Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vote for none of the above

Doomben Now
Brisbane City Council (BCC) have created an online public vote for the five options to "upgrade" Kingsford Smith Drive. The online voting form can be accessed here until the end of January 2011. The options have previously been mentioned in a previous post here, of which all options are sadly road based. The most expensive option is a whopping $3.2b! BCC have failed to add public transport as an option. This is despite the fact that the Doomben Line could be easily extended to Hamilton Northshore. Bus Rapid Transit could be provided from Doomben or Hamilton Northshore to Australia Trade Coast developments. The Doomben Line's corridor already has space for a second track thanks to the abandoned 1950s electrification works. Post Cross River Rail, there would be sufficient rail capacity through the CBD to run 4 trains per hour off-peak, and more if required in the peaks. This extension could easily handle the projected increase in journeys along Kingsford Smith Drive caused by the Hamilton Northshore development. So why are BCC so blinkered that they cannot see the obvious solution?

Forcing Airtrain to improve it's currently pathetic frequencies and operating hours could also help take airport bound traffic off Kingsford Smith Drive and onto trains.

For the sake of Brisbane's future, and the future of the next generation living in Brisbane, our politicians need to stop their unhealthy road obsession, and think towards the environmentally sustainable future that is public transport. This is the 21st century, not the 1960s! Sadly, we currently have BCC trying to turn Brisbane into a giant road tunnel, and Queensland Government stunting public transport patronage by putting up fares with minimal service improvements.

BrizCommuter urges anyone with any common sense to vote for none of BCC's suggested options, and in the comment box write option 6 - extend the Doomben Line.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

QR Customer Charter

Today, QR launched their customer charter, amid much fanfare (well some free bottles of water). Link here. This customer charter covers the usual areas such as timely feedback to complaints, clean trains, safety, and information during delays. Whilst QR's efforts at customer service should be commended, the customer charter lacks two things. The first is that unlike on London Underground, there are no refunds for majors delays. The second, and most important, is a decent train service.

There is little point in having "the world's best customer service" if you cannot run enough trains to entice commuters from their cars. Unfortunately, however much QR would like to run a decent train service, they are limited by funding from the Queensland Government and spin outlet TransLink. In 2011, Brisbane commuters will be paying similar fares to commuters in Perth. In Perth there is a train every 15 minutes off-peak, compared to every 30 minutes in Brisbane. In Perth there are frequent and regular peak services compared to a random mess of a peak timetable in Brisbane. Brisbane's rail commuters are sick and fed up of paying ever increasing fares for an infrequent rail service, whilst being bombarded by a barrage of spin from TransLink about how their service is supposedly improving. Delaying the timetable changes by a year, and not having the new timetable ready for the opening of Richlands station have very little excuse.

BrizCommuter would like to see in a review of customer charter, that by late 2011, that there will be a 15 minute daytime and evening off-peak service to Darra, Ferny Grove, Northgate, Manly, and Kuraby, no peak service gaps of more than 15 minutes on major lines, and no late evening and early Sunday am service gaps of longer than 30 minutes. Any passengers delayed more than 30 minutes should be able to claim a full fare refund of that single journey.

A customer charter from TransLink, where by complaints are not fobbed off with the latest network plan and/or spin would also be appreciated. Another charter addition would be for QR not to close rail lines on the weekend before Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Is TransLink discouraging the use of public transport?

Cultural Centre Busway Station
Public transport authorities are meant to promote the use of public transport. However, in SE Queensland, this seems to not be the case. Lets have a look at am peak rail patronage growth in the last few years (based on head count figures from the QR March 2009 Passenger Load Survey and TransLink Tracker Q3 2009-10):

05-06: + 7.6%
06-07: + 9.1%
07-08: + 5.0%
08-09: + 5.2%
09-10: - 4.4% (yes, that's negative!)

So after many years of significant growth, the rail patronage plummeted in March 2010. Overall public transport patronage also decreased by 1% in Q3 2009-10. Even a slight overall patronage improvement in Q1 2010-11 figures of 2.7% are still well behind previous growth. Given SE Queensland's rising population, how can this stunting of public transport patronage occur?

The answer is pretty obvious to anyone who uses public transport - huge fare rises, and minimal improvements to services. In January 2010, public transport fares increased by between 20-40%. The elimination of weekly, monthly, and yearly tickets seriously hurt the hip pocket of regular commuters. There will be further 15% fare rises every year, for the next few years. Just to make things worse, the daily tickets will be phased out, further discouraging frequent public transport users (including students and tourists). Maybe TransLink should rename the go card, the go car? Many of BrizCommuter's work colleagues who were forced back to their cars due to Inner Northern Busway overcrowding have not returned to using public transport!

Fare rises wouldn't be an issue if public transport was significantly improved. But, it hasn't. Last year TransLink promised 301,000 new seats on public transport, of which 83,400 were to be on rail. TransLink failed to meet this promise for rail, only managing a rather pathetic 30,000 extra seats on rail.  Just to make things worse, these 301,000 extra seats only increased place kilometres on the TransLink network by 5.6%. Yes, you read this correctly, 20-40% higher fares, for just 5.6% improvement in public transport!

It doesn't take a mathematician to work out that next years promise of 305,000 extra seats on public transport will not add up to the 15% increase in fares. It is obvious that the Queensland Government's and TransLink's policies have seriously failed public transport users. To massively increase fares, with little in the way of service improvements, broken promises, and lack of transparency, shows that the Queensland Government and TransLink are treating public transport users with serious contempt.

PS: BrizCommuter will be making a Right To Information request for the full QR March 2010 and 2011 Passenger Load Survey, at the end of Q3 2010-11, so you might as well publish it anyway TransLink.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shorncliffe Draft 2011 Timetable

Shorncliffe Pier
The Shorncliffe Line currently shares the main tracks with Ipswich/Caboolture/Sunshine Coast Lines, and at peak times and weekends shares sections of the suburban tracks with Ferny Grove/Airport/Doomben/Cleveland/Beenleigh/Gold Coast Lines. When the phase 1 draft timetables were released a few weeks ago, the Shorncliffe Line had a mention of minor timing changes, with no published draft timetable, and "improvements" only in the phase 2 draft timetable. However, a draft phase 1 timetable has now been published here.

The timing changes include reduction of the late afternoon 38 minute "gap of doom" to 32 minutes, but has extended the following 22 minute gap to 30 minutes. Unfortunately, a new 38 minute "gap of doom" has been created after the 6:45pm from Central. Both of these services are in TransLink's peak fare period. There is still a 29 minute gap between arrivals at Central of two am peak services. These all exceed TransLink's lame peak service guideline of a train every 20 minutes. Lets hope that in the phase 2 draft timetables, the Shorncliffe Line has improvements to adhere to the  "BrizCommuter minimum peak service guideline" of train at least every 15 minutes.

The most noticeable change to the draft Shorncliffe Line timetable is the movement of all services onto the suburban tracks through Central. This must be part of the sectorization process required for both phases of the 2011 timetables. Weekday daytime  off-peak Shorncliffe trains will now start/terminate at Roma Street, and run through the city almost simultaneously with a Bowen Hills to Richlands (or v.v.) service on different tracks. This allows for 15 minute off-peak service to both Darra and Northgate, without trains having to run from Shorncliffe to Richlands. Ex-Shorncliffe weekday evening services now continue outbound to Cleveland, possibly to make more efficient use of rolling stock.

All peak Shorncliffe services are now running on the suburbans, with some of these services slotted in only 2 minutes from existing services. Shorncliffe Line users will better have to get used to the view whilst waiting outside of Bowen Hills for a green signal in the am peak! There are quite a few re-timings (of up to 8 minutes) to the evening peak services. These may suit some commuters, but not others.

So overall, the Shorncliffe Line is not going to be any better off until the phase 2 timetables come into operation, currently expected in late 2011.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

88 - Lucky for some?

TransLink recently announced the P88 bus route, starting on Monday 13th December - timetable here. This frequent pre-paid route runs from Eight Mile Plains to Indooroopilly, via the South East Busway, (then via a 360 loop onto the) Captain Cook Bridge, King George Square, Roma Street, Coronation Drive, and ending up in Indooroopilly (but not in the bus station).

The announcement of this route, asks for many questions:
1) Why not just make the 111 more frequent on the South East Busway?
2) Is the bypassing of Mater Hill, South Bank, and Cultural Centre an admission that the South East Busway is near capacity in the peaks? This means South Bank will be bypassed at weekends and evenings by the P88, when that area is a popular destination.
3) Is using the congested Captain Cook Bridge (and Coronation Drive) a good idea for reliability?
4) Is an extra bus route along Coronation Drive really required, especially when there will soon be 15 minute off-peak frequency on the almost adjacent Ipswich Line?
5) Why doesn't the P88 terminate in Indooroopilly Bus Station?
6) Wouldn't consolidating city stop locations for Western Brisbane bus services be more useful for commuters? The array of different city stop locations for buses heading in the same direction, each with an infrequent service, makes TransLink's slogan of "Making travel easy" somewhat laughable!
7) Wouldn't running more peak 444's which are often full to capacity be a better use of resources (same goes for other bus routes that suffer from full buses)?
8) Will all bus stops along the P88 route have go-card top up facilities nearby?

It seems strange that a transport authority which took an agonising 7 months to extend the route 66 to RBWH (and still doesn't run enough route 66's in the uni holidays) is now adding a bus route that is leaving many commuters asking why? Politics maybe?

Update 15/12/2010

Despite TransLink taking 2 weeks to get the Passenger Information Displays (PID) correct for the route 66 when it was extended to RBWH, they have managed to stuff up the PIDs for route 88 as well. Rather than just showing Indooroopilly, the road and stop number of the destination are also shown, on just one line. Thus only those with 20/20 vision, and standing within 2m of the PID can actually read where on earth the 88 is heading.