Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Farm Bus Changes

Last week TransLink announced changes to New Farm bus routes. The link to this page is below:

The most significant change is that the popular and useful route 196 will become a high frequency "Buz" route. This is excellent news for public transport users in Merthyr and New Farm who do not live close the the excellent 199 route. BrizCommuter occasionally uses the 196 to get to and from exams, and the old (in)frequency often made BrizCommuter walk a kilometer to/from 199 stops instead.

Some have questioned as to whether either the newly Buz'ed 196 or the 199 should be permanently be routed via Ivory Street, which misses out the slow journey through the Fortitude Valley's congested traffic lights. Unfortunately this routing also makes for an unattractive interchange between Fortitude Valley station and the appropriate bus stop on Brunswick Street. A fine line has to balanced between passengers wanting fast access between the CBD and New Farm, and those wanting to travel between Fortitude Valley and New Farm. BrizCommuter thinks that both the 196 and 199 need to provide a via Valley service at least every 15 minutes off-peak, and every 10 minutes peak. Extra services (such as the alternate 199s as it runs every 5 minutes in peaks), can use the Ivory Street route. The 199 already almost achieves this ideal.

TransLink provided a community consultation event on the 19th April, but timed it during the working day, and only gave 3 days notice. Possibly due to some lobbying, the website information was eventually provided on Monday 18th, with feedback possible via the web. TransLink are moving along the right path with ever increasing community consultation, but need to be more consistent in the process. Community consultation events need to be announced with sufficient notice, and should be at the most useful times for the majority of affected users. Website information, and internet feedback mechanisms need to be provided at the same time that the community consultation events are announced. Evidence and reasoning behind moves that may inconvenience users should also be provided. Finally, response to customer feedback needs to be published.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Full CityCat and CityFerry services restored

On Monday 18th April 2011, slightly more than 3 months after Brisbane's devastating floods, Brisbane City Council (BCC) have impressively managed to (almost) completely restore all CityCat and CityFerry terminals back into service. The exceptions to the rule are West End terminal, which was apparently due for an upgrade to a 2 berth terminal anyway, and River Plaza (near the Captain Cook Bridge).

Apparently some of the new pontoons are only temporary. Thus BrizCommuter would expect that as new "more flood proof" pontoons are installed over the next 18 months, that there may be temporary closures of some CityCat terminals. Lets hope that TransLink provide commuters with sufficient notice of these changes.

The new timetable is here:

As with the pre-flood CityCat timetable, it is pretty impressive, and better than most rail timetables! Downstream peak direction services are every 6-7 minutes. Pre and post peak off-peak services are every 25 minutes. Weekday daytime off-peak services are generally every 12-13 minutes, but there are still quite a few annoying 25 minute gaps during the weekday daytime that can catch out commuters, students, and tourists. This means that it's still not quite a turn up and go service.

The poor am peak service from the CBD to UQ has been slightly improved with the addition of two express services. When frequency is low, BrizCommuter would expect that an all stops service would be better. Maybe these expresses are just a positioning move for the daytime off-peak service anyway? Given the frequent bus services from the CBD and South Bank to UQ, these express CityCat services to UQ are more likely to be useful to students living downstream of the CBD.

Congratulations to BCC for restoring the CityCat and CityFerry services so quickly!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

June 2011 Timetables - Shorncliffe LIne

The final review of the new phase one 2011 timetables is for the Shorncliffe Line. The review of the Shorncliffe Line's draft timetable is linked below:

The main reason for the Shorncliffe Line being involved in the first phase of the new timetables, is so that it's services are being moved from the main tracks to the suburban tracks through the CBD. This means that Shorncliffe services are having to slot in between existing services to/from Ferny Grove, Airport, and Doomben, resulting in some minor retimings. As per the above linked blog post, the changes resulted in no overall improvements compared to the current timetable. A few changes have been made after the consultation process, notably the a slightly earlier first inbound service, and an extra inbound service at school kicking out time. With many timetable changes being made to around school traffic, did TransLink and QR actually do any research into school opening and closing times when they wrote the draft timetables?

Shorncliffe Line users, as well as users of the Ferny Grove, Airport, Doomben, Cleveland, Gold Coast, and Beenleigh Lines are eagerly awaiting the phase two draft timetables. Already delayed from 2010, the draft timetables were supposed to be released in early 2011, with the actual timetables being introduced later in 2011. With mid 2011 rapidly approaching, many commuters are asking where are the phase two draft timetables?

June 2011 Timetables - Ipswich, Rosewood, and Richlands Lines.

After yesterdays review of the new timetables for the Caboolture and Sunshine Coast Lines, it is time for a review of the new timetables for the Ipswich, Rosewood, and Richlands Lines. A previous blog post reviewing the draft timetable is linked below:

The draft Ipswich and Richlands Line timetable was reasonably well received, with peak hour trains at 6 to 12 minute intervals in the peaks, more homogenous service patterns, and a 15 minute 7-day a week off-peak service between Darra and the CBD. These are all major improvements over the previous messy timetable. There has been little change from the draft Ipswich Line timetable, mainly due to TransLink and QR doing a pretty job with the draft in the first place.

Many commuters expressed concern that Toowong would be a better stop for Ipswich express services instead of Milton, particularly due to it's frequent bus connections to UQ. However expresses will continue to skip Toowong, possibly to help even out loadings between Ipswich express and Richlands all stations services. Some am peak all stations services have to start at Darra instead of Richlands due to poor track layouts at Richlands, and lack of electrified 4th track between Corinda and Darra. BrizCommuter is concerned that overcrowding may occur in the early shoulder peaks, where there are a few 18 minute gaps. The reverse peak 15 minute service could also be improved for those travelling from the CBD to employment centres such as Indooropilly and Toowong in the am peak, and reverse in the pm peak.

The Rosewood Line has received quite a few improvements compared to the draft timetable, mainly related to better connections, and to serve school traffic better. However one am peak connection previously shown to connect at Ipswich (06:05am from Rosewood), will now not connect, with a 12 minute additional wait for the next train at Ipswich.

On a final note, only 1% of feedback was related to the extinction of the Tennyson Line.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

June 2011 Timetables - Caboolture & Sunshine Coast Lines

TransLink have just published the long awaited 2011 train timetables for the Ipswich, Rosewood, Richlands, Caboolture, and Sunshine Coast Lines. This is after the review process of the draft timetables, which were released in late 2010 for consultation. These timetables will be introduced on Monday 6th June. This blog post will look at the changes to the Caboolture and Sunshine Coast Lines, with a blog post about the Ipswich, Richlands, and Rosewood Lines in the next few days. The new timetables are available on TransLink's website.

Reviews of the draft Caboolture and Sunshine Coast timetable, and commuter reaction:

The Sunshine Coast Line's draft timetable drew the most criticism. It seems that the further commuters wish to live from their workplace, the louder they scream! This criticism was mainly due to the draft timetable making some services less express, increasing journey times (but improving the service between Northgate and Bowen Hills), as well as inconvenient CBD arrival and departure times. The draft Caboolture Line timetable was quite good, with trains at least every 12 minutes to all stations during the peaks. Could TransLink improve the Sunshine Coast Line timings, without upsetting the improvements to the Caboolture Line?

The Sunshine Coast Line am arrivals at Central are certainly improved compared to the draft timetable. The  6:54, 7:32, and 8:02am arrivals have been moved to 7:11, 7:44, and 8:08am respectively. This should be more convenient for the rather vocal CBD workers, but not necessarily more convenient for those who work beyond the CBD. The pm departures from Central have also been changed - between the 4:34 and 5:49pm departures, the draft 5:04pm departure has been changed to a more convenient (for 9 to 5 workers) 5:22pm. The increased gap prior to this service has been filled with a 4:54pm departure to Caboolture with a Railbus connection to many Sunshine Coast Line stations. Whilst a train all the way would be better, it is likely that the current poor track infrastructure North of Caboolture may not allow this. A bus is better than nothing! There have also been some improvements to the evening services after 06:04pm to the Sunshine Coast, with the 1.5 hour, then 2 hour gap being replaced by a 1 hour, 1.5 hour, then 1 hour service gap pattern.  There has been little improvement to the journey time situation, but this was expected by BrizCommuter, as more expresses equals less overall line capacity.

So have the improved Sunshine Coast Line CBD arrival and departure times affected the half-decent draft Caboolture Line timetable? The only negative BrizCommuter can see is the creation of an approx. 17 minute gap in the early am peak for stations between Morayfield and Dakabin. This was previously an 11 then 12 minute service gap. If commuters are to be encouraged to travel earlier, then this may be a very bad move. Aside from this, there has been a little juggling of am peak services, but all with no gaps larger than 12 minutes. There is even an extra late am peak service from Petrie into the CBD. The unacceptable 18 minute pm peak gap to stations between Virginia and Lawnton still exists thanks to a plethora of express services bypassing these stations. A few additional Caboolture Line services have also been added for early morning workers, and school children.

Ferny Grove Line commuters will be happy about the removal of the pesky 06:32am from Caboolture from the suburban tracks. This service added in October 2010 usually runs late, delaying the overcrowded 07:06am from Ferny Grove by anything up to 7 minutes!

BrizCommuter is happy to see that both Sunshine Coast and Caboolture Line services are shown on the Caboolture Line timetable. This solves the anomaly in the draft timetable, where some Sunshine Coast services that served Caboolture Line stations between Morayfield and Dakabin were not shown on the Caboolture Line timetable. The Sunshine Coast Line still has a separate timetable as well.

Thanks to the limited track infrastructure on the Caboolture and Sunshine Coast Lines, the timetables are still far from perfect. However in general, TransLink and QR have managed to make reasonable improvements to Sunshine Coast Line CBD arrival and departure times, without significantly upsetting Caboolture Line passengers. Aside from a couple of unacceptable (i.e. more than 15 minutes) peak service gaps on the Caboolture Line, TransLink and QR have made a good job of providing a frequent timetable that makes effective use of track capacity. There is little question that infrastructure improvements are required on the Caboolture & Sunshine Coast Line corridor, but the same goes for much of the rest of SE Queensland's rail network as well.