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.