Wednesday, March 20, 2013

SEQ Bus Network Review gets Messy!

It is another tale of two cities. Whilst Auckland appears to be embracing it's radical bus network review, Brisbane's bus review appears to have turned into a basket case. So what has gone wrong?
  • TransLink - whilst TransLink have made a reasonable attempt at showing the planned new changes, they haven't gone far enough. For example, there have been limited maps of secondary routes per region, and limited information on frequency of secondary routes. There has also been limited information on the reasoning for some changes and alternative options. A few community consultation attempts should also have been planned by TransLink.  
  • ALP - the ALP opposition (in both state government and Brisbane City Council) have come out with misleading statements for political gain - all negative, attacking "cuts", and avoiding mentioning the many benefits of the review. The previous ALP state government is partially responsible for the inefficient mess that is the SE Queensland's bus network.
  • LNP - even the LNP Brisbane City Council have been a bit negative, although constructive comments have also been made. Brisbane City Council, which owns bus operator Brisbane Transport is also partially responsible for the inefficient mess that is SE Queensland's bus network - for example, the resource wasteful Maroon CityGlider! It also appears that state Transport Minister may be starting to crack under pressure, with 50% of the returned bus routes being in either his or Campbell Newman's electorate. 
  • The press - many press outlets have focussed more on the negative aspects than the improvements. Of course, negativity makes for more interesting news stories. 
  • Public mentality - it appears that whilst many train users suffer from "I want an express to my stationitis", bus users are rapidly developing "I want a frequent express bus route to the CBD from my house which is nowhere near a main road syndrome". As well as the selfishness, poor knowledge and experience of what constitutes an efficient public transport system does not help.
Whilst there will obviously be quite a few changes arising from the public consultation process, lets hope that both state and council politicians, plus TransLink can work together to help create the efficient bus network that SE Queensland deserves. It would be very disappointing to let a great plan get ruined by politicking.

Case Study - Route 180

The route 180 is a frequent bus route from Garden City to the CBD. Its route is being replaced by 3 high frequency routes, yes 3, as per TransLink's map below:
Yet there an online petition trying to stop this route being cut:

Update - 21/03/2013

Due to political stupidity, it looks like the generally well designed bus network review by TransLink has been canned by transport minister Scott Emerson, with responsibility for bus network design going to the kings of wastage and inefficency - Brisbane City Council (BCC). Feedback sent to TransLink will be passed on to BCC. It now looks highly unlikely that Brisbane will get a "world class" bus network for the foreseeable future. BrizCommuter believes that MP Scott Emerson should resign due to his inability to effectively manage the change process - unless he know's something we don't?


  1. Pretty soon, I (having been born at Waitakere Hospital) might end up doing something I thought I never would: become a JAFA (Just Another Fanatical Aucklander, or something to that effect)!

  2. It's easy to cherry pick and ignore the serious issues with the review. The 444 has an average patronage of "very high", often packed to capacity during peak, and is being replaced with less frequent services. Griffith Uni's Nathan campus is having a large number of services cut, while the again "very high" capacity 120 is replaced with a service with reduced frequency.

    I live on a main road and I work at the Nathan campus, and yet the number of buses I have to catch to get there has changed from 3 to 5, most of which are listed as 'reduced frequency', which will inevitably mean even more waiting around when a connection is missed because a bus was late from traffic or the driver dicking around with the Go card system. The replacements also run longer routes, further extending the 90+ mins of travel I spend each way.

    It's hard to see how any of this is an improvement, or how my anger at the changes is either entitlement or politicking.

  3. On objections to the removal of the 180 route in favour of 16, 17, 22 and S400.

    From the petition, objections seem to be because of student access to Mansfield SHS (cnr Broadwater & Ham Rds) and Cavendish Road SHS (cnr Holland & Cavendish Rds).

    On the BCC map, drop-off at Mansfield SHS is possible on the blue 22, the next closest line being the yellow S400, which comes within 500m of the school.

    So, for Mansfield students currently on the 180, the closest equivalent route seems to be the 22. The route for the 22 closely matches the current 180 up until Nursery Rd, where it runs off down Nursery Rd and then along the busway to Buranda. The 180 route is fairly closely matched between these routes by the S400 and the 17, both of which intersect the 22 route on Nursery Rd.

    For Cavendish Road SHS drop off, the 180 is matched by the 16 (possibly closer to the school buildings than the 180), or the S400 (more of a walk, maybe 100-150 metres (maybe more, depending on where the stop will be). The 16 differs from the 180 as from Woolloongabba, taking off into Coorparoo along Cavendish Rd.

    Between Woolloongabba and the school, the closest match is either the S400 or the 17, although on the 17 you'd need to change to the S400 somewhere on Logan Rd to get to the school.

    For students, then, if you're able to take either the 22 or the 16 (depending on school), you might be better off, depending on the timetables.

    If you can't get to those, you could use the 17 (which would certainly require a bus change) or the S400 (which might not).

    I'd hazard a guess that parents and students aren't particularly pleased by the need to switch routes, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the frequency of the 'high frequency' routes and the amount of paranoia parents have about the safety of their kids while waiting for PT.

    The lack of timetable and wait times and even stop locations isn't helping people when is comes to assessing potential impacts.

    1. Sebastian: Honestly, school students are the least of our worries. There were a number of tweaks to the review that should have been seriously considered, but pardon me for not crying a river about some high schoolers having to transfer, and I'm not saying that as some old fart because I'm not and I transferred buses to get to school, too. (It was ~10km.)

      If less direct routes to a few *high schools* is the worst thing you can find about these new routes then it is an impressive network indeed. They're capable of transferring, and the social time it allows is actually not a bad thing. The kind of *parents* you're concerned about, sadly clog up the road with their 4WDs dropping the kids at school anyway.

  4. Sebastian - So in other words, all of those locations are still served by at least one frequent bus route. Changing buses or trains is a fact of life in most major cities, and the 3 frequent routes would be served at least every 15 mins at school times. Have you considered that the proposed changes may even improve the journey times and options for other users?

  5. BC, before anything else I should clarify something about the proposed changes to route 180: I don't have a dinosaur in that orgy.

    My comment is in the context of the three points in the case study above, namely that

    1. 180 is being replaced by 3 HF routes
    2. There's a petition to stop that from going ahead
    3. "Why?"

    I thought the question a good one.

    Why is there a petition against the change when, on the surface at least, one semi-frequent route was being improved by having 3 HF routes?

    The petition is only about the effect on students, not the effect on other users.

    The question of 'Why is there a petition?' can only be answered in the context of what the petition is about.

    So, I tried to figure out what the effect on students might be and why that might be objectionable.

    As far as I can tell, for students who can use one or the other of the HF routes that service the schools, things might improve. Hard to see how that's objectionable.

    That then leaves the students that would need to change between routes as a source of objection, with the most likely effect being objected to probably being wait times for connecting services and/or perceived safety risks while waiting.

    Those objections (if they are the actual basis) don't seem that outlandish.

    The major objections I've heard so far could be addressed by releasing data about how the changes would affect trip times.

    For instance, if the overall trip time for students changing services stays the same (despite the wait for a connecting service) and drops for students using a single HF service, then the objection to changing services could be regarded as "entitlementism".

    It seems to come down to people not believing the government when they say "This will make everything better. Trust us." without then backing that up with data that shows the improvements in such things as trip times, reliability of connecting services and suchlike.

    In the specific case of the route 180 change, and similar objections, it would be useful to have planned bus stop locations and timetables.

    As for anxiety in general about having to change from one route to another, I think people might be forgiven for that. Speaking for myself only, Translink haven't impressed me at all with their ability to co-ordinate inter-connections. I think we wouldn't see any angst at all if the connection standards we were used to were more like London's tube or Berlin's u-bahn.

    Again, I'd put most of the objections down to the benefits not being adequately communicated and a general lack of trust in grand announcements.

    1. A network where transfers are seamless in SEQ isn't possible to picture without the network review taking place.

      Currently they involve at least one low frequency, low reliability route and given the "bus vs rail" mentality of Brisbane Transport, cross modal transfers can be a pain.

      The network review in full would have addressed the scheduling issues by starting over from scratch and provided for a more legible network where you're not sitting at a stop wondering if the 174, 175 or 189 will get you to the same place as the 180.

      At least we can hope that things will improve outside Brisbane in private operator territory - where transfers are generally a given for commuters.

  6. After the update from 21/03, it's now a case of what will be, will be. However, looking at the proposed changes for the 180, I feel that there is some stuff happening here that is out of context.

    I happen to be a frequenter of the 181 route that passed by my house, very close to Newnham Rd, continues along Cavendish Rd until making a turn at Chatsworth and getting on to the bus expressway. What I like about this route is less time meandering the roads, like the 174 and 178 do. 37 mins vs 1 hour, I'll take the former every time.

    However, even that 37 mins can seem like an age when the drivers are brake and accelerator heavy, and occasionally, I will search for something that goes from the CBD to Garden City direct, and get whatever is heading up Newham Rd next, just so I can get less bus time, even though the overall journey is longer. I end up feeling better at the end of it.

    So taking what I know about the 181 route, and looking at the proposed 180 router, I get a feeling that I'm still not seeing the whole picture of routes and frequencies for the area, when there is also a 185 and 186 servicing the Wishart and Mansfield areas.

    I wonder where the entry point to the review is, or has that been taken down since the deflect to BCC?

    1. Reuben, you can still view the review as proposed by TransLink at: and typing in your route number.

      What you are talking about is essentially the sort of travel behavior the revised network would have encouraged (albeit not necessarily resulting in a longer journey).

  7. 180 example aside it seems to me that, as you say, the chagnes were not explained well enough, uncertainty will only make people turn against any proposed change no matter how good it is.

    That said, it seems to me the new plan wasn't perfect either. I was surprised to read that peak times are still considered to end at 7pm, really that is way too early - people should be able to get buses frequently until at least 9pm I would think, we are wokring later for one, and maybe you might want to go out after work and get a bus home?

    I tried getting a bus on Ipswich Road at 7:30pm recently (for top of Kangaroo Point cliffs) there were none. I'd have to walk to the Gabba to get one - pathetic!

    My regular bus the 116 is flaged for replacement - there is a seciton that will not be served by the new route - the review states that customers will have access to alternatives within 800m - who wants to walk 800m in the morning to get a bus? pathetic!

    That coupled with the lack of detail on exactly what frequent and secondary services might mean, and I'm sure a whoel load of other grey areas turns people right off any potential improvements made by the review.

    Cheers for your blog though, it's a light in the dark for Bris public transport.

    1. Yes, proposed frequencies would have been helpful.

      I know it's not exactly what you're after but the report does go into detail on the span of hours for the proposed high frequency services.


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