Friday, September 27, 2013

Bus Review Spin Alert

Buses in Brisbane's CBD
With lots of cuts, and few improvements coming to Brisbane's bus network on 14th October, it's time from some spin on TransLink's website, not that the mediocre bus changes are TransLink's fault. Here is the quote from TransLink's website concerning the changes:

"The second stage of the Brisbane City Council bus network changes will be implemented on Monday 14 October.

These changes will help simplify the network, eliminate service duplication, improve connectivity between services and redirect resources to overcrowded routes.

Changes include timetable changes, changes to route alignments, route removals, route amalgamations and stop relocations."

This is what really should have been stated:

"The second stage of the Brisbane City Council bus network changes will be implemented on Monday 14 October.

These changes will make lots of cuts to the network due to Brisbane City Council's failure to co-operate  with TransLink to develop an efficient public transport network. The network will continue to be an inefficient use of funding, confusing to use, with too many bus routes, multiple cases of service duplication (e.g. buses heading in same direction leaving from different CBD stops), congestion through Cultural Centre, poor connectivity with rail services, and many parts of Brisbane continuing to be public transport black-holes.  

The changes are quite frankly, not good enough.

It's time that Brisbane Transport was privatised, Brisbane City Council removed from all public transport responsibility, and the state transport minister needs to grow some balls to stand up to "clueless" councillors. 

PS: CityCats have also been cut. Sorry."

Brisbane City Council's bus network changes (re: cuts) are below:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Where is QR's sector 2 timetable consultation?

Don't expect too much improvement!
In what seems a very long time ago, Queensland Rail (QR) and TransLink's sector 1 train timetables were introduced 6 months (June 2012) after the draft timetables had been made available to the public in December 2011. The massively delayed sector 2 train timetables are now strongly rumoured to be introduced in early 2014. This means that on past form, we should already have been shown the draft timetables? However, no draft timetables have yet to be shown the public.

So what came out of the sector 1 draft timetables consultation? The sector 1 timetables affected the Ipswich, Rosewood, Richlands, Caboolture, and Sunshine Coast Lines. There was much complaining about the unavoidable slow down of Caboolture and Sunshine Coast express services, which was required to allow more train services to be run. There were some minor modifications of timings around school closing times. Also, a pm peak Sunshine Coast service was moved to a "more popular" time slot, only for it to be massively overcrowded (well I never), and was then moved later again. So, the consultation process really had limited use. 

What could come out of sector 2 draft timetables consultation? The sector 2 timetables affect the Ferny Grove, Shorncliffe, Airport, Doomben, Cleveland, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast Lines. With all these lines sharing a pair of tracks through the CBD (the "suburban" tracks), there is not an awful lot of options available to schedulers. Due to track capacity being already near maximum capacity in the am peak for services from the Beenleigh, Gold Coast, and Cleveland Lines, then there is likely to be limited improvements to these peak services on these lines. As per the sector 1 timetables, any frequency improvements may need to be counter-balanced by slower journey times. Queue whinging commuters! Due to infrastructure improvements, there may be significant peak period improvements for the Ferny Grove Line (? 2 trains every 15 mins) and Shorncliffe Line (?1 train every 15 mins), but with the loss of the current rather pointless express services. Queue more whinging due to commuters suffering from "I want an express from my stationitis". Off-peak improvements, such as the move towards 15 minute off-peak services, will be limited in scope due to lacking infrastructure. Queue whinging from outer suburban commuters who may not see any off-peak improvements to their stations. So really, aside from minor changes, the consultation process is likely to result in lots of whinging and whining, with little chance for changes. Something QR and politicians want to avoid! 

With this in mind, we need to remember what happened with TransLink's revolutionary bus review. The consultation, of which the benefits were not clearly stated, ended up being abandoned after a (somewhat misguided) backlash from politicians, councillors, press, and the public. BrizCommuter has faith that QR's schedulers will come out with as good a timetable as is realistically possible (as per the sector 1 timetables). BrizCommuter expects that we will see a much lower profile consultation process for the stage 2 timetables, possibly to avoid excessive commuter whinging. It would be strongly recommended that some better reasoning is made available to explain the changes this time around. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Brisbane Underground - half-baked or innovative?

Not the Brisbane Underground
Thanks to political ineptitude from successive federal and state governments, Cross River Rail as we known it is deceased. This is very disappointing for a plan that has been recognised as being one of Australia's most important infrastructure projects, has clear economic benefits, and is almost ready to proceed.

However, Queensland premier Campbell Newman has been reported to be devising a cut price alternative plan, known as the "Brisbane Underground". Little is known about this project other than:

  • It will be a North South Rail Line, as per Cross River Rail.
  • It is likely to be based on a "cheaper" George Street alignment instead of a more "central"Albert Street" alignment.
  • It will take advantage of George and William Street precinct redevelopments. 
  • It is likely to be combined with a bus tunnel.
It should be noted that Cross River Rail was the result of an in-depth review into multiple alignments, and George Street was not one of the short listed alignments. However, this was before Campbell Newman's plans to redevelop the end of George Street. This brings a potential new catchment to this "rather close to the river" alignment, and may allow for more partnership and funding from the private sector to reduce costs. Apparently, under George Street is easier to tunnel too. 

BrizCommuter doubts that there is currently need for a combined bus tunnel, as current SE Busway congestion could be simply solved by a more efficient and better designed bus network (as per TransLink's bus network review abandoned by transport minister Scott Emerson). However, this forward thinking by a state government must be commended. 

It will be interesting to see how these plans develop. With Abbott's road centric spending, there may be more state funds available for urban rail. Whilst the new plans must cut costs, they must not significantly cut benefits (as occurred with the ill-thought out Cleveland Solution). It will be interesting to see how this plan develops, but action will need to take place very soon due to the impeding George and William Street redevelopments, and impending congestion crisis. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

SE Queensland - this is what you voted for...

Welcome to congested Hicksville
As expected, the LNP's Tony Abbott will be Australia's new prime minister, bringing with him a "1960's" road-centric transport policy, and no funding for urban rail projects including Cross River Rail (CRR) and Melbourne's Metro Rail Tunnel. Thus a vote for the LNP was a vote against the urgently required CRR.  So for all of those who voted for the LNP, this is what you have effectively voted for:

Gold Coast Line - more than 60% of Gold Coast residents have voted against CRR, which means that the Gold Coast Line will become increasingly overcrowded after 2016. Enjoy your hour of standing!

Cleveland and Beenleigh Lines - approx. 55% of voters along the Cleveland Line corridor have voted against Cross River Rail. The majority of voters along the Beenleigh Line voted for CRR, but unfortunately this line shared tracks with the Cleveland and Gold Coast Lines. Again, enjoy the prospect of standing, not being able to board trains, and being kicked off the train at South Brisbane.

Ferny Grove and Doomben Lines - more than 53% of voters along these lines have voted against Cross River Rail. Ferny Grove Line commuters can thus expect increasing overcrowding, and Doomben Line commuters could even see their already infrequent rail line be axed to allow increased capacity for other rail lines.

Shorncliffe Line - this line has a majority of ALP voters. Unfortunately as this line shares tracks with the Doomben, Airport, and Ferny Grove Lines, there will be no room for increased train services after new timetables are introduced in 2014.

Sunshine Coast, Caboolture, and Kippa-Ring Lines - these lines mainly serve LNP strongholds, and the swung Petrie electorate. With Moreton May Rail Link (Kippa-Ring/Redcliffe Line) adding more passengers onto an already busy rail corridor running at near maximum train capacity, expect overcrowding from 2016, and severe overcrowding by the early 2020s.

Ipswich and Richland Lines - the majority of voters chose the ALP. Thank's to the majority of voters elsewhere favouring the LNP, you can expect severe overcrowding from the early 2020s. Don't expect enough train capacity to cope with rail extensions to Ripley Valley.

Flagstone Line - Greater Flagstone is in area with more than 60% LNP vote, Well, don't expect a train line to this new town, as the lack of CRR effectively prevents running trains to/from Flagstone. Enjoy your long drive to work!

Public transport fares - due to lack of CRR, BrizCommuter can only see a continuation of the high fares policy to deter commuters from using public transport, so as to avoid government public transport spending.

Tony Abbott's vision for Brisbane
Car commuters - lets not forget the majority who drive to work. You commute is directly affected by the number of people who use public transport. Less public transport users = more road users. Expect, more road congestion, more pollution, and more road trauma (i.e. deaths and injuries on the road). Roads that parallel train line corridors (such as Wynnum Road and Samford Road) may be worse off. Enhancements to the Pacific Highway and Bruce Highway will only add to road congestion in inner-Brisbane and suburbs.

SE Queensland economy - congestion and delayed commutes = poorer economy. CRR had major economic benefits for SE Queensland, sadly the majority of voters did not vote for it. The risk to the Queensland economy should a peak oil crisis occur will also rise significantly.

Thanks to Tony Abbott's retro transport policies, the Queensland state government now needs to urgently devise a plan B (such as introducing advanced signalling to allow more effective use of existing train lines). Again, with the state governments poor public transport credentials (e.g. failed bus network review), don't hold your breath.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Brisbane - Congestion Capital

1 train = all these cars and more!
This photo is taken at 5pm, looking at the traffic queue approaching the Samford Rd & Wardell Street intersection. This photo is taken 300m back from the intersection. Samford Road happens to parallel the Ferny Grove Line between Alderley and Ferny Grove. So what is being done to fix this road congestion?

Campbell Newman's LNP government is spending $60m on "upgrading the intersection" (the previous ALP government wanted to spend $90m!). With the grand total on one extra left turn lane in the outbound direction, this $60m is likely to only make a small dent (circa a few minutes less queuing) in reducing the road congestion along this important transport corridor.

So what else can be done to reduce the road congestion? Well, $100m was spent on duplicating the Ferny Grove Line, with the duplication opening in April 2012. Unfortunately, the failure of the LNP state government / TransLink / Queensland Rail (delete as applicable) to introduce the sector 2 train timetables has resulted in no extra train services taking advantage of the increase in capacity available due to the duplication. Even, with restricted train capacity through the CBD, an extra 2 trains per hour (tph) could be operated in the evening peak. 2 half full trains (500 passengers each) per hour would eliminate 15 minutes worth of free flowing car traffic from 2 traffic lanes - in other words all of the cars in the photo and more, a 25% reduction in traffic! As we can see the authorities are not getting their priorities right when it comes to solving congestion along Samford Road. It is still unknown when the sector 2 train timetables will be introduced, and whether they will have the "optimal" 8 tph timetabled.

So can rail help reduce congestion further along this transport corridor? Yes, but it would require construction of Cross Rail Rail and the elimination of major level crossings to allow more trains to be run. Unfortunately, the likely next Prime Minister, Tony Abbott is currently refusing the fund Cross River Rail, instead only funding more road projects and a rail freight tunnel. Failure to build Cross River Rail will result in train capacity through the CBD reaching it's maximum between 2016 and 2020, resulting in increased road congestion along transport corridors parallel to trains lines (such as Samford Road, Pacific Highway, Wynnum Road, Cleveland Road, etc, etc). It is well documented from around the world that more road construction eventually results in more road congestion, and thus is seems that Brisbane is heading for the death spiral of costly road congestion and trauma.