Thursday, August 29, 2013

Brisbane - Australia's least liveable state capital

Brisbane - more liveable than Mumbai! 
The annual world liveability league table, by Economist Intelligence Unit, has recently been published for 2013. Brisbane is at 20th in the table behind Melbourne (1st), Adelaide (5th), Sydney (7th), and Perth (9th). Auckland, which unlike Brisbane is successfully implementing it's revolutionary bus network changes is 10th. Clearly in denial, Campbell Newman labelled the results a "sick joke".

So, apart from shops that close at 5:30pm, worse restaurants than Damascus (140th), and lack of culture, why has Brisbane fared so badly compared to its peers? Poor public transport of course!

  • World's 2nd highest bus fares, 3rd highest train fares. Most expensive fares in Australia, which are deterring public transport use. 
  • Grossly inefficient, generally infrequent, and confusing bus network. This was compounded by the failure of Queensland government and Brisbane City Council to implement TransLink's bus network review. 
  • Laughably infrequent train system, both during peak and off-peak. 
  • Poor connectivity between bus and train networks. 
  • Failure of successive governments to develop the train network to cope with demand - e.g. failure to implement required additional tracks, Cross River Rail, improved signalling, new trains, and timetable improvements. 
It should be noted that for example, two public transport journeys in Melbourne on a Sunday will be nearly half the cost than in Brisbane, and with trains running 3 times more frequently in Melbourne! 

In addition to poor public transport in SE Queensland, there is also a big issue with uncontrolled urban sprawl (e.g. Ripley Valley, Flagstone, Yarrabilba) adding to the inefficient road and rail transport network. It is clear that Brisbane's relatively poor liveability (against its peers) is due to the failure of successive governments when it comes to implementing an frequent, affordable, and efficient public transport network. 

Economist article:
Courier Mail story:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tony Abbott's freight tunnel will not help peak commuters!

Port of Brisbane Line at Park Road.  Source: Google Maps
With one and a half weeks to go until the 2013 federal election, Cross River Rail is finally starting to become an election issue. Tony Abbot has flagged a $5b 25km rail freight line, mainly in tunnel from Acacia Ridge to the Port of Brisbane, and an Ipswich rail freight bypass (Southern Freight Rail Corridor) from Rosewood to Kagaru. The former would be planned to open by 2026. These are both part of an inland Brisbane to Melbourne rail project, something has been planned for some time. BrizCommuter is not going to question the need for this tunnel to get freight off the roads. However LNP state transport minister Scott Emerson has stated that this project will help commuters by "freeing up capacity for passenger services", and BrizCommuter questions whether this is the truth. Lets take a look:

These two rail freight projects will allow freight trains to avoid conflict with passenger trains between Salisbury and Park Road (Beenleigh and Gold Coast Line) and Corinda to Rosewood (Ipswich and Richlands Line).

Salisbury to Park Road - this dual gauge track is used by freight off-peak, with a freight embargo taking place during the peaks when it used by Gold Coast Line trains. Abbott's freight tunnel will allow freight trains to run in the peak. However, as the capacity of this rail corridor is restricted through the CBD (e.g. Merivale bridge crossing) in the peak period, then removing freight trains will not help at all with increasing peak train services from the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, and Cleveland Lines. This is a problem that can only be ultimately solved by Cross River Rail, which Abbott is refusing to fund. Off peak, the freight tunnel may allow Gold Coast trains to overtake Beenleigh Line trains on this section, potentially allowing for a reliable 15 minute off-peak Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line trains (in conjunction with some other minor infrastructure projects).

Corinda to Rosewood - this is commonly used by coal trains running, which then travel via Tennyson and the previously mentioned section to access the Port of Brisbane. Again, there is a freight embargo during the peak period. The Ipswich and Richlands Lines already run approx. 16tph in the am peak, with a maximum capacity through the city of approx. 18tph to 20tph with current signalling. It is likely that by the mid to late 2020s this rail corridor will reach maximum capacity, and Abbott's freight tunnel will not help matters as there is already no freight during the peak. As per the previous example, the freight tunnel would allow for reliable 15 minute off-peak services to both Richlands and Ipswich (the latter being an express service). However, it is possible that this service could be operated now, just less reliably.

This rail tunnel also does not solve the issue with freight travelling North - South through the CBD, and limited capacity of the North Coast Line which parallels the Bruce Highway. It seems that Tony Abbott's priorities lie with inefficient and environmentally unsustainable road traffic along this important transport corridor.

To conclude, Tony Abbott's freight tunnel may help improve off-peak frequencies on SE Queensland's rail network, but will not help peak commuters at all. This rail freight project should not seen as an alternative to Cross River Rail.

Courier Mail article:
Southern Freight Rail Corridor:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Is a Segway faster than the Ferny Grove Line?

Alderley - faster by Segway?
Previously, BrizCommuter compared the speed of using a Segway vs the Doomben Line. Given that the Doomben Line is Australia's most infrequent suburban rail line (by quite a margin), it was no surprise that the Segway won all 3 scenarios. Now BrizCommuter takes a look at using a Segway vs the Ferny Grove Line, which is the only branch line in SE Queensland to run a 15 minute off-peak frequency (weekday daytimes only). The average Segway speed has been assumed to be 11kph.

Evening Peak - depart Roma Street at 5pm, travelling to Alderley (5.5km)
Segway - arrive Alderley at 5:30pm (30 mins)
Train - arrive Alderley at 5:39pm (39 mins)
Segway wins by 9 minutes. This scenario shows that the peak service on the Ferny Grove Line is diabolical due to the continued failure to implement a decent peak timetable post $100m duplication. No wonder Samford and Enoggera Road are so congested with cars when it can take nearly 40 minutes to travel a straight line distance of less than 5km by train!

Late Night - depart South Brisbane at 10:30pm, travelling to Ferny Grove (14.3km)
Segway - arrive Ferny Grove at 11:48pm (1 hour 18 mins)
Train - arrive Ferny Grove at 12:02am (1 hour 32 mins)
Segway wins by 14 minutes. As shows at QPAC always seem to finish just after the 10:24pm train has departed, this is a realistic scenario. The unacceptable hourly late night frequency (Mon-Thu) results in a Segway being faster to travel the entire length of the Ferny Grove Line. This hour long gap between trains is also a big pain in the Christmas Party season, and can only encourage drink driving! 

Weekday Daytime Off-peak - depart Roma Street at 1:40pm, travelling to Alderley (5.5km)
Segway - arrive Alderley at 2:10pm (30 mins)
Train - arrive Alderley at 2:03pm (23 mins) 
Yay, for 15 minute off-peak train services. With all stations trains every 15 minutes, the Segway is beaten by 7 minutes.

The results confirm what BrizCommuter has been saying for some time, that frequencies need to be improved on the Ferny Grove Line (and other inner-suburban lines). For example, extend the 15 minute off-peak to weekends, run peak services at least every 10 minutes to all stations, and eliminate all hourly service gaps late at night and on Sunday morning. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

CityCats become CityCuts

New City Cat - MV Quirk's Incompetence
Earlier this year Brisbane City Council (BCC) stuffed up the TransLink Bus Network Review, by continuing with their confusing to use and grossly inefficient bus network. Likely due to having to find savings to fund the bus network that bleeds funding through duplication and waste, BCC have now cut $2m from the CityCat budget. This has resulted in the following reductions to CityCat services.

  • Weekday daytime off-peak service reduced by 17%, from 12.5 min frequency to 15 min frequency.  
  • Evening off-peak service reduced by 17%, from 25 min frequency to 30 min frequency.
  • Last 3 services on Sunday to Thursday nights cancelled.
These cuts are very disappointing, and combined by planned fare increases in January 2014, may well reduce CityCat patronage. The CityCat is very important to university students and tourists off-peak, and thus any daytime off-peak cuts are bad news for Brisbane's reputation. The late night cuts will make it almost impossible for passengers to travel late at night to/from suburbs not served well by bus or train (such as Bulimba with it's busy restaurant district). It is clear that BCC are irresponsible when left in charge of public transport. It is time that state government removes BCC's responsibility for both ferry and bus services (possibly through privatisation), so as to create the efficient and frequent public transport network that Brisbane deserves. However, as LNP politicians are well known for looking after their LNP mates, don't hold your breath! 

News source:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Faregocard - good idea, but flawed!

Password please!
It has recently come to BrizCommuter's attention that there is a new $6.99/year service called Faregocard, which alerts users if they have a $5 or $10 fixed fare. With the number of equipment failures, and unclaimed fixed fares, this initially seems like a great idea. The website is below:
Unfortunately, the service has a major flaw.

The registration requires the user the input their go card account number and password details. Only an idiot would give out their username and password to a third party, as the third party can then access that account carte blanche. It also happens to be clearly in breach of TransLink's terms and conditions. Naughty, naughty! Thus, BrizCommuter does not recommend using this service.

This idea does beg the question - should TransLink do this themselves? Given the huge amount of unclaimed go card fixed fares (and thus added income), it is not unreasonable to expect TransLink to be able to afford a text message service to the customers registered mobile phone number if they receive a fixed fare. TransLink not clearly informing customers of financial penalties made by their faulty equipment could even be argued as being fraud. It is not difficult to automate a SMS text message service, and this is something that is commonly performed for hospital appointment reminders for example.  However, as with anything from TransLink, don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Is Cross River Rail a 2013 election decider?

Artists impression of Gabba station
Why is Cross River Rail required?

The track capacity across the Merivale Bridge is already near capacity in the morning peak for trains running from the Gold Coast/ Beenleigh/
Cleveland Line corridor. Many of Beenleigh and Cleveland Line trains are already close to standing capacity, and many Gold Coast services are on the verge of having standing passengers for long distances (again). Without Cross River Rail (CRR) overcrowding will become serious in the last four years of this decade, forcing passengers onto the congested road system (in particular the Pacific Highway).

From the North, the extension of Petrie services to Kippa-Ring (Redcliffe) when the Moreton Bay Rail Link opens in 2016 will add extra passengers onto the Caboolture/Sunshine Coast corridor which is also near maximum train capacity in the morning peak. Without CRR (which may allow Shorncliffe Line to serve inner Caboolture Line stations) overcrowding will become critical around 2020, again pushing passengers back onto the congested Bruce Highway. 

CRR will also improve public transport access to southern end of the CBD, Wooloongabba, and the redeveloped Exhibition showgrounds. 

This failure to build Cross River Rail (CRR) will result in not only railway overcrowding across SE Queensland, but add to road congestion, and road trauma. Commuting and transport delays will result in negative financial impact to Queensland's economy.  

So who can make it happen?

The Queensland state government (who claim that they are serious debt) have motioned that will stump up 50% of the cost if the federal government funds the other 50%. Thus the ball is likely to be in the court of whoever wins the forthcoming federal election:

Kevin Rudd (ALP) - Kevin 07 has apparently already struck a deal with Campbell Newman's LNP state government to fund CRR on a 50/50 basis. CRR looks likely with underdog Kevin, although the QLD state government's ineptitude and political games when it comes to public transport may put a spanner in the works.

Tony Abbott (LNP) - election favourite Tony Abbott has clearly stated that it is not the federal government's responsibility to fund urban rail projects. This is despite current and past federal governments contributing significantly to multiple urban rail projects. It seems that Tony Abbott is well and truly stuck in unsustainable 1960s road centric policy. Be afraid, very afraid. Of course there is still time for a U-turn!

So how can Cross River Rail decide the election?

For starters, Kevin Rudd is from Queensland, and is quite popular within the state. Whilst it is expected that overall the ALP will loose seats, within Queensland the result may be the opposite. The LNP hold some very marginal seats in Queensland, including Brisbane itself. With the LNP's reputation being quickly tarnished by Campbell Newman's nasty-ness, then the LNP could indeed loose these marginal seats, tipping the election result. 

Update 24/08/2013

With 2 weeks remaining of the election campaign, it seems that Cross River Rail has yet to become the topic it should be. Much of this can be put down to Murdoch's News Ltd reporting being quite obviously biased in favour of Tony Abbott. BrizCommuter observed an LNP candidate campaigning at a Ferny Grove Line train station last week, with most commuters oblivious that a vote for them will ultimately make their train commute worse! 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Is a Segway faster than the Doomben Line?

A rare Doomben Line train!
With Segways now permitted to be used on footpaths in Queensland, BrizCommuter had a look to see if travelling by Segway is faster than using Australia's worst suburban train line - the Doomben Line. Whilst Segways can travel at 12kph, BrizCommuter has used 11kph to take into account waits at pedestrian crossings.

Saturday evening - depart Doomben at 6pm for evening out in the Valley (5.9km).
Segway - arrive Fortitude Valley at 6:32pm (32 mins)
Train - arrive Fortutude Valley at 6:29am Monday! (36 hours 29 mins)
Due to complete lack of trains on the Doomben Line during the evenings and on Sundays, the Segway wins by nearly 36 hours!

Weekday afternoon - depart Central at 1:30pm after lunch in CBD (7.6km)
Segway - arrive Doomben at 2:11pm (41 mins)
Train - arrive Doomben at 2:34pm (1 hour 04 mins)
After a lunch at JoJo's, even with a stomach full of overpriced steak and chips, the Segway rider still beats the train by 23 minutes. That's what happens when trains only run hourly to Doomben (note: even Adelaide's short Tonsley Line will soon run trains every 15 minutes off-peak).

Weekday peak - depart Bowen Hills at 4:45pm for commute home (5km)
Segway - arrive Doomben at 5:12pm (27 mins)
Train - arrive Doomben at 5:34pm (49 mins)
This commute is actually performed by one BrizCommuter's work colleagues, who finds it faster to walk than use the Doomben Line due to a horrendous 45 minute gap between train services in the peak.  Well if walking is faster than using a train, then so will be using a Segway which is 22 minutes faster.

So as we can see, if you use the Doomben Line, it may be faster to use a Segway, or just walk, or just crawl on your hands and knees. Just keep that Segway away from any cliff edges!

Next blog post: Is a Segway faster than the Ferny Grove Line?