Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 World Fare Comparison - Part 3

Too infrequent!
In part 1 and 2 of BrizCommuter's 2013 World Fare Comparison we saw that Brisbane is one of the most expensive public transport systems in the world during during the peak fare period. Does Brisbane fare any better during the off-peak? Again, we look at the 5 cities that had the highest peak single train fares for a 5km journey. Currency conversions are as of between 23rd and 27th December 2012. Fares are as of 7th January 2013.

5km off-peak single train fare / daily maximum

Oslo - $4.65 / $12.93
Stockholm - $3.67 / $16.88
Liverpool - $3.65  / $5.46
London - $3.27 / $10.91
Brisbane - $3.08 / $27.72

5km off-peak single bus fare / daily maximum

Oslo - $4.65 / $12.93
Stockholm - $3.65 / $16.88
Liverpool -  $3.11 / $5.46
Brisbane - $3.08 / $27.72
London - $2.18 / $6.86

Brisbane thankfully fares better in the off-peak than during the peak for single journeys, due to the 20% go card off-peak discount. Brisbane is also cheaper than Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney for a single 5km off-peak train journey. However, the lack of daily ticketing options means that it is possible to rack up a higher total daily fare in Brisbane than anywhere else in the world at $27.72 for multiple 5km journeys. Compare this to Melbourne's maximum of $7 on weekdays, and $3.50 on weekends! It should also be noted that Brisbane's single off-peak fares for 5km journeys are still more expensive than peak fares in all North American and Asian cities, as well as Perth and Auckland.

Off-peak train frequency (midday weekday and weekend) at 5km from CBD

London - 2.5 to 5 minutes
Liverpool - 5 to 15 minutes
Stockholm - 7.5 to 15 minutes
Oslo - 7.5 to 15 minutes
Brisbane - 6 to 30 minutes

The reduction in off-peak fares is thankful due to Brisbane's "third-world" off-peak train frequencies. Off-peak frequencies in Brisbane (per line) vary between every 15 minutes (Ferny Grove Line) to none existent (Doomben Line), with typical service frequencies of a train every 30 minutes. Many stations at approx. 5km from the CBD are served by more than one train line, thus aiding Brisbane's figures in the comparison.

Whilst many parts of Brisbane are served by half-decent peak bus frequencies, if you live away from a busway or major road corridor, you may be lucky to even see a bus during the off-peak. Thus Brisbane's off peak fares can still be considered poor value for money by many public transport users.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2013 World Fare Comparison - Part 2

London Underground - better value for money than QR?
Last updated 01/01/2013 8pm

Part 1 of BrizCommuter's 2013 World Fare Comparison looked at the cost of the cheapest available single peak fare for a 5km train journey. Brisbane fared terribly, being the world's third most expensive city for such a journey.  Only Oslo and London (Underground /Overground) were more expensive. In part 2 of BrizCommuter's 2013 World Fare Comparison, we take a look at other ticketing options and factors in the 5 most expensive cities for a 5km rail journey. These include - weekly maximum train fares, daily maximum train fares, peak train frequency, refund policy, and bus fares.

Weekly maximum train fares (5km journeys)

London - $47.26 (7 day ticket)
Stockholm - $44.02 (7 day ticket)
Oslo - $37.92 (7 day ticket)
Brisbane - $34.65 (9 journey week cap)
Liverpool - $22.08 (7 day train only ticket) / $25.04 (7 day bus/train/ferry ticket)

For weekly maximum train fares, the go card's "9 journey then free" cap helps a little bit, by moving Brisbane into 4th place out of these five cities. Brisbane is also the only city in this comparison without a 7 day zone based ticketing option.

Daily maximum train fares (5km journeys)

Brisbane - $34.65 (9 journey week cap)
Stockholm - $16.88 (24 hour ticket)
London - $13.06 (daily peak cap)
Oslo - $12.93 (24 hour ticket)
Liverpool - $5.60 (day ticket)

Brisbane is the only city in this comparison without a daily ticketing option. This moves Brisbane into 1st place for the world's most expensive transport system. In fact, the maximum fare possible in Brisbane is more than double the nearest competitor!

Peak train frequency (at 5km from CBD)

London - 2 to 5 minutes
Oslo - 7.5 to 15 minutes
Liverpool - 5 to 15 minutes
Stockholm - 7.5 to 15 minutes
Brisbane - 3 to 23 minutes*

Peak train frequencies in Brisbane are pot luck on which station you use, and at what time. Of the five cities featured, Brisbane is the only city with peak service gaps of more than 15 minutes at stations approx. 5km from the CBD. This potentially makes Brisbane's peak train fares the worst value for money in the world. In fact, as Brisbane's peak fare period starts from 2am, there are plenty of service gaps between trains of 30 minutes within the peak fare period at stations approx. 5km from the CBD.

Refund Policy

London - Full fare refund if delayed more than 15 minutes (Underground)/ 30 minutes (Overground)
Oslo - Free taxi if delayed more than 20 minutes
Stockholm - Free taxi if delayed more than 20 minutes
Liverpool - Full fare refund if delayed more than 30 minutes
Brisbane - None

Brisbane is the only city amongst these five cities to not have a refund policy due to delays. Brisbane thus has the world's most expensive public transport system without a refund policy!

Bus fares (peak single 5km journey)

Oslo - $4.65
Brisbane - $3.85
Stockholm - $3.67
Liverpool - $3.11
London - $2.18

Many cities around the world have cheaper bus fares than train fares. This list includes London, thus Brisbane is the world's second most expensive city in the world on which to travel 5km by bus in the peak period. Ouch!

In part 3 of the World Fare Comparison - 2013, BrizCommuter will take a look at off-peak fares.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2013 World Fare Comparison - Part 1

Go card or Myki - which costs more?
Last updated 29/12/2012 7am.

It is the time of year again when BrizCommuter compares train fares between different cities around the world. For 2013, the LNP Queensland Government and TransLink have increased fares in SE Queensland by an extortionate 7.5%. This is being touted as half of the previous ALP Government's planned 15% fare rise, but as a Rail Back on Track member recently stated, the halving of the fare rise is "like a thug only threatening to break one leg instead of two".

Cities well known for their high cost of living, such as Tokyo, Moscow, London, Stockholm, and Oslo have again been included. Also, the top ten most liveable cities are also included in the list. For this fare comparison we are looking at a 5km train or light rail journey from an inner suburb to the city centre (CBD), using the cheapest available adult peak single fare (this can include up to 10 multi-trip tickets, but not weekly or other season tickets). Exchange rates are as of the 23rd December 2012. Fares are as of the 7th January 2013.

Top 10 most expensive:

Oslo - $4.65
London (Underground/Overground) - $4.35 (Note: National Rail fares $3.73)
Brisbane - $3.85
Stockholm - $3.67
Liverpool - $3.65 (Note: Similar to most other UK cities with rail systems)
Sydney - $3.60
Helsinki - $3.54
Melbourne - $3.50
Adelaide - $3.19
Lausanne - $3.15

Selected other cities:

Berlin - $3.04
Toronto - $2.90
Calgary - $2.90
Ottawa - $2.76
Auckland - $2.70
Vienna - $2.53
Vancouver - $2.42
Portland - $2.40
NYC (Subway) - $2.16
Seattle - $2.16
Perth - $2.03
Tokyo (Japan Rail) - $1.71
Paris - $1.61
Los Angeles - $1.44
Moscow - $0.83
Hong Kong - $0.73
Shanghai - $0.61

Not surprisingly since Brisbane (and SE Queensland) have had fare rises far in excess of the CPI for the last few years, it continues to be among the world's most expensive public transport systems. For a single peak train journey, Brisbane is the third most expensive city in the world, and the most expensive in Australia! Public transport patronage will thus continue to be stunted due to excessively high prices deterring the use of Brisbane's trains, buses, and ferries. In part 2 of this blog post, BrizCommuter will look at the top 5 cities in more detail - weekly fares, daily fares, service frequency, value for money, bus fares, and refund policies.

Last year's fare comparison:
2013 World Fare Comparison - Part 2:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Brisbane - a 1960s theme park!

A new theme park has opened in SE Queensland in time for the school holidays, and BrizCommuter has kindly posted the advert below:
Download to get 0% off entry fee!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Transit Officers spoil Santa Express

Transit Officers?
For the last few years, Queensland Rail (QR) have run the family friendly "Santa Express" train around the QR CityTrain network before Christmas as an additional train service. MrsCommuter and BabyCommuter went to a ride on the Santa Express when it visited the Ferny Grove Line on Monday, and much enjoyed the experience, until...

...TransLink managed to spoil the show. Now with 4 trains an hour per direction on the Ferny Grove Line, there are plenty of trains which TransLink Transit Officers could have stung for ticket checks. These trains are often full of ticketless drunk natives, drug addicts, and the worst of all - middle aged aisle seat hoggers. But instead of targeting a normal train service, like a pack of Dementors circling around the Hogwarts Express, the Transit Officers decided to spoil the family fun atmosphere of the Santa Express by performing a ticket check on family groups. The attitude of the officers was described by some passengers as very rude. TransLink, do your Transit Officers not have higher priorities?

Whilst on the subject of Santa, this is BrizCommuter's letter to Queensland Rail's Santa.

Dear Santa,

BrizCommuter has been a good boy this year, and would like some nice presents. Thanks for the 15 minute off-peak services on the Ferny Grove Line, but can you please extend this to other lines, weekends, and early evenings. Please can you also get rid of those annoying late evening and Sunday morning hour service gaps. I would also really like a new frequent peak timetable which TransLink promised would occur in 2011. Oh, and finally, please tell TransLink to stop increasing the fares, or I will asking for a car next Christmas!



PS: Thanks a lot QR for closing the Ferny Grove Line on one of the busiest Christmas shopping weekends!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

SEQ Bus Network Review - Stage 2

Phase 2 of the SEQ Bus Network Review is now in the public consultation stage on TransLink's website. The well written webpage is here (make sure you read all of the further information links). Most TransLink SEQ bus routes have been listed at the bottom of the page. Clicking on a route opens up a box containing the routes value for money, average patronage, and suggested changes. Below are a few screenshots showing two different bus routes (popular rail alternative route 390, and air moving route 393):

For routes with changes suggested, a link to a feedback form is created. One key question is badly worded. "What bus route do you normally travel on?" should be replaced by "Which route would you like to comment on?". However, aside from that the form is good and allows for free text feedback. You can even leave your details for TransLink to provide feedback on route changes. 

Having perused many of the routes, it seems that as expected, we aren't going to see a revolutionary network change as is planned for Auckland. It seems that the existing mess will just receive some tinkering in a bid to make for a more cost efficient and less confusing network, with only a few steps towards the "trunk and feeder" network that Brisbane requires. It is disappointing that there appears to no plans to use the rail network as part of the "trunk", with increased rail frequencies providing a network backbone as occurs in many cities such as Perth. It is also disappointing that the massively resource wasting and bus route duplicating "Maroon CityGlider" is still planned to go ahead. Whilst BrizCommuter is happy to see that more services are planned for the more overcrowded bus routes, BrizCommuter is concerned about the many planned service reductions in evenings and weekends - public transport is a public service and leaving swathes of SE Queensland with only a weekday daytime bus service is not acceptable. The future still looks bleak for those who live away from major transport corridors in SE Queensland's vast urban sprawl. Make sure you provide feedback for all affected routes you use by the 16th December 2012!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Does Brisbane have the world's best bus drivers?

This will probably be the last blog post by BrizCommuter for a few weeks, and for a change BrizCommuter has something positive to say. Brisbane's bus drivers often get bad press, but BrizCommuter (who incidentally has used public transport in more than 50 cities, and on every continent apart from Antarctica) believes that despite a few bad eggs, the world's best bus drivers are in Brisbane. Why?

  • Politeness - it may help that most Brisbanites say a thank-you back. 
  • Helpful (1) - many a bus driver has been seen going out of their way to assist disabled and elderly passengers and/or their possessions on and off buses (useful as not all of the bus fleet is low floor).
  • Helpful (2) - drivers usually seem to give good advice to those with questions, and let passengers know when to get off when requested by passengers unsure of the route.
  • Patience (1) - drivers will usually wait if they see passengers running for the bus. 
  • Patience (2) - can cope with the unreliability of the go card system - "walk on, free journey"!
  • Driving - generally good driving skills, although white gloved Japanese bus drivers probably win the prize here. 
The high quality of Brisbane bus drivers is refreshing compared to London where BrizCommuter previously lived. In London, bus drivers were often rude, ignored passengers in wheelchairs, and had a lead foot on the accelerator and brake (often at the same time).  Is there anything that can be improved for Brisbane's bus drivers? BrizCommuter's main point would be to take care that buses don't run early at any point of the journey, which can happen during lighter than usual traffic conditions (e.g. school holidays, late at night). Also, always listen out for the bell!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Now Airport Link goes tits-up!

In a move that has surprised no one with any common sense, the operators of the Airport Link toll tunnel BrisConnections have hit a spot of financial trouble. It has been reported in this Courier Mail article that BrisConnections have suspended trading on the ASX indefinitely, with a restructuring and insolvency firm conducting an independent review. With far less than 50% of the expected traffic (which came from quite ludicrous predictions), there have recently been predictions of the impending financial collapse of BrisConnections. The $4.8b Airport Link may well find itself joining Clem 7 in the list of of failed Brisbane toll tunnels, with Clem7's operators RiverCity Motorway Group collapsing into $1.4b debt in 2010. BrizCommuter predicts that the under construction Legacy Way toll road tunnel, due to open in 2015, could also be a financial failure. Concerningly for BrizCommuter as a Brisbane rate payer, Legacy Way will be owned and operated by Brisbane City Council.

It is time that both Queensland and Australian Federal politicians see the light at the end of the toll road tunnel - building more roads does not solve road congestion. The key to solving congestion (and associated road pollution and trauma) is by attracting motorists to a frequent and well priced public transport system as had been the case across Europe. A move to active transport - cycling and walking also helps. Unfortunately, Brisbane has anything but a frequent and well priced public transport system, having the world's 3rd most expensive fares. Despite $100s of millions being spent on rail infrastructure such as the Ferny Grove Line duplication, Gold Coast Line, Richlands/Springfield Line, and Caboolture to Beerburrum duplication, they are still served by an infrequent train service at most times of the day. Planned cycle lanes on the Centenary Highway will even be replaced with more car lanes. T2 lanes on the Pacific Highway will be removed for more car lanes, which will only increase the speed at which traffic jams will build up further along the M1. Failure to connect Legacy Way to the Inner Northern Busway was also leave a "legacy" of sustainable transport planning failure. Despite having more economic gain than cost, the vital Cross River Rail is still languishing in an attempt to get both state and federal funding.

It's time for a change from years of failed road-centric transport planning in Queensland!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Springfield Line - built to fail?

19 months ago, BrizCommuter wrote this blog post about the failings of the currently under construction Springfield Line, expected to open in late 2013. Sadly, despite a change of government, things haven't improved. The LNP are blaming their own failure to add extra car parking space on the previous government. So, what is still wrong with the Springfield Line?

  • Extremely limited car parking spaces at Springfield (200) and Springfield Central (100) stations. Given the highly unlikely chance of even half-decent (15 minutes frequency or better) feeder bus services serving the urban sprawl of Springfield, Springfield Lakes and suburbs beyond (including Brookwater and Redbank Plains), it is likely that the car parks could be full by around 7am! This will just continue to force Springfield commuters to continue driving to the CBD.
  • No station at Ellen Grove. Building a new station at the same time is far cheaper and less disruptive than building the station years or decades later. It would also take some pressure of Richland station's car park which usually fills up before 8am. 
  • Poor off-peak train service. If the Springfield Line was built in Perth, Melbourne, or Sydney, it would have a 15 minute off-peak service. Current plans are for a paltry 30 minute off-peak frequency to Springfield. Only in SE Queensland, is $475m spent on extending a train line, and then a completely unattractive train service operated! 
It seems that LNP government are continuing on with the ALPs plans to make the Springfield Line a failure from the outset. With a recent press release about the adding an extra lane to the Centenary Highway, and removing a planned cycle way in the process, it seems that the LNP have lost the plot when it comes to sustainable transport planning. This isn't the 1960s Campbell!

Is this Campbell Newman's vision for the Centenary Highway?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Go card for visitors (SEEQ Card) - another TransLink fail!

So do you walk from Helensvale to Movieword?
Major post update on 05/11/2012

Last week, TransLink finally introduced a "go card for visitors" with a visitor guide. Then this week, TransLink confusingly released the SEEQ card, which BrizCommuter can only assume is the same product? As is to be expected from SE Queensland's incompetent transit authority, the result is so half-baked they may as well have not bothered. So, what is wrong with the go card for visitors / SEEQ card?:

Firstly, the price is ridiculous. A 3 day card costs a whopping $79, and a 5 day card costs an extortionate $129. Now this does include Airtrain, and discounts at many attractions (although you can get better discounts on the back of supermarket receipts and on the internet). Even removing the cost of Airtrain, still results in the card costing approximately $16-20 per day, which is far more than the average visitor is likely to spend on public transport. In comparison, in Melbourne using the excellent Myki card, the maximum daily all zones travel is capped at $11.08 on weekdays, and is just $3.30 at weekends. In Paris, the Paris Visite card (which also include access to/from airports and outer zones) is $22 cheaper than the SEEQ card for the 3 day product, and $60 cheaper than the SEEQ card for the 5 day product! It is quite obvious that TransLink see tourists as cash cows, rather than actually trying to encourage public transport use. Maybe TransLink's slogan should be changed to TransLink - promoting car hire use since 2012!

The go card for visitors also suffers from very poor Visitor Guides. In particularly the "Top things to see and do with go card" sections have the following issues:
  1. A poor design - is Mt Coot-tha Lookout really located on Queen Street? 
  2. Misleading information - forgets to mention laughable 75 minute Sunday frequency of the 471 to Mt Coot-tha, fails to mention the lack of weekend free City Loop bus, and even claims that "trains run regularly between Nambour and Brisbane City".
  3. Fails to mention how to get to major SE Queensland tourist attractions such as Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Australia Zoo, various Gold Coast theme parks, and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. 
  4. Incorrect information - shows Fortitude Valley Train Station by its old name Brunswick Street Train Station, and states "from Pacific Fair bus interchange catch a 702 to Burleigh Heads when the 702 does not serve Pacific Fair (see screen shots below).
Visitor Guide

Try again TransLink!

Visitor guides:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

TransLink Tracker 2011/12 Q4

After a bit of negative publicity, the Queensland Government and TransLink have finally released the extremely belated TransLink Tracker for 2011/12 Q4 (April to June 2012). Here is BrizCommuter's review:

Page 4/5 - As expected with the world's 3rd highest public transport fares, patronage has generally declined. Overall patronage for Q4 has declined by 1.08%. Q4 bus patronage has fallen by approx. 3%. Q4 train patronage however has increased by 1.7%, which is still below population growth. BrizCommuter would be interested to know if this a response to the improved peak services on the Caboolture and Ipswich Line from June 2011? Q4 Ferry Patronage has increased by 29%, but last years figures were a flood affected anomaly.

Page 5 - Again, due to the failed ALP policy of 15% fare rises driving public transport users back to using cars, the subsidy per trip has increased from $6.57 per trip to $6.72. It will be interesting to see if the "9 journeys then free" policy increases the subsidy even more in the next TransLink tracker (2012/13 Q1). It is time for a complete review of the fare structure to stop the rot.

Page 6 - Queensland Rail failed to meet reliability targets of 93.77%, with an on-time running statistic of 92.39%. Bus reliability figures continue to be inaccurate due to a laughable methodology. The totally unrealistic bus on-time running figure was 96.06%. Note: April Fools Day was indeed in Q4!

Page 7 - Customer complaints increased since the previous Q4. This is despite complaining to TransLink being a futile process. For example, BrizCommuter sent a text from TransLink to call back a customer service officer, but the number provided to call (TransLink call centre) couldn't be transferred to said person. Thus a message had to be left with the customer service officer by the call centre,  to give BrizCommuter a call back, which was never received. Are TransLink taking the piss?

Page 8 - The percentage of trips using the go card trip increased marginally to 83%. Thus 17% of public transport users are still paying for hyper-inflated paper tickets. TransLink need to kill off paper tickets, which has already been achieved in Melbourne.

Page 9 - go card fixed fares have reduced significantly in the last year, but are still at an unacceptable level of 2.1% - that's more than 1 in 50 trips resulting in a $5 or $10 fixed fare! Fixed fare adjustments are at only 0.11% of journeys. This discrepancy is very concerning, meaning that a considerable number of fixed fares are not being claimed or refunded.

Page 13 - Part of the Customer Satisfaction section (please leave a comment if you have ever actually taken part in one of these surveys) is the now infamous "Affordability" statistic. This is now hovering around the 50% mark, which BrizCommuter thinks is quite generous.

Page 15 - There was an increase in train service km of 7.5% in the last year, attributed to the improved peak services on the Ipswich and Caboolture Line from June 2011.  Bus service km improved by 5.8%, attributed to more high frequency routes. However, these service improvements still lag behind what would be expected from a 15% fare increase.

The 2011/12 tracker is available here:

Now, where is the 2012/13 TransLink Network Plan?

Monday, October 22, 2012

More spin & delusion from TransLink and the Queensland Government

Too expensive and infrequent
It appears that in Queensland we have gone from an ALP anti-public transport government to an LNP anti-public transport government.

In the recent TransLink annual report and "Focus on affordability" case study, there is the following gem of delusion from the Queensland Government and their spin merchants TransLink:

"Next years fare increase will be slashed by half with a 7.5 per cent fare increase to be rolled out each year for the next two years. This reduction in the annual fare increase will provide fare relief for our customers and supports the Queensland Government's commitment to provide more affordable public transport options."

Do the LNP Government and TransLink really think that customers will believe that two more 7.5% fare increases will provide fare relief and make public transport more affordable? Two more 7.5% fare increase, are 7 times the CPI, and will only make public transport even more affordable and unattractive. Whilst the ALP have created a very big hole for the LNP to dig their way out of with their failed fare policy, an entire fare structure review is required instead of fare box revenue leaking 9 journey cap. A casual observer could easily think that consecutive governments have purposefully tried/are trying to deter public transport use, to avoid having to spend more money on infrastructure.

To add to the farce, the TransLink Tracker has gone missing in action yet again. This quarterly publication is published later and later after the end of each quarter. At the time of writing it is more than 3.5 months after the end Q4 2011/12 and the Tracker for this quarter is still yet to make an appearance. This is despite the following spin on TransLink's website:

"As part of our commitment to being an open and transparent organisation..."

As well as the increasingly late TransLink Tracker, there still has not been an update from TransLink regarding the following statement that resided on TransLink's website in late 2010/early 2011 concerning the "Queensland Rail timetable changes":

"Stage two of the timetable, planned for late 2011, will improve services on all other lines"

It is now late 2012, and commuters are still awaiting for further information on these timetables. Open and Transparent? You must be joking!

Finally, to top it all off, it has been reported in this Courier Mail article that QR and TransLink bosses will receive a total of $12.7m in bonuses. These KPI based bonus are despite SE Queensland having one of the world's most unaffordable and infrequent public transport systems. It should be noted that $12.7m could pay for a 7 day of the week 15 minute off-peak frequency on the Cleveland Line to Manly.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How Auck-ward for Brisbane!

New trains for Auckland
Auckland is New Zealand's largest city and with a population of 1.5m, is less populous than Brisbane's 2.15m population (note: SE Queensland urban conurbation is 3m).

Auckland is well known for currently having the worst train system in Oceania, although Adelaide, Brisbane, and Wellington give it a run for it's money. However, this is all about to change. The electrification of Auckland's rail system is now underway, and the plans (for 2015/16) are impressive. The 3 main rail lines (Southern, Eastern, and Western) will be served by trains every 10 minutes on weekday daytime off-peak, every 15 minutes on weekday evenings, every 10-15 minutes on weekend daytime, and every 15-30 minutes on weekend evenings. Frequencies will be higher at stations served by multiple lines. The short 2 station Onehunga Line will have frequencies between 20-60 minutes, and the outer suburban un-electrified Pukekohe line will be served every 30-60 minutes.

Back in Brisbane, there have been no plans announced for further roll out of 15 minute service frequencies. The only line (Ferny Grove) with a 4tph service is limited to higher frequencies between 9am-3am on weekdays. Without significant improvements by 2016, Brisbane is likely have a vastly inferior train service to it's lesser populated neighbour across "the ditch". How Auck-ward!  (Sorry, abysmal pun). Sadly, from 2013 even Adelaide will have a high frequency off-peak train service at more stations than Brisbane.

It is not just Auckland's train system that is being improved. There are plans to significantly improve the bus network as well with an extensive high frequency network. The map is downloadable here.
In the mean time, Brisbane is undergoing a bus network review, but BrizCommuter has little faith that anything more than a half-baked money saving network review will be performed. So by 2016, Auckland may also have a more extensive high frequency bus network than Brisbane as well a more frequent train network.

It is time for Brisbane's car obsessed politicians to start playing public transport catch up if they don't want Brisbane's liveability to further wane, and for road congestion and road trauma to increase yet further. It is possible that Brisbane's over-priced and infrequent public transport system may well be damaging SE Queensland's attractiveness to both businesses and tourists.

A few other related posts from other bloggers:
The Urbanist
Transport Blog NZ
Human Transit

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

BrizCommuter becomes MelbCommuter

Melbourne - what no fence?
Last week, BrizCommuter was lucky enough to be working in Melbourne, a city with a considerably better train service than Brisbane! BrizCommuter made more than 20 train journeys. Below is BrizCommuter's review of Melbourne's train system, currently operated by Metro Trains Melbourne.

Fares and Ticketing

BrizCommuter ordered his Myki card (Melbourne's public transport smart card) online, and unlike ordering the go card online, BrizCommuter was able to choose the amount of funds that were pre-loaded. The Myki card arrived in the post with no problems. It should be noted that use of Myki is now mandatory, with paper ticketing options (metcard) having recently been withdrawn. TransLink should follow suit in Brisbane!

Fares are lower than lower than Brisbane, and are capped at a sensible daily rate of $6.56 (for zone 1 which covers approx. 15-20km from the CBD). At the weekends, the cap is even cheaper at $3.30, making weekend travel much more attractive than using a car! As with Brisbane, Myki can be used on multiple transport modes, which in Melbourne is trains, buses, and trams.

BrizCommuter came across quite a few faulty readers at train stations, however in all cases it was obvious that the touch on or off had failed to work. BrizCommuter didn't get any fixed fares during his stay. Whilst the display on the Myki readers is far more readable than Brisbane's go card readers, the balance display was often a little too quick for BrizCommuter's linking. The luminous yellow readers are also much harder to miss than the metallic grey go card readers.

Frequency and Reliability

BrizCommuter was impressed by the frequency. A trip out on the Packenham/Cranbourne Line saw daytime off-peak frequencies of every 15 minutes, and counter peak frequencies of every 10 minutes on the journey back. A late evening Sunday journey on the Sandringham Line still saw trains running every 20 minutes.

Reliability was somewhat concerning with many peak services by often running 10 minutes late by 6pm, with some cancellations observed. A few cancellations were even observed on weekends. Announcements about the delays varied between none existent to poor. There was even one announcement of a train running 7 minutes late, and it turned up only 1 minute late!

Other observations

Anyone familier with Melbourne's train network will know about The Loop. This 4 tunnel system allow trains from 4 groups of lines to run on their own track around the CBD and back out to the line group where the train originated. It was very good political thinking and design at the time, and made the north and east side of Melbourne's CBD more accessible. However, The Loop is run in very confusing manner, and it seemed that even many locals are confused! Each loop often runs in a different direction in the morning, than it does in the evening. It can also be run in a different direction on weekends. To add to the confusion, some train lines do not use the loop on weekdays, but use the loop on weekends. This makes interchanging, between east and west lines (and vice versa) a guessing game, and on one occasion BrizCommuter ended up having to travel around the loop twice! Departure times from CBD stations are also inconsistent between the time of day and weekday/weekend. BrizCommuter would like to see loop services operated in a more consistent manner, although whether Melbourne commuters would agree may be a different matter. Below, is a link to a "navigating the City Loop" guide from Melbourne's Public Transport Users Association (link opens in new window):

BrizCommuter didn't see any issues with lack of guards. In fact stations dwell times seemed faster than in Brisbane and Sydney, and timetables are less padded. Most platforms are level with the train floor although some gaps are quite large. There are lots of roaming security late at night, and BrizCommuter never felt unsafe. Queensland Rail's continued use of guards seems to defy logic in this age of increased operating efficiencies for passenger rail systems.

It is also interesting to note that in many locations in Melbourne's suburbia, there are no fences surrounding the railway line. Just grass and a few trees to stop people walking on the tracks.


Melbourne has one of the world's best suburban rail systems outside of Europe, and is one of reasons why Melbourne always rates highly in "liveability" comparisons. With frequent peak and off-peak services, and reasonable fares, it is not surprising that trains are reasonably busy at any time of the day or night. 10 minute off-peak frequency is being increasingly rolled out around the network. Brisbane needs to urgently learn from this! On the down side, reliability needs to be improved, and services using the The Loop may need to be more consistent.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Merivale Bridge at capacity? Myth or not?

Merivale Bridge - at capacity?
In a desperate bid to avert the blame on the Ferny Grove Line's laughable peak timetable, state Transport and Main Roads Minister Mr Emerson recently came out with the following statement:

"Ironically off-peak trains will now be better than some peak frequency on the Ferny Grove line due to poor planning by four former Labor Transport Ministers, who ignored the looming capacity crisis at the Merivale Bridge, first raised by former Premier Beattie in 2005."

BrizCommuter has taken a look to see if the Merivale Bridge really is preventing an improved peak service on the Ferny Grove Line, and the other rail lines that utilise it - Cleveland, Beenleigh, Gold Coast, Doomben, Airport, and Shorncliffe Lines.

For starters, the capacity issue is not the Merivale Bridge itself, but capacity along the core section between Park Road and Bowen Hills. Capacity issues include at grade junctions at Park Road and Roma Street, and station dwell times, notably at Bowen Hills where crew change over between shifts (more on this in a future blog post). Single track sections on the Cleveland, Gold Coast, and Shorncliffe Line, as well as a lack of overtaking opportunities on the Beenleigh/Coast Coast Line complicate scheduling further.

So how much spare track capacity is still available in the peaks? BrizCommuter is assuming that the track capacity is 20 trains per hour (tph), although some studies such as the Inner City Rail Capacity Study (2008) mention that 23-25tph may be possible. The figures quoted are the busiest hour in terms of number of tph in the peak period.

AM peak inbound from Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and Cleveland Lines
19tph scheduled.
Verdict = Near capacity. Capacity improvements urgent!

AM peak inbound from Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, and Doomben Lines
15tph scheduled.
Verdict = 33% more track capacity available.

PM peak outbound to Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and Cleveland Lines
16tph scheduled.
Verdict = 25% more track capacity available.

PM peak outbound to Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, and Doomben Lines
16tph scheduled
Verdict = 25% more track capacity available.

So aside from northbound services in the am peak (which is the initial need for Cross River Rail), there is at least 25% more track capacity available. Merivale Bridge capacity is thus not the limiting factor to improving the Ferny Grove Line's peak service. So at 6 months after the duplication opened, why has nothing been done? Political reasons may including funding, and election timing. Lack of trains may be a problem, and won't be solved for a few years. The stage 2 timetables may also be awaiting the Sandgate upgrade, which will allow an increase in Shorncliffe Line capacity. But why can't Brisbane follow Melbourne's example and introduce incremental timetable improvements with every infrastructure upgrade, instead of waiting for the next problem to be fixed? It is known that TransLink have (at long last) engaged QR to finally start working on the stage 2 timetables, but it is concerning there is no mention of new timetables in 2012/13 plans in QR and TransLink's recently published annual reports.

To conclude:
  1. The Merivale Bridge is currently only a limiting factor to am peak inbound trains from the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and Cleveland Lines. 
  2. Commuters expect significant service improvements at the same time that new infrastructure opens. 
  3. The Queensland Government, TransLink, and QR need to be more honest and open about when we will be seeing peak timetable improvements. Commuters are fed up with spin, lies, and secrecy!

As additional reading the post-election "independent" review of Cross River Rail and inner city rail capacity has at last been made available publicly:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fare petitions, empty road tunnels, and more TransLink incompetence

Last updated 05/10/2012 13:50pm.

This weeks blog post contains quite a few short blog items on a fare petition, another under-used road tunnel, and yet more TransLink incompetence.

Fare petition

Brisbane's well known public transport lobby group - Rail Back on Track, have release a petition for an improved public transport fare structure in SE Queensland. The petition is here:
As BrizCommuter has blogged on many an occasion, SE Queensland's fare structure needs a serious rethink. 5-10km fares are the 3rd highest in the world, bizarrely penalising those who live closer to work. The only "weekly" option - the 9 journey then free cap, is easily and legally abused by longer distance commuters. There are a lack of options for tourists, and lack of health card concessions as in other states. Quite frankly it's a mess, and the current LNP government will have quite a job of digging themselves out of the previous ALP government's hole.

Empty road tunnels (again)

Yet another Brisbane toll road tunnel failure is looming. It has been reported in this Courier Mail article that Airport Link averaged 74,567 vehicles per day, miles below the unrealistic expectation of 135,000 cars per day. With tolls being introduced in a few weeks, expect to see patronage to plummet. Interestingly, there are many rail systems that can carry more passengers (past one point) in one hour than Airport Link can currently manage in one day! Yet Brisbane's vital Cross River Rail is still lacking funding, with the latest cut price plans further minimising it's effectiveness.

More TransLink (and QR) incompetence

From the time of this blog post, there are just 2 working days left until the Ferny Grove Line's 15 minute off-peak service is introduced.

Are the new timetables available at Ferny Grove Line train stations?
No. (Update 05/10/2012 - with less than 1 working day to go, the paper timetables are still not available at some Ferny Grove Line stations!)

Are there any advertising posters at Ferny Grove Line trains stations?
No. (Update 04/10/2012 - an A4 size information poster was spotted this morning, but proper advertising is required)

Do TransLink have a dedicated web page?
No, the link from TransLink's home page only details service changes on other lines.

Whilst the journey planner and online timetables have been updated, it is very disappointing that yet again TransLink and QR are miserably failing at informing passengers about service changes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Improving off-peak train services - 5 myths busted

Melbourne - more frequent trains than Brisbane
Despite the forthcoming addition of the "pork-barrelled" 15 minute off-peak services on the Ferny Grove Line, Brisbane's off-peak train service is mainly based around a 30 minute schedule, well behind other Australian cities such as Melbourne, Perth, and to a lesser extent Sydney. There seems to be many myths and excuses as to why off-peak frequencies cannot be improved in SE Queensland. BrizCommuter busts a few of these myths.

Myth 1 - Not enough track capacity through the CBD

There are two tracks in each direction through Brisbane's CBD. Each track can handle approximately 20 trains per hour (tph), that's a train every 3 minutes. An inner-suburban 15 minute off-peak timetable would use 5tph on the main tracks (2tph Ipswich Line to Caboolture Line, 2tph Richlands/Springfield Line to Petrie/Kippa-Ring Line, 1tph CBD to Sunshine Coast Line) leaving 15tph of free train paths between Petrie and Darra for freight services, or future off-peak service improvements to Springfield and Ipswich. On the suburban tracks, 14tph would need to be used (4tph Ferny Grove Line to Beenleigh Line, 4tph Shorncliffe Line to Cleveland Line, 4tph Airport Line to CBD/Gold Coast Line, 2tph Doomben Line), leaving 6tph (18 minutes) of free train paths. Despite 14tph frequency being significantly higher than the current off-peak service, it is still considerably less frequent than some suburban rail systems such as Munich S-Bahn. Of course, plenty of other service scenarios are possible.

Myth 2 - Not enough track capacity outside of the CBD

On the Cleveland Line, 4tph could be run as far as Manly or Lota depending on the timing of track slots through the CBD. Once the Sandgate upgrade is complete in 2013, 4tph is possible to Shorncliffe. 4tph is possible to Airport and has been operated in the past. 4tph to Petrie is inevitable when when the Moreton Bay Rail Link (MBRL) opens in 2016, so is assumed to be possible.

The Beenleigh and Gold Coast Line is a bit more complex. 4tph trains could easily be run to Yeerongpilly, maybe Coopers Plains, but Kuraby would involve slowing down Gold Coast trains by a few minutes with limited operating margin for delays. Interestingly, the Rail Service and Infrastructure Requirements Study (2007) modelled the possibility of 4tph serving all Beenleigh and Gold Coast Line stations using 3 layered service patterns, with a few stations even getting a 6tph service!

Doomben Line cannot manage a 4tph off-peak service, but could just about cope with 3tph. In fact, most of SE Queensland's passenger rail network could cope with a 3tph / 20 minute off-peak service. Unfortunately 20 minute frequencies are far less attractive than 15 minute frequencies which is the absolute minimum for a "turn up and go" timetable.

Myth 3 - Not enough trains

There are far more trains running in the peaks that are required for a 15 minute inner-suburban service. Most of these trains sit idle in sidings during the off-peak. There does need to be more train crew to run these services though - see Myth 5.

Myth 4 - Not enough population

Perth runs 15 minute off-peak services on weekdays and weekends. Perth has a lower population, and population density than Brisbane.

Adelaide is planning on running 15 minute off-peak services on the 36km Seaford Line from 2013, and already runs 15 minute weekday off-peak service to selected stations on the Gawler Line.

Melbourne runs 10-20 minute off-peak services on weekdays and weekends depending on the line. Whilst Melbourne has a larger population than Brisbane, even smaller branch lines still get a good service. For example, the short branch line to Williamstown has a 20 minute off-peak service, the short Alamein shuttle runs every 15-20 minutes off-peak, and the short single track Newport to Laverton shuttle service even runs every 20 minutes off-peak.

Myth 5 - Not enough money

Based on the Ferny Grove 15 minute off-peak service costing an extra $9m per year, BrizCommuter expects that an inner-suburban 15 minute off-peak service to Petrie, Ferny Grove Darra, Manly/Lota, Kuraby would cost around $50m a year, and $70m if extended to weekend daytime. Whilst this seems like a lot of money, in the grand scheme of transport spending, it isn't that much (less than 10% of QR's current budget). It should be remembered that running an extensive 15 minute off-peak service would considerably increase rail patronage, providing increased income from fares. Other benefits may include making Brisbane more-liveable, making Brisbane more popular with tourists and businesses, increased CBD consumer spending, limiting off-peak road congestion, road-trauma, and pollution.

BrizCommuter believes that the above figures could easily be saved by making Queenland Rail more efficient. The most notable efficiency would be removal of guards, and training suitable guards to become drivers instead. Melbourne, and Perth (as well as many other rail systems around the world) do not have guards. There would of course be initial infrastructure costs of platform end mirrors and CCTV required for driver only operation.

Maybe even privatisation of Queensland Rail should be on the cards to push performance? Melbourne's private operator "Metro Trains Melbourne" is in the process of moving from 15-20 minutes off peak to 10 minutes off-peak, with 10 minute off-peak services already running on the entire 43km Frankston Line. 10 minute off-peak services are even run on weekends as far out as Dandenong (31km), and Ringwood (24km). Brisbane is still and long long way behind!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

At last - Ferny Grove gets a 15 min off-peak service!

Ferny Grove Line
Updated 26/09/2012

Brisbane has finally taken a small step towards catching up with the rest of the world with the introduction of the first 15 minute (4tph) off-peak timetable on a single train line in SE Queensland. The only parts of Brisbane previously served by a 15 minute off-peak service was where two lines share the same tracks - out to Northgate, Darra, and Park Road. Ironically, the changes now mean that there isn't a 15 minute service to Northgate anymore on weekday daytimes. The introduction of this $18m 2 year trial service is as a result of an election promise by the LNP government - the Ferny Grove Line serves Campbell Newman's Ashgrove constituency). The service starts on October 8th 2012.

Rather than just running the extra trains between Ferny Grove and Roma Street, QR will be running the services through to Park Road (it is not known if the trains will actually reverse at Park Road). This allows for the following improvements:
  • 100% improved train frequency to Brisbane's CBD (with onward busway and train connections) from all 11 Ferny Grove Line stations.
  • 33% improved train frequency between Park Road and Roma Street (serving South Bank and South Brisbane businesses, parkland, hospitals, etc).
  • 33% improved train frequency to Park Road (for EcoSciences Precinct, plus Eastern Busway connections to UQ and Princess Alexandra Hospital).
Despite this excellent news, there are quite a few points where BrizCommuter has to be critical:
  • The off-peak is only between approx. 9am to 3pm. Monday to Friday. The lack of weekend and evening 15 min off-peak services is very disappointing, and significantly reduces the effectiveness of this initiative. 
  • There are multiple peak period service gaps of 20 minutes or longer on the Ferny Grove Line. In fact after the new 3:18pm outbound service, the following two gaps are of 20 minutes! For many commuters the unmodified peak service will be worse than the off-peak service, which rather defeats the purpose of the $100m+ Ferny Grove Line duplication!! 
  • The 60 minute service gaps on Sunday mornings still exist.  
  • The 60 minute Mon-Thu late night gap (between ex-Central 10:33 to 11:33pm) still exists despite the Beenleigh and Shorncliffe Lines getting their late night gaps recently filled. 
  • There are some counter-peak (outbound in am peak, and inbound in pm peak) service gaps in excess of 30 minutes. 
  • It appears that the 15 minute service to Northgate will be turned into an unimpressive alternating 22 and 8 minute frequency during weekday daytimes- very bad news for users of stations between Albion and Northgate. Shorncliffe Line and Doomben Line users need to be aware of timing changes to their services, which in the case of the Shorncliffe Line are now confusingly inconsistent between weekday daytime and other off-peak times. 
The 15 minute daytime off-peak service on the Ferny Grove Line is welcomed by BrizCommuter. However, this initiative is completely half-baked until a 15 minute off-peak service covers weekends,  evenings, and most connecting lines (in particular the Airport Line). Lets hope that these significant limitations to patronage growth do not provide an excuse for the government to brand this 15 min off-peak service trial as a failure.

The new Ferny Grove Line timetable is below:
Information on service alterations on the Shorncliffe, Doomben, and Beenleigh Lines is available at the below link:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Will the autonomous car replace public transport?

One year ago, BrizCommuter wrote a blog post on personal rapid transit (PRT) pods, the link is below:
These pods allow on-demand public transport journeys, and carry between 1 and 6 passengers. Unfortunately they have have a major flaw - they require their own specially constructed guideway. Due to this flaw, there aren't an awful lot of PRT systems around the world, and most proposals have not progressed to construction. In the last few years, an alternative to PRT has increasingly been in the news - the autonomous car.  A driverless autonomous car received it's first licence in the US state of Nevada in March 2012. Many companies including Google, General Motors, and BMW, as well an quite a few universities are developing and experimenting with autonomous cars. The wikipedia articles for the Google developed driverless car, and autonomous cars in general are below:

If the development of autonomous cars can get through the many safety and legislative hurdles, what does this mean for public transport in the future? Public transport has well known issues in areas of low population density, and at times of low demand. This can increase car reliance, and as most SE Queenslanders will know from the recent news, many a death has been related to elderly drivers continuing to drive beyond when they are capable. A driverless car may allow those who do not want to drive, or cannot drive (too young, too old, drunk, medical conditions), an on-demand, to almost anywhere form of transport. Frequent car users will be able to purchase their own autonomous car instead of a manual car, whilst less frequent car users may be able to hire them on demand like a taxi (minus the taxi driver!). Other advantages may include reducing parking issues, as the car can drop off the passenger at their place of work and then park outside of the CBD. The cars may also be able to drop the passengers off at a train station or airport, and then travel back home. Car sharing opportunities may also be increased. 

With many advantages, will the driverless car completely replace public transport? Autonomous cars will not solve urban traffic congestion, and if they attract passengers away from public transport they may even make traffic congestion worse. They also rely on the gross inefficiency of cars due to low number of passengers per vehicle, thus having a considerably higher energy to passenger ratio than public transport. Public transport will still continue to be more environmentally friendly than autonomous cars.

An (almost) autonomous train
To conclude, there is most definitely a future for autonomous cars, although the time frame is speculated as being anything from 8 to 44 years away. They may provide transport options to places that public transport finds difficult to reach, and certainly put taxi drivers out of a job. However, due to the having the same inefficiencies as cars, there will still be a place for public transport, which of course will also be autonomous in the future. Interestingly, it should be noted that there have been driverless and unattended "autonomous" trains since the early 1980s!

Monday, September 10, 2012

SEQ Bus Network Review - Public Consultation Fail

The SEQ Bus Network Review is now in the first stage of public consultation, having just finished bus operator consultation. A survey to complete is on TransLink's website (until Sept 23rd) - link below:

There is little question that SE Queensland, and in particular Brisbane requires a total re-design of it's bus network. Reasons and potential solutions include (in no particular order):
  • Multiple legacy bus routes, including some dating back to tramway abolition in the 1960s - total review of bus routes. 
  • CBD bus stop confusion - aggregate CBD stop locations for each transport corridor.
  • Limited SE Busway vehicle capacity (particularly through Cultural Centre) - move to trunk and feeder network design.
  • Overcrowding - concentrate improvements to where demand outstrips supply and there is considerable latent demand.
  • Low patronage routes - one for the transport experts, as decent population coverage is still required. Consider using more fuel efficient mini/midi-buses. 
  • Brisbane Transport (owned by Brisbane City Council) inefficiency - privatise Brisbane Transport?

BrizCommuter has serious concerns that instead of the required total bus network re-design, we may just see a half-baked and short-sighted review of bus routes. Reasons for this thinking include:
  • Lack of funding and resources for large change processes at TransLink after job slashing by the LNP government.
  • Lack of decent train frequency (due to poor infrastructure, lack of funding, QR inefficiency and operational laziness) to allow rail network to act as part of the trunk network. 
  • High fares that are making public transport extremely unattractive are not being taken into account as one of the causes of low patronage. 
  • Lack of consultation with non and ex-public transport users.
  • Poor consultation with existing bus users - see below.

So how does the survey fare? Sadly, as to be expected from TransLink, it is an epic fail. The survey only asks about "your most used bus route" instead of all buses used. Most questions provide information that TransLink can obtain from go-card data anyway. Whilst there is a free text box at the end for comments, the survey is next to useless to allow TransLink to learn about how and why people use or don't use particular bus routes. Questions on the acceptability of bus route frequency, service hours, journey time, and alternative transport modes are completely missing. It appears to be a very shoddy attempt at making it look like TransLink are consulting public transport users. BrizCommuter is very concerned about where this review is heading!

For anyone who wants further reading on how to re-design a bus network by an expert - the blog linked below is an interesting read:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Brisbane public transport - popular when free!

CityHopper Ferry
A few weeks ago, the slow and full fare CityFerry services were re-branded to CityHopper and made free by Brisbane City Council after a council election promise. According to this BrisbaneTimes article, the patronage has increased by more than double since the re-branding. This is of course absolutely no surprise to BrizCommuter. It shows that there is considerable latent demand for public transport in Brisbane. Unfortunately this demand is being suppressed by the fares being the third highest in the world. The new LNP governments plan of a 7% fare rise in January 2013 will continue to make public transport increasingly unaffordable and unattractive. Until the Queensland government realises that making public transport attractive to use is the key to reducing road congestion, then BrizCommuter doubts that we will see any effort to make Brisbane's public transport more affordable. Even politicians in car centric Los Angeles, and many developing countries have finally worked this out!

The free CityHopper ferry also introduces the game of "free trip lotto" where it shares it route with the Eagle Street to Thornton Street and Holman Street cross river ferry service. 2 out of 3 journeys are run by the full fare Cross River Ferry, and 1 out of 3 journeys are run by the free half-hourly CityHopper ferry. Thus passengers have a 1 in 3 chance of scoring a free journey. BrizCommuter would be interested to see if locals and those in the know are using the free ferry services more than the full fare ferry services!

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Bus Technology

BrizCommuter has been in self imposed exile for 12 days, trying to lower his blood pressure from TransLink's incompetence, multiple fixed fares due to faulty go card readers, and the Inner Northern Busway still experiencing full buses. As part of his therapy, BrizCommuter has written this blog post looking at new bus technology that the rest of world is experiencing.

Capacitor Buses

Capacitor buses have been primarily developed in the USA and China, the latter country having many cities with very frequent (and overcrowded) bus routes. These electric powered buses charge supercapacitors (AKA ultracapacitors) using an overhead collection system at bus stops. The capacitors can charge very quickly (in minutes), but unfortunately they also discharge very quickly. This currently limits range per charge to a few kilometres. However, longer range versions (30km+) are being developed. Claims have been made from manufacturers of 90% fuel savings compared to diesel buses, as well as being 40% cheaper than lithium ion battery powered buses. Power supply infrastructure has to be installed at charging points. Future developments may include inductive charging, with the charging device under the road instead of above the bus.  A YouTube video showing a partial charge is shown below.

Hybrid Buses

With the Toyota Prius being a popular choice for taxis, it is surprising that hybrid buses are not more widespread. The high purchase cost may be a factor. Supercapacitor technology may also make inroads into hybrid buses, with more efficient energy storage from braking to be re-used in acceleration.

Plug-in Electric Buses

There are now a few commercially available buses that charge lithium ion batteries which can power the bus for more than 100km. One of these is the 13 seat Oreos 2X, and 25 seat Oreos 4X from French company Power Vehicle Innovation. Another example is the 8.9m long Urbino Electric from Polish company Solaris. Plug-in electric buses typically require approximately 4 hours per charge, making them potentially unsuitable for all day long use.

Adelaide even has a solar powered electric bus called Tindo. However, the solar panels are placed on the bus station, rather than on the bus, requiring the bus to be charged. Unless solar panel technology can make huge efficiency improvements, then solar powered buses are unlikely to become commonplace.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Buses

Multiple manufacturers have built more than 100 (in total) hydrogen fuel cell buses for cities around the world, mainly for testing purposes. Hydrogen fuel cells are considerably more energy efficient that internal combustion engines on diesel and gas powered buses. They require hydrogen filling stations, and store the hydrogen in tanks (usually on the roof). Given the CNG bus explosions in Brisbane and Korea, BrizCommuter is a little bit concerned about having hydrogen tanks on top of a bus! As with many other "green" technologies, the overall cost of ownership is currently relatively high. Perth trialled three hydrogen fuel cell buses, the hydrogen being created as a by-product from an oil refinery.

The reality

Apparently a retrofit fast charging electric bus (? technology) which can charge in just 10 minutes is currently being developed for SE Queensland by Varley Electric Vehicles in Virginia, QLD. However the current status of this bus is unknown. Whilst more environmentally friendly than Brisbane's current buses, many of the above technologies may suffer from a higher total cost of ownership. Given the current irresponsible "slash and burn" LNP government, BrizCommuter cannot see these new bus technologies in SE Queensland for the foreseeable future until there are clear economical advantages (which may include local manufacturing), and not just environmental advantages. Supercapacitor buses may well be the first to have economical advantages, and this technology is rapidly advancing. Holding off for longer range versions that only require charging at termini may be sensible.

TransLink do need to take a serious look at the latest offerings of smaller and more economical electric (or hybrid) mini and midi-buses for use of routes with low patronage that does not require a full sized bus. These shorter buses may also find it easier to negotiate some of SE Queensland's anti-bus designed housing developments. However, long charge times are currently a limitation for plug-in electric versions. Holding off for faster charging versions may be sensible.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TransLink Ekka Rip-Off

TransLink taking passengers for a ride?
BrizCommuter travelled to the Ekka by train on the Exhibition Wednesday public holiday, using his go card as two zone 1-2 off-peak fares should be cheaper than using the $6 Ekka special return ticket. However, as BrizCommuter touched off at Exhibition Station, he was shocked to be charged a peak fare!

Just to clarify, it was a public holiday in Brisbane. The train service provided was a Saturday service, which is most definitely an off-peak train service. TransLink's own website states that off-peak fares occur on "gazetted public holidays" - link. So why are TransLink charging peak fares to go card users? This is yet another example of TransLink's incompetence, after they laid on bus routes duplicating train lines for this years Ekka.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

London Olympics 2012 vs Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018

Image Source: Wikipedia user Sunil060902
Public transport options to get to/from London 2012's Olympic Stadium evening sessions (tph = trains per hour per direction):

  • London Underground - Jubilee Line - 24tph 
  • London Underground - Central Line - 30tph + 24tph 
  • Docklands Light Railway - Stratford Branch - 12tph
  • Docklands Light Railway - Stratford International Branch - 12tph
  • National Rail - Javelin Trains (pictured right)- 12tph 
  • National Rail - Greater Anglia - 14tph + 14tph
  • National Rail - North London Line - 6tph
Public transport options to get to/from the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Stadium (Carrara)
  • A few buses
Write your own conclusion!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Still un-fare!

Mediocre fare structure
By all accounts, the recent move to the 9 journey cap for go card users has been a huge success, with 75,000 users taking advantage of the free fares after the ninth, and those users averaging 2.2 free trips. The ministerial statement is below:

The downside, is that this may cause yet more farebox revenue leakage, a huge problem when Brisbane already has a whopping 75% public transport subsidy. This farebox leakage due to the 9 journey cap could reach $30m, equivalent to adding 15 minute off-peak services on two more train lines. There is something seriously wrong when the fares are high, the subsidy is high, and the product - the public transport service - is so shoddy. The previous ALP governments failed attempt to reducing subsidy by increasing fares, just turned public transport users back to their cars, thus reducing the fare income. The current LNP government still plan on extortionate 7.5% annual fare hikes which will continue to make public transport less affordable and less attractive.

What can be done to reduce this mess? Firstly, the public transport network needs to be made more efficient. Better use of resources, infrastructure, and staff whilst making public transport use more attractive (higher frequency core bus and train routes). The new LNP government has started on this, but considerably more needs to be done including sorting out Brisbane Transport! Secondly, the fare structure needs to be an attractive alternative to using a car. BrizCommuter suggests using a fare structure similar to that utilised on London Underground (Oyster Card) with single fares, weekly/monthly/yearly zone based passes, and automatic daily zone based capping. The London Underground fare page is here:
  • Replace 9 journey cap with a zone based weekly/monthly/yearly pass equivalent to 9 peak journeys/week for chosen zones - The current 9 journey cap allows the system to be abused by longer distance commuters (notably Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast Line users) who gain at least 1 free long distance journey in a typical working week, or more if they make extra short journeys in their lunch break. A go card based weekly pass would not allow this abuse of the fare system. With this system, occasional single fares outside of the purchased zones are automatically deducted from go card credit as single journey extensions. 
  • Zone based daily journey cap (does not apply to passengers with weekly pass) - Off-peak and peak period zone based caps priced between 3 and 4 single journeys. If the cost of the combined single journeys matches or exceeds the relevant cap, you pay no more. Useful for tourists! 
  • Single journey zone based fares restructured -  currently inner-suburban commuters pay the worlds 3rd highest fares, which is deterring public transport use, whilst outer suburban commuters pay cheaper fares than many major international cities. The fare structure needs to make using public transport more attractive to inner-suburban commuters who have considerably more environmentally sustainable lifestyle choices (i.e. living closer to work) than highly subsidised longer distance commuters.
  • Limit fare rises - enough is enough! Fare rises should be no more than public servant wage increases.