Friday, January 28, 2011

Cross River Rail delayed until 2020!

In a move that has surprised no one, the Queensland Government have given BrizCommuter the opinion that that they have no serious commitment to improving public transport, by delaying Cross River Rail by at least 2 years. According to reports, this means that Cross River Rail may not be fully open until at least 2020!

Coming just a week after a 15% fare increase, many long suffering SE Queensland commuters (who happen to be able to vote) will be rather unamused by this move to save both State and Federal Government spending post flood disaster. Of course, in road obsessed Brisbane, BrizCommuter will be very surprised if BCC's TransApex road tunnels (including Northern Link/Legacy Way), and the Kingsford Smith Drive upgrade get cut.

Below are some of the possible effects of delaying Cross River Rail (CRR):
1) Track capacity through Brisbane likely to reach maximum capacity by 2016. No new peak services will be able to be added to the network for 4 years (assuming CRR isn't delayed further).
2) Sunshine Coast Commuters expecting their express services back after CRR will now have to wait until 2020!
3) As planned for the Sunshine Coast Line in the draft 2011 timetable, Gold Coast services may have to made less express as well in the future (a train with no standing passengers crossing the Merivale Bridge will be a waste of track capacity). This will slow down journeys to and from the Gold Coast.
4) Very limited peak service improvements on Airport, Shorncliffe, Doomben, Ferny Grove, Cleveland, and Beenleigh Lines - maybe 1 extra train per hour per line between late 2011* and 2016, then no more until 2020.
5) Limited peak service improvements to Gold Coast, Ipswich/Springfield, and Caboolture/Sunshine Coast/Kippa-Ring Lines - maybe 2 extra trains per hour between early 2011* and  2016, then no more until 2020.
6) Limited capacity for extra passengers from Springfield and Kippa-Ring Line extensions, as the lines they connect to will be at capacity already. Overcrowding on brand new lines will not help promote the use of public transport!
7) Insufficient track capacity for extending the Doomben Line to Hamilton Northshore, helping the case for continuing Campbell Newman's road empire along Kingsford Smith Drive.
8) Insufficient track capacity for extending Gold Coast Line towards Coolangatta.
9) Insufficient track capacity for rail line to Flagstone new town, and CAMCOS line to Caloundra. Two large population growth areas that will now be without decent public transport for the foreseeable future.
10) Wave good bye to the Alderley to Strathpine (Trouts Road) Line for the foreseeable future. Bet the parallel road gets built first.
11) Transit Orientated Development's (TOD) on already overcrowded rail lines. Hope they have plenty of car parking, which rather defeats the purpose of the TOD in the first place!
12) Rail patronage growth will be severely limited, and is likely to increase the number of road users. This could continue the vicious cycle of building more roads in a misinformed attempt to reduce road congestion.

* figures after the 2011 timetable introduction.

CRR delayed, rail capacity at it's limits by 2016, and the SE Busway also bursting at the seams. It looks like the basket case that is public transport in Brisbane is only going to get a lot worse over the next 9 years! Time to move to Melbourne or Perth?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Get kicked on Route 66

As many of BrizCommuter's readers are aware, the Inner Northern Busway has suffered from overcrowding for much of its history, mainly in the reverse peak direction (outbound from CBD am, inbound to CBD pm). When QUT Kelvin Grove (KG) is in term time, the 66 runs at 5 minute peak frequencies on top of the erratic 333 Buz, and less frequent 330, and 340. This combination only just manages to solve the overcrowding at times, however passengers who are not able to board a full bus at QUT KG tend to only have to wait a minute or so for the next bus.

However, out of university term time, it can be a different story. The route 66 peak frequency is halved to every 10 minutes. Unfortunately, as QUT KG still has courses, summer schools, school children, and events outside of university term time, there can be huge numbers of passengers still travelling to/from QUT KG busway station. The half frequency of the 66 just cannot cope! This week, BrizCommuter has had multiple reports of passengers travelling from Roma Street to RCH/RBWH unable to board multiple buses at Roma Street. One of these passengers had to wait 30 minutes before they could fit on a bus! Last night 25/01/11 BrizCommuter observed 2 buses arriving at QUT KG simultaneously, filling up to capacity, and still leaving another 2 bus loads of passengers waiting.

Given that many of these passengers are foreigners, it shows Brisbane in bad light. It should also be remembered that many of these passengers are lining TransLink's pockets by buying overpriced paper tickets. BrizCommuter recommends that the route 66 be kept at full peak frequency year round to avoid this overcrowding.

Update 01/02/2011

The situation is just as bad this week. Yesterday BrizCommuter observed a bus which filled up at RCH Herston leaving behind around 30 passengers, and then could not pick up passengers at QUT KG. Today, BrizCommuter observed a 66 bypassing RCH Herston (meaning that it had filled to capacity at the RBWH - the first stop!). The following 333 then filled up to capacity at QUT KG, leaving behind more than 40 passengers.

This situation is an absolute disgrace TransLink!

Update 04/02/2011

BrizCommuter braved the Inner Northern Busway on the way into work this morning, and was passed by multiple full buses trying to get from Normanby to RBWH. An increasingly upset school child was trying to get to Chermside from Normanby at the same time, and could not get on any passing 330/333/340 to his destination as they were all full. One of BrizCommuter's work colleagues was also passed by 5 consecutive full buses at Roma Street whilst trying to get to RCH Herston.

Maybe instead of TransLink's slogan being "Making travel easy" it should be "Making travel hell"?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

TransLink Spin Alert

TransLink Spin
In the mX newspaper (if you can call it that) on 20/01/11, TransLink ran a new advertisement about the slightly delayed fare increases (Faremaggedon II), now starting on Saturday 22nd January. TransLink and it's operators should be commended on restoring public transport quickly after the floods, and providing free public transport for a week to help with the flood recovery. However, the wording of this advertisement is rather inappropriate, with the quote "A 15 per cent fare increase to help us restore and continue to build our public transport network".

This quote makes it appear that TransLink's spin merchants are trying to use the flood recovery as an excuse for the fare increase. Please, TransLink, stop insulting the intelligence of commuters. We all know that the 15% fare rise was planned over a year ago. We also know that with the exception of Brisbane City Council's ferry services, virtually all public transport is already back to normal.

The advert also has a few other prize quotes. "Encouraging use of go cards with the removal of daily, weekly, and monthly paper tickets", should be "Discouraging the frequent use of public transport with a limited fare structure". Another quote is "Making off peak travel 15 per cent cheaper". 15 per cent cheaper than what exactly? This is a rather misleading statement!

Rather concerning, is the omission in this advert of the 305,000 extra seats per week promised by TransLink. Lets hope that these seats are not flotsam in Moreton Bay!

Update 27/01/11

A new advertisement appeared in mX newspaper on 27/01/11 entitled "TransLink ticketing changes". Thankfully this advert is considerably better worded, and is not as misleading as the previous advert mentioned above. However, there is no mention of peak single go card fares rising 15%, frequent travel costing even more, capped fares for seniors, or the 305,000 extra seats per week.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Richlands - more Queensland mediocrity!

Richlands Station
BrizCommuter decided to take a look at Richlands station on it's second day of operation. The station was opened a week early on Monday 17/01/11 to help western suburbs after the flood, and during the Ipswich Line closure due to flood damage. The line was running an interim timetable prior to the Ipswich Line re-opening, different to the previous days interim timetable, and different to the interim timetable once the Ipswich Line re-opens. Confused?

Ipswich Line trains can be diverted to Richlands quite easily, as they did on 17/01/11. The trains would pass between Darra and Richlands, allowing for a long terminus dwell time at Richlands for reliability. However, QR decided to make things more difficult for themselves on 18/01/11 by terminating Ipswich Line trains at Darra, and running a shuttle to and from Richlands. Why make things more complicated? Maybe the shuttle was in preparation for the re-opening of Ipswich Line through services? If so, the through services could just have been diverted back from Richlands to Ipswich, and a spare train used to start the shuttle when required.

The result of the above interim timetable, meant that BrizCommuter's Darra bound train was held at Oxley, as the City bound train from Darra was blocking it's route thanks to the half-baked infrastructure and a signalling stuff up. The train then arrived at Darra late, pulling in just as the "connecting" Richlands bound train pulled out. Why wasn't this train held? There was also no information to tell passengers when, and from which platform the next Richlands train would depart. It took an unacceptable 67 minutes for BrizCommuter to travel from Roma Street to Richlands. Not amused!

On the return journey, BrizCommuter was pleased that the train departed Richlands on time, allowing a few minutes to make that connection at Darra. Unfortunately upon arrival at Darra, the passengers (plus passengers from the replacement bus) were incorrectly directed by platform staff and the passenger information displays to the wrong platform. BrizCommuter realised this mistake, as a train was at another platform, and had a green signal. If it wasn't for intervention by BrizCommuter, many passengers would have missed this train.

Given that Hiroshima managed to get it's trams running 3 days after a nuclear bomb, it's rather concerning that QR can stuff up an interim operation on brand new infrastructure. The journey to Richlands showed that the half-baked SEQIPRAIL infrastructure project - not electrifying the 4th track between Corinda and Darra as well as suboptimal crossover placements, was a very big mistake, and was causing delays even on the second day of operation of the Richlands Line.

Richlands' car park was quite busy, showing that even with a limited service it has been a success. However, anyone thinking of making that move from car to public transport would be seriously deterred if their journey was anything like BrizCommuter's journey.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Brisbane & Ipswich Flood

Grey St  12/01/11  8am
BrizCommuter hopes that all of his readers are safe and well after the Brisbane and Ipswich Floods. If you haven't been directly affected, or haven't been able to assist in the cleanup operations, then as public transport is free until Saturday 22nd January, please consider donating this weeks public transport fare to the flood relief appeal.

Given that the clean-up operation is still in full swing, BrizCommuter apologises if it is early days to make an assessment on the management of public transport over the disaster period. However, BrizCommuter would like to blog whilst things are still fresh in his head.

Given TransLink's current reputation, it was refreshing to see that TransLink, and the various public transport operators managed to cope reasonably well during the last week. It was good to see that buses continued as normal as possible during the hysteria of Tuesday afternoon. Trains continued to run into Tuesday evening, despite the obvious staffing issues and the requirements to move trains quickly to higher ground away from Mayne. The quick planning of the hourly rail timetable for the rest of week, and making it available by late-Tuesday evening was also appreciated. BrizCommuter was pleasantly surprised to see buses still running along the SE Busway on Wednesday morning, even when water was lapping at the Grey St/Melbourne St intersection at 8am (see photo). The decision to run a streamlined Buz(ish) network on Thursday was sensible, given the lack of staff and bus routing issues. It is very welcome that TransLink and QR have made the effort to open Richlands a week early, especially as the Ipswich Line may not open for a few days due to damage. Faremaggedon II has been delayed until the 22nd January, and public transport will be free until this date. Lets hope that this was an act of kindness, rather than a necessity due to a semi-functioning go card system.

As always with an emergency situation, there were some areas of operations and customer service that needed improvement. Given that the Brisbane River is prone to flooding, lessons need to be learnt for next time. Information was sometimes poor. BrizCommuter had a report of a commuter phoning TransLink on Thursday morning and being told that no buses or trains were running. In fact, a bus service was running past that commuters doorstep. Passengers on suburban stations were not informed of the hourly timetable on Wednesday morning, or delays in starting the service on Thursday morning. If it is possible to make announcements from a central location to suburban stations, then it is important to keep confused commuters informed with regular announcements. BrizCommuter also observed a lack of announcements at Central on Thursday evening when the hourly train services were further delayed. When the Airtrain has been 1 minute away for 20 minutes, please make an announcement. We are dealing with tourists (who significantly contribute to the economy) here!

As the waters rose on Wednesday afternoon, the information available on TransLink's website and in the press became unreliable. It varied between Brisbane buses stopping completely at 1pm, followed by outbound buses only. But which bus routes were running? BrizCommuter gave up, and got a lift home. Also on Thursday, in addition to the delayed start for train services due to lack of power, some operators (mainly outside of Brisbane) ran a Sunday bus timetable. Many key workers (such as hospital staff) who rely on public transport could thus not make it in to work. An emergency timetable should allow passengers to be able to get to work by 7-8am if safe to do so. Sadly, many Sunday bus timetables do not even start services before 9am, if at all.

North Quay 12/01/11 8am
Severe damage has occurred to Brisbane's ferry network including the CityCat which is popular with commuters from riverside suburbs and tourists. Lets hope that every effort is made to restore these services as soon as possible as they are one of Brisbane's icons.

To conclude, TransLink, QR, and other SE Queensland public transport operators made a considerable effort this week to keep things moving. However, limited services and information, meant that if you had no alternative but to rely on public transport during the disaster period, then you would have had a serious challenge to get to and from work!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Faremaggedon II

Daylight robbery?
Another 15% fare rise will be inflicted in Brisbane commuters on Monday 17th January, as part of the Queensland Government's attempt to reduce public transport subsidy. Going by the number of comments on a Courier Mail story on Monday 10th January, many commuters are quite angry about the fare rises and Brisbane's second rate public transport system. The comment by Kylie is rather interesting! Here's a recap of why Brisbane commuters are so unhappy...

(Please note that some of the information in these archived blog posts may be outdated).
Compared to Perth and Melbourne, Brisbane has relatively high fares (especially for frequent users), and the most infrequent train service.
After last years fare rise, and TransLink failing to meet it's target of 83,400 extra seats on trains, rail patronage plummeted after many years of strong growth.
Although the Ipswich and Caboolture Lines will see improved timetables in 2011, the Sunshine Coast Line will have slower journey times, and inconvenient CBD arrival and departure times (unless changes are made to the draft timetable).
Enoggera and Gaythorne commuters are paying 50% more than in 2007, for a 42% worse evening peak service.
Despite a 20-40% fare rise in 2010 thanks to the withdrawal of the weekly ticket, place kilometres only increased by 5.6%. So public transport improvements are falling way behind the fare increases.
The withdrawal of the paper daily ticket in 2011 will increase fares for frequent users such as students and tourists by between 42 to 48% if 4 journeys are made in one day.
Half baked rail infrastructure projects that will ultimately cost the tax-payer more, and restrict service improvements. 

Route 66 extension to RBWH occurred 7 months after the opening of the busway to RBWH. Then TransLink create the route 88 which is debatably required. Issues with multiple CBD bus stop locations for buses heading in the same direction. 

Is the go card the mifare classic with known security flaws? Still waiting for an answer - there is a comments box TransLink! 

Brisbane has train services with peak gaps exceeding TransLink's already poor 20 minute service guideline, and inferior off-peak frequencies compared to other cities of similar population. 

...and don't get BrizCommuter started on Airtrain!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brisbane vs Perth vs Melbourne

Melbourne train at night
Lets take a look at the price and frequency of rail transport in Brisbane compared to Perth and Melbourne. Fares and frequency are as of Monday 17th January, and fares shown are the cheapest available adult fares.

Commuter - 2 peak journeys from station 6km from CBD (Z2 in Brisbane):
Brisbane - $6.22 (based on 2 peak go card fares)
Perth - $6.30 (based on 2 smartrider fares)
Melbourne - $4.98 (based on 365 day myki pass, travelling on 235 days/year)

So for the average commuter, Perth is only slightly more expensive than Brisbane. A typical commuter in Melbourne would pay a dollar less than in Brisbane and Perth each day. You could buy a Freddo with that!

Tourist - 4 journeys after 9am from station 6km from CBD (Z2 in Brisbane):
Brisbane - $10.60 (based on 4 off-peak go card fares)
Perth - $9.00 (based on dayrider fare, or smartrider capped at dayrider fare)
Melbourne - $5.88 (based on capped daily myki money fare)

A tourist making 4 journeys a day would pay the highest fare in Brisbane at $10.60, due to the elimination of the paper daily ticket. Evening peak, extra journeys, or using paper single tickets would push this figure even higher due to lack of capping. This is bad news for tourists to Brisbane, and potentially bad news for Queensland's ailing tourism industry. Don't forget that many of these tourists have to endure Airtrain's huge fares, and infrequent service as well! Perth has a cheaper capped daily fare at $9, and Melbourne has an impressive capped fare of $5.88 using myki. BrizCommuter would like to see daily capping of go card fares to encourage frequent use of public transport for all users. 

Max peak service gap at station 6km from CBD:
Brisbane - 23mins (Doomben Line & Airtrain excluded!)
Perth - 20mins
Melbourne - 20mins

Peak services are difficult to compare, as they can vary between stations and lines. Long gaps between services deter the use of public transport. Brisbane has peak service gaps of up to 23 minutes on some major lines, even at inner-city stations. The minor Doomben Line has peak gaps of more than 45 minutes! Melbourne and Perth have no gaps at inner-city stations of more than 20 mins. Given the yearly 15% fare hikes in Brisbane, it is not unreasonable to expect significant peak frequency improvements soon. The max 12 minute peak service gap in the draft 2011 Caboolture and Ipswich Line timetable is welcome, lets hope that significant improvements are made to peak timetables on the rest of Brisbane's rail network by late 2011. 

Branch midday frequency at station 6km from CBD:
Brisbane - 15 to 30mins
Perth - 15mins
Melbourne - 15 to 20mins

Despite Brisbane having the highest fares for tourists, it has the worst off-peak frequencies at 30 minutes on most lines. The forthcoming 15 minute off-peak from CBD to Darra will be an improvement, but given the above fare comparison, commuters and tourists deserve a 15 minute off-peak frequency on all lines. Both Perth and Melbourne manage 15 to 20 minute off-peak frequencies on all lines. Melbourne's operator Metro Trains would like a 10 minute off-peak frequency!

Sunday 8am inbound frequency at station 6km from CBD:
Brisbane - 30 to 60mins
Perth - 15 to 30mins
Melbourne - 30mins

You may be seeing a trend here. Brisbane is again bottom of the pile, with hourly gaps between trains at 8am on a Sunday morning on some lines. Yet, in Melbourne trains are every 30 minutes, and some lines in Perth even have a 15 minute frequency at this time.

The results are pretty conclusive, that for rail services, Brisbane's rail users are not getting value for money compared to Perth and Melbourne. There needs to be significant improvements to both peak and off-peak frequencies in Brisbane as soon as possible. Otherwise commuters and students will be further deterred from using public transport, and tourists may even be deterred from visiting Brisbane! If service improvements continue to lag far behind fare increases, could Brisbane commuters bring a class action against TransLink?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Only in Queensland...

Richlands Station   Source: NearMap
According to this article in the Brisbane Times, the long awaited Richlands railway station (pictured) will open on Sunday 23rd January. Just one slight problem, due to engineering works there will be no trains serving Richlands station on the opening day.  A railway station with no trains! This situation is an absolute disgrace, and will not do any favours for public transport's cause. Why do SE Queensland commuters have to continually put up with such mediocrity when it comes to public transport? Such incompetence would not occur anywhere else in the world!

Richlands will be served by trains from 5:40am on Monday 24th January (assuming the weekend engineering works do not overrun). Whilst the draft Richlands timetable is pretty good, with peak trains every 12 minutes, this timetable will not be in action until at least March 2011, and possibly later. This means that the Richlands Line will have to operate on a temporary interim timetable for at least few months. Due to having to fit around the existing Ipswich Line timetable and the half-baked Corinda to Darra infrastructure improvements, this interim timetable is likely to be rather sub-optimal. Again, this will not help in attracting passengers to the new station. As of Thursday 6th January, the interim timetable has not been announced. Nor have the timetables for the connecting bus services to Richlands. Just to confuse passengers further, these new bus services will also need a new timetable when the draft timetable comes into action.

Unfortunately, it seems that TransLink have not learnt from past incompetence when it comes to opening new public transport infrastructure.

Update 10/01/2011

The interim Richlands Line timetable has been announced here. Most peak services require a change at Darra, and peak frequency is 50% less than than in the draft 2011 timetable. Weekday off-peak services have been extended from Corinda as expected. At least direct services have been added to Richlands at weekends. A few feeder bus services have thankfully been added too.

Update 17/01/2011

Richlands opened a week early on 17th January to help with the flood recovery efforts. The "opening day without trains" on 23rd January has now been postponed.