Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 World Fare Comparison - Part 2

Melbourne - cheaper public transport than Brisbane
In part 1 of the 2014 BrizCommuter world fare comparison, we ascertained that Brisbane has the worlds 5th most expensive 5km adult single peak train fare. In part 2, we look at bus fares, daily ticketing options, and weekly periodical ticket options. We generally only look at the 8 most expensive cities sampled in part 1.

Exchange rates are as of the 26th December 2013. Fares are as of the 6th January 2014.

* Note: Sydney's "Opal Card" fares not shown due to lack of network wide availability.

Bus ticket, adult passenger, single 5km peak journey

Oslo - $5.47
Stockholm - $4.26
Brisbane - $4.14
Berlin - $3.98
Liverpool (similar to some other UK cities) - $3.85
Sydney* - $3.70 ($2.96 with 10 multitrip ticket)
Melbourne - $3.58
London - $2.26
Toowoomba - $2.90 (similar to most QLD regional cities)

Half of the 8 cities sampled have cheaper bus fares compared to train fares. Of the cities sampled, Brisbane has the world's 3rd most expensive fares for a 5km peak bus journey. Sadly, with most of Brisbane having an infrequent bus service due to Brisbane City Council's poor network planning, it could be argued that Brisbane has the world's worst value for money bus network. Brisbane also has peak bus fares 43% higher than regional cities in Queensland. On the positive, at least one fare can be used for a train then bus journey (connection within an hour) in SE Queensland. 

Daily ticket maximum, adult passenger, for 5km journeys (including train)

Brisbane - $32.34 (incl. 3 peak trips)/$29.88 (all off-peak)
Sydney* - $23
Stockholm - $19.61
London (Underground) - $15.39 (peak)/$12.82 (off-peak)
Oslo - $14.59
Berlin - $10.27
Melbourne - $7.16 (weekday)/$6.00 (weekend)
Liverpool (and most other UK cities) - $6.60 (after 9:30am only)

Due to complete lack of daily ticketing options (apart from the ridiculously expensive tourist SEEQ card), Brisbane potentially has the world's most expensive public transport system for multiple daily journeys. Not good news for tourists or those without cars who rely heavily on public transport! It's about time that Brisbane has an attractive daily ticketing option - just look at Melbourne's as a good example. Sydney also has a very expensive daily ticketing option, but is at least valid across most of the Sydney Trains network.

Weekly ticket maximum, adult passenger, for 5km train journeys (including peak)

London (Underground) - $57.90
Stockholm - $51.18
Berlin - $44.14
Oslo - $40.11
Brisbane - $37.26
Melbourne - $35.80
Liverpool (and most other UK cities) - $32.80 to $37.94
Sydney* - $28 (train only)/$46 (all modes)

Thanks to the 9 and free weekly cap, Brisbane "only" has the world's 6th most expensive weekly train fares, but is still more than expensive than most other Australian cities. The ridiculous difference in price between Sydney's train only fares ($28) and fares that allow use of all modes ($46) should also be noted. This may improve in the future with Sydney's Opal Card.

In brief

As there has been no significant changes to fare structure (other than an across the board 7.5% increase) then it can still be concluded that longer distance journeys in SE Queensland are considerably better value for money than shorter journeys. This bizarrely favours environmentally unsustainable long distance commuting and lifestyle habits.

Public transport is more expensive than using a car (running/fuel costs only) for journeys in SE Queensland up to approximately 40km (depending on fuel economy). This assumes a car is already available, and parking is free. Public transport is still cheaper than driving when new car purchase costs and parking costs are factored in.

Off-peak fares are a small improvement over peak fares at $3.32 for a 5km adult single peak train or bus fare. However, even with off-peak fares, Brisbane is still within the 10 most expensive cities sampled in part 1 of the world fare comparison. In fact Brisbane's off-peak fares are 58% more expensive than Perth's anytime fares of $2.10, and 84% more expensive than Adelaide's off-peak fares of $1.80. The latter is also valid for Adelaide's entire public transport network! The movement of the end of the am peak fare period from 9am to 8:30am (touch on time) is just a desperate gimmick that does not improve a shoddy and extortionate fare system. The am peak fare period should be based on touch off times anyway!

Due to lack of refund policy for public transport delays in SE Queensland, then Brisbane has the world's most expensive public transport system without a refund policy. For example, in London if you are delayed by more than 15 minutes on The Tube, you get the fare refunded. In Oslo, if you are delayed by more than 20 minutes, you can catch a taxi for free.

Part 1 of the BrizCommuter 2014 world fare comparison took a look at 5km, adult, peak period train fares:
Part 3 of the BrizCommuter 2014 world fare comparison will take a look at fares in relation to average income:
The Awful Truth:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2014 World Fare Comparison - Part 1

High train fares = empty trains! 
It is the time of year again when BrizCommuter compares train fares between different cities around the world. For 2014, the LNP Queensland Government and TransLink have increased the already unsustainable public transport fares in SE Queensland by yet another 7.5%. Whilst this is less than the 15% fare rise planned by the annihilated ALP Government, this 7.5% fare rise is still still an unacceptable increase to the cost of living. Yes, that is an increase Mr Emerson!

Cities known for their high cost of living, such as Tokyo, Moscow, London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Stockholm, and Oslo have again been included in the comparison. The top ten most liveable cities in the world are also included in the list. This comparison does not take into account varying incomes between cities, however this is planned for part 3 of the BrizCommuter 2014 world fare comparison.

For this fare comparison we are looking at a 5km train (or light rail) journey from an inner suburb to the city centre (CBD), using the cheapest available adult peak single fare (excluding multi-trip, weekly, or other season tickets). Exchange rates are as of the 26th December 2013. Fares are as of the 6th January 2014.

Top 10 most expensive

Oslo - $5.47
London (Underground) - $5.31
Liverpool (and some other UK cities) - $4.76
Stockholm - $4.26
Brisbane - $4.14
Berlin - $3.98
Sydney* - $3.80
Melbourne - $3.58
Helsinki - $3.37
Adelaide - $3.29

* Note: Sydney's "Opal Card" fares not shown due to lack of network wide availability.

Selected other cities

Vienna - $3.22
Toronto - $3.16
Calgary - $3.16
Vancouver - $3.08
Ottawa - $2.87
Auckland - $2.81
Portland - $2.80
NYC (Subway) - $2.80
Paris - $2.68
Seattle - $2.52
Lausanne (and most other Swiss Cities)- $2.38
Perth - $2.10
Los Angeles - $1.68
Tokyo (Japan Rail) - $1.61
Moscow - $1.03
Singapore - $0.91
Hong Kong - $0.87
Shanghai - $0.55

Of the cities sampled, Brisbane has the the world's 5th most expensive train fares for a peak 5km train journey. Only cities in Scandinavia and UK are more expensive. Whilst this may appear as an improvement given Brisbane's 3rd placing in the last few years, this is only due to the falling value of the Australian Dollar. Brisbane is more expensive than all other Australian cities, and nearly double the cost of Perth!

In the last 5 years public transport fares in South East Queensland have increased by 83% compared with CPI at just 9.5%. With 2014 seeing a huge improvement to train services across South East Queensland, then an increase in rail patronage would usually be expected. Unfortunately, with fares completely off the rails, patronage will probably continue to be stagnated. To the casual observer it would appear that public transport patronage is being purposefully stunted so that government spending on more infrastructure is not required. This policy only increases road congestion, road trauma, and pollution, and goes against the United Nations vision of a low-carbon, sustainable transport future.

Part 2 of BrizCommuter 2014 fare comparison takes a look at bus fares, daily fares, and weekly fare options:
Part 3 of the BrizCommuter 2014 fare comparison takes a look at public transport fares vs average income:
The Awful Truth:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Overheard on the Springfield Line

Springfield Central
5 year talking to his mother, overhead on the Springfield Line:

"Mummy, why is there a station called Springfield Central and another called Springfield. That's really silly Mummy."

Yes, even a 5 year old can see the stupidity in similar sounding station names. In fact, in BrizCommuter's trip along the Springfield Line he overhead four different groups of people talking about the lack of differentiation in station names between Springfield and Springfield Central. Typically railway naming conventions call a centrally located station by "place name" or "place name central". Surrounding stations are then called "place name east/west/north/south/parkway etc etc". However, Queensland Rail or TransLink have named one station Springfield and the other Springfield Central. Now this is based around the suburbs that the stations are actually located in, but is obviously causing great confusion to passengers. BrizCommuter would not be surprised if multiple passengers have got off at the wrong station - resulting in a 30 minute wait for the next train! Just to add to the confusion, it should also be noted that the train destination shows "Springfield" when the terminus is actually "Springfield Central".

So what should Springfield station be renamed as?
  • Springfield Lakes - makes sense at that is the name of the adjacent suburb.
  • Springfield North - makes sense due to geographical location.
  • Springfield Middle (of Nowhere) - well it is.
  • Springfield Outback - as above. 
  • Teenage Mum Central - accurate, but not politically correct.
  • Springfield Bushfire Fodder - it's only a matter of time. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Brisbane Underground - the Park Road problem

The messy bit.      Screenshot from TMR Website. 
As many BrizCommuter readers will be aware, the lack of interchange for the planned Brisbane Underground / Underground Bus and Rail (UBAT) project at Park Road/Boggo Road, and removal of Dutton Park station has caused quite a stir. But is it such a big issue? BrizCommuter takes a look at the scenarios where interchange may be worse, and then takes a look at alternative solutions.

  1. There will a frequent bus route using UBAT serving Roma Street-George Street-Wooloongabba-Park Rd/Boggo Rd-UQ Lakes. 
  2. There will be a frequent bus route linking Wooloongabba and Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH). 
  3. There will be a more sensible bus network (i.e. Brisbane City Council removed from bus network design).
  4. There will be a three tier train service on the Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line corridor, each running a 15 minute off-peak frequency as per the Inner City Rail Capacity Study and Cross River Rail plans. Gold Coast and outer-Beenleigh Line services will run via UBAT. Inner-Beenleigh Line services (eventually extended to Flagstone) will run via Park Rd and South Brisbane. 
Interchange between Cleveland Line and outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Lines

Current situation - this currently requires a single change, but waits can vary. 
Problem post UBAT - this interchange will not be possible without changing twice.
Solutions post UBAT - 1) Well timed train interchanges at both Park Rd and suitable location on inner-Gold Coast Beenleigh Line (?Yeerongpilly). This would create additional train scheduling requirements.  2) Frequent bus service between Park Rd/Boggo Rd (Cleveland Line) and Wooloongabba (outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line) via UBAT. 
Estimated impact: Approx. 10-15 mins additional journey time for ? less than 100 passengers/day. 

Access to UQ and PAH from outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Lines

Current situation - this currently requires a single change between bus and rail at Park Rd/Boggo Rd.
Problem post UBAT - outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line services will bypass Park Rd/Boggo Rd.
Solution post UBAT - outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line services will serve Wooloongabba, allowing interchange with buses to UQ and PAH.  
Estimated impact: Approx. 2 mins additional journey time for a few thousand passengers/day. 

Access to South Bank/Brisbane area from outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Lines

Current situation - these stations are currently served by all trains from this corridor. 
Problem post UBAT - outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line services will not serve these stations.
Solution post UBAT - outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line services will interchange with inner-Beenleigh Line services at suitable station (e.g. Yeerongpilly). As per the first problem in this blog post, if train services could be timed to connect at this station (which would require an extra platform for cross-platform interchange), then the issue would be mitigated significantly.
Estimated impact: Approx. 7.5 mins additional journey time for a few thousand passengers/day. 

Access to Dutton Park station from Beenleigh Line

Current situation - this station is served by all Beenleigh Line services (from Jan. 2014).
Problem post UBAT - station will be closed permanently.
Solution post UBAT - 1) Walkway from Park Rd/Boggo Rd station, 2) Buses will serve Dutton Park, 3) Buses to PAH busway station from multiple locations including Wooloongabba (UBAT) and Park Rd/Boggo Rd (outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Lines). 
Estimated impact: Overall balanced journey times for less than a thousand passengers/day. 


Whilst far from perfect, the plans for UBAT will improve public transport for tens of thousands of public transport users. Examples include (but are not exclusive to):
  • Increased capacity to the CBD for many rail lines (may require other rail infrastructure projects) - approx. 5-7 min faster journey times and less crowding/more capacity.  
  • Faster bus journeys through CBD for some routes - approx. 7 min faster journey time.
  • Improved access to Gardens Point end of CBD - approx. 15 min faster journey time.
  • Faster train journeys to CBD from outer-Beenleigh/Gold Coast Line - approx. 10 min faster journey time.
  • Improved access to CBD from Centenary Suburbs/Kenmore area via Legacy Way tunnel (although this doesn't need to wait until UBAT) - approx. 15-20min faster journey times, and new journey opportunities. 
The preferred solution would still be an interchange between existing rail lines and UBAT at Park Rd/Boggo Rd, and this would be BrizCommuter's preference. However, even without this interchange station (that may cost at least $500m) the benefits of UBAT still significantly outweigh the dis-benefits as long as the above mitigation strategies are in place.

Previous blog post on Brisbane Underground/UBAT:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Springfield Line opens

The long awaited Springfield Line opened on Monday 2nd December 2013. The extension of the Richlands Line to the "urban sprawl in the middle of nowhere" has two stations. These are confusingly called Springfield (which should have been named Springfield Lakes or Springfield North), and Springfield Central. Ellen Grove station, near Forest Lake was unfortunately not built, leaving a long gap between Springfield and Richlands stations.

This line will create a much needed public transport link to the currently car reliant new town of Springfield. The peak direction service is half-decent, with a train every 6 to 12 mins in the am peak, and every 12 mins in the pm peak. With a branch of the University of Southern Queensland at Springfield, quite a few business, and a reasonably sized medical centre, there should be a reasonable amount of reverse peak traffic (e.g. to Springfield in am peak, and from Springfield in pm peak). With this in mind, it is disappointing that both off-peak and counter-peak trains will only run every 30 minutes. Approximately. 2 out of 3 am peak trains will run empty (out of service) outbound to Springfield in the am peak, somewhat disappointing for those trying to get to University! Whilst it is well known that there are a lack of trains in the am peak, BrizCommuter wonders if it is realistic to run any of these empty trains in service? The hourly Sunday am train service is also disappointing.

The last minute car park extension at Springfield is very welcome, but may become stretched to capacity very quickly. Decent feeder bus services appear to be missing in action, as per usual in Brisbane's poorly integrated public transport system. The bus services around Springfield has received quite a bit of bad press in the last few days, and something urgently needs to be done to improve coverage, frequency, and routing.

BrizCommuter hasn't been bothered enough to take a trip on the line yet, so has used a stock photo of Springfield instead (top left). Homer was unavailable for comment.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Next Generation Rollingstock - Not enough doors?

Queensland Rail's Next Generation Rollingstock
The good news is that a preferred bidder (Bombardier NGR Consortium) has been announced for Queensland Rail's Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR). These trains will be tested from late 2015, and all 75 6-car units are planned to be in service by 2018. These trains will allow for more trains to be run on Queensland Rail's CityTrain network (required for Moreton Bay Rail Link, and increases in peak services on other lines), as well as replacing the ageing EMU fleet. The fleet will be based at Wulkaraka, near Ipswich.

The potential bad news, is that the trains will continue to have only 2 sets of doors per car side. This is disappointing given the trend on other suburban commuter rail systems (including Paris RER, San Francisco's BART, and in Melbourne) to increase the number of doors per car side. The more sets of doors per car side, allows for faster passenger flows getting on and off the train, and thus allows for shorter station dwell times. Shorter station dwell times results in being able to run trains more frequently and more reliably. Shorter station dwell times also result in faster journey times.

The reasons for not having 3 sets of doors per car side on the NGR is unknown. Platform edge doors on Cross River Rail/Brisbane Underground could have been a factor, but as long as the 1st and 3rd doors on the NGR trains matched the position of the 1st and 2nd doors on the current trains, this would have been a non-issue. Japan is even testing platform edge doors that can automatically adjust their position for different trains!

Another reason may have been to simply decrease (or not increase) maintenance costs. 3 sets of doors per car side require a 50% increase in maintenance than 2 sets of door per car side. This may increase recurring costs. However, these decreased costs will leave a legacy of longer station dwell times for the next 40 years. Good or bad decision?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Moreton Bay Rail Link - Petrie station still sub-optimal?

Sub-optimal layout for Petrie. 
There have been some recent changes to the plans for Moreton Bay Rail Link (MBRL), most of them sensible, such as an island platform at Kippa-Ring (Redcliffe). Despite a re-design at Petrie, now sensibly incorporating fly-overs, the track and platform layout still appears to be sub-optimal. Petrie is where the MBRL splits off from the existing Caboolture Line. Unfortunately, it appears in the plans that inbound services (to Brisbane) from both lines will share a platform at Petrie.

Typically, where two train lines merge, it is best practice to allocate a separate platform for each train line. Using a separate platform for each line allows for more operating margin and reliability, as trains can wait for their turn on the merged track at the station platform. Instead, Petrie will have a shared platform. The shared platform will result in trains entering the merged track approx. 2.5 mins apart (due to station dwell time), instead of approx. 1 minute apart (on yellow signals) for separate platforms. The shared platform will increase the occurrences of trains waiting outside of the station if the train arrives early, or a train from the other line arrives late.

An optimal design in Barcelona Source:
There will be three tracks south of Kippa-Ring, aided by the Lawnton to Petrie triplication, allowing for express services to overtake all stations services between Petrie and Lawton. Due to the above mentioned constraints, having a shared inbound platform at Petrie will result in limitations for overtaking opportunities - in fact an express train would not be able to catch up with and overtake the all stations train until at least Lawnton, making the Lawnton to Petrie triplication useless in the inbound direction.

Unless the publicly available plans are an incorrectly drawn "artists impression", then the track and platform layout at Petrie requires an urgent rethink. There should be separate platforms (preferably an island platform) for inbound MBRL and Caboolture Line services.

MBRL TMR Webpages:
Carto Metro Free (excellent track maps):