Saturday, July 31, 2010

New CityCat timetable

With the addition of the 16th CityCat Gootcha (which is the indigenous name for Toowong), a new CityCat timetable has been released starting August 2nd. BrizCommuter doesn't use the CityCat too often (as they would have a bit of an issue travelling up Kedron Brook), but had a look at the new timetable...

The am peak frequency for stops downstream of Riverside is a very impressive 6 minutes. This is far more impressive than on Brisbane's rail lines where it's not unusual to have service gaps of more than 20 minutes in the peaks. The daytime off-peak frequency between Hawthorne and UQ is also very impressive at every 12-13 minutes, again much better than the 30 minute off-peak service gaps on Brisbane's infrequent rail network. Daytime weekend frequencies (when the CityCats can be quite busy) are up to every 12-13 minutes.

There are a few areas for improvement, notably a few random 25 minute gaps during the day (which would probably be whenever BrizCommuter wants to catch the CityCat). There are also some sizeable reverse-peak gaps to UQ, and post am peak service gaps downstream of Hawthorne. Given that there are now two frequent bus routes from the CBD to UQ, I can't see the former being too much of an issue.

It's great to see Brisbane City Council and TransLink making good use of the Brisbane River for public transport. Now if only Queensland Rail and TransLink could match the CityCat frequencies on the rail network!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Off-peak frequency

Queensland's politicians seem to keep claiming that Brisbane has "world class" public transport. Lets compare Brisbane's off-peak rail frequencies with other "world class" cities. I've only included cities with less than 3.5 million population, so as to not be too unfair to Brisbane.

Typical daytime off-peak suburban rail frequencies on branches (or core route if there are no branches):

Brisbane (Queensland Rail) - 30mins
Glasgow* (SPT) - 30mins
Birmingham (Centro) - 10-30mins
Munich* (S-Bahn) - 20mins
Melbourne (pictured) (Metro Trains) - 15-20mins
Oslo (T-bane) - 15mins
Liverpool (MerseyRail) - 15mins
Stockholm* (Pendeltag) - 15mins
Budapest* (HEV) - 10-20mins
Berlin* (S-Bahn) - 10mins
Hamburg* (S-Bahn) - 10mins
Perth (TransPerth) - 7-15mins
Valparaiso (Metro Valparaiso) - 5-15mins

* denotes cities that also have a fully segregated metro system with frequencies of less than 10mins.

As you can see, Brisbane is a long way behind many other "world class" cities including Perth and Melbourne. Poor off-peak frequencies deter the use of public transport. It is also an inefficient use of expensive infrastructure. There are plenty of examples showing that improving off-peak frequencies will considerably improve rail patronage - Stockholm being a good example.

Whilst 15min frequencies are difficult to achieve on some parts of QR's network due to lacking infrastructure, there is little excuse for not running 15min frequencies on most inner-suburban sections of the rail network. It's about time that Brisbane plays catch up!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rail to Kippa-Ring

It must be election time again. The Labour Federal Government has committed $300m towards the $1.15b Petrie to Kippa-Ring railway line. This line will include new stations at Kallangur, Murrumba Downs, Mango Hill, Kinsellas Road, Rothwell, and Kippa- Ring. With many of these areas being a public transport black-hole, this can only be good news. However, there is one big issue...

The existing rail line from Petrie into Brisbane's CBD is already overcrowded, thanks to limited infrastructure and a lack of trains (although more trains are being delivered). Even without the addition of services from Kippa-Ring, the Inner City Rail Capacity Study - Rail Operation Review (2008) has advised that by 2012 a third track is required between Petrie and Lawnton, and by 2015 a fifth track is required between Northgate and Bowen Hills. These are required to allow express services to overtake all stations services.

The $8.2b Cross River Rail tunnel, which is primarily required to ease capacity constraints between Park Rd and Bowen Hills, will also be very useful for allowing extra track capacity from the north. The mains (tracks that the Ipswich, Shorncliffe, & Caboolture Lines use) only have around 6tph of free track slots in the am peak (assuming a maximum capacity of 19tph). Thus there is little available capacity for adding additional services from Kippa-Ring. Cross River Rail will free up track capacity on the suburbans (tracks currently used by Ferny Grove, Airport, Doomben, Cleveland, Beenleigh, & Gold Coast Lines) to allow for extra services from both the north and south.

If the rail line is to built to Kippa-Ring, both Cross River Rail and infrastructure improvements between Petrie and Bowen Hills are highly desirable. Failure to add the required infrastructure will result in overcrowding and sub-optimal timetables (i.e. long gaps between services and slow journeys). For a brand new railway line, this would not be an effective way of attracting commuters away from their cars and onto rail.