Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 World Fare Comparison

Rip Off !
It is that time of year when BrizCommuter compares fares between different world cities. This year, the fare comparison covers every continent except for Antarctica (where the only commuters are penguins). Cities well known for their high cost of living, such as Tokyo, Moscow, London, Stockholm, and Oslo have been included. For this fare comparison we are looking at a 5km train journey from an inner suburb to the CBD, using the cheapest available adult peak single fare (this can include multi-trip tickets, but not weekly or other season tickets). Exchange rates are as of 29th December 2011. Fares are as of 2nd January 2012.

Oslo - $4.42
London (Underground/Overground) - $4.10
Brisbane - $3.58
Liverpool - $3.57
London (National Rail) - $3.50
Sydney - $3.40
Stockholm - $3.19
Adelaide - $3.09
Melbourne - $3.02
Lausanne - $3.00
Berlin - $2.94
Auckland - $2.44
Copenhagen - $2.40
Vancouver - $2.40
Helsinki - $2.34
NYC (Subway) - $2.22
Paris - $2.17
Perth - $1.95
Tokyo (Japan Rail) - $1.91
Tucson - $1.57
Los Angeles - $1.48
Santiago - $1.17
Hong Kong - $0.71
Moscow - $0.64
Dubai - $0.61
Shanghai - $0.47
Mexico City - $0.21
Cairo - $0.16

Not surprisingly since Brisbane has had the world's highest fare rises (as far as BrizCommuter can accertain) for the last 2 years, it is still one of the world's most expensive public transport systems. It is pipped to the post by Oslo and London Underground. It should be remembered however, that both London Underground and Oslo T-Bane have a considerably more frequent train service than in Brisbane, so their fares are still better value for money in terms of frequency. Both of these cities also have season ticket options which are not available in Brisbane.

Whilst the strong Australian Dollar does not do Australian cities any favours in this comparison, it should be remembered that some cities with relatively high costs of living such as Tokyo and Moscow are at the lower end of this list. Brisbane is also far more expensive than any other Australian city in this survey. Although Sydney is not too far behind Brisbane for adult peak single fares, a train user in Sydney also has weekly and season ticket options. A weekly ticket in Sydney would result in a typical 10 journey/week commute costing $2.60 per journey, nearly a dollar cheaper than Brisbane!

The only positive note that can be made of Brisbane's fare structure is that it is integrated, i.e. you can travel on a train, then bus, then ferry for the same fare as long as changes are made within an hour. Some cities (particularly those in Asia) do not have an integrated fare structure, meaning that if you want to ride a train and then a bus, you have to pay an additional fare. However, in many of the un-integated cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, a peak journey using two different public transportation modes would still be cheaper than in Brisbane anyway.

There is little question that public transport fares in Brisbane are unjustifiably high, especially given the non-world class train frequencies. BrizCommuter would like to see an independent review of SE Queensland public fares, as it appears that commuters are getting very poor value for money. With one of the world's most expensive public transport systems, business will be good for SE Queensland car, motorbike, and scooter showrooms again in 2012.


  1. What has frequency got to do with Value for Money? If I catch a 10am train and get where I want to go safely and on time, I could not give a rats if another train follows 15 mins later. I will judge Value for Money based on that experience not on what other services may or may not exist either side of my chosen service. Any off peak trains I have caught here are only ever half full, so you want to drive fares up even further by adding more half full trains to the system when we don't need them just to say we have "frequency"? Stop the bias please.

  2. Anonymous - frequency has a lot to do with value for money. What if you wanted to catch a 10am train, but the next train is actually timetabled 10:15am? You have to then waste 15 mins of your time by travelling at 9:45am. That could be 15 mins less time at home with family, or 15 mins less sleep, and 15 mins more at work twiddling your thumbs before start time.

    Evidence from other rail systems and buses in Brisbane shows that if you double rail frequency, the patronage will double. Making trains driver only operation (as in Melbourne and Perth) would mean that 15 mins off-peak could be operated with similar staffing levels as the current 30 mins off-peak. So BrizCommuter is not being biased thanks!

  3. @Anon, frequency has quite a lot to do with value for money, since it means you might get the service you're paying for in a timely manner.
    I was quite happy with the London Underground prices for a few years, because if a train was full, or I just missed it, there would usually be another one along in 2min.
    The comparison was with peak services. The article calls for more frequent services during peak times when they are needed, to match the prices that commuters are having to pay.

  4. Now, now BrizCommuter. BUZ only achieved roughly 80% patronage increase for every doubling in service. Some international thinking is that you expect 30-40% increase, but I expect this is more referring to increases above the 15 minute frequency mark which is the sweet spot in many people's opinion.

    Rail services have significant fixed costs such as rolling stock ownership and station staff though, and I don't doubt that even a 30% increase in patronage from a 15 minute frequency would improve the fare box recovery ratio, and likely reduce the subsidy over all.

  5. BrizCommuter, I really would not care for the 15 minute buffer if having the choice of frequency made it more expensive. Which it would do without doubt. Right now I do not have an issue with frequency. As someone who live between EJ and Wooloowin I have sensational frequency since QR corrected the timetable. I know you are trying to paint a different picture, but I am sorry, I don't agree with you. Having lived in Melb and Sydney I can tell you Brisbane has sensational rail and fantastic customer service. Not surprisingly, this is in part due to the guards who you are hell bent on removing in order to pay for frequency increases we don't need. Not to mention the tens of millions of dollars required to upgrade stations and trains to handle driver only. Oh, and anytime I take the car anywhere, I build a 30 min buffer, so give me the current rail service of car any day.

  6. Anonymous - funny that you mention that you live between Eagle Junction and Wooloowin, and thus have one of the best off-peak services on the network (Eagle Junction is served by between 6 and 8tph off peak). For the majority of us with just 2tph off-peak, the train service is very poor value for money.

  7. Nothing fills me with more contempt than the smug remarks of people in overly-serviced areas declaring "works for me!"

    Try catching any sequence of 3 or more buses and you'll see just how painful it can be. A five minute delay at the start can easily translate into an additional hour of waiting for your missed connecting services.

    When the travel time catching the same buses home every day at the same time varies from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours, there's something amazingly broken with our public transport system.

  8. Fed up with foof frequencyJanuary 4, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    Get rid of the guards, big waste of money, give them a job driving a bus.

    And could all these guards and drivers stop wasting time when changing crew at Bowen Hills, be waiting at the door of the employee you are replacing, no chatter, get on with it.

  9. Interesting reading BrizCommuter, I'd really like to see the same chart instead with a 70km journey... I imagine the list would show that SEQ as a region is cheap, but that short fares are expensive?

  10. Anonymous - that is true, SE Queensland fares are extremely expensive for inner suburban commuters, and not too bad for outer suburban commuters. This perversely suits those who wish to have an unsustainable lifestyle of living miles away from where they work, and punishes those who wish to live closer to their place of work. Only in Queensland!


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