found themselves locked out of their favourite parking spot. A plot of vacant private land near to the train station has become a popular parking spot, as the stations car park often fills up to capacity quite early in the am peak (along with most other Ferny Grove Line stations). After a few years of no activity, the owners of the land have finally got around to blocking off the land. With lots of displaced cars, this will add to pressure of street parking on streets around the train station, something that is sadly all too common in Brisbane. So what is the problem with car parking at Enoggera train station, and other train stations in Brisbane?

Not enough parking spaces - purveyors of bad city planning - Brisbane City Council, have banned the addition of station car parking within a set distance of Brisbane's CBD. Thus the demand outstrips supply, resulting in street parking chaos, and forcing many commuters to drive to work instead, adding to congestion on roads.

Not enough feeder buses - purveyors of bad transport planning - Brisbane City Council (starting to see a trend?) have resisted reforming the bus network. Thus rather than having buses feed the train network, the buses try and compete with the train network. Given that just one Ferny Grove Line train service has the same capacity as all of Brisbane Transport's competing bus routes in the am peak, it is obvious that passengers prefer to use the train when they have the choice.

White elephant bus interchange - as above, Enoggera has a large, and largely under-used bus interchange. Frequent feeder bus services from Northern suburbs (e.g. along Old Northern Road corridor) should feed into either Enoggera or Mitchelton bus interchanges. This would take considerable pressure of parking. This plan was knocked back by Brisbane City Council during TransLink's bus network review in 2013.

To conclude, the lack of feeder buses and station parking is causing a lot of pain for commuters and residents around train stations. Much of this is due to failed Brisbane City Council policies. It is time that Brisbane City Council are removed from transport planning.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

System Meltdown (Again)

Not a good day QR?
On Wednesday 27th July 2016, Brisbane suffered yet another Queensland Rail (QR) system meltdown highlighting many issues:
  • A "signal failure" at Bowen Hills caused all trains to have to run via one track pair through the CBD instead of two during the am peak. 
  • The result of having to send 40 trains per hour (tph) per direction down a track that can only handle 24 tph, meant that trains were soon queueing down the track, and delays reached 30 minutes. 
  • A Brisbane to Ipswich train was cancelled, resulting in a hour long gap between services during the am peak. 
  • Some trains from Caboolture were routed via the Ekka Loop, bypassing 3 core stations including Central, pissing off rather a lot of passengers! 
  • Severe overcrowding experienced on many train services. 
  • No information was reported given to passengers waiting at stations that there were would be delays. 
  • Information was only given on-board BrizCommuter's train after the last opportunity to change onto a high frequency bus route. The diverted Caboolture Line train passenger were not informed until the train had been diverted! 
  • Delays were being quoted as only being 10 minutes, when some trains were delayed 30 minutes (BrizCommuter's train was 21 minutes late through the CBD). Some claims on Facebook are of hour long delays. 
  • It took until early afternoon for the system to fully recover.
  • Unlike London where passengers are re-imbursed for delays of more than 15 minutes, there is no refund for delayed passengers in Brisbane.
  • BrizCommuter has heard reports of surgery and clinics being delayed in one Brisbane hospital due to large numbers of staff arriving late. The delays would probably have affected many businesses, and many workers lost out on wages.
Not going anywhere at Fortitude Valley
So what can Brisbane learn from this meltdown?
  • The urgently needed Cross River Rail (CRR) would provide for more system redundancy and resilience compared to current situation of all trains services running through the same core network. The ongoing failure of CRR is embarrassing when Melbourne and Sydney's new rail tunnels are full steam ahead. 
  • Improved signalling is required to not only increase timetabled service frequencies, but also increase absolute maximum capacity when issues arise. 
  • There needs to be higher frequency counter-peak services (e.g. from Brisbane to Ipswich and Springfield in the am peak).
  • There needs to be better operational handling so that counter-peak services are not cancelled. 
  • Core network delays need to be relayed to passengers at train stations before they board. 
  • Core network delays need to be relayed to passengers before interchange points, as in London and other cities, so that alternative routes can be used. 
  • Delay times communicated to passengers need to be more realistic. 
  • Passengers should be re-imbursed automatically via the go card system for these delays.
Step up your act QR and TransLink! 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Un-fair? Short vs Long Distance Journey Costs

Tokyo - expensive long distance commutes
BrizCommuter has often complained about how shorter distance commuters are ripped off by TransLink's fares compared to longer distance commuters. BrizCommuter's opinion is that those who live closer to their place of work or study are living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and thus should be rewarded as such with lower fares. BrizCommuter has always lived with 15km of his place of work during his 20 year career, utilising relatively less infrastructure, resources, and energy to get to work than many other commuters. Those who choose to live a longer distance from their place of work (e.g. commuting from the Gold Coast to Brisbane), are living a less environmentally friendly lifestyle, as more infrastructure, resources, and energy are required to get them to and from their destination. Thus longer distance commuters should be penalised by higher fares for their lifestyle choice. Of course, not everyone has the choice (e.g. if one partner works on the Coast, and another works in Brisbane), so fares have to take into account the range of lifestyles across the urban conurbation.

In this blog post BrizCommuter takes a look at the cost of fares for 1km, 5km, 20km, 40km, and 80km adult single peak fare journeys (or as close as possible to these distance) in Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London. The percentage increase in fares are calculated from the cost of the 5km journey. Brisbane fares are based on the new fares expected to be introduced in January 2017. In other cities the fares are current fares, as of 1st June 2016.

1km $3.20
5km $3.20  0%
20km $3.90  24%
40km $5.96  86%
80km $10.32  223%

1km $2.25/Free
5km $2.25  0%
20km $4.13  83%
40km $6.08  170%
80km $8.70  287%

1km  $3.38
5km  $3.38  0%
20km  $4.82  42%
40km  $4.82  42%
80km  $8.30  157%

1km  $3.90/Free
5km  $3.90  0%
20km  $3.90  0%
40km  $3.90  0%
75km  $3.90  0%

1km  2.40GBP
5km  2.90GBP  0%
20km  5.10GBP  75%
40km  9.40GBP  224%
80km  25.50GBP  779%

Hong Kong
1km  HK$2.4
5km  HK$3.4  0%
20km  HK$10.2  200%
35km  HK$19.5  474%

1km  140Y
5km  170Y  0%
20km  390Y  129%
40km  720Y  323%
80km  1320Y  676%

All Australian cities have relatively low fare increases as distance increases compared to Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London. This clearly reflects the urban sprawl of these relatively low density cities in Australia. and the environmentally unsustainable lifestyle that Australia is already struggling with. More on that later.

Tokyo and Kong Hong have considerably higher fare increases per distance, despite having a very high population density that makes public transport more efficient and relatively small commuter bases. For example, in Tokyo, one of the world most populous cities, the Chuo Rapid train services terminates at a station 53km from Tokyo. That is slightly further than Caboolture from Brisbane Central. Further than that, are hourly local trains, or an hourly express train that has an extra surcharge on top of the fare quoted. Imagine if Sunshine and Gold Coast commuters had to pay a surcharge for their limited express trains?

In the UK, a green belt surrounds London, and the outside of the green belt are commuter towns, many of which are on the coast. It seems that if you want the commuter or seaside town lifestyle (the 80km fare was based on Brighton to London) then you will certainly have to pay for it in the cost of your commute!

So what is wrong with Australia's urban planning? The uncontrolled urban sprawl of Australia's major cities is causing serious infrastructure gaps. For example in SE Queensland, there are currently multiple new towns (e.g. Flagstone, Ripley, Yarrabilba) under construction away from existing commuter train lines. All of these initially require very expensive new road infrastructure or widening of existing roads. If train lines are to be extended to the former two, that will cost around a billion $. Adding new branches to train lines adds pressure to the core rail network resulting in multiple billion dollar projects such as Cross River Rail needing to be built. Not building core infrastructure just increases congestion. Simply, continuing to build out, instead of up, is not sustainable into the future.

A second issue is oil prices. Despite fluctuations, oil has been relatively cheap since the 1970s. With the world likely to be heading for instability over the next few decades, there is a high risk of very large increases in oil prices. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out how peak oil will affect a sprawling urban conurbation such as SE Queensland. Peak Oil could be quite disastrous for SE Queensland's economy if public transport continues to be playing catch up. An increase in electric cars (which still require a energy source) may alleviate some of this risk, but the risk exists. At least cheaper longer distance fares is an attempt to reduce the number of longer distance fuel guzzling car journeys.

On the plus side, Melbourne and Perth are one very few world cities to have free fare zones within the CBD (tram only in Melbourne). This helps very few commuters getting from home to work, but assists with CBD travel during the daytime, plus is attractive to tourists and business travellers.

So is the urban sprawl responsible for the low fare increases per distance in Australia, or are the low fares responsible for the long commutes? It is a bit of chicken and the egg scenario. Certainly, there is little question that shorter distance commuters "doing the right thing" in Australia are being screwed in favour of longer distance commuters. BrizCommuter is also disappointed that the Palaszczuk government ignored the Fare Review Taskforce's recommendations that included cheaper shorter distance fares, and relatively higher longer distance fares.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Pokémon Go on Brisbane's Public Transport

Pokémon Go is a new smart phone game craze that has been in the news in the last few days. The game uses augmented reality, and BrizCommuter gives it a week before a player falls off a platform trying to catch a Pokémon and gets squashed by a train.

Here is BrizCommuter's guide to rare Pokémons that may be found on and around Brisbane's public transport system:

Brisbanemetromon - this Pokémon can be found around Brisbane City Hall, or a mental asylum.

Competentpoliticianomon - this can only be found in states other than Queensland.

Kipparingcommuteromon - a Pokémon that was suppose to appear in the game at launch, but now might not appear until 2017.

Nextgenerationrollingstockomon - this rather shy Pokémon has only ever been seen inside Wulkuraka depot.

Sundaymorningtrainomon - this Pokémon is known to run early, and if you arrive on time, you've missed it.

Crossriverrailomon - this Pokémon is thought to not exist.

And finally, here is a (painfully old) related joke:
How do you get Pikachu onto an overcrowded Queensland Rail 3-car train?
You Pokémon!