Sunday, August 21, 2011

Eastern Busway Open Day

Eastern Busway     Source: Nearmap
From Monday 29th August 2011, the latest extension of the Eastern Busway from Buranda to Main Avenue, Coorparoo will open. As is tradition with busway openings in SE Queensland, there will be an open day on Saturday 27th August.
This open day allows taxpayers to try and work out why a "cheap" busway in SE Queensland costs as much to build as "expensive" heavy rail train line anywhere else in the world.

To make the open day a more realistic experience to using Brisbane's public transport, here are some attractions that BrizCommuter thinks should be introduced to add to the family fun:

1) "If only everything was like the go card"
With this attraction, you can buy some hot chips for $3.11, the same as 2 zone peak go card fare. Unfortunately, the tills don't work, and you have to pay $5 instead. The refund counter is difficult to find, and if you do find it, it will still take 10 days to get your money back. Every 1 in 10  customers to this attraction get forced to pay a $150 fine, and every 1 in 100 customers get deported!

2) "Try to get on a full bus"
This attraction involves trying to board a bus which should run every 10 minutes. However, every time the bus turns up it is full and you have to wait for the next bus. This attraction repeats itself until the customers get fed up and never use public transport again.

3)"Try to get off a full bus"
This attraction can be harder than an army assault course! The customer has to get from the back of a dangerously full bus, and out of the door, before the driver closes the door and drives off to the next stop. You have to dodge 20 passengers in the aisle (some of whom will listening to their iPods and won't hear you), as well as school bags randomly littered everywhere. A first aid station is located next to this attraction to treat any broken limbs.

Have a nice day!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ekka-va ticket queue!

Ekka 2011 
Public confidence in SE Queensland's public ticketing appears to decreasing faster than the quality of BrizCommuter's puns. Approximately 1/3  of Ekka visitors travel there by train, many using  Exhibition station on the Exhibition Loop Line which incurs an extra charge. Many of these users rarely use public transport, and in some cases their yearly Ekka visit is often their only public transport trip of the year. Thus many of these Ekka visitors have little need for a go card. In past years Ekka visitors could purchase a daily or off-peak daily paper ticket at their originating station so that they wouldn't have to purchase a separate return ticket for the journey home. Unfortunately, as TransLink have axed daily tickets, and singles have to be used within 2 hours of the ticket purchase, this resulted in extremely long queues at Exhibition station to purchase tickets for the journey home. This resulted in frustrating hour long ticket queues spoiling the end to what was supposed to be a fun day. Yet again, the Queensland Government and TransLink's ticketing policies have further tarnished the already bad image of public transport in SE Queensland.

It has been reported in this Courier Mail article that due to crowding at Exhibition station, the gates to the platforms had to be opened on Friday and Sunday to allow for free travel home (and thus increasing the risk of potential deportation). TransLink also had to change their policy to allow the return journey single ticket to be purchased earlier in the day. Of course, neither of these issues would have happened if some of the following were done:

  • Integrated return train fare and entrance ticket - the Ekka entrance tickets can already be purchased at stations, but bizarrely not the return ticket. Not the smart state is it?
  • The above, but with a free go card!
  • Free travel to/from the Ekka, as per major sporting events - the RNA seem to be crying poor on this one, even though it is done for poorly attended Brisbane Roar matches at Suncorp Stadium.
  • Bring back sensibly priced daily or return tickets on either paper tickets or the resurrected go card lite for occasional users. 
Once again, SE Queensland's public transport system is only "World Class" in incompetence!

Update 26/08/2011

It has been mentioned in the media, that as well as the above mentioned fiasco, TransLink have ripped off commuters by charging peak fares on Peoples Day public holiday. Whilst this public holiday was for Brisbane only, TransLink/QR only ran a modified Sunday train timetable as the majority of SE Queensland public transport users commute to/from Brisbane's CBD. To charge peak fares when only running a Sunday timetable continues to show the utter contempt that TransLink have for the travelling public.  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

TransLink finally release survey results!

More than a year ago (4th to 21st May 2010), commuters may remember filling in a paper survey, and putting them in orange bins. Well the results have finally been announced. The summary of the results can be found here:

Firstly, under 17s were not sampled. Considering a reasonable percentage of public transport users are travelling to and from school, this means that the results are off to a flying failure. In fact, the vast majority of users of the now extinct Tennyson Line (still operating with empty out of service trains) were school children. Coincidence?

More than half of public transport users are under 30 years of age, with a much lower age weighting on buses rather than trains. This is likely to be due to most major universities (including UQ, QUT Kelvin Grove, and Griffith Mt Gravatt) being served by bus instead of train. Interestingly 59% of survey respondents were female, and 72% have a driving licence. The latter figure is of no surprise, as not having a driving licence is a major handicap with Brisbane's non "World Class" public transport system. 53% did not have access to a vehicle for that journey, for example one car families (such as BrizCommuter's family).

67% of respondents were using public transport due to not having a car, being unable to drive, not wanting to drive, being unable to park, or it being too expensive to park. Only 12% used public transport due to it being cheaper. This would be even less so with 2011 fares! Only 5% used public transport due to it being the fastest option. With ever increasing fares, infrequent services, relatively fast roads, and high percentage of car ownership, public transport is finding it difficult to compete with the less sustainable transport option that is the car.

51% of users payed the full adult fare, with 32% holding a student concession. 78% percent of respondents used a go card. Only 12% used daily, weekly, or season tickets. However, it should be remembered that this study was taken after the daily and weekly prices had been hugely inflated to make them less attractive than the go card. Had this study been performed in 2009 when weekly and daily were at an attractive price relative to the go card, then the results would be very different. As mentioned a zillion times in this blog, the current fare structure makes public transport very unattractive for frequent users.

56% of public transport users use public transport every weekday, and 42% use public transport on at least 2 weekends a month. It would interesting to know if this is for leisure, or for work? BrizCommuter would not be surprised if the current fare structure has reduced demand for weekend leisure traffic for those who used to have weekly tickets, as they now have to pay extra for more than than their daily work commute.

Nearly 70% of journeys to train stations are by foot, with around 30% of journeys to train stations by car. The survey didn't seem to have public transport as an access option. These figures show that there is a need for frequent feeder bus services to improve access for those who live too far away from stations to walk, and for those who currently access train stations by car. Whilst it is no surprise that more than 90% of passengers access bus stops on foot, it is still concerning that nearly 10% have to use a car to access a bus stop. There must be some very large public transport black holes in SE Queensland!

The station entries statistic is rather odd. Why does Ferny Grove have far less station entries (approx 1,500) between 05:30 and 20:30 according to this study than the 2009 QR Passenger Load survey (which had the figure as 2,163 just in the am peak)? That's more than 500 missing passengers. These statistics need a big please explain! Of course it would be nice if the un-transparent TransLink would like to release the 2010 and 2011 QR Passenger Load surveys. BrizCommuter is not holding his breath.

The Inner Ipswich and Caboolture Line's have the highest number of off-peak train travellers in absolute terms. This makes it pretty obvious that if you provide a half decent off-peak service (every 15 minutes) that people will use it. Lets hope TransLink make note of this statistic, and introduce 15 min off-peak train services on the inner Beenleigh Line, inner Cleveland Line, and whole of the Ferny Grove Line as well. Information from QR, and a recent quote from a politician in a newspaper, is increasingly making it look like the pathetic 30 minute off-peak train service is here to stay.

Go (Card) back to where you came from?

Most Brisbane commuters understand how unreliable the go card system is. Red lights, orange lights, touch again, invalid card, failed readers, failed cards, etc, etc. It's just a shame that a Brisbane Magistrate does not appear to understand this. It has been reported in this Courier Mail article that a British man, has been convicted of fare evasion due to his go card failing to touch on at Morningside station. This conviction, and the fact that this man does not have permanent Australian residency means that he could potentially be deported back to UK. According to the article, the man reported the faulty go card in good faith to a Transit Officer. Unfortunately, he ended up in court with a conviction. The man is now taking legal action against Transport and Main Roads. BrizCommuter wishes him good look, as most go card commuters could end up in a similar position (for example BrizCommuter recently had a failed bus touch on which he was not aware of).

It could be argued that as the go card did not touch on and he was aware of this, then he should have bought an paper ticket at extra cost instead. However, BrizCommuter would expect that few passengers are fully aware of the rules, and few passengers are aware that it is possible to get a refund on the paper ticket. Of course, a go card user expecting the system to work may not allow enough time to buy to paper ticket in case of go card failure. With a train only every 30 minutes, who would buy a paper ticket if it involved waiting another 30 minutes for the following train? What if the person does not have enough money on them of a paper ticket, or if the AVVM is not giving change, nor allowing EFTPOS? Unless there is more to the story that hasn't been reported, it is disgraceful that someone could have a conviction and potentially be deported due to a fault in the poorly implemented and unreliable go card system. Cases like this further decrease consumer confidence in the go card system, and public transport in Brisbane. Yet another reason why Brisbane's public transport system is not "World Class".


The go card user guide...
...contains the quote "if all go card readers are not working and you are unable to touch on you can travel for free (this journey only) - do not touch off when you reach your destination". It would be assumed that if the go card itself has failed, then above would be valid. The quote is also confusing. Is it expected that the user should spend 10 minutes wondering around station trying to find a working reader, resulting in missing a train? How does the user know if the readers have broken or their card? It's sounding easier just to get in a car and drive instead!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ferry Unpopular Fares!

A lesser popular CityCat
A Brisbane politician has finally realised that high public transport fares, and lack of daily tickets = less public transport users! It has been reported in this Courier Mail article that Brisbane's Lord Mayor Graham Quirk is demanding the reintroduction of daily tickets due to reduction in patronage on CityCats and ferries. In this Brisbane Times article, it has been reported that "Queensland's peak tourism industry body has backed calls for a major overhaul of the go card system, saying it causes too much confusion and inconvenience for international visitors". Not surprisingly a Courier Mail online poll for the reintroduction of daily public transport tickets showed 96% in favour at the time of writing. Maybe the other 4% work for TransLink, or clicked the wrong button?

This is of course not really news to regular BrizCommuter readers. It is well known that the current go card pricing structure, which is now essentially pay per journey, discourages the frequent use of public transport. The lack of daily ticketing options is not only deterring tourists from using public transport, but also many students (who have to travel to/from work and to/from university), and also deterring regular commuters than making more than the 2 daily commutes. Even BrizCommuter is attempting to get lifts home whenever he can, and is using public transport approximately 20% less than 2 years ago. Just when is the Queensland Government going to come around to the fact that they are discouraging public transport use with their failing fare structure? A cynic would think that this stifling of demand is to avoid having to spend more money on improving public transport infrastructure to cope with increasing demand. Is the cynic correct?

It should be noted that the much needed daily fares should be capped go card fares only. As any bus user knows there is nothing worse than paper ticket buyers holding up buses. The return of paper daily would only encourage people who wish to buy their fares with 5c coins.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Busway to RBWH - The Terrible Twos

INB - Still a basket case!
A year ago BrizCommuter ran this blog post about the history of chronic Inner Northern Busway overcrowding. With the extension to RBWH now two years old,  how has the Inner Northern Busway fared in the last year?

The route 66 only runs at full frequency during university semesters. During university holidays the peak frequency is halved from every 5 minutes to every 10 minutes. Unfortunately, this has at times resulted in a serious overcrowding as school children, hospital workers, and those attending university holiday events (such as summer schools) try and board the reduced frequency service. The most serious cases of passengers being left behind by full buses were at Roma Street in the am peak (outbound), and QUT Kelvin Grove in the pm peak (inbound). There were many reports of passengers waiting more than 30 mins to be able to board a bus at these locations. BrizCommuter was informed by the bus operator BCC that the service provision was indeed inadequate at times, but to date nothing has been done about the poor university holiday frequency.

So did the start of the university semester in March, and the route 66 running at full frequency solve the overcrowding? A refreshingly large number of new students attempted to use the Inner Northern Busway in their first few weeks of university. The system could not cope, and the overcrowding was even worse than the out of semester problems mentioned above. On one occasion more than 160 fed up students were observed waiting to board a bus at QUT Kelvin Grove! Not surprisingly this wasn't sustainable for many students, and BrizCommuter is aware of many students having to resort to using the go car instead of the go card. The overcrowding reduced significantly after a month as students resorted to other forms of transport and attended less lectures.

The inability for hospital workers to be able to board a bus within a reasonable timeframe from Roma Street to RCH Herston/RBWH in the am peak (due to full bus after full bus) drove yet more passengers back into their cars. Of BrizCommuter's 8 work colleagues who previously used the Inner Northern Busway, only 2 still catch the bus. 5 have gone back to driving into work, and 1 moved house so as to live within walking distance. This is very sad indication of how overcrowding and high fares have made Brisbane's public transport system very unattractive to those who would prefer to use more sustainable transport options than the car.

Now well into the second university semester of 2011, with more students and hospital workers using alternative transport options, is there still overcrowding? In the last week BrizCommuter has observed 3 consecutive full buses in the inbound direction at Normanby just after 3pm, and a full inbound 66 just after midday! With another extension to the Northern Busway looming, it is time for TransLink to start properly planning and funding a solution to the Inner Northern Busway's woes.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

10 Days Later...

10 days ago, BrizCommuter applied online for a refund of a $5 fixed fare caused by a faulty bus go-card reader. The email after the refund request states that the "inquiry" will take up to 10 days. Now is it just a coincidence that every time BrizCommuter has applied for a fixed fare refund it has taken exactly 10 days for the refund to appear back in his go card account? A cynic would be asking if TransLink are purposefully holding onto the refund as long as possible? Questions should be asked as to why TransLink do not appear to be refunding commuters within a reasonable timeframe (i.e. a few days)? Also, questions should be asked about how much income TransLink are making from unclaimed fixed fares?

Assuming an average fixed fare of $5, and 3.3% of 180 million journeys resulting in an unclaimed refund, results in just under $30 million of unclaimed fixed fares! Whilst a proportion of this will be from fare evasion, a reasonable chunk of this money will be from unclaimed go card fixed fares caused by no fault of the user.

Unfortunately, another of BrizCommuter's work colleagues has now given up public transport, this time over the fixed fares. Putting up with the extortionate cost of public transport when making 3-4 journeys per day (thanks to the withdrawal of daily and weekly tickets) was pushing her close to giving up public transport. Inner Northern Busway overcrowding (which is still occurring, even in the middle of the day) pushed her closer to a car showroom. The last straw was then incurring multiple fixed fares on buses through no fault of her own, and then TransLink always taking far more than a week to pay the money back. Yet another commuter forced to go car by the Queensland Government and TransLink's abysmal fare structure, poor public transport policies, and flawed go card implementation.