Saturday, July 30, 2011

Free Wi-Fi at last!

For those who have been carrying around your laptop or iPad in a failed attempt at tracking down the single free Wi-Fi train on QR's network, then there is some good news for you. Free Wi-Fi will be installed on all 160 and 260 series trains (the new looking ones) by the end of next year, with work starting in October. This will allow commuters lucky enough to get a seat (or at least something to lean on)  to be able to use Wi-Fi during their commute on a fair proportion of QR's trains. This may be a big bonus for longer distance commuters. BrizCommuter is unsure of the speed of the Wi-Fi connections.

One of the reasons for the installation of Wi-Fi is the addition of live streaming security CCTV. This would theoretically allow the police to view live happenings from inside a carriage in response to phone calls about occurrences. Of course, the method of selecting the correct camera needs to be easy for this to be effective (e.g. based on carriage number). BrizCommuter hopes that this can be used to catch and fine the worst behaviour on public transport - aisle seat hogs and handbags on seats. Maybe QR can even use the live CCTV to see how overcrowded their trains are? BrizCommuter also wonders if Wi-Fi can be installed on station platforms to give passengers something to do whilst waiting unacceptably long times for their trains?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

TransLink Customer Satisfaction Survey

TransLink have released a Customer Satisfaction Survey on their website. The link is here. The survey is pretty comprehensive, and covers most bases (including the current big issues of affordability and frequency), so it is definitely worth spending 20 minutes or so to fill it in.

Of course, as with TransLink's previous surveys, whether the results will ever get released to the general public, or whether any action is taken upon the results is anyones guess!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Eastern Busway Extension

It was announced yesterday (14/07/2011) that there will be 100,000 extra seats per week created on new, enhanced, or re-routed bus routes through the Eastern Busway when it opens later this year. After the disaster that was the extension of the Inner Northern Busway to RBWH (i.e. 7 month delay in extending the route 66 to RBWH), it is good too see TransLink actually planning to run extra bus services on new busway infrastructure from its opening. Hopefully TransLink haven't forgotten that there is still a chronic full bus problem in the am peak on the Inner Northern Busway in the outbound direction that needs to be fixed! Another surprise is the high frequency bus route 590  from Garden City to Number One Airport Drive which will run via the Eastern Busway. The 222 will now be a high frequency bus route via the Eastern Busway with buses every 15 mins off-peak and every 10 mins during the peak. A few more peak only buses P217 and P205 will add peak capacity, and also add to the confusion of unconsolidated bus routes. BrizCommuter also assumes that this 100,000 extra seats will be taken from this financial year's (yet unannounced) 310,000 ish extra seats per week, which seems to decrease the likelyhood of 15 min off-peak rail services further.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The climate is right for trains?

Polluting electric train
Many SE Queensland Commuters would have noticed train manufacturer Bombardier's adverts in the mX recently (must be a tender on), with the slogan "The climate is right for trains". Well this seems to be the case everywhere apart from Australia. In the last few days the controversial Climate Tax has been announced. Whilst BrizCommuter isn't going to discuss the pros and cons of having a tax on carbon, it seems that the current plan will discriminate against rail transport despite is being a sustainable, efficient,  and environmentally friendly form of transportation. In the mean time road transport, the most inefficient form of transportation gets away with being exempt (heavy road transport is taxed from 2014). The Australian Railway Association press release (linked below) pretty much says it all.
Now, BrizCommuter just mentioned heavy road transport, which includes buses and coaches. It seems that from 2014, buses and coaches will also have to pay the carbon tax, whilst car drivers again get away with polluting. News articles in the mX in both Melbourne and Brisbane have mentioned that the increased electricity costs could significantly increase train fares. Given Brisbane's excessive 15% per annum fares rises planned for the next few years, this isn't good news for commuters. The Carbon Tax, another reason for Australians to go car!

Update 15/07/2011

It was reported in the Brisbane Times today that Queensland Transport Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk has not ruled out passing the extra costs to public transport from the Carbon Tax onto commuters via increasing fares. This is extremely concerning! The Victorian Liberal Government have also stated that the Carbon Tax may increase electricity prices for public transport by $13m. This could buy Melbourne's train network another train. The Federal Government urgently needs to change this illogically thought out tax by either exempting public transport, or by including the currently exempt car transport. Otherwise public transport commuters may increasingly be forced to go car, adding to congestion, pollution, and road trauma.

Queensland Infrastructure Plan

Ferny Grove
The latest Queensland Infrastructure Plan was released today, showing projects from 2011 to 2015.
So what is in store for SE Queensland commuters in the next few years? Rail projects include more trains, which with the recent resurgence in 3-car units are desperately required. Unfortunately it will be many years until the next generation rolling stock are in service. Coomera to Helensvale second track project will start around 2014, far too late to help with the 2012 timetable. The Gold Coast Light Rail will continue to proceed. The Mayne to Ferny Grove connection will allow empty trains to access the duplicated Ferny Grove Line without needing to run through the City to improve operating efficiency. The Lawnton to Petrie triplication and Moreton Bay Rail Link are go. Construction looks to continue on the Richlands to Springfield Line, and parts of the Northern and Eastern Busways. There is also mention of the mysterious CBD bus infrastructure capacity program, and Rail Capacity Upgrades phase 1.

What is missing? Well Cross River Rail is only mentioned in terms of the planning study and property acquisition. The delay to Cross River Rail will mean limited capacity for patronage growth from the Moreton Bay Rail Link and Gold Coast Lines. Despite the Coomera to Helensvale second track allowing for more Gold Coast trains, the lack of track upgrades along the Beenleigh Line corridor may slow down Gold Coast Line trains as they cannot overtake Gold Coast trains between Beenleigh and Kuraby. The overcrowded Cleveland Line looks set for no infrastructure improvements. There are no plans to duplicate and extend the Doomben Line to Northshore Hamilton in the near future. There is also nothing for the Sunshine Coast - CAMCOS and duplications to Landsborough appear to have gone missing in action.

Friday, July 8, 2011

TransLink Tracker Q3 2010/11

TransLink have finally released the very belated Tracker for Q3 2010/11, and this time it seems that some of the data floated away with the floods.
To put figures into perspective, the public transport network was either running at severely reduced frequency, or was free for a period of 10 days. This is 11% of this quarter, for which patronage data was apparently not collected. Going by this statistic, BrizCommuter calculates that for the rest of the quarter bus patronage only increased by a few percent compared to the previous year, and train patronage decreased by a few percent. As usual, TransLink have blamed more accurate go card data in decreasing train patronage statistics. Ferry patronage dropped by approx. 66%, mainly due to no ferry services running for much of the quarter.

The average fare increased by 7.4%, at $1.89. This is an odd statistic given that the fare rises were 15% for peak journeys, and season tickets were eliminated increasing costs further for frequent users. As mentioned on this blog, Brisbane commuters making journeys of around 15km or less are paying some of the highest fares in the world. Can TransLink explain how they came up with their figures?

The average subsidy per trip increased by more than 30%, to $6.68. The percentage of subsidy was also slightly higher than a year ago. Of course, this has been blamed on the floods, rather than government's abysmal policy of high fares and lack of service improvements which are discouraging public transport use.

Train and bus on-time running has marginally increased. However, does anyone know when the goalposts were moved for the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast Line's reliability from 4 to 6 minutes? Funnily enough, one of SE Queensland's most pressing public transport issues - full buses, doesn't even get mentioned in the TransLink tracker! Complaints have decreased, possibly due to more commuters finding that complaining to TransLink is a futile experience.

Thanks to the phasing out of periodical ticketing forcing more users to use the go card, go card usage increased by 20%. There is still a scary 25% of public transport users paying for extortionately priced paper tickets. TransLink are quite obviously not doing enough to attract all paper ticket users to use the go card, but this is not surprising as these paper ticket users are significantly contributing to TransLink's bank balance. More than 3.5% of journeys result in a fixed fare, but only 0.05% of journeys resulted in a fixed fare adjustment. This means that many customers are getting fixed fares, more often than not due to no fault of their own, and not getting a refund. It is still difficult to find how to get an online adjustment on TransLink's website.

So with a 15% fare rise at the start of this quarter was there a 15% service improvement? Train service kilometres increased by less than 1% in the last year. Buses increased by only 5%. No actual figures were quoted for the place kilometres statistic, but by looking at the graphs, any increases were marginal. These statistics were prior to the phase one timetables in June, but included the 301,000 extra seats allegedly added last year and the interim Richlands Line service. It is very clear that SE Queensland commuters are not getting value for money when it comes to service improvements.

Translink's lack of transparency becomes worse, as train passenger loads from QR's twice yearly manual counts have now also become secret. The results of the whole QR passenger load survey have also not been publicly available since 2009. Both actual patronage numbers, and percentage increase or decrease have been completely eliminated from this TransLink tracker. It should be noted that these figures taken in March would not have been affected by go card data, or the floods. Morning peak overcrowding has increased on the Beenleigh, Caboolture, Cleveland, Doomben (!!), Ipswich, Shorncliffe, and Gold Coast Lines.  Overcrowded evening peak services increased by 50% on the Sunshine Coast Line, and 100% on the Gold Coast Line (150% increase for those standing beyond Beenleigh). It will be interesting to see how these figures will be affected by the phase one timetables launched last month. For commuters on train lines awaiting the 2012 phase two timetables, improvements to peak services cannot come soon enough!