Sunday, October 31, 2010

TransLink Annual Report 2009/10

TransLink Spin
The TransLink Annual Report 2009/10 has recently been made available on TransLink's website. BrizCommuter decided to have a read.

Page 39 - When there was a massive fare increase in 2009 commuters were promised 301,000 extra seats on public transport by July 2010, of which 83,400 would be on trains. Whilst TransLink met the 301,000 target, only 30,000 of those seats were on trains. So the quote " TransLink successfully delivered the full 301 000 seats per week in July 2010 " is a bit of a porky isn't it? It should also be noted that some of the 301,000 extra seats went on school buses. 

Page 45 - This page references the unpublished March 2010 QR Passenger Load Survey with the quote " The March 2010 survey identified that the overall percentage of morning peak-period train services that exceeded their comfort measure of one person standing more than 20 minutes was 28 per cent in 2009–10, down from 33 per cent in 2008–09. The proportion of afternoon peak-period train services that exceeded benchmarks was 20 per cent in 2009–10, down from 21 per cent in 2008–09".  However, TransLink failed to mention that this decrease in overcrowding was because the am peak train patronage fell by approximately 4%. A bit ironic given that the title of this page is "Growing capacity to meet peak passenger demand". By the way, this patronage decrease was not due to previous pre go card miscalculations, this load survey was performed by actually counting the numbers of passengers on trains. The fact the TransLink have failed to increase passenger numbers on trains on 2009/10 shows that TransLink's price hikes and lack of action in improving train services is discouraging commuters from using the rail network. This is a serious TransLink failure!

Page 45 and 46 - At the bottom of page 45 the report mentions that bus service kilometres increased by 7%, and train service kilometres increased by just 3% in 2009/10. On page 46, place kilometres across the network increased by only 5.6%. Yet fares increased by between 20-40%. Go figure!

Page 49 - The quote " Under the new fare structure, go card fares in 2010 are the same price or less than single paper ticket fares were in 2007. go card fares are now also approximately 30 per cent cheaper than a single paper ticket in 2010. " is a prime example of TransLink spin which does not fool commuters. The reality is that for the average commuter, weekly fares are 30-40% higher than in 2007. Yet surprisingly, this fact isn't quoted in the annual report. Lets also not mention the quote on this page about removing legacy paper tickets. 

Page 55 - On this page, one of TransLink's achievements was " the completion of the Northern Busway (Royal Children’s Hospital Herston to Windsor) ". No mention of the fact that many commuters endured 7 months of hell until TransLink extended the route 66 bus from QUT Kelvin Grove to RBWH. Another serious TransLink fail in 2009/10. 

Page 84 - This page looks at TransLink's plans for 2010/11. Good news for commuters on the Ipswich/Richlands/Caboolture Line. But absolutely no mention of any extra services on the rest of rail network. This is very disappointing, given that QR informed community reference group members in late 2008 that new timetables were expected for all lines in 2010. There is also no mention on this page of increasing bus frequencies to reduce the occurrences of full buses on popular Buz routes. 

Report grade - F. Must try harder! 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The 2011 TransLink cash grab

Lets take a look at how much fares could go up in 2011 for a student mixing study and work. This example assumes a student making a return journey to university in the morning, and a return journey to work in the evening. The journeys are 2 zone, and prices are for concession tickets. 
2010 go card fare: $5.14
2010 paper daily ticket: $3.90
2011 go card fare: $5.78
So for a student having to make 4 journeys a day, the removal of the paper daily ticket in 2011 will result in an effective fare increase of a whopping 48%. To inflict such a huge fare increase on students is an absolute disgrace. Ms Nolan and TransLink should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

What about tourists, who contribute rather a lot of money towards the Queensland economy? This scenario is based on the actual travel pattern of some of BrizCommuter's relatives who came to visit last year. The scenario has three 2 zone off-peak journeys, and one 2 zone peak journey. Modes travelled were rail, bus, and ferry. 
2010 go card fare: $9.99
2010 paper daily ticket: $7.80
2011 go card fare: $11.06
So for a tourist having to make 4 journeys a day, the removal of the paper daily ticket in 2011 will result in an effective fare increase of 42%. So after tourists arriving in Brisbane discover the backwards lack of trains from the airport after 8pm, they will then have a mighty shock in store when they try to use public transport extensively the following day. 

It seems that frequent users of public transport will be hit very hard by the 2011 fare increase. If the Queensland Government and TransLink are trying to encourage people to use public transport more often, then they are going about it the wrong way! 

Monday, October 18, 2010


Thirteen questions for TransLink about the go card, and public transport fares:

Q1) Are paper tickets going to be phased out as originally stated in Jan 2011?

Q2) Are the single use go cards going to be introduced prior to phasing out of paper tickets?

Q3) If the answer to Q1 is yes, then isn't TransLink leaving things till the last minute?

Q3) When paper daily and weekly tickets are phased out, will daily or weekly tickets be available on the go card?

Q4) Are other period tickets such as monthly and yearly going to be introduced on go card?

Q5) Will we see train and bus frequency improvements around the time of the January 2011 fare increase?

Q6) Can TransLink provide a breakdown on the provision of the 83,000 extra seats on trains which were promised this year? 

Q7) Is the go card still a Mifare Classic card, with a well publicised security flaw ?

Q8) Were the go cards in the giveaway, the flawed Mifare Classic cards?

Q9) Why was the giveaway delayed until the middle of 2010, by which time most regular commuters already had a go card?

Q10) Why did it take so long to improve the refund system, put bright orange stickers on the train station go card readers, and cover the readers on CityCats?

Q11) Why was a screen chosen for the train station readers that are almost unreadable in bright light, low light, and whilst wearing sunglasses?

Q12) Why does the route 77 have a Z1 fare even though it doesn't stop in Z1? (So much for "orbital" routes).

Q13) Will AVVM ticket machines be introduced at all busway stations before paper tickets are phased out?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lights, no camera, and not much action

Inner Northern Busway (upside down)
BrizCommuter had to travel along the Inner Northern and South East Busways mid-afternoon. It took a highly unimpressive 15 minutes just to travel a few hundred metres from King George Square Station (pictured) to Cultural Centre. Why? The traffic lights at the exit from the Queen Street Bus Station were only letting two buses through per cycle from Queen Street Bus Station, and the lights were not on a particularly short cycle either. BrizCommuter is convinced the buses were usually faster when they were routed via congested North Quay. So much for progress! Can anyone explain why the traffic lights are set so as to limit the capacity of the busway? Surely buses should have priority over cars?

Whilst on the subject of backwards public transport, BrizCommuter has to get to work for 8am this Sunday. With a pathetic hourly train service, BrizCommuter would get to work either 50 minutes early, or 10 minutes late. Unfortunately the latter is not an option, and BrizCommuter values his sleep too much for the former! The bus service that runs past BrizCommuter's house does not even start until after 9am. It should be noted that at the same time on a Sunday morning in Perth, the trains run every 15 minutes, that's 4 times more frequently than in Brisbane! Do TransLink and QR realise that some people actually work on Sunday mornings?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monorail, Monorail, Monorail...

Sao Paulo Monorail 
Monorail fanatics always seem to go on (and on, and on) about the virtues of monorails over other forms of transport, and they can be even more obsessive that Light Rail (LRT) fanatics. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of monorail, and are we ever going to see them in SE Queensland?

Monorails were seen as a futuristic form of transportation in the 1960s, but in reality have become the mainstay of theme-parks, or claustrophobic theme-park style monorails running around a city centre as in Sydney. There are quite a few large scale mass transit monorails operating, mainly in Japan (Tokyo, Tama, Kitakyushu, Naha, and Osaka). There are also some medium sized monorails in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Dubai, and Las Vegas, the latter three being aimed more for tourist traffic rather than commuters. Due to the lack of systems being built, lack of standardisation, and propriety designs, then the purchase of a monorail system pretty much locks the purchaser in with a particular manufacturer. There are also only 3 large straddle beam monorail vehicle manufacturers - Hitachi, Bombardier, and Scomi. The latter of these manufacturers has only completed one system. Due to advantages of fast pre-fabricated construction, and the relatively low cost of monorail construction (compared to underground or elevated heavy rail), Sao Paulo in Brazil (pictured) has just started construction on a 24km monorail line, with many more to follow. Could this be the turning point for monorails?

But does monorail have any chance of being seen in SE Queensland as an alternative to bus, heavy rail, or LRT? Monorail offers the advantage of a relatively minimal and fast to construct elevated structure, with resulting grade separation. The grade separation in turn can allow for a faster journey time than at grade LRT. It is best constructed above the median strip or above the side of existing transport rights of way. Unfortunately, this is where monorail comes across a big stumbling point. The elevated structure is more expensive to build than at grade LRT or bus rapid transit (BRT), with considerably more expensive stations than at grade BRT or LRT. The elevated structure is not a problem in heavily populated high rise cities such as Sao Paulo and Tokyo. But in Brisbane, as soon as the the monorail moves from the central reservation of a motorway, it would become an unpopular aerial eyesore. Due to this issue, BrizCommuter cannot see an elevated monorail fitting in with SE Queensland's low rise urban sprawl.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

More disfunction

Most commuters know that Brisbane's public transport is well below par for a city of Brisbane's size. Two more examples, are the news that AirTrain do not want to run trains after 8pm, and the location of bus stops outside Fortitude Valley train station. 

Today, this story in the Brisbane Times shows that Airtrain do not want to run trains after 8pm as they are "too costly". This is despite Airtrain making a profit of $7.4m! Have Airtrain not considered that a passenger on a train after 8pm may also be a passenger (and thus another fare) travelling in the opposite direction at another time? Did Airtrain's contract not consider that Airtrain is a public service, and should thus have a half-decent level of service? Off peak gaps of every 30 minutes, and no trains after 8pm is prime evidence that Brisbane's public transport is still stuck in the dark ages. 

Another example of dysfunctional public transport is the bus stop locations outside of Fortitude Valley station on Brunswick Street. There are two bus stops for services travelling north towards RBWH - 211 and 212. Some buses run from one bus stop, and some bus services run from the other. Unfortunately, the bus stops are located far enough apart that even someone who can run may not get to the other bus stop if the next bus arrives at the other bus stop from where they are waiting. There are also no signs telling passengers that other bus routes run from the other stop. Thus many passengers may have buses passing where they are waiting, even though that bus is travelling to their destination. Why can't all buses just go from the same stop? 

This is not the only example of dysfunctional bus stop locations in Brisbane. Many services travelling to the same suburbs depart from different locations in the city. Whilst this is less of problem for inbound passengers, for those homeward bound it can effectively half the frequency of services. Just to add insult to injury, there are no signs telling passengers which bus routes travel from which location (as is common place in London).

If the government wish to attract people to public transport, there needs to be decent service provision, and the system needs to less confusing (and frustrating) to passengers.