Thursday, January 31, 2013

The accident waiting to happen has happened !

Last updated Saturday 2nd February 2013 12:30pm

At 9:40am on Thursday 31st January 2013, a Queensland Rail (QR) train overran the end of the line at Cleveland station, crashing into the station building (the toilets) and injuring approximately 10 people. BrizCommuter's thoughts go out to those involved and affected by this rare accident on Queensland Rail's passenger system. Shockingly, if someone had been in the mens toilets there could have been a fatality. The cause of the crash is yet to be investigated, with two separate investigations taking place.

Unfortunately, this was "the accident waiting to happen" that has happened. In November 2010 BrizCommuter ran a blog post criticising the design of the Ferny Grove station, which has been reconstructed with a similar design to Cleveland with buildings (toilets again) beyond the end of the track. BrizCommuter also gave feedback against this terminus design as part of Ferny Grove station consultation process. This design of terminus banned in the UK due to obvious safety reasons. Sadly, the crash at Cleveland showed why a terminus station should never be built with buildings immediately beyond the end of the tracks. BrizCommuter is also concerned as to why a modern train arrestor device had not been installed at Cleveland to reduce the impact from potential overruns?

In February 2012 BrizCommuter ran a blog post looking at the lack of Automatic Train Protection (ATP) on SE Queensland's train network, with notes on terminus safety. Automatic Train Protection is useful on terminus approaches as it progressively limits the train speed on approach. If the train exceeds the speed limit, the brakes are automatically applied. Of course, as the cause of this particular crash is currently unknown, it cannot be assumed it would have been prevented by ATP.

BrizCommuter will be very interested in the results of the formal investigations, expected in around 1 and 3 months time. In the mean time, BrizCommuter may avoid using the toilets at Ferny Grove!

Update - Friday 1st February 2013 9:00pm

A SMU 260 series train
It has been reported that the Rail Tram and Bus Union has urged it's members to not drive trains similar to the one involved in the Cleveland crash - IMU 160 and SMU 260 series trains. These trains are only a few years old, and were built in Maryborough.

It has been reported in this Courier Mail article that the driver did not report any issues with the train, despite a passenger describing an erratic train ride at Wellington Point and Ormiston in this Bayside Bulletin article. Given that the transport minister has ruled out mechanical failure and slippages, would the union like to publicly state exactly what their concerns are? Is this just a political game, given the LNPs recent anti-union stance? Has the union also told members to immediately report train traction issues, and drive with caution when they have just occurred? Has the union even commented on the urgent need for ATP (which incidentally would pave the way for guard elimination), and safer terminus designs?

If these trains, which make up around a third of QR's passenger fleet are still out of service on Monday, then expect peak period chaos!

Update - 02/02/2013

An overnight hearing resulted in Fair Work Australia ordering train drivers to end their boycott of the IMU 160 and SMU 260 trains. If this occurs, then hopefully SE Queensland's rail network will return to some state of normality next week after 9 days of various disruptions.

Related blog posts:
Queensland Rail's press release:
Photos at BrisbaneTimes:

Please note that whilst the investigations are underway, comments that are speculative on the cause of the crash will not be published. 

Update - 14/03/2012

A blog post on the ATSB report is available below

Monday, January 28, 2013

2013 Floods - here we go again!

This blog post will be added to as public transport related events change over the next few days, with newest blog posts at the bottom of the page. Last updated Saturday 2nd February 2013 - 12:40pm.

Sunday 27th Jan 2013 - 8:30pm

The high winds and heavy rain have not surprisingly caused massive disruption to public transport, and with the situation changing by the minute making it difficult to provide information to public transport users. However, whilst other transit authorities manage to cope with almost real time information, TransLink are struggling. This can be seen in the below screenshot where TransLink published a web page without finishing a sentence, and completely lacking useful information (e.g suspended between which stations? are buses replacing trains?). Do not travel unless your journey is absolutely necessary tonight!

Screenshot - lacking information

Monday 28th Jan 2013 - 1pm

The high winds and heavy rain have reduced, with Ipswich and Brisbane expected to flood at levels  well below the 2011 levels from later today until Wednesday. TransLink are now providing quite accurate information on train line closures (nearly all train lines are affected in some way), but information on individual bus routes is lacking. This makes using a bus today a case of turn up and hope. All Westside bus routes (in Ipswich) are suspended. BrizCommuter observed a passenger in a wheelchair waiting for a rail replacement bus at Gaythorne this morning. What is the chance of the replacement bus being wheelchair accessible?

BrizCommuter hopes that TransLink can provide accurate information on what services are expected to be running for the Tuesday morning peak period by late afternoon. With flood levels expected to reach 2.6m in Brisbane, most workers (including CBD workers) will be unaffected by the flood. The trains and buses (including busways) were still running in 2011 when water levels were above this level (SE Busway is flooded at Cultural Centre at approx. 3m). Lets hope that common sense prevails and public transport is operated to as much of normal capacity as is safely possible on Tuesday.

Screenshot - oh dear!
Monday 28th January 2013 - 7:30pm

According to a ministerial statement, train services will be impacted severely due to storm damage to many parts of SE Queensland's rail network. Scaffolding has fallen on the tracks just north of Fortitude Valley station damaging track and overhead power. This is unlikely to be cleared until Wednesday at the earliest, and even then only two of the four tracks may be available.

Unfortunately, TransLink have not yet provided information specific to Tuesdays am peak service. Information missing is which parts of the network will be in operation (? same as on Monday), whether operating sections will run to normal or altered timetable, and rail replacement options for closed parts of the network. Whilst the closure of many parts of the rail network is obviously unavoidable, the lack forward planning information from TransLink is unacceptable. With most CBD businesses expected to operate as normal on Tuesday there is likely to be public transport chaos! The buses and debris strewn roads will be taking a lot of strain. It is also likely, that unlike during the last floods when public transport was made free, that TransLink will charge for the highly disrupted service on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It should be noted that the Exhibition Loop is being used to re-route Caboolture Line services around the closed CBD tracks to allow trains to run to Roma Street. This shows that Cross River Rail may be very useful in the future for system redundancy at times of disruption.

Monday 28th January 2013 - 8:00pm

Thankfully, Queensland Rail has provided the information that TransLink have to failed to provide to commuters. The link is on QR's facebook site below:
As stated on the page, please share the above information widely!

Tuesday 29th January 2013 - 6:00am

TransLink did eventually publish QR's disruption information a little bit too late. Info below:
Now, lets brave the replacement bus services...

Tuesday 29th January 2013 - 8:00pm

Well done to Queensland Rail for working hard to re-open one of track pairs through the CBD in time to run a limited pm peak service.

With bus services almost back to normal, buses were taking the strain instead of the train today. BrizCommuter observed by many a full bus (and was himself unable to board a full outbound 333 at Normanby in the am peak). Failed go card readers were all too common. With train services varying between limited to non-existent, bus services full and late, and a semi-functioning go card system it is disappointing that TransLink charged customers to use SE Queensland's public transport system today.

At the time of writing, TransLink are displaying good information on tonights resumed train services (Note: CBD only services will be suspended again for more repairs from 8pm, with buses replacing trains). Info below:
Unfortunately despite it now being mid-evening, TransLink have yet again failed to publish information on tomorrow's (Wednesday) am peak train service. This makes it difficult to plan ahead for the Wednesday morning commute as service frequencies and travel time are a big unknown. Poor show TransLink.

Wednesday 30th January 2013 - 6:25am

The latest updated information on train services is here:
Whilst most lines are now open, track capacity is limited to one track pair through the CBD. This will result in delays and reduced train frequencies as up to 32 trains per hour (tph) try to squeeze down a track that can only handle 20tph. Unfortunately, it is not clear how much the frequencies on each line will be reduced by. It is likely that delays will build as the peak period progresses. BrizCommuter would advise that if you live near an alternative bus route (for example Alderley station is served by the frequent 345 and P343) then consider taking the bus instead!

It appears that again TransLink will charge commuters to use this mediocre train service. At least TransLink have stated that they will automatically correct fixed fares from the last few days due to faulty go card readers. Still, check your go card balance just in case!

Wednesday 30th January 2013 - 4:40pm

QR did a very good job of trying to fit four tracks worth of trains down two tracks in this mornings peak period. BrizCommuter observed trains consistently running through Bowen Hills and Fortitude Valley station at 2min 30sec intervals, equivalent to 24tph. There should be no problems running 20tph in the stage 2 timetables then QR?

Information during the morning commuter was a little bit disappointing. No information from a guard whilst the train was stuck in the inevitable queue of trains outside of Bowen Hills. Passenger information displays at Bowen Hills displayed "no trains from this platform in the next 4 hours" as the default message between trains. BrizCommuter was also not amused to see the closed Tennyson station appear as a stop on a diverted Gold Coast train.

Buses appear to be almost back to normal, with diversions around storm damaged or flooded locations. With fast flowing water likely to be an issue for a week as Wivenhoe Dam's flood storage is emptied, BrizCommuter is not expecting CityCats and other ferries to be operational for a short while. Train services are still suspended between Wellington Point and Cleveland, and the entire Doomben Line. No dates have yet been provided by TransLink as to when these services and full services through the CBD will be resumed. Gympie train services will resume from this evenings service.

Thursday 31st January 2013 - 6:30am

All train services are now back to normal (i.e. random peak timetables, infrequent off-peak services, delays due to cars hitting level crossing barriers and bridges). Please be aware that lifts are unavailable at quite a few stations. These are listed on TransLink's service update webpage:

Bus services are almost back to normal with only a few routes suspended or diverted, mainly in Logan and Ipswich areas due to flood waters.

Ferries are still suspended until further notice. Some sections of the CityCat network have a replacement bus service.

Saturday 2nd February 2013 - 12:40pm

The CityCats and Ferries are now back in service, but with some speed restrictions and a few termini temporarily out of service. Congratulations to Brisbane City Council for fast restoration of the river services.

General flood recovery information from TransLink:
Photo of storm damage at Fortitude Valley:
2013 Red Cross flood appeal:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Car vs Train in SE Queensland

In this blog post BrizCommuter takes a look at the cost of travelling by car, compared to by train.

Car costs are based on the following article from RACQ (from 2012):
The chosen car in the comparison is a small sized Mazda 3 Neo (the best selling car model in Australia in 2012). Most other cars have overall running costs (for an average of 15,000km/yr) within +/- 25% of this figure, with smaller cars obviously at the lower end and larger fuel guzzling cars at the higher end. The RACQ figures are based on buying a car new, and running it for 5 years. For the purposes of this comparison, the car running costs are $0.21/km, with fixed costs of $12.88/journey.

For distances, we will look at journeys of 7km (inner-suburb to CBD), 20km (outer-suburbs to CBD), 40km (approx. Beenleigh, Cleveland, Ipswich, Caboolture to CBD), and 90km (approx. Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast to CBD). For a car, this is 2,961km/yr, 8,460km/yr, 16,920km/yr, and 38,070km/yr respectively.

For costs, we will look at the cost per journey. Based on an average of 9 trips per week (9 day fortnight), over 47 working weeks - that's 423 journeys! Trains fares are peak period 2013 TransLink fares. Car costs are shown as being inclusive of fixed and running costs, as well as running cost on;y figures to represent cases when cars are required for other purposes anyway (e.g shopping, picking up kids, leisure).

Train - $3.85
Car - $14.35
Car (Running costs only) - $1.47

Train - $5.13
Car - $17.08
Car (Running costs only) - $4.20

Train - $7.12
Car - $21.28
Car (Running costs only) - $8.40

Train - $12.81
Car - $31.78
Car (Running costs only) - $18.90

The results show that if you purchases and use a car only for commuting, then the costs are significantly higher than using public transport. Even a small car, bought second hand may still be more expensive than using public transport. Thus it can be concluded that buying a second family car solely for the purposes of commuting may not be cost effective compared to using public transport - until you throw in the time factor.

If you require a car for purposes other than commuting (as it is very difficult to be completely car free in a road-centric city as Brisbane) and only look at running costs, then it is cheaper to use the car for 7km and 20km commutes than it is to use public transport. As distance increases, TransLink's fare structure vs running costs results in the car being more expensive. Thus using a primary family car for commuting is cheaper than using public transport for medium to short distance commutes.


Parking will add to the cost of using a car. So if you don't have to pay for parking (and many businesses provide parking for free), then the cases above where driving is cheaper than using public transport still stands. For short trips, it may even still be cheaper to drive if parking is only a few dollars (short stay on meter).

Public transport - infrequent at times!

Time is very important in todays society, but can be difficult to cost. Due to heavy road investment in SE Queensland, it is usually faster to drive than to use public transport, even in the peak period - this is the opposite to many congested cities! When you add in waiting times for public transport, the cost of time really starts to add up. For example Newmarket and Coorparoo are approx. 7km from the CBD by rail, yet have peak service gaps of up to 23 minutes! You could drive the entire distance by car in the time that you could wait for a train. If you live near an infrequent train or bus route, then the time factor may significantly increase the cost effectiveness to use a second car for commuting.


It could be concluded that TransLink need to lower their fares for shorter distance journeys to make public transport more competitive than using a car based on running costs only. Also, when you throw in time wasted waiting for public transport in the mix, there is little question that stations closer to the CBD need a more frequent train service than at present where 20min+ peak service gaps are not uncommon due to lousy timetabling.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Get Smart - smart card daily and weekly options

Queensland Rail - too expensive!
In the 2013 World Fare Comparison, it was obvious that TransLink's go card fare structure is in need of improvement. It is likely that the flawed go card project failed to purchase the functionality modules for more advanced fare structures such as zone based capping, leaving SE Queensland commuters with no daily capping (unless you are a senior), and weekly capping after 9 single journeys irrespective of zones used (which can be rorted by longer distance commuters).

In this blog post BrizCommuter takes a look at what daily, weekly, and monthly capping options are available with a selection of other smart card systems. For each smart card electronic ticketing option, it is mentioned how many zones are used, transport modes the ticket is valid on, whether the ticket is automatic "capped" or manually "pre-loaded", as well as single trip equivalence.

London - Oyster Card (9 zones tube/1 zone bus)

Off peak cap - all modes - capped - equivalent to 3.3 off-peak singles (zone 1-2)
Peak cap - all modes - capped - equivalent to 3 peak singles (zones 1-2)
Daily cap - bus only - capped - equivalent to 3.1 singles
Weekly travelcard - all modes - pre-loaded - equivalent to 10.9 peak tube singles (zone 1-2)
Monthly travelcard - all modes - pre-loaded 41.7 peak tube singles (zone 1-2)
Yearly, and bus only periodicals also available. "Pay as you go" credit can be used if you travel outside of zones specified in pre-loaded tickets.

Oslo - Travelcard (3 zones)

24 hour ticket - all modes - pre-loaded - equivalent to 2.8 singles (zone 1)
7 day ticket - all modes - pre-loaded - equivalent to 8.2 singles (zone 1)
30 day ticket - all modes - pre-loaded with auto renewal - equivalent to 23 singles (zone 1)
Yearly option also available. "Pay as you go" credit can be used if you travel outside of zones specified in pre-loaded tickets. No capping options. 

Melbourne - Myki (2 zones)

Daily - all modes - capped - equivalent to 2 singles
Weekend daily - all modes & zones - capped - equivalent to 1 zone 1 single!
7 day pass - all modes - pre-loaded - equivalent to 10 singles
28-365 day pass - all modes - pre-loaded - equivalent to 1.22 singles/day
"Pay as you go" credit can be used of you travel outside of zones specified in pre-loaded tickets.

Perth - SmartRider (9 zones singles, 1 zone daily)

DayRider - all modes & zones - capped - equivalent to 7.7 (2 section) to 1.3 (zone 9) singles post 9am
No weekly, monthly, or pre-loaded options. Single fares relatively low priced.

Stockholm - SL Access (3 zones singles, 1 zone periodicals) 

24 hour - all modes & zones - pre-loaded - equivalent to 4.6 (1 zone) to 2.3 (3 zone) singles
72 hour - all modes & zones - pre-loaded - equivalent to 9.2 (1 zone) to 4.6 (3 zone) singles
7 days - all modes & zones - pre-loaded - equivalent to 12 (1 zone) to 6 (3 zone) singles
No capping options. 24 and 72 hour tickets are hour, not day based. 

Auckland - AT Hop (8 zones for singles, 3 zones for monthly)

Monthly - train, and bus in CBD - pre-loaded - Zone A equivalent to 75 (1 stage) to 23.8 (4 stage) singles, Zone B equivalent to 37.7 (4 stage) to 23.8 (7 stage) singles.
No capping options. No smart card daily or weekly options (yet to be introduced). 

The above information sheds some interesting light on these smart card fare systems:
  • Fare zone consolidation - Perth (daily) and Stockholm (24 hour, 72 hour, and 7 day) consolidate all single fare zones into one when it comes to periodicals. Auckland consolidates 8 fare zones into 3 for monthly tickets. This simplifies the fare system (and smart card application engine), but is somewhat biased in savings which favour longer distance commuters.
  • Single equivalence - the equivalence to single journeys is quite variable due to fare zone consolidation and peak/off-peak status. For daily/24 hour tickets the cost generally varies between 2 to 4.6 singles (and between 1.3 to 7.7 singles in Perth after 9am). For weekly tickets the cost varies between 6 to 12 singles (both extremes in Stockholm). For monthly tickets the cost varies between 23 to 75 (both extremes in Auckland).
  • Pre-loaded vs capped - for daily tickets there is a mix of pre-loaded and capped options in the sampled cities. For weekly and monthly options, all are pre-loaded. Oslo has 30 day tickets that automatically renew, in a similar fashion to auto top-up which is available as an option in most cities. Are half-decent methods of weekly and monthly capping too complicated? (Note: Brisbane's flawed method of weekly capping!) Or do passengers and transit authorities prefer the predictable but resource intensive method of pre-loading?
So which city has the best smart card system? There is no definitive answer, and the following is based on BrizCommuter's opinion. BrizCommuter has previously lived in London, and has since visited as a tourist. As a commuter BrizCommuter liked the predictable nature of pre-loaded weekly tickets, and as a tourist likes the ease of the daily capping. BrizCommuter also likes Melbourne's system, with well priced daily capping at 2 single equivalence (for zones used), a pre-loaded weekly (10 single equivalence), 28-365 day periodical options, and the very cheap weekend fare at 1 single equivalence. Unfortunately Melbourne's fare structure cannot be directly transferable to Brisbane, due to lack of off-peak/peak differentiation and SE Queensland having considerably more zones than Melbourne. Perth lacks weekly options, and the daily capping is poor value for money for short distance users. However the relatively low single fares in Perth mean that it is more difficult to rack up high fares for multiple use in a week, than it is in Brisbane. 

What should be used in Brisbane? The go card's method of capping after a set number of journeys irrespective of zones travelled or peak/off-peak status is flawed. Thus for any decent fare structure (capping based on zones used), more functionality will need to be purchased by a state government that is currently rather spending phobic - so BrizCommuter is pessimistic about seeing improvements anytime soon. Even then, weekly zone based capping may be too complicated as it doesn't appear to be used elsewhere. If single fares (lowered to be equivalent to peer cities), daily (maybe capped at 2 most expensive fares/day), and weekend fares (capped at most expensive fare/day) are fairly priced, then maybe weekly tickets may not be required? Otherwise a zone based pre-loaded weekly (equivalent to 9 to 10 peak singles) or monthly (equivalent to approx 34 to 38 peak singles) may be required? If weekly capping is an option, then maybe cap at the 9 or 10 most expensive journeys for the week? There are plenty of other alternatives, and BrizCommuter's ideas are just food for thought. However, there is little question that the SE Queensland's fare structure should be attractive and affordable for both infrequent and frequent users, and not be able to be rorted like the current fare structure.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

TransLink Network Plan 2012 - Missing!

There is something strangely missing from TransLink's website - something that should have appeared earlier in the 2012/13 financial year...
Screen shot on 05/01/2013
  • So, where is the 2012 TransLink Network Plan 2012? 
  • Do TransLink actually have any plans for the 2012/13 financial year? 
  • Why are we paying 7.5% more if there are no plans for improvement?
  • What about the bus network review? 
  • Where are the once promised peak service improvements on the Ferny Grove Line post duplication, which was completed last April? 
  • Where are the stage 2 train timetables (for Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Doomben, Cleveland, Beenleigh, Gold Coast, and Airport Lines) which TransLink failed to deliver as promised in late 2011, and again failed to deliver as promised in 2012? 
  • What happened to increasing state government transparency?
  • Maybe TransLink are too embarrassed to release their network plan after failing to meet more than 33% of the 2011 network plan by the end of the 2011/12 financial year?

It's just not good enough TransLink!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2013 World Fare Comparison - Conclusion and Recommendations

The last 4 BrizCommuter blog posts have compared public transport fares across the world and Australia as of 7th January 2013. Below is a summary of the awful news for Brisbanites, who will be in for another shock when using their go cards from the 7th of January:
  • Brisbane has the world's 3rd most expensive train fares for a 5km adult single peak journey
  • Brisbane has the world's 2nd most expensive bus fares for a 5km adult single peak journey
  • Brisbane has the world's most expensive maximum daily fares for multiple 5km adult bus and train journeys due to complete lack of daily ticketing options
  • Brisbane has the world's 5th to 6th most expensive weekly fares for multiple (10+) 5km adult peak train journeys
  • Brisbane has the world's most expensive 5km single journeys without a refund policy if delays occur
  • Brisbane has a relatively poor train frequency, and thus train fares are poor value for money
  • Brisbane's off-peak train and bus fares are more expensive than anywhere in North America and Asia, as well as being more expensive than peak fares in Auckland and Perth
  • Brisbane's fare structure is skewed against short distance journeys, and favours environmentally unsustainable longer journeys
  • Brisbane's "9 journeys then free" cap can be easily rorted by longer distance commuters
  • Brisbane's morning peak fare period bizarrely starts at 2am! 
City Cat or Rip-off Cat?
The result of Brisbane and SE Queensland's extortionate public transport fares (71% increase since late 2009) is quite obviously deterring public transport use. It is also making Brisbane slide down the list of liveable cities, as well as increasing the cost of living. It is very concerning that a demographically similar city such as Perth has peak train fares that are 47% cheaper! It is likely that the botched go card introduction under the ALP government didn't purchase key software modules required for a sensible fare structure. In this Courier Mail article it is quoted that "Transport Minister Scott Emerson conceded fares were too high but rejected calls for a new fare review" - where is the logic in that statement? Why are we paying your wages Mr Emerson? Is the LNP government avoiding making public transport more attractive so that they do not need to spend any money on improving anything?

So what ideas can BrizCommuter give to the car-obsessed Queensland Government and competence-challenged TransLink to make Brisbane's public transport more attractive?
  • Stop the fare increases until Brisbane is more in line with it's peer cities
  • Decrease the base fare rate (zone 1) to make shorter journeys cheaper
  • Introduce a daily zone based fare capping option in line with it's peer cities, that cannot be rorted by long distance commuters
  • Introduce a weekly zone based fare capping option (or alternative periodical fare option) that cannot be rorted by longer distance commuters
  • The morning peak fare period should be based on journey finishing time (e.g. 7am to 9:15am) instead of journey start time (e.g 2am to 9am)
  • Improve peak train frequencies to be as high as reliably possible with frequent timetable reviews (note: Queensland Rail / TransLink's stage 2 train timetable update due in 2011, is now not expected until late 2013 - absolutely disgraceful!)
  • Improve off-peak train frequencies to every 15 minutes across the inner-suburban Queensland Rail (QR) network on weekdays and weekends
  • Expand the frequent and simplified bus network to all main transport corridors
  • Consider some consolidating of fare zones
  • Purchase required software modules for the above required functionality
Of course, you cannot get anything for free. How can the Queensland Government and TransLink afford to lower fares and improve public transport? 
  • Increased fare box revenue as passengers are attracted back to public transport by improved fares and services
  • Reduce inefficiencies and wastage - looking at you Queensland Rail and Brisbane City Council/Brisbane Transport (Maroon CityGlider, cough, cough!) Could privatisation of Queensland Rail and Brisbane Transport be a solution?
  • Note: An attractive 7 days per week 15 minute off-peak on inner-suburban lines would cost less than 10% of QR's current budget, even with guards! 
  • Eliminate train guards - however this would require roll-out of ATP, or ERTMS signalling across SE Queensland's rail network which would require government spending
  • Further review the bus network for increased attractiveness and efficiency - the current review is a start, but does not go far enough in creating an efficient trunk and feeder network
  • Redirect funds from poor value for money road projects to public transport - yes, roads are subsidised too!
  • A huge change in attitude from politicians from road-centric policy and urban sprawl development to more environmentally sustainable transportation and urban design - don't hold your breath on this one with either side in politics! 
In future blog posts BrizCommuter is planning on looking at weekly/periodical options from multiple public transport smart card systems, as well as car vs train costs and subsidy. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Australian Fare Comparison

Sydney - not quite integrated fares
Before writing a conclusion on the 2013 World Fare Comparison, BrizCommuter decided to compare Australian cities in a bit more detail. Car running costs for a Toyota Prius (which is a relatively expensive car to run) have also been thrown into the mix. List of cities is no particular order in this particular blog post.

Fare Zones:

Brisbane/SE Queensland - 23
Melbourne - 2
Sydney - 3 to 5 depending on mode
Perth - 9
Adelaide - 1
Hobart - 3+
Canberra - 1
Townsville - 6
Darwin - 1

As you can see, SE Queensland has far more fare zones than elsewhere in Australia, although this may be due to TransLink's network coverage of more than 200km along the coast. Maybe some fare zone consolidation is required in SE Queensland? Adelaide, Canberra, and Darwin have just one zone. It should be noted that due to variations in the distance in zone borders from the CBD, that some of fares below may vary depending on the exact location.

Peak single adult fare 5km/20km:

Brisbane/SE Queensland - $3.85/$5.13
Melbourne - $3.50/$5.92
Sydney - $3.60/$4.40 train only ($2.10/$3.50 bus only, $5.60/$7 ferry only)
Perth - $2.03/$3.68
Adelaide - $3.19
Hobart - $2.24/$4.80
Canberra - $2.52
Townsville - $2.90/$4.20
Darwin - $3
Car (Toyota Prius*) - $2.77/$11.08

Brisbane has the most expensive peak single adult fare for a 5km journey. Melbourne has the most expensive peak single adult fare for a 20km journey, mainly due to 20km just being over the border of zone two (Melbourne's has just two fare zones). Fare zone consolidation isn't such a good idea for those who live just beyond the fare zone border! Sydney disappointingly has an unintegrated fare structure for single journeys. It should be noted that in most Australian cities it is more expensive to use public transport than to drive a car in the peak for short journeys.

Off peak single fare 5km/20km:

Brisbane/SE Queensland - $3.08/$4.11
Melbourne - $3.50/$5.92
Sydney - $3.60/$4.40 train only ($2.10/$3.50 bus only, $5.60/$7 ferry only)
Perth - $2.03/$3.68
Adelaide - $3.19 ($1.75 inter-peak)
Hobart - $2.24/$4.80
Canberra - $2
Townsville - $2.90/$4.20
Darwin - $3
Car (Toyota Prius*) - $2.77/$11.08

Brisbane fares better off-peak due to the 20% go card off-peak discount, but bus fares are still relatively high. It is still cheaper to drive for 5km off-peak than use public transport in 66% of these cities.

Daily maximum fare 5km/20km:

Brisbane/SE Queensland - $27.72 to $34.65/$36.99 to $46.17
Melbourne - $7/$11.84 ($3.50 on weekend)
Sydney - $22
Perth - Unlimited ($11 after 9am)
Adelaide - $9.10
Hobart - $9 ($4.50 off-peak)
Canberra - $7.60 ($4.60 weekend)
Townsville - $5.80/$8.40
Darwin - $7

Due to lack of daily ticketing product Brisbane with fare capping only occurring after the 9th journey. Perth only has a post-9am daily ticketing fare, and it would be difficult to rack up a fare similar to the maximum in Brisbane. Sydney also fares badly in this comparison for short journeys. It should also be noted that on weekends and weekday evenings Perth offers group travel for up to 7 people for just $11.

Weekly maximum fare 5km/20km (or alternative):

Brisbane/SE Queensland - $34.65/$46.17
Melbourne - $35/$59.20 (28-365 day pass also available at $4.30/$6.64 per day)
Sydney - $44/$52
Perth - Unlimited
Adelaide - Unlimited
Hobart - Unlimited
Canberra - No weekly ($72 to $90.72 maximum per month - 36 journey cap)
Townsville - $23.20/$33.60
Darwin - $20
Car (Toyota Prius*) - $159.79

Weekly maximums are a mixed bag. BrizCommuter could not find any periodical fares for Perth, Hobart, and Adelaide (email BrizCommuter if you know otherwise). Brisbane's capping after the 9th journey makes it cheaper than Melbourne and Sydney for weekly maximums. The Toyota Prius comes out high here - the figures based on 15,000km/year suggest that if you use a car only for commuting it may be more expensive than using public transport, however if you use a car for other purposes (shopping, leisure, school run, etc) then the car may be cheaper overall. This probably requires a more in depth blog post in the future.

Weekday midday off-peak inner-suburban train frequency (per line):

Brisbane/SE Queensland - 15 to 120 minutes
Melbourne - 10 to 20 minutes
Sydney - 15 to 30 minutes
Perth - 7 to 15 minutes
Adelaide - 15 to 30 minutes
Car (Toyota Prius*) - 0 minutes (unless you loose your keys)

Of the 5 major Australian cities with a train network, Brisbane and Adelaide have the worst train frequencies, which reduces the value for money of the fares. It should be noted that in general the bus only cities have lower fares, and Sydney also has lower bus only fares compared to train fares. In a car-obsessed society, frequency is the key to attracting commuters from cars to public transport.

So which Australian city is best or worst for public transport fares? There isn't really an answer. The bus only cities generally have a simpler fare structures, with some issues around periodicals. The cities with trains are a mixed bag, with Brisbane being the most expensive for short single peak journeys and daily travel, and Sydney being the most expensive for frequent weekly use for short journeys.

Fare structures with smart cards seem to be messy, with no perfect solution in Australia. Brisbane lacks a daily fare product. Melbourne's is good, but lacks off-peak incentives (other than free train travel before 7am on weekdays). Perth appears to lack a weekly option. Have Australian cities skimped when purchasing software modules for their smart card systems? For example London's Oyster Card can cope with peak, off-peak, daily, weekly, other periodicals, and different fares between bus, tube, train, tram, and ferry. BrizCommuter may look different smart card systems in a future blog post.

* Car running cost source