Saturday, March 30, 2013

More of Brisbane City Council's "not broken" bus network

In the last blog post, BrizCommuter took a look a high level issues with Brisbane's bus network after decades of poor network design by Brisbane City Council and TransLink. In this post, BrizCommuter continues to look at Brisbane City Council's calamitous bus network which Lord Mayor Graham Quirk is quoted as saying "isn't broken".  Poor network design includes:
  • Different CBD bus stops for routes heading in the same direction
  • Routes that duplicate other bus and/or train routes
  • Routes that duplicate each other with minor variations
  • (Almost) every bus route to the CBD network
Below are more reasons why Brisbane's bus network is well and truly broken.

Route 161

Route 161 - epitome of waste!
This route is the epitome of poor network design and waste:
  • It serves a small residential area of approx 1km x 0.5km in size, but then runs express along the congested busway to the CBD (Mon-Fri) - a waste of bus and driver resources, and unnecessarily adds to congestion along the SE Busway.  
  • Appears to only run inbound in the am peak, so are empty out of service buses running in the other direction? Further waste of a bus and driver resources. 
There are plenty of other examples of low patronage buses that add to SE Busway congestion, when they should just act as feeder services, such as the 183. 

This route needs to become a feeder service, terminating where it meets the busway at Garden City. Ideally, as it takes a bus only 10 minutes to drive this route, it should become part of another feeder bus route that passes through the area (as per TransLink's canned network review). 

Route 195

The route 195 (light grey) - for lazy people
This peak only route serves New Farm and Merthyr, all within 1 block away from the high frequency route 196. Why on earth does it justify it's own route?

This route should be cut (as per TransLink's canned network review), and its passengers can get a bit of exercise. Even The Biggest Looser contestants can manage a 300m walk! 

The Great Circle Line

Who seriously thought it was a good idea to have a bus service running in a huge circle around Brisbane? This bus takes 3 and half hours for a full revolution, and not surprisingly is often observed running late.  Oh, and don't try to use it on a Sunday, or you will be waiting until Monday. So much for Sunday shopping at Chermside!

This routes needs to split up into multiple routes (as per TransLink's canned network review), which can serve each area with a more appropriate timetable and routing.

P343, P344, 345

More duplication, apart from in the CBD
These buses run between Aspley and the CBD. The 345 is notorious for being full on the inner part of the route along Enoggera and Kelvin Grove Road. The P343 could help with this congestion, but runs express past the overcrowded sections of the 345 route, usually with spare seats available - much to the annoyance of passengers left behind by full 345 services! The P344 almost runs on the same route as the 345 and P344, but with a short variation along Webster Road. Just to add insult to injury, all three routes stop at different locations in the CBD, so you cannot wait for all 3 services from the same CBD location. There are plenty of other examples in Brisbane of multiple bus routes serving the same corridor (until they reach the CBD), when they should just be merged into single routes - e.g. P129, P133, and P137 duplicating the 130, and P141 duplicating the 140, P157 duplicating the 156, P179 and P189 duplicating the 180, the list goes on and on!

The P343 services should be turned into extra 345 services (as per TransLink's canned network review) - this would also result in consistent CBD stop locations. Multiple routes serving the same corridors need to be merged into one route. At the most any transport corridor should not have any more than 2 stopping patterns (e.g. all stops and express stops). 

Route 450, 453, 454, P455, P456, P457, P458, P459 (again)

8 routes, but no frequent off-peak service
These 8 routes all serve the Centenary Suburbs. Yet, only one stop in Centenary Suburbs (Mt Ommaney Shopping Centre) is served by what could be classed as a "high frequency" service during the off-peak, resulting in this suburb being a huge public transport black-hole. The via Indooropilly routes do not interchange with train services (which may be faster than bus in the peak). As mentioned in the previous blog post, these 8 routes confusingly have 4 variations of CBD bus routings. In the future buses could have used BCC's Legacy Way road tunnel to access the CBD quickly via the Northern Busway - Campbell Newman was once quoted as saying 2000 express buses per day would use the tunnel. Unfortunately, the connection between the road tunnel and the Northern Busway has not been built due to political stupidity. 

These 8 routes should be consolidated into 2, with one being a high frequency route running out to Riverhills (as per TransLink's canned network review). Consolidated routes should share CBD stop locations. Consideration should also be given for a frequent bus route linking Centenary Suburbs with the frequent Ipswich Rail Line at Darra or Oxley (as per TransLink's canned network review).  Legacy Way tunnel should ideally be linked to the Inner Northern Busway.

These examples only scratch the surface of the inefficiency, duplication, and poor design of Brisbane's bus network. Brisbane needs a bus network "revolution", as was planned by TransLink. There is not much point with Brisbane City Council's planned bus network "evolution" if your bus network is a like a sloth in the first place (no offence to sloths!). Most of these issues would have been fixed by TransLink's plans. What will Brisbane City Council do?

Previous blog post:
Brisbane = public transport Hicksville?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Brisbane City Council's "not broken" bus network

Brisbane's bus network review by TransLink (which was largely positive) has been canned, with responsibility moved to Brisbane City Council (BCC) who own bus operator Brisbane Transport.  Lord Mayor Graham Quirk appears to be in denial, stating that Brisbane's bus network "isn’t broken and doesn’t need a radical overhaul like the one proposed by Translink". Here is a list of reasons why Brisbane's bus network is broken, grossly inefficient, confusing to use, and urgently needs a radical overhaul!

CBD Stop Locations

Only in Brisbane can multiple bus routes heading in the same direction stop at different locations in the CBD, and take different routes in and out of the CBD. Some even take different routes at different times of the day. Most confusing!

Routes P129, 130, 131, P133, 136, P137, 138 towards Sunnybank and beyond take 4 different routes through the CBD. Routes 450, 453, 454, P456, P457, P455, P458, P459 towards Centenary Suburbs also take 4 different routes through the CBD. This is obviously annoying to passengers if you miss a bus, and then have to cross the CBD to catch the next bus to your destination. In fact, the CBD bus stop locations are so confusing that casual travellers often have difficulty even finding which stop to catch their bus from.

Brisbane needs consolidated CBD "super stops" for buses travelling in similar directions. Also, bus stop locations (and associated routes and destinations) need to be well signed. 

All routes to the CBD

As per the above two examples, Brisbane operates an (almost) all routes to the CBD bus network. Whilst this avoids passengers having to change buses, it is grossly inefficient, results in empty buses travelling into the CBD, and significantly adds to busway congestion through Cultural Centre. It also results in a confusing number of bus routes serving the same transport corridor with only minor variations. Brisbane has one of the world's highest ratios of bus routes to population. Despite this, many parts of Brisbane such as Centenary Suburbs, Wynnum Road, and North West Suburbs are public transport black holes.

Brisbane needs a trunk and feeder network, where low to medium frequency feeder routes feed very high frequency trunk routes. Arterial road corridors serving residential areas should be served by a high frequency bus routes where possible. All other areas should be served by buses feeding the high frequency routes. Changing buses is a fact of life in efficient public transport systems.

Duplication of other bus and train routes

BCC's bus routes also duplicate each other, as well as train routes. For example, the P88 duplicates the frequent Ipswich train line, and SE Busway services. The Maroon CityGlider duplicates much of the route 385, but bizarrely serves different stops. Even travelling from Chermside the the CBD is served by at least 7 different routes.

An integrated public transport system should not have train and bus services competing with each other, but working together. It would also help if train services were frequent in the first place! Multiple bus routes serving the same corridor should be consolidated into a single very high frequency route. 

Other assorted rubbish

There are other fine examples of other waste. The 314 runs twice a day on weekdays only, and serves low density areas between Deagon and Shorncliffe. Most of this route is within walking distance of multiple train stations. The 338 runs between Chermide and Strathpine, or Brendale, or Eatonvale. In fact there appears to be at least 6 different route 338 variations, most of these serving schools which are within walking distance of the main route anyway.

Bus networks should not be designed to serve every possible journey. Aside from elderly residential developments, and larger primary schools, making some passengers walk a few hundred metres to a bus stop is really not a big issue.

It is very sad to see the sorry state of the SEQ Bus Network Review, especially when Auckland has embraced its well designed bus network review. Incidentally, the Auckland bus network review was designed by a Brisbane based company - you couldn't make it up! Leaving Brisbane City Council to fix to money wasting mess that they created in the first place is laughable. Its like a leaving an alcoholic to reform liquor licensing laws!  It is time to take public transport in SE Queensland out of the hands of local councils. Network planning should return to TransLink (Department of Transport and Main Roads), and Brisbane Transport should be privatised.

More of Brisbane City Council's "not broken" bus network

Brisbane = public transport Hicksville?

Crikey Blog on Brisbane's bus changes:
Human Transit Blog on Auckland's network design:
Human Transit Blog on transit design goals:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

SEQ Bus Network Review gets Messy!

It is another tale of two cities. Whilst Auckland appears to be embracing it's radical bus network review, Brisbane's bus review appears to have turned into a basket case. So what has gone wrong?
  • TransLink - whilst TransLink have made a reasonable attempt at showing the planned new changes, they haven't gone far enough. For example, there have been limited maps of secondary routes per region, and limited information on frequency of secondary routes. There has also been limited information on the reasoning for some changes and alternative options. A few community consultation attempts should also have been planned by TransLink.  
  • ALP - the ALP opposition (in both state government and Brisbane City Council) have come out with misleading statements for political gain - all negative, attacking "cuts", and avoiding mentioning the many benefits of the review. The previous ALP state government is partially responsible for the inefficient mess that is the SE Queensland's bus network.
  • LNP - even the LNP Brisbane City Council have been a bit negative, although constructive comments have also been made. Brisbane City Council, which owns bus operator Brisbane Transport is also partially responsible for the inefficient mess that is SE Queensland's bus network - for example, the resource wasteful Maroon CityGlider! It also appears that state Transport Minister may be starting to crack under pressure, with 50% of the returned bus routes being in either his or Campbell Newman's electorate. 
  • The press - many press outlets have focussed more on the negative aspects than the improvements. Of course, negativity makes for more interesting news stories. 
  • Public mentality - it appears that whilst many train users suffer from "I want an express to my stationitis", bus users are rapidly developing "I want a frequent express bus route to the CBD from my house which is nowhere near a main road syndrome". As well as the selfishness, poor knowledge and experience of what constitutes an efficient public transport system does not help.
Whilst there will obviously be quite a few changes arising from the public consultation process, lets hope that both state and council politicians, plus TransLink can work together to help create the efficient bus network that SE Queensland deserves. It would be very disappointing to let a great plan get ruined by politicking.

Case Study - Route 180

The route 180 is a frequent bus route from Garden City to the CBD. Its route is being replaced by 3 high frequency routes, yes 3, as per TransLink's map below:
Yet there an online petition trying to stop this route being cut:

Update - 21/03/2013

Due to political stupidity, it looks like the generally well designed bus network review by TransLink has been canned by transport minister Scott Emerson, with responsibility for bus network design going to the kings of wastage and inefficency - Brisbane City Council (BCC). Feedback sent to TransLink will be passed on to BCC. It now looks highly unlikely that Brisbane will get a "world class" bus network for the foreseeable future. BrizCommuter believes that MP Scott Emerson should resign due to his inability to effectively manage the change process - unless he know's something we don't?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Slip'n'slide on the Cleveland Line

The preliminary Australia Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report into the Cleveland train crash has now been released. The cause of the crash was not a total brake failure as the "hysterical" unionists claimed, but due to poor rail adhesion from leaf fall and light rain. Multiple trains had experienced adhesion issues around Ormiston station that morning. When the driver of train T842 came to brake at Cleveland, the train failed to sufficiently slow down, sliding through Cleveland station and into the mens toilets at 31kph, injuring many passengers.

Poor rail adhesion is a known issue in many temperate climates (such as the UK), particularly during the leaf fall season, which is not an issue in Queensland where deciduous trees are rare. However, Queensland does have a storm season where leaves and other vegetation can fall onto the tracks as occurred just before the Cleveland crash. Blossom falls could also potentially cause issues from Autumn through to Spring. Even migrating caterpillars have been reported to cause rail adhesion issues in Australia.

Also, most new trains (including Queensland Rail's class 160 and 260 trains) have brakes on disks on the side of the wheel, instead of tread brakes on the actual wheel tread. This means that the wheel tread is not cleaned (or partially cleaned) of slippery substances during each braking cycle.

So what can be learnt from UK rail operators who appear to survive the leaf fall season with no crashes?

  • Water jets - These clean the rails of material that may cause poor rail adhesion. Usually on special vehicles, which also have sandite equipment. 
  • Sandite trains - These deposit a sand paste onto the rails, either fitted to normal trains or special vehicles. 
  • Driving adjustment - UK train operating companies usually modify timetables during the leaf fall season to allow for more cautious driving. Given by how much QR pad out their timetables, this could probably be done at any time there is a rail adhesion risk on tracks without causing considerable delays. 
  • Reduce line-side vegetation - This is already being done by QR after various storm season line shutdowns and a stray bouganvilla that caused rail chaos. 
The ATSB report concluded "Queensland Rail’s risk management procedures did not sufficiently mitigate risk to the safe operation of trains in circumstances when local environmental conditions result in contaminated rail running surfaces and reduced wheel/rail adhesion". BrizCommuter hopes that Queensland Rail (and other Australian rail operators) take serious action on the risk of poor rail adhesion. QR have already formed a "Wheel Rail Interface Working Group". 

BrizCommuter is dissappointed that the ATSB report does not address the dangerous terminus design with buildings immediately beyond the end of the track, and lack of modern train arrestors. However, it should be noted that QR's potentially dangerous lack of Automatic Train Protection (ATP) would not have prevented this crash. 

ATSB preliminary report:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Go Network - a major change!

Less congestion at Cultural Centre?
The results of the SEQ Bus Network Review by TransLink has been announced, with significant changes to SE Queensland's bus network to improve system efficiency. With routes such as the 66 and 345 being chronically overcrowded since the return of University, improvements cannot come soon enough! The changes to the bus network are larger than most were expecting, and most of the news is very positive. Major changes include:

  • Frequent "Go Network" bus routes increased from 19 to 26, with at least 15 minute frequency between 7am and 7pm, 7 days/week. 
  • High frequency bus services for the first time to Centenary Suburbs (444 diverted to Mt Ommaney as #26 and #25 to Forest Lake), Webster Road (#10), Morningside (#13), and Albany Creek (#8). 
  • "Improvements" to existing services such as the 66 and 109 being combined into the #3 Uni Glider, and 199 being diverted via Ivory Street and being renamed #5.
  • High frequency rail feeder/connecting services such as #8 Albany Creek to Mitchelton and #25 Forest Lake to Mt Ommaney via Darra and Oxley. 
  • Consolidated/rationalised "Super Stop" CBD bus stops - at long last!
  • Less congestion through Cultural Centre.
  • Bus routes interchanging at both Indooroopilly train and bus stations.  
  • Possibility of bus priority at key locations.
  • Less duplication of routes, e.g 345 and peak P343 are now all one route #9 (which may reduce am peak overcrowding on the current 390 and 345 routes around Kelvin Grove). Routes 88,111, and 555 merge into route #20, which will make using the SE Busway less confusing.
There are of course a few points to made, and questions to be asked:
  • Timetables - until the actual timetables are available, it is difficult to assess the impact to many changes, particularly routes where service may be decreased, removed, or replaced. Timetables need to be issued far in advance of the changes, something that TransLink have a poor history of performing.
  • Evening frequency - will 15 minute evening frequency be maintained on existing or modified "Buz" routes, and included on new routes? BrizCommuter (as a shift worker) would be very disappointed to loose evening turn up and go services on high frequency corridors, or see considerable inconsistency between "Go Network" routes. 
  • Ferny Grove Line frequency - if the rail feeder #8 route from Mitchelton to Albany Creek runs every 15 minutes between 6am - 9pm, 7days/week, then is the Ferny Grove Line going to see 15 minute off-peak extended to weekends and weekends? It would stupid not to!
  • Doomben Line - will the #12 mean the death of the Doomben Line?
  • RBWH - are there any buses left that run between Fortitude Valley train station and RBWH counter-peak?
  • Reviews - TransLink have addressed the fact that they will review the network changes. But, is there sufficient budget and resources to make fast changes if required?
  • Finally - will outer route 444 commuters throw a big tantrum? (Update - yes, see below)
The changes are expected to be rolled out in stages between mid 2013 and late 2014. Hopefully the stage 2 train timetables will also be introduced in mid 2013 as well (as the Sandgate upgrade may be completed in August)! 

The full review is available on TransLink's website here:

Updates 11/03/2013 & 12/03/2013

The stage 3 consultation is available online until March 24th 2013 (this date may be extended):

Also, some 443/444 passengers are a bit upset over the removal of the direct link to the CBD. This is despite the fact that changing to the train at Indooropilly may actually be faster to get to the CBD (not mentioned by TransLink in the literature). Here is a survey:
And petition:

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Boring Diversion

Tunnel Boring Machine
According to this story in the BrisbaneTimes, a plan has been presented by Brisbane tunnelling engineers that could save Cross River Rail (CRR) $500 million (from $4.5m), and result in CRR opening two years earlier than currently planned in 2018. The plan, presented at the Australian Tunnelling Conference in December 2012 (must be a boring conference - sorry, bad pun) looks at utilising one of the 12.5 diameter tunnel boring machines "Annabell", currently being used to dig the Legacy Way toll road. The tunnel boring machine (TBM) would be diverted from it's current course at Normanby, make a sharp turn, and then dig the CRR tunnels through Spring Hill. CRR tunnelling would be complete to Yeerongpilly by 2014. Great idea, just a few problems:

  • The TBM (currently under Paddington) is almost at the point at which it needs to make the sharp turn - decisions would need to be made quickly.
  • Can TBMs even make a sharp enough turn? BrizCommuter would hope that the tunnel engineers have thought of this!
  • It would delay the opening of Legacy Way by up to a year, with resulting financial implications to that project. 
  • CRR is still awaiting Federal Funding. 
  • The design of CRR is based on twin, single track tunnels instead of a single, twin track tunnel as would occur if dug by "Annabell". However, if CRR has not reached detailed design stage, this may not be a major issue...
  • ..., but is the design mature enough to start tunnelling almost straight away? The 12.5 diameter tunnels may require a different vertical alignment than originally planned due to the larger diameter TBM having to avoid other underground structures. 
The unfortunate reality, is that with the multiple layers of government, bureaucracy, and a "half-baked" attitude towards infrastructure projects in Queensland, this potentially good idea is highly unlikely to happen.