Monday, March 17, 2014

The last post (for a while)

Central Tilt-shift
BrizCommuter blog has been running for more than 3 and a half years. BrizCommuter has decided that he needs to spend more time with MrsCommuter, BabyCommuter, and Toddler Commuter, and thus this will be the last post for a long while. During the course of this blog, most Brisbane public transport issues have been covered, in many cases multiple times. It is rather sad that the lack of progress by consecutive governments means that many of the blog posts from 3 years ago are just as relevant, or even more relevant today.

So what still needs to fixed on SE Queensland's public transport system?


The current fare system is a disgrace. The fares are quite clearly set so high as to intentionally discourage public transport use, and the policy has done just that. BrizCommuter is not aware of any other world city with such an anti-public transport policy. In fact it is cheaper to use a car in many cases! The previous ALP government's 15% fare rises were bad enough. But now the LNP have continued to increase fares by 7.5%, well above CPI, whilst making delusional claims that they are lowering the cost of living. To try and make the fare rises "more acceptable", the LNP have introduced the 9 and free cap and earlier daytime off-peak. These are just gimmicks, and the 9 and free cap is so (legally) rortable so much that millions more $$$ are being wasted. In fact Brisbane is one of only 2 cities on the whole world to be stupid enough to have a x and free cap with a zone based fare system (the other is Sydney with it's new Opal Card).

The fares need to be much more affordable. Taking $1 off all single fares would be a start. Instead of the 9 and free cap, there needs to be a weekly zone based cap or ticketing option as in London. There also needs to be daily zone based fare caps, and better fare options for groups, jobseekers, and tourists. There is huge latent demand for public transport in Brisbane, but many of these commuters will not use public transport until it is affordable.


New trains

There has been a chronic lack of trains in SE Queensland ever since BrizCommuter arrived on these shores back in 2006. This is now causing overcrowding and prolonged service gaps on peak services on the Ferny Grove and Cleveland Lines. This is the result of the previous ALP government not ordering a follow on order of SMU260 trains. The LNP government then appears to have dragged their heels in ordering the Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR), which won't arrive until 2016. As the NGR will have to replace the ageing EMU trains, provide trains for the Moreton Bay Rail Link, and enhance peak services on many lines, it is quite clear that insufficient NGR trains have been ordered. Unless more NGR trains are ordered, then the chronic lack of trains issue will continue to haunt SE Queensland commuters.


Despite some issues the sector 2 train timetables were a huge improvement. However the following service improvements (and associated infrastructure improvements) need to be of high priority when new trains eventually arrive:
  • Eliminate the remaining hour service gaps (such as on the Springfield Line).
  • Extend 15 minute off-peak across more of the network, such as to Cleveland, Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Ipswich, Springfield, Shorncliffe, Airport, Caboolture, and Kippa-Ring (when it opens). The Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line improvements would require some major infrastructure improvements. 
  • Extend 15 minute off-peak to weekend daytime.
  • 15 minute counter-peak services on the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Springfield, Caboolture, and Kippa-Ring Lines (when it opens). 
  • Extend the Cleveland Line pm peak express pattern by approximately 30 mins, and fill in the remaining 15 minute pm peak gaps on the Ferny Grove Line.
  • Increase 3-car peak services to 6-cars. 
Queensland Rail - Safety, Guards, and Privatisation

Whilst Queensland Rail (QR) has made efficiency improvements recently, it is still among the world's most inefficient rail operators. BrizCommuter would not be surprised if QR get's privatised after the next election. However, QR needs to be given the chance to try and make itself more "contestable", with cost per km closer to peer systems such as Perth (not privatised) and Melbourne (privatised).

SE Queensland's rail network lacks Automatic Train Protection (ATP), and is thus a major accident waiting to happen. A major inefficiency of QR is the continued use of guards. Many other rail networks have proven that guards are unnecessary. Conversion of the rail network to driver only operation needs to be in conjunction with the introduction of ERTMS signalling with ATP. This solves two problems in one go, and also potentially allows for a 20% increase in capacity. 

Station Access

Many station car parks are full well before the end of the am peak (and sometime even before the am peak), resulting in parking in surrounding streets, and further discouraging public transport use. Lets face it, if you can't get a good park, you might as well drive to work! BrizCommuter suspects that there would be considerable latent demand at stations where car parks are always full.

There needs to be a mixture of station car park enhancements where at all possible (and there is still land available near many stations), including inner suburbs. If stations have more than approximately 500 cars parked around them (either in QR car parks or surrounding streets) then serious consideration needs to be given to frequent feeder bus routes with half-decent operating hours. Feeder buses can be very successful, such as Melbourne's route 465

Additionally, zoning needs to encourage high density housing within 500m of train stations, with limited car parking per dwelling to encourage public transport use.


Brisbane City Council's "dog's breakfast" of a bus network

Brisbane has one of the world's most inefficient and confusing to use bus networks. The Brisbane City Council (Brisbane Transport) run network is a major contributor to the high cost of public transport service provision in SE Queensland. Last year TransLink devised some excellent (but not quite perfect) changes which were quickly shot down by pitch fork wielding Brisbanites, idiotic councillors, poorly informed journalists, and a transport minister with no balls (- seriously, the Newman LNP government wants to privatise hospitals, put doctors in contracts with no rights, but can't change some bus routes - pathetic!!!) So what needs to change regarding Brisbane's bus network?
  • Consolidate bus routes - the current bus network has multiple routes with minor variations or stopping patterns serving the same corridors. This causes huge amounts of service provision wastage, and confusion. Bus routes need to be consolidated with a maximum of two stopping patterns (all stops and express) along each transport corridor. Minor variations around backstreets should be changed to feeder buses for the trunk route. The result of these efficiency improvements will allow for more high frequency bus routes, serving an increased proportion of Brisbane's population (such as Centenary Suburbs, Old Northern Road corridor, Wynnum Road/Bulimba, Webster Road).
  • Consolidate CBD stop locations - the current bus network has buses that serve each transport corridor serving different bus stops in the CBD. For example the 345 and P343 to Aspley serve different CBD stop locations. This effectively halves the service frequency, causes mass confusion, and service provision wastage. All bus routes serving a particular transport corridor must have consistent CBD stop locations to allow for simplicity, improved frequency, and more efficient service provision. 
  • Rail feeder services - the current bus network competes with rail, instead of complimenting it. The bus network needs to be redesigned to connect with a frequent rail network where possible. Also rail feeder bus services need to have an attractive frequency and span of hours. 
  • Backstreet/welfare routes - whilst some of these routes are required for those who have issues getting about (such as the elderly), there is a lot of wastage, especially given that many of these routes serve the CBD. Most of these routes should be changed to feeder routes. Some of these routes should not even exist, if other bus routes are within a short walk. 
  • Mini/midi buses - many backstreet/welfare bus routes have low patronage, but are served by approximately 13m long full sized buses. With new energy efficient (or even electric) low floor mini/midi buses on the market, the lower operating costs, purchase costs, and smaller wheelbase of mini/midi buses surely makes them attractive for these routes. 
  • Privatise Brisbane Transport, and remove Brisbane City Council from controlling public transport due to ongoing incompetence. 

Attention to detail

Both TransLink and QR are guilty of lack of attention to detail. In the last year we have seen .pdf timetables published nearly 2 months after timetable changes, incorrect weekend track closure information on TransLink's Facebook, dubious advertising of "all day" 15 minute off-peak, and QR trying to get passengers to avoid 3-car units rather than overcrowded services. Attention to detail is the difference between excellence and mediocrity. Unfortunately, public transport operators in SE Queensland are at the bad end of the "mediocritometer".

Political and personal attitudes

Both major political parties just do not understand public transport. Even the Greens appear to unable to apply their principles to local issues. The continued failure of high fares discouraging public transport use, half-baked infrastructure projects, pro-car propaganda, poor urban planning (e.g. urban sprawl away from existing transport corridors), lack of public transport improvements and efficiencies, will result in SE Queensland continuing to head towards a congestion meltdown that will ultimately cost billions more $$$ more to fix. Brisbanites can see straight through the political spin, lies, and ineptitude.

Brisbane is a very car-centric city. Due to the urban sprawl, many journeys cannot be made using public transport. In fact there are even generations of Brisbanites who's families have never even used public transport, apart from maybe travelling to sporting events and the Ekka. However, there is a considerable latent demand for public transport, that would be tapped into by lower fares, improved frequency and operating hours. The government needs to tap into this latent demand to avoid Brisbane and SE Queensland turning into chronically polluted and congested city such as LA.

Brisbanites are a very apathetic bunch (apart from when they selfishly want express services to their station), and we certainly aren't going to see Brazilian style riots over fare increases. However, at least TransLink's Facebook page gives commuters to chance to vent their frustration. Given the number of people that have already been banned or blocked from TransLink's Facebook page, you can be sure that commuters are extremely unhappy!

And Finally

BrizCommuter thanks all of those who have supported this blog over the last 3 and half years. In particular Rail Back on Track has been a a great source of referrals. Rail Back on Track and many of it's members have helped disseminate many of BrizCommuter's post, including the annual world fare comparison, and guide to doing the go card rort.

BrizCommuter will be taking a break for a while, maybe a long while, but will be back!


  1. As a long-time reader, I am dismayed you are hanging-up the keyboard (for a well earned hiatus). Your insightful and eloquent commentaries have entertained me on many a 40 minute rail journey from Strathpine to the City and back.

    I look forward to your return!

  2. BzC, it is a shame to see you go. Your blog has certainly sharpened my focus on the issues that exist with SEQ public transport and your blog postings have been insightful.

    I always had wished that you would have allowed people's posts to go up 'without approval' which would have allowed others to comment to each other, without the feeling there was a gate keeper.

    Do you really need to stop blogging because of time restrictions, as in your time is that short, or that you feel that you have covered almost all of the issues and so your time is better spent elsewhere?

    I can understand either situation, especially the latter, with the current opinions of Scott Emerson and Campbell Newman with their opinion that fare changes or fare reviews are not necessary.

    Of all your blog entries over the years, I would say that the go card rort has probably been the best, even if it is not the most creative. The fact that translink have not tried to stop people doing it is concerning, but instead of rather endorsed it and then they wonder why they have worries.

    Now for the biggest question of all. Who are you? :)

  3. I too have really enjoyed reading this blog over the past few years and wish you all the best during your hiatus. Thanks!

  4. A shame that you have to go on hiatus, BrizCommuter, but I think a lot of us know there is nothing much more to talk about.

    Brisbane City Council refuses to change its hi-waste anti-transfer low-frequency bus network, QR suffers from continued mediocrity and is severely constrained by inaction by both the previous and current government, and above all, TransLink's continued fare explosion and '9 then free' fare fail.

  5. Brizcommuter, I just wanted to say thank you for all your comments and bringing forward great points about Brisbanes Bus Network. I am a final year engineering student at QUT doing a transport thesis on the Bus reviews which you have so generously applied much thought and information to. So thank you! You have made my job much easier by bringing my attention to detail!

  6. > In fact Brisbane is one of only 2 cities on the whole world to be stupid enough to have a x and free cap with a zone based fare system (the other is Sydney with it's new Opal Card).

    I resent your comparison with Sydney. The Sydney system is far stupider: we don't have inter-modal fares. That's right, transfer from a bus to a train within the same journey and pay the same as if you had taken two journeys. Our cap at least cuts in after 8 journeys, $15 daily cap M-Sa, $2.50 on Sundays. You can also create additional journeys in Sydney, by transferring more than 3 times. I wouldn't mind betting you only need 2 transfers with go card. Oh, we don't have zones in Sydney either. Actually, its a bit of mystery how fares for multi-trip journeys are calculated with Opal on Buses and Ferries. We certainly don't have fixed zones, but it appears Bus fares (and maybe Ferries too) are effectively calculated with the equivalent of distance based fare band zones radiating out from the start point of a journey, whereas trains are based on the rail distance between the start and end points of a journey, no matter what distance is traveled between intermediate points. I say 'appears' and 'maybe' since the entire fare rules have not been published and what we know so far has been the result of people's reverse engineering.


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