Monday, December 15, 2014

BrizCommuter Exclusive - QR's Santa Express leaves behind Santa!

QR's Santa Express 
BrizCommuter loves Christmas presents, but today QR gave kiddies a great big present of incompetence.

MrsCommuter, ToddlerCommuter, and BabyCommuter went for a ride on Queensland Rail's (QR) Santa Express to see Santa and his elves, and the decorated train. Things were going well, until the train made it's Ferny Grove Line turnback at Mitchelton. Santa left the train to allegedly eat a few mince pies during the timetabled 11 minute dwell time, whilst the driver changed ends for the 1:18pm departure. Santa's helpers made it back on the train, but unfortunately the driver closed the doors and departed at 1:15pm. One slight problem - Santa was not on board the train! Yes, QR's Santa Express left behind Santa!

Not surprisingly, Santa's helpers had a bit of a panic, and after a discussion with the guard left the train at Gaythorne. This left kiddies wanting to meet Santa, with just a decorated 3-car train, no Santa, and no Santa's helpers. In fact ,some families had only boarded the train at Mitchelton, and thus weren't able to meet Santa at all. Lets hope that TransLink and QR fully refund all who complain.

QR made an excuse on their Facebook page about a helper being ill, however Mrs Commuter is buying the excuse due to the surprise of the helpers on board the train and the early departure.
By the way, last year the Ferny Grove Line Santa Express was more than15 minutes late, and the year before that joyous fun of the Santa Express was ruined by TransLink Transit Officers doing an overzealous ticket inspection.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BrizCommuter (almost) Exclusive - G20 Go Card

Whilst SE Queenslander's fork out their life savings to use public transport, lucky delegates of the G20 have been given go cards for free travel during the week (Monday 10th November to Monday 17th November). However, BrizCommuter doubts that most delegates would even consider using public transport is as they ride around in their chauffeur driven limousines between meetings, dinners, casinos, brothels, and in the case of Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin - getting down on the dance floor of The Beat. Thus most if these free go cards will probably go to waste.

As BrizCommuter is more important in world politics than Obama, here is an exclusive look at BrizCommuter's G20 go card.

The go card comes in a nice pack with a "Top things to see and do in Brisbane" guide, and a bit of travel information (which should just say don't bother with public transport during the G20).

The "Top things to see and do in Brisbane" guide strangely mentions no commercial properties except for the Story Bridge Hotel, twice. Strange!

Here is one of the "limited edition" free travel G20 go card that will no doubt end up in the bins of 5 star hotels in large numbers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

BrizCommuter Special - G20 transport fail

Yes, Brisbane is backwards! 
With the exception of hotel owners and anarchists wanting to smash up a McDonalds, very few people in Brisbane are looking forward to the G20 summit which runs from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th November. With road, railway, busway, and even airspace closures, transport will be chaotic at times around the G20.

So for protesters, or anyone stupid enough to go anywhere near the CBD over the long weekend, what perks do road users get during the G20 weekend:
  • 1000 free parking spaces in the CBD, in Brisbane City Council car parks
  • Free tolls on the Gateway Bridge, and Go Between Bridge
So what perks do public transport users get:
  • Absolutely nothing 
Yes, that is right, there will be no public transport discounts over the long weekend. This is despite a heavily disrupted bus network, and off-peak train service with diversions. In fact, during the Friday public holiday, peak fares will be in place, despite there only being an off-peak (at best) public transport service in Brisbane. Is this fraudulent? Interestingly G20 delegates will get free go cards, but the general public will have to pay full fare. For those trying to plan their journeys, TransLink's journey planner is pretty useless, and in many use cases lacks accurate information for the G20 long weekend. 

Once again, Brisbane's politicians show how backwards Brisbane is when it comes to sustainable transport options. 

TransLinks G20 information:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 fare reduction - fares still too high?

Still far too expensive!
From Monday 3rd November 2014, public transport fares in SE Queensland will be reduced by 5% due to the "carbon tax rebate" charade. Does this make Brisbane's expensive public transport system any more affordable? BrizCommuter takes a look at Brisbane's new reduced fares vs selected other cities.

Costs are for the cheapest available, adult single 5km train or bus fare from the CBD to inner-suburbs during the peak period. Exchange rates are as on 28/10/2014.

Stockholm - $5.53
Oslo - $5.13
London - $5.11 Tube / $4.01 National Rail / $2.65 Bus or Tram
Brisbane - $3.93
Berlin - $3.73
Melbourne - $3.58
Sydney - $3.50 Bus / $3.30 Train
Adelaide - $3.39
Vienna - $3.16
New York - $3.11
Seattle - $2.83
Townsville - $2.80 (Bus)
Vancouver - $2.78
Paris - $2.44
Perth - $2.18
Los Angeles - $1.98
Tokyo - $1.73 (Metro)
Hong Kong - $0.90 (MTR)
Singapore - $0.77 (MRT)

As expected, despite the 5% fare reduction, Brisbane still has the world's highest public transport fares outside of Northern Europe. Brisbane still has the most expensive public transport system in Australia, and is still far more expensive than all of the world's most liveable cities.

Given how expensive Brisbane's fares have been for the past few years, a measly 5% fare cut has made no dent into reducing the un-affordability of Brisbane's public transport system. During the LNPs reign, and taking into account the 5% fare decrease, public transport fares have still increased by 10%. This is above CPI, and most workers pay increases (except for politicians of course). Campbell Newman's bid to decrease the cost of living has seriously failed when it comes to public transport (and we won't even mention electricity cost increases)! During the LNPs tenure, there also been few improvements to public transport services aside from the sector 2 train timetables which were planned before the LNP came to power anyway). We have also seen the bus network redesign shambles, which resulted in cuts rather than TransLink's planned improvements, and an inefficient bus network. No wonder Brisbane's public transport users have continued to run screaming back to their cars.

It is clear that rather than a pathetic 5% fare cut in the lead to an election, Brisbane needs a major fare system revamp. Why is it that cities like Perth can have fares approximately 40% cheaper than Brisbane? Why is it that cities such as London can have sensible daily and zone based fare capping, whilst Brisbane has the rortable 9 then free weekly cap? Why do cities with a very high cost of living such as Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, and Tokyo have fares a fraction of those in Brisbane? It's time that both side of Queensland politics wake up to affordable and sustainable transport!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

BrizCommuter special - the fare decrease vs service increase vote charade

How about a vote for more competent government?
BrizCommuter has temporarily come out of self imposed exile, to discuss the LNP state government's fare decrease vs increased service vote. This vote(/pile of spin), put to public transport users via TransLink's website, is to allow commuters to decide how to spend $30m in savings from the scrapping of the carbon tax. (The carbon tax incidentally unfairly targeted public transport instead of environmentally unsustainable car commuting).

Why are the fares so high in the first place?

The previous ALP government introduced a completely flawed policy of increasing public transport fares by 15% a year, in order to decrease the amount of public transport subsidy. Unfortunately, they forgot that if you put fares up by too much, then commuters just use their cars instead. Thus public transport patronage stagnated and decreased. The amount of government subsidy required to run public transport thus increased. Doh!

The current LNP government then promised to fix the fare structure. They could have introduced attractive fares to increase patronage, and thus fare box income. Unfortunately, the just halved the fare increased to a still unacceptable 7.5%, and introduced the rortable 9 then free cap. Laughably, the LNP claimed the 7.5% fare rises were decreasing the cost of living. Who are they trying to kid!

So what is wrong with services?

Train services are limited in the peaks by Queensland Rail's lack of trains. This is due to the previous ALP government not purchasing enough of them. Whilst the LNP government have ordered new trains, they took their time over the order, and the new trains will not be in service until 2016. This prevents any peak improvements until 2016/17. There is however potential for some off-peak improvements, notably outer suburban (e.g. 15min frequency beyond Darra and Northgate), and expansion of the 15 minute off-peak service to weekends. The lack of automatic train protection, and continued use of guards, makes for a very inefficient train operation.

Brisbane City Council's bus network (run by their own Brisbane Transport) is massively inefficient, wasteful, and confusing to use. TransLink had excellent (although not quite perfect) plans to re-design the network. This would have increased the percentage of Brisbane with a high frequency bus service, whilst decreasing operating costs. Unfortunately due to Brisbane City Council playing political games, and transport minister Scott Emerson having no balls to stand up to Brisbane City Council, TransLink's plans were dropped.

The "decrease fares" vote

There is no question that Brisbane's public transport is absurdly expensive, and it is forcing commuters back to their cars in droves. A fare decrease is urgently required, but not using the carbon tax rebate as per this vote. The fare structure needs to be designed to make public transport more attractive, increase patronage, increase efficiencies, and increase fare box revenue. A good example is Perth, where train fares are nearly half of Brisbane's!

It is also noted that the fare decrease, if voted for, would be in an election year. BrizCommuter is sure that fare decrease will not help Queensland Health staff who are just about to be faced with savage cuts to pay and conditions.

The "increase services" vote

There is no mention of what services will be improved from the $30m carbon tax "refund", and by the wording on TransLink's website, the improvements may not be in Brisbane. There is no chance of improving peak train services until 2016/17, do don't waste your vote on that expectation. Improvements to off-peak frequencies would be welcome, but could be paid for by the introduction of automatic train protection (ATP) and scrapping of guards.

There is probably limited scope for improving Brisbane's bus services without purchasing more buses. Given the current status quo, this would just add even more route variations and busway congestion. Without a complete network redesign (as per TransLinks abandoned plans, and Auckland's successful changes) which could be done with no funding improvements anyway, we will not see any real improvements.

The "more competent government" vote

This is what BrizCommuter would like to see,  a state government will the balls to:

  • Completely revise the fare structure to increase public transport patronage and fare box revenue. 
  • Buy enough trains, rather than enough for what was required 5 years ago. 
  • Install ATP, and replace guards with more train drivers, and provide more train services with the same staffing costs. 
  • Completely re-design Brisbane's bus network to make for a more efficient use of tax payers money. Privatise Brisbane Transport whilst you are at it. 

Unfortunately, it does not look like that either the LNP or ALP have the competence to run an efficient and affordable public transport network in SE Queensland.

Oh, by the way, the vote is here:

Monday, March 17, 2014

The last post (for a while)

Central Tilt-shift
BrizCommuter blog has been running for more than 3 and a half years. BrizCommuter has decided that he needs to spend more time with MrsCommuter, BabyCommuter, and Toddler Commuter, and thus this will be the last post for a long while. During the course of this blog, most Brisbane public transport issues have been covered, in many cases multiple times. It is rather sad that the lack of progress by consecutive governments means that many of the blog posts from 3 years ago are just as relevant, or even more relevant today.

So what still needs to fixed on SE Queensland's public transport system?


The current fare system is a disgrace. The fares are quite clearly set so high as to intentionally discourage public transport use, and the policy has done just that. BrizCommuter is not aware of any other world city with such an anti-public transport policy. In fact it is cheaper to use a car in many cases! The previous ALP government's 15% fare rises were bad enough. But now the LNP have continued to increase fares by 7.5%, well above CPI, whilst making delusional claims that they are lowering the cost of living. To try and make the fare rises "more acceptable", the LNP have introduced the 9 and free cap and earlier daytime off-peak. These are just gimmicks, and the 9 and free cap is so (legally) rortable so much that millions more $$$ are being wasted. In fact Brisbane is one of only 2 cities on the whole world to be stupid enough to have a x and free cap with a zone based fare system (the other is Sydney with it's new Opal Card).

The fares need to be much more affordable. Taking $1 off all single fares would be a start. Instead of the 9 and free cap, there needs to be a weekly zone based cap or ticketing option as in London. There also needs to be daily zone based fare caps, and better fare options for groups, jobseekers, and tourists. There is huge latent demand for public transport in Brisbane, but many of these commuters will not use public transport until it is affordable.


New trains

There has been a chronic lack of trains in SE Queensland ever since BrizCommuter arrived on these shores back in 2006. This is now causing overcrowding and prolonged service gaps on peak services on the Ferny Grove and Cleveland Lines. This is the result of the previous ALP government not ordering a follow on order of SMU260 trains. The LNP government then appears to have dragged their heels in ordering the Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR), which won't arrive until 2016. As the NGR will have to replace the ageing EMU trains, provide trains for the Moreton Bay Rail Link, and enhance peak services on many lines, it is quite clear that insufficient NGR trains have been ordered. Unless more NGR trains are ordered, then the chronic lack of trains issue will continue to haunt SE Queensland commuters.


Despite some issues the sector 2 train timetables were a huge improvement. However the following service improvements (and associated infrastructure improvements) need to be of high priority when new trains eventually arrive:
  • Eliminate the remaining hour service gaps (such as on the Springfield Line).
  • Extend 15 minute off-peak across more of the network, such as to Cleveland, Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Ipswich, Springfield, Shorncliffe, Airport, Caboolture, and Kippa-Ring (when it opens). The Gold Coast and Beenleigh Line improvements would require some major infrastructure improvements. 
  • Extend 15 minute off-peak to weekend daytime.
  • 15 minute counter-peak services on the Gold Coast, Beenleigh, Springfield, Caboolture, and Kippa-Ring Lines (when it opens). 
  • Extend the Cleveland Line pm peak express pattern by approximately 30 mins, and fill in the remaining 15 minute pm peak gaps on the Ferny Grove Line.
  • Increase 3-car peak services to 6-cars. 
Queensland Rail - Safety, Guards, and Privatisation

Whilst Queensland Rail (QR) has made efficiency improvements recently, it is still among the world's most inefficient rail operators. BrizCommuter would not be surprised if QR get's privatised after the next election. However, QR needs to be given the chance to try and make itself more "contestable", with cost per km closer to peer systems such as Perth (not privatised) and Melbourne (privatised).

SE Queensland's rail network lacks Automatic Train Protection (ATP), and is thus a major accident waiting to happen. A major inefficiency of QR is the continued use of guards. Many other rail networks have proven that guards are unnecessary. Conversion of the rail network to driver only operation needs to be in conjunction with the introduction of ERTMS signalling with ATP. This solves two problems in one go, and also potentially allows for a 20% increase in capacity. 

Station Access

Many station car parks are full well before the end of the am peak (and sometime even before the am peak), resulting in parking in surrounding streets, and further discouraging public transport use. Lets face it, if you can't get a good park, you might as well drive to work! BrizCommuter suspects that there would be considerable latent demand at stations where car parks are always full.

There needs to be a mixture of station car park enhancements where at all possible (and there is still land available near many stations), including inner suburbs. If stations have more than approximately 500 cars parked around them (either in QR car parks or surrounding streets) then serious consideration needs to be given to frequent feeder bus routes with half-decent operating hours. Feeder buses can be very successful, such as Melbourne's route 465

Additionally, zoning needs to encourage high density housing within 500m of train stations, with limited car parking per dwelling to encourage public transport use.


Brisbane City Council's "dog's breakfast" of a bus network

Brisbane has one of the world's most inefficient and confusing to use bus networks. The Brisbane City Council (Brisbane Transport) run network is a major contributor to the high cost of public transport service provision in SE Queensland. Last year TransLink devised some excellent (but not quite perfect) changes which were quickly shot down by pitch fork wielding Brisbanites, idiotic councillors, poorly informed journalists, and a transport minister with no balls (- seriously, the Newman LNP government wants to privatise hospitals, put doctors in contracts with no rights, but can't change some bus routes - pathetic!!!) So what needs to change regarding Brisbane's bus network?
  • Consolidate bus routes - the current bus network has multiple routes with minor variations or stopping patterns serving the same corridors. This causes huge amounts of service provision wastage, and confusion. Bus routes need to be consolidated with a maximum of two stopping patterns (all stops and express) along each transport corridor. Minor variations around backstreets should be changed to feeder buses for the trunk route. The result of these efficiency improvements will allow for more high frequency bus routes, serving an increased proportion of Brisbane's population (such as Centenary Suburbs, Old Northern Road corridor, Wynnum Road/Bulimba, Webster Road).
  • Consolidate CBD stop locations - the current bus network has buses that serve each transport corridor serving different bus stops in the CBD. For example the 345 and P343 to Aspley serve different CBD stop locations. This effectively halves the service frequency, causes mass confusion, and service provision wastage. All bus routes serving a particular transport corridor must have consistent CBD stop locations to allow for simplicity, improved frequency, and more efficient service provision. 
  • Rail feeder services - the current bus network competes with rail, instead of complimenting it. The bus network needs to be redesigned to connect with a frequent rail network where possible. Also rail feeder bus services need to have an attractive frequency and span of hours. 
  • Backstreet/welfare routes - whilst some of these routes are required for those who have issues getting about (such as the elderly), there is a lot of wastage, especially given that many of these routes serve the CBD. Most of these routes should be changed to feeder routes. Some of these routes should not even exist, if other bus routes are within a short walk. 
  • Mini/midi buses - many backstreet/welfare bus routes have low patronage, but are served by approximately 13m long full sized buses. With new energy efficient (or even electric) low floor mini/midi buses on the market, the lower operating costs, purchase costs, and smaller wheelbase of mini/midi buses surely makes them attractive for these routes. 
  • Privatise Brisbane Transport, and remove Brisbane City Council from controlling public transport due to ongoing incompetence. 

Attention to detail

Both TransLink and QR are guilty of lack of attention to detail. In the last year we have seen .pdf timetables published nearly 2 months after timetable changes, incorrect weekend track closure information on TransLink's Facebook, dubious advertising of "all day" 15 minute off-peak, and QR trying to get passengers to avoid 3-car units rather than overcrowded services. Attention to detail is the difference between excellence and mediocrity. Unfortunately, public transport operators in SE Queensland are at the bad end of the "mediocritometer".

Political and personal attitudes

Both major political parties just do not understand public transport. Even the Greens appear to unable to apply their principles to local issues. The continued failure of high fares discouraging public transport use, half-baked infrastructure projects, pro-car propaganda, poor urban planning (e.g. urban sprawl away from existing transport corridors), lack of public transport improvements and efficiencies, will result in SE Queensland continuing to head towards a congestion meltdown that will ultimately cost billions more $$$ more to fix. Brisbanites can see straight through the political spin, lies, and ineptitude.

Brisbane is a very car-centric city. Due to the urban sprawl, many journeys cannot be made using public transport. In fact there are even generations of Brisbanites who's families have never even used public transport, apart from maybe travelling to sporting events and the Ekka. However, there is a considerable latent demand for public transport, that would be tapped into by lower fares, improved frequency and operating hours. The government needs to tap into this latent demand to avoid Brisbane and SE Queensland turning into chronically polluted and congested city such as LA.

Brisbanites are a very apathetic bunch (apart from when they selfishly want express services to their station), and we certainly aren't going to see Brazilian style riots over fare increases. However, at least TransLink's Facebook page gives commuters to chance to vent their frustration. Given the number of people that have already been banned or blocked from TransLink's Facebook page, you can be sure that commuters are extremely unhappy!

And Finally

BrizCommuter thanks all of those who have supported this blog over the last 3 and half years. In particular Rail Back on Track has been a a great source of referrals. Rail Back on Track and many of it's members have helped disseminate many of BrizCommuter's post, including the annual world fare comparison, and guide to doing the go card rort.

BrizCommuter will be taking a break for a while, maybe a long while, but will be back!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Update on 3-car-mageddon

Before BrizCommuter continues criticising the sector 2 train timetables, the benefits of the new sector 2 timetables on the affected lines should be noted:
  • More frequent peak services on all affected lines, with reductions on crowding on the majority of services.
  • Weekday daytime 15 min off-peak throughout most of the inner-suburban network.
  • Elimination of hour gaps on Sunday am and weekday late nights.
  • Elimination of expresses on Ferny Grove and Beenleigh Lines, and revised express patterns on Gold Coast and Cleveland Lines allowing for improved journey opportunities, and less confusion.
3-car QR Sardine Can departing Windsor
Unfortunately, as previously discussed in blog, there is one big problem that prevents the new timetables from being excellent - that is lack of trains. Whilst loadings are quite variable from day to day, the loadings on the following services have been observed to be overcrowded or full on multiple occasions:
  • 7:10am from Ferny Grove - 3-car unit.
  • 7:25am from Ferny Grove - 3-car unit.
  • 5:26pm from Central to Ferny Grove - after a bizarrely placed 15 minute gap in the "peak of the peak".
  • 5:48pm from Central to Cleveland - 3-car unit. 
Now BrizCommuter doesn't have issues with passengers standing on short or medium distance journeys. This is par for the course in most cities, and expected during the "peak of the peak" period. However, what BrizCommuter deems as being unacceptable is when:
  1. Passengers are choosing not to board a train, or are unable to board a train due to overcrowding - longer journey times.
  2. QR are having to actively discourage passengers from using the affected services - effectively halving the frequency, increasing journey times, and less convenient travel times for some users. 
  3. There are more overcrowded services in the new Ferny Grove Line timetable than the previous timetable.
These overcrowding issues somewhat defeat the purpose of a high frequency "metro like" peak timetable on the Ferny Grove Line, which is Brisbane's busiest train line per km. A timetable that should have made using this line highly attractive has failed in its mission, resulting in hundreds of disgruntled commuters. There is also no room for patronage improvements on some services, for whenever the fares get fixed (although don't hold your breath for that). This situation is very disappointing given that more than $130m was recently spent on duplicating the Ferny Grove Line.

Samford Road widening near Gaythorne station
By early 2015, Samford Rd (which is parallel to the Ferny Grove Line) may have significant reductions in journey time due to the $60m Samford Rd/Wardell St intersection upgrade. The car may continue to be looking like the more attractive commuting option for some commuters along the Samford Rd corridor until Queensland Rail can solve the overcrowding issues when new trains arrive.

Many Cleveland Line commuters are also disgruntled about the ending of the express pattern at 5:09pm from Central, with 15 minute services to all stations from 5:17pm from Central. This is resulting in a less frequent service in the "peak of the peak" for many commuters.

Given the initial allocation of Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains may have to go to the Moreton Bay Rail Link in 2016, it could be a painful 3 years+ until commuters see some relief on these problem services. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

TransLink's Facebook Farce!

Screenshot - sign up for amusement!
Last updated 07/03/2014 - update at bottom of page

When you are probably the most hated Queensland government department (well actually TransLink is a component of Department of Transport and Main Roads) is it really a good idea to set up a Facebook page? Maybe TransLink thought it is a better way of connecting with the people? Given the ridicule of Queensland Rail's (QR's) new timetable on QR's Facebook page, TransLink would be on another planet if they think they are not going to be slated, stoned, and pilloried. Here are some comments made before the TransLink page has even been officially announced, and minus moderators as well:

Ellenabobbin Payne Morahan Buses that never come, fares that are insanely expensive.
How could you expect this page to attract anything but hate?
I have never hated a public service the way I hate translink, congratulations on outdoing Queensland Health and centrelink as one of the most frustrating, poorly run government services ever screwed up by it's senior management!

Timothy Axolotl Jay Great opportunity for what? He's catching a bus not enrolling in university. Though maybe he's heading to a job interview. He'll need that job so he can pay over $10 a day in public transport fees to get a few KMs down the road. (In reference to the Queensland Government's "Great State. Great Opportunity." tag line.

Patrick Doyle Why do your busses pass my stop eleven minutes late or seven minutes early

Jayne-Louise Pritchard If you want to stop people evading fairs and taking advantage of the '9 and free' scheme then LOWER YOUR PRICES. Brisbane has one of the most expensive public transport systems in the WORLD, and the most expensive in Australia, and yet it's one of the worst.

Eg. I now pay (thank you for increasing prices again, by the way) $2.52 off peak, $3.14 on peak to get to university. 

Theoretically, that's $5.04 - $6.28 a day. That's $22.68 - $28.26 a week (taking into account your '9 and free' scheme, that's on par with how much I would spend on fuel - public transport is meant to be a cheaper alternative!). That's $45.36 - $56.52 a fortnight (nearly 15% of what I earn as a student). That's $317.52 - $395.64 a semester. That's $635.04 - $791.28 a year (that's more expensive than my car registration AND insurance).

I would save $70.65 - $87.92 a year with your '9 and free' scheme. That's a 10% saving per year. Not much, considering you wanted to hike up your prices 15%, but generously decided to only hike them up 7.5% /sarcasm.

Luckily, even though I have uni 5 days a week, I can get a lift to uni in a car a few times week. I avoid public transport at all costs, because:
a) It's way too expensive.
b) It's disgusting.
c) The people running rampant on your buses and trains.

Carpooling is a MUCH cheaper and more comfortable option for me. I only catch public transport when I have absolutely no other choice. That's a testament to how awful a job the government is doing.

This also means that I miss out on the "savings" your '9 and free' scheme would give me.

Poor effort!

Hamish Irvine $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Kim Brown Is that a full bus passing waiting passengers..... again...? (In reference to a photo on TransLink's Facebook page)

Kordell Delo HOW ABOUT FARES THAT AREN'T THE WORLDS HIGHEST? It's pathetic, it's meant to be Government owned and yet it's so ridiculously expensive. NT made all public transport free for students, I pay $3000 a year here, and $0 a year in Darwin.

Lisa Leo Yes, it's easy!! Simply touch off, except when the station has a blackout... Then you will be charged $10 the next morning on your way to work because you didn't touch off the previous trip, and another $10 half an hour later for the same reason ... And then spend half the morning on the phone arguing to get a refund while being told " no system is perfect". Far from it Translink!!!!!!!

Timothy Axolotl Jay PROTECT THE MONEY? The last thing a Go Card does is protect money.

Jasmine Walton This is ridiculous there's no way for those "adults" who work on a casual basis (1-2 short shifts per week) to get any discount! Go cards are such a massive rip off. I've started driving/ walking everywhere now cause I'm sick of getting ripped off! #fedup

Tomorrow (Mon 3rd March 2014), when many more disgruntled and ripped-off commuters find out about TransLink's Facebook page, it will be quite an amusing read. The above comments will probably be quite tame in comparison. Link below:

Update - 06/03/2014

It appears that TransLink have failed to officially announce the launch of Facebook page. However, the torrent of (quite justified) abuse from disgruntled commuters persists. Here are a few quotes from the last few days.
Vlad Gigov I think your service and pricing is abusive and obscene (In response to another persons post being removed for being abusive and obscene)

Vlad Gigov Seriously I've just moved up from Sydney and have gotten to the point that I refuse to use any of your services. I walk an hour to work and back - and even though it means getting up earlier it spares me the aneurism of dealing with this obscenely over priced and inefficient service

Ruby Violet Wow translink your censorship of this page is on par with North Korean censorship. Seriously translinks services are THE most expensive in the ENTIRE world and the quality of the service is shameful. People are angry so let them vent, deleting every comment that doesn't portray translink in a good light isn't fooling anyone into thinking this service is good. (In response to TransLink removing yet another post)

The following posts are all in response to TransLink having a guessing game on when the go card was launched:

Garvin Gray And have been jacking fares ever since with affordability stats going in the opposite direction.

Jayne-Louise Pritchard I remember the day I realised they didn't do daily tickets anymore... I remember the bewilderment, the confusion, and the realisation I'd be paying the same ridiculously high price to come back home.

Ivan Anderson Terrible service, terrible prices, what exactly is being celebrated here?

Neil Mendham Yes, it was the day Brisbane got that little bit uglier
The Courier Mail has also ran a story on TransLink's Facebook fail:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Are commuters being defrauded by TransLink?

There have been reports on Rail Back on Track's forum of a bus driver accusing go card rorters of committing fraud. Taking advantage of the dumber than dumb "9 then free" go card fare policy is not fraud, as long as you use your own go card card, and only use one card per trip. However, BrizCommuter can see many examples where it could be argued that the commuters are being defrauded by TransLink, or in one case by Airtrain. 

Paper tickets - It seems that TransLink are still quite happy to sell paper tickets despite the fact that they are approximately 30% more expensive than the already extortionately priced go card fares. TransLink do not seem to be making enough effort in trying to get passengers to use the lowest priced fare option - for example a promotional go card leaflet should be handed out with all paper tickets, and go cards should be able to be purchased on buses and from ticket machines. 

"Return" paper tickets - BrizCommuter was recently contacted by a commuter who had forgotten her go card and had to purchase a paper ticket to travel across Brisbane from zone 2 to zone 2 via zone 1. This two trip bus journey required a change in zone 1. It should have been possible to do this journey on one paper ticket. Unfortunately the bus driver for the second trip made the commuter purchase a second paper ticket, claiming that the commuter was trying to make a "return" journey on one ticket. It is only a return journey if you start and finish from the same destination, and thus the commuter was incorrectly make to purchase a second paper ticket. This cost the commuter $12.20 instead of the go card fare of $4.14. This is quite disgusting, and even worse, it took four weeks for the commuter to eventually get a refund from TransLink.

Airtrain fare premium -If you travel to Brisbane Airport you are charged a significant sum ($16.50) to travel on Airtrains's tracks between Eagle Junction and Domestic or International stations. However, if you touch on at the start of your journey, and touch off at the Airport you are also charged a premium fare for the rest of your journey on Queensland Rail's tracks. Thus it is cheaper when travelling to the Airport to touch off and back on again at Eagle Junction. An example below using off-peak fares:

Coopers Plains to Domestic Airport = $23.70
Coopers Plains to Eagle Junction, then Eagle Junction to Domestic Airport $3.93 + $16.50 = $20.43

BrizCommuter suggests that Airtrain passengers should request a fare adjustment from TransLink for this unscrupulous Airtrain fare anomaly. 

No automatic fixed fare adjustment - In London, the Oyster Card system is intelligent enough to correct fixed fares. For example if a commuter has a trip from A to B, and then B to A, but the touch off at B during the first journey failed, then the system will at the end of the day "guess" that the first journey was from A to B, and adjust the fare accordingly. London's Oyster Card is made by Cubic, who also make TransLink's go card equipment. Unfortunately, in SE Queensland, the go card system doesn't automatically correct fixed fares. Thus commuters given fixed fares due to the failure of Cubic's go card readers and fare gates have to manually claim for a fare adjustment. Unfair! 

Limited fixed fare adjustments - BrizCommuter has been contacted by a commuter to whom TransLink's customer service centre refused to give a fixed fare adjustment claiming that you "couldn't have more than two adjustments within a month". This is completely incorrect, and disgraceful behaviour from TransLink. The go card readers are so unreliable, that some BrizCommuter readers have even commented that they have had to make two fixed fare adjustment claims in one day! 

Brisbane Ekka holiday - On the Brisbane Ekka public holiday, a weekend off-peak train service is operated. But if you travel in weekday peak period times, you will be charged peak fares for an off-peak service. 

Dubious fare boundaries - The route 77 does not stop in zone 1, travelling from Windsor to Buranda via the Clem 7 road tunnel. Despite this, TransLink charge a zone 1 fare for travelling 60m under zone 1. Hmm. Another anomaly if travelling from RCH Herston or RBWH to Northern Suburbs via Normanby. All of these busway stations are on the zone 1/2 border, which should avoid a zone 1 fare. However, QUT Kelvin Grove in between RCH Herston and Normanby is placed in zone 1, which results in commuters making this journey being charged a zone 1 fare. This is despite QUT Kelvin Grove being further away by road from the CBD than both RCH Herston and Normanby. Hmm, again!

So it seems that whilst SE Queenslander's are having to put up with some of the most expensive public transport fares in the world, that they are also: 
  • Not being sufficiently encouraged to use the cheapest fare option
  • Being mis-sold extra paper tickets on buses
  • Being ripped off when travelling on Queensland Rail tracks to/from Brisbane Airport
  • Having to manually claim back fixed fares due to dodgy go card readers
  • Being denied the ability to claim back fixed fares
  • Being charged peak fares for an off-peak train service
  • Having to put up with dubious fare boundaries
  • Being accused of fraud by a bus driver for making legal use of the flawed "9 then free" policy
Does anyone know a good class action lawyer?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Train etiquette - super simple stuff (2)

Yes, BrizCommuter has far too much time on his hands!

Feel free to share on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, by Telegram, etc.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Train etiquette - super simple stuff (1)

Yes, I know, BrizCommuter has missed the fake train etiquette poster thing by a few years! Feel free to share on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, by Morse Code, etc. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Name the Brisbane Underground Bus and Train tunnel

The Queensland Government has launched a competition to name what is currently known as the Brisbane Underground Bus and Train Project (AKA Brisbane Underground). If you want to enter, the link is below:

The rules are below:

"To ensure your entry is valid your name will need to meet the following guidelines. It should be:

  • simple, and explains the purpose of the infrastructure
  • no more than 5 words
  • no acronyms
  • pronounceable
  • non-offensive
  • original and not too similar to an dxi
  • sting name
  • non-commercial (names of a commercial nature are not allowed)
  • supported by an explanation of why this name should be chosen (100 words or less).

Submissions close 12.00pm, Sunday 23 February 2014."

The rules unfortunately rule out most of BrizCommuter's suggestions. Oh well, with a little help from a thesaurus, here are some names for the tunnel that won't win the competition:
I need a name!

  • Funding Black Hole
  • The Bikie Gun Barrel
  • Newman's Tube of Power
  • The Hicksville Hole
  • TransLink's Burrow of Mediocrity
  • Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen Tunnel - actually that could win with Campbell in charge
Just in case anyone needs some sensible ideas, here are some recent or upcoming rail tunnel names from around the world:
  • CrossRail (London)
  • Meteor "M√ČTro Est-Ouest Rapide" (Paris)
  • Fukutoshin Line "Secondary City Centre"  (Toyko)
  • Downtown Line (Singapore)
  • Citybanan (Stockholm)
  • City Tunnel (Liepzig) 
  • Jubilee Line (London)
  • Second Avenue Subway (NYC)
The lucky winner will win a go card with $3000 of credit, which given the current fares should last about 2 peak journeys. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Another accident waiting to happen

The potentially dangerous junction at Normanby
As many BrizCommuter readers will know, BrizCommuter predicted the Cleveland station train vs toilet crash as an "accident waiting to happen". Now BrizCommuter highlights another accident that is waiting to happen.

Many bus routes including the 325, P343, 345, 357, and 390 enter and exit the Inner Northern Busway at Normanby. To access the busway from Kelvin Grove Road, the buses have to cross a busy off-ramp (slip road) coming off the Inner City Bypass. Buses exiting the busway have to turn onto the off-ramp, crossing both lanes of traffic. With this intersection being un-signalled, and the speed of cars coming up the off-ramp from the Inner City Bypass, this is a bus vs car accident just waiting to happen. BrizCommuter has already seen a few near misses, and cars regularly have to brake to allow the buses to cross in front of them. A car vs bus accident in the peak period, when many passengers are standing could result in multiple injured passengers.

So what can be done. Given that grade separating the junction would be very expensive, maybe a signalled intersection is required and/or lower speed limits on the off-ramp? Lets hope something is done before there is an accident.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Outbreak of "I want an express to my stationitis" in Ferny Grove

23 minute gap caused by an express
It was to be expected, but there has been an outbreak of "I want an express to my stationitis" at Ferny Grove since the sector 2 train timetables were introduced on the 20th of January 2014. Three letters were published in last weeks North West News, all whinging about the removal of the Ferny Grove Line's grand total of 2 express services per peak.

Here is BrizCommuter's guide as to why the express services were abolished:

  • The sector 2 timetables are based around a recurring 15 minute cycle in the peak period.
  • In the am peak, and majority of the pm peak, the Ferny Grove Line has 2 trains services per 15 minute cycle. These services have specific slots through the CBD in between services on the Airport, Shorncliffe, and Doomben Lines. 
  • If a Ferny Grove Line service was to run express, it would take up 2 slots instead of 1 as it runs slightly faster. 
  • This would result in service gaps of up to 22-23 minutes instead of 7-8 minutes for non-served stations - that's a 15 minute longer wait for some passengers so that others can get to work a few minutes faster!
  • It would also result in service gaps of up to 15 minutes instead of 7-8 minutes for stations served by the expresses - that's a 7-8 minute longer wait for passengers who use stations served by the express service so that they can get to work a few minutes faster! 
  • Just 1 express per hour would reduce the capacity of the line and trains per hour figure by 12.5%. 
  • 2 expresses per hour would reduce the capacity of the line and trains per hour figure by 25%.
  • The Ferny Grove Line is only 16km long, shorter than many metro lines around the world, and is thus too short to realistically justify an express service. 
  • The old timetable had just 1 express service per hour, which was not useful to anyone travelling on the other services. Only an idiot would plan their life around an hourly express service. 
So as you can see, express services on the Ferny Grove Line are not justified, and commuters still wanting an express service to and from Ferny Grove are quite frankly selfish.

Recent outbreaks of "morning 3-car-itis", and "15 minute gap before the 5:26pm fever" are however entirely justified. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The lack of trains problem

Next Generation Rollingstock - urgently required!
As predicted by BrizCommuter back in 2011, there are not enough trains to effectively run the sector 2 timetables. This is mainly due to the previous ALP government not purchasing enough trains. This result of this lack of trains has been mentioned in the last two blog posts, and mainly appears to be affecting the Ferny Grove Line. BrizCommuter takes a look at what can and can't be done:

Increased rolling stock utilisation

It is not possible to run 100% of trains in service. Trains require maintenance at set periods, and also on an ad-hoc basis as components fail. Approximately 93% of trains are in use by Queensland Rail (QR) in the am peak, which is relatively high figure considering many of QR's trains (EMUs) are over 30 years old. The pm peak utilisation figure is unknown.

BrizCommuter is however concerned about the number of Inter City Express (ICE) units sitting at Mayne Depot, and wonders if increased utilisation of these units, could allow cascading of IMU trains to other services. Would re-fitting these trains with higher capacity seating be an effective use of money given that they are ageing? Given the poor reliability of the ICE units (most likely the reason why there are so many at Mayne) this is unlikely.

Realistically, increasing rolling stock utilisation is an unlikely solution to solving the lack of trains problem.

Moving units from other services

With rolling stock utilisation being at it's maximum, then if you convert an overcrowded 3-car service to a 6-car service, then you will have to reduce another service from 6-cars to 3-cars. There may be limited other services that could handle a halving in capacity. The other problem, is that the other train may make trips earlier or later in the day which do require 6-cars.

A good example of the above is the many Airport services that have been observed with around 20% loading in the pm peak, and thus are good candidates for being reduced from 6-cars to 3-cars. The problem is that the Airport train then becomes a Gold Coast train when it runs it's next trip. If this 6-car train has a loading of 45% (a few spare seats), then it would be severely overcrowded (political nightmare) if it was converted from 6-cars to 3-cars on a Gold Coast service. BrizCommuter has however received reports of some Gold Coast Line peak services mainly carrying air since the timetable changes.

This option may help solve the lack of trains problem, but only if it does not resolve overcrowding on one service by causing overcrowding on another. There may be limited scope here.

Remove other services

Another option may be to remove services that have low loadings, are additional to the 15/30 minute timetable cycles, and do not form other services. These 3-car units can then be used to boost other services.

One debatably required service is the 06:40am from Ferny Grove. Removal of this service would result in a 15 minute gap in service between two 6-car units at a reasonably quiet time, which is no worse than the previous timetable. Unfortunately, given that this train runs to Park Road, it can only be assumed that it runs empty along either the Beenleigh or Cleveland Line to form another peak service. Thus means that removing this service and re-utilising it's 3-cars is not an option. Also removing services after a timetable change would annoy commuters who have just started using this service.

The Sunshine Coast Line received a few extra services on January 20th 2014 despite not being part of the sector 2 timetable review. Maybe QR should have held off on adding these services until after seeing whether sector 2 services required more 3-car units? Now is too late to remove these services, as it would cause a political outcry (although saying that, adding an extra service has also caused a political outcry from some Sunshine Coast commuters)! Maybe, the sector 1 timetables can be re-reviewed for more efficient use of rolling stock?

There may be very limited or no options in removing services to boost others.

New trains

Unfortunately, new trains cannot be built overnight. Despite claims on QR's Facebook page in recent days of new trains in 2015, we are unlikely to see these in passenger service until early to mid 2016. Depending on delivery schedules and opening of the Moreton Bay Rail Link, these trains may not even be available for use on overcrowded services until much later than this date. Thankfully these new Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains will all be 6-car units.


BrizCommuter is sounding pessimistic, but based on comments in social media by QR in the last few days it seems that there will chronic overcrowding on some services (mainly on the Ferny Grove Line) for the next few years. This is a sad state of affairs on a line that was duplicated to reduce overcrowding, and parallels a congested road. It's a return to bad old overcrowded days of 2007, when commuters were expecting better.

First day of the new sector 2 train timetables:
Rest of the first week of the new sector 2 train timetables:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sector 2 Train Timetables - 3-car-maggedon

Space for 2 more!

Last update - 24/01/2014 - bottom of post

Day 2 - 21/01/2014

Nearly 6 year after Queensland Rail (QR) last stuffed up a new timetable on the Ferny Grove Line, they appear to have done it again. Despite over $130m being spent on the line's duplication, and a timetable that generally looked good on paper, the line still continues to be a basket case! On the second day of the new "sector 2" train timetable, the problems were:
  • 07:10am from Ferny Grove - overcrowded due to being a scheduled 3-car unit.
  • 07:25am from Ferny Grove - overcrowded due to being a scheduled 3-car unit.
  • 5:26pm from Central to Ferny Grove - overcrowded due to being after a scheduled 15 minute gap in the busiest part of the pm peak.
  • 5:33pm from Central to Ferny Grove - ran express (unscheduled) between Bowen Hills and Mitchelton, resulting in further delays for inner-Ferny Grove Line passengers. This in turn resulted in the following 5:41pm from Central (yet another 3-car unit) being crowded. 
With trains currently being rather quiet due to school and university holidays, the congestion can only get worse on these services in the next few weeks. What do QR urgently need to do to fix the problem?
  • Make the 07:10am and 07:25am from Ferny Grove 6-car units - but are there enough "quiet" services on other lines to take two 3-car units away from? These trains should never had been timetabled as 3-car units to due to the high loads during this period. 
  • Add an additional  train service in between the 5:11pm and 5:26pm from Central to Ferny Grove - but are there enough spare units to form the required extra train? 
  • Avoid running trains express to make up lost time, and make up recovery time during the terminus turnarounds instead. Given the PR disaster from yesterday's troubles, annoying your customers even more should be avoided at all costs! 
So what are QR doing about the issues? This is taken from QR's Facebook page:

"We closely monitored Ferny Grove line trains yesterday morning and know the 7.10am and 7.25am trains from Ferny Grove had some crowding. The good news is that there are services every 7-8 mins from Ferny Grove during morning peak and all other trains had plenty of capacity. We encourage customers to consider catching one of the 6-car trains (7.02am, 7.17am, 7.32am), where possible. We expect this issue to resolve over the coming days, as customers adjust to the new timetable. We encourage and appreciate any feedback and apologise for any discomfort on these services."

In other words, QR expect passengers to change their travelling times around congested trains, rather than timetabling sufficient train capacity for when passengers actually want to travel. Not good customer service or service planning! Of course, most of the blame should go on the previous ALP government for not buying enough trains. 

As mentioned previously, whilst loadings may even out a bit over the next few days, the return of school and university traffic in a few weeks time will probably result in these services being full to capacity and leaving passengers behind. Unless changes are made, there will be no available capacity for patronage increases in the busiest parts of the peak period. No mention of the 5:26pm overcrowding issues, and no apologies have been made to customers who don't read QR's Facebook page (which is the majority of their passengers). It is very disappointing that due to these problems, the Ferny Grove Line is still acting as in incentive to drive to work along the congested Samford Road instead. For many commuters fed up with high fares, these issues may be last straw for using public transport. 

Don't forget that if you have spotted any other issues with the new timetables, then please use the comments section. 

Update - Day 3 - 22/01/2014

The 07:10am from Ferny Grove was very busy again this morning, with loads of around 40 passengers standing per carriage. This does not bode well for patronage increase over the next few weeks as schools and universities return. The 07:25am from Ferny Grove has also been reported as being overcrowded. QR are still attempting to get passengers to use other services, which rather defeats the purpose of a more frequent timetable. It is not looking good for an end to the am peak issues.

The evening peak period has also descended into chaos yet again due to earlier network issues, resulting in 6-car units becoming 3-car units, and overcrowding as a result. It appears that the new Ferny Grove timetable cannot cope with earlier delays, and BrizCommuter has fears for the timetable's sustainability.

QR published a 100% on-time statistic for yesterdays Ferny Grove Line peak service. Try telling that to the passengers kicked off the 5:33pm all stations which became an express. Rather dubious statistics QR?

Update - Day 4 - 23/01/2014

Lots of 3-car trains
Despite QR's best attempts at the informing passengers about the 3-car trains (see right), the crowding on the 07:10am from Ferny Grove is not improving. Approx. 40-50 passengers standing per carriage were observed today, and again does not bode well for expected patronage increases in the next few weeks which are likely to result in this train becoming full and leaving passengers behind.

The 07:25am from Ferny Grove appears to be getting quieter with an average of 25 standing passengers per carriage (mainly concentrated on the last car), but this may also be borderline full due to expected patronage increases in the next few weeks.

The 5:26pm from Central to Ferny Grove is also looking like it will be chronically full unless QR can add an extra service in the 15 minute gap preceding this service.

Update - Day 5 - 24/01/2014

BrizCommuter didn't observe any loadings today as it was a friday before a long weekend, and thus loadings were relatively quiet. Things will pick up next week when some schools start their term.

3-car trains highlighted
In the continued attempt to inform passengers about 3-car services, QR have even highlighted 3-car services on their large poster timetables at some Ferny Grove Line stations. Unfortunately, this highlighting of 3-car services somewhat misses the point of giving passengers informed choices about overcrowded services. The reason for this is that not all 3-car trains are overcrowded, and there is an evening 6-car service that is overcrowded. Thus QR should be informing passengers of the busier services instead of the number of carriages.

Finally, QR have apologised to customers about this weeks fiasco in a video on their Facebook page. Unfortunately, as most of QR's passengers do not check QR's various social media, the majority of commuters will be completely unaware of the apology. A printed apology should be put up at each station, as occurs after serious issues on London Underground.

Future updates will be in a new thread.

Issues on the first day of the new timetables:
The lack of trains problem:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sector 2 Train Timetables - Off to a bad start!

Good luck trying to board the 17:11pm to Ferny Grove!
Well, the sector 2 train timetables looked good on paper. Unfortunately, QR got off to a very poor start today:

  • The 6:40am, 6:47am, 7:10am, and 7:25am from Ferny Grove were all reported to be 3-car units, and overcrowded. 
  • A car vs boom gate incident on the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line then caused massive delays of up to 60 minutes.
  • Multiple other delays and cancellations due to "mechanical faults" and "staffing issues" throughout the day on many lines. Trains observed running consistently late through the CBD around midday. 
  • A truck stuck under a bridge at Morayfield at 5pm delayed Caboolture and Sunshine Coast Lines by up to 40 minutes. 
  • The 5:11pm and 5:26pm Central to Ferny Grove services were both reduced to 3-car units. The 5:11pm train was almost full to capacity. The 5:26pm train, which was expected to overcrowded anyway due to being after a 15 minute gap, was completely full to capacity. Hundreds of passengers at Central, Fortitude Valley, and Bowen Hills stations were unable to board. No apologies from QR. 
Whilst the bridge and boom gates strikes were beyond QR's control. Given todays system meltdown, there are concerns about the sector 2 timetables and whether they are sustainable. Today was almost a repeat of the disastrous introduction of March 2008 timetables. Given the recent fare increases, commuters were expecting much better than what they received today. Major concerns are:
  • Are there enough staff and trains to reliably run the sector 2 timetables?
  • Which of these overcrowded services are permanently timetabled to be 3-car units?
  • With alternate am peak Ferny Grove Line trains being 3-car units today, has overall capacity been decreased with the new timetables?
  • Even with "operational and staffing issues", why was a 3-car service run for what was expected to be the busiest service of the evening peak, when other peak services with 6-car trains had spare seats?
Better luck tomorrow QR? Or are we going to have to wait for new trains in 2016 for any major improvement?

The rest if the first week of the new sector 2 train timetables:
The lack of trains problem:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sector 2 Train Timetables - nearly here!

Improved counter-peak services
Just in case any readers have been living under a rock, or have been in a coma recently, there will be huge changes (mainly improvements) to SE Queensland's rail network on the 20th January 2014. There will also be bus network changes in many regions of the TransLink network. BrizCommuter is very excited about there only being 2 more days of having to put up with current timetables based on the disastrous 2008 timetables! So what can we expect from Monday 20th January?

The good:

  • Generally less crowded trains
  • More frequent train services in weekday peak, counter-peak, and off-peak periods (in particular 15 minute off-peak timetables across most of the inner-suburban network)
  • No more hour gaps on Sunday mornings and late at night
The maybe:
  • With many reports of stations having run out of new timetables, will train stations actually have the new paper timetables back in stock?
  • With many stations having large printed timetables up to 8 months out of date, will train stations have the large printed timetables in place on Monday am?
  • Will the new timetables be reliable (particularly the Gold Coast/Beenleigh corridor with precision overtaking)?
  • Which peak trains will only have 3 cars, and thus be overcrowded?
The bad:
  • Uneven loadings due to uneven timetabling (i.e. 7 to 8 minute gaps or 15 minute gaps) on the Gold Coast and Beenleigh Lines (am and pm peak) and Ferny Grove Line (pm peak)
  • Weekend daytime service still at "third world" 30 minute frequencies
  • Hour gaps to/from the races on the Doomben Line on Saturdays
  • No more improvements until at least 2016
The stupid:
  • Outbreaks of selfish "I want an express to my stationitis" expected along the outer Beenleigh and Ferny Grove Lines
  • Passengers completely oblivious to the new timetables wondering why their usual train hasn't turned up on time
  • Ridiculously high fares will scare commuters off the improved train services

Saturday, January 11, 2014

QR Passenger Load Survey - where is it?

Transparency of QLD government organisations such as TransLink has always been poor, compared to other states and developed countries. For example, Transport for London publish minutes from board meetings. Since the LNP government was elected in 2012, the transparency of TransLink (now abolished/incorporated into Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR)) and Queensland Rail appears to be heading in the wrong direction, despite laughable claims of "improved government transparency".

The most significant missing publication is the Queensland Rail Passenger Load (Patronage) Survey. This was originally published after a Right to Information request by a journalist. It then went missing during the late ALP government's reign, most likely to hide falls to patronage due to the failed 15% fare increases. The September 2011 and March 2012 surveys were published after pressure from public transport lobbyists, and proved that the fare increases and disastrous 2008 timetable changes were indeed affecting patronage. The passenger load survey is now only recorded once a year in March. However, the March 2013 survey has not been made publicly available. Funnily enough, this could have something to do with significant falls in patronage* due to the LNP government continuing with extortionate fare rises. *Even this is difficult to assess due to the way date is presented since the TransLink Tracker was chopped. Have Mr Newman and Mr Emerson got something to hide?
So where is it then?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Doing the go card rort!

Express your way to go card savings!
The go card rort is well known to many public transport users. This involves taking advantage of the 9 and free cap by taking one stop, one zone, off-peak journey during work break(s). With fares now at ridiculous levels, even short distance commuters can take now advantage of this huge flaw in the go card's fare structure. Even more savings can be made if more than one extra "cheap" journey is taken during the daytime off-peak period, but there has to be more than an hour between journeys. BrizCommuter takes a look at how much can be saved by doing the go card rort. Savings are in comparison to 9 peak period journeys, with adult fares.

The Easy Rort

This involves one lunch time one zone off-peak journey on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. This results in free journeys from Thursday morning (inclusive).

Zone 1-2 commuter (e.g. Cooparoo to Central) - saves $3.93/week
Zone 1-3 commuter (e.g. Mitchelton to Central) - saves $6.24/week
Zone 1-5 commuter (e.g. Kuraby to Central) - saves $10.35/week
Zone 1-13 commuter (e.g. Nerang or Landsborough to Central) - saves $26.88/week

The Pro Rort

This involves two one zone off-peak journeys on Monday and Tuesday. Maybe during morning tea, and lunch. Free journeys after the peak journey to work on Wednesday.

Zone 1-2 commuter - saves $5.25/week
Zone 1-3 commuter - saves $8.32/week
Zone 1-5 commuter - saves $13.80/week
Zone 1-13 commuter - saves $35.84/week

The Extreme Rort

This involves three one zone off-peak journeys on Monday and Tuesday. Maybe during morning and afternoon tea, and lunch. Free journeys from (and including) the peak journey home on Tuesday.

Zone 1-2 commuter - saves $7.86/week
Zone 1-3 commuter - saves $12.48/week
Zone 1-5 commuter - saves $20.70/week
Zone 1-13 commuter - saves $53.76/week (that's more than $2500/year!!!)

Plenty of commuters are taking advantage of this rort, which appears to be perfectly legal (meets go card terms and conditions). BrizCommuter knows quite a few Sunshine Coast Line commuters who are saving loads of money via this method. BrizCommuter even observed two other commuters doing the rort on the same bus today! Hopefully the number of commuters legally abusing the system, will force TransLink the the LNP Queensland Government to seriously re-think both fare costs and the fare structure before the next election.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

TransLink's 2014 Fares - The Awful Facts

Only a few days until another round of Faremaggedon forces even more public transport users back to driving. BrizCommuter has produced a slide, listing just a few of the reasons with what is wrong with TransLink's fares for Brisbane and SE Queensland.

The slide is public domain, so is free to spread the word. You can download (.png file), email, Facebook, Google+, Tweet, Reddit, hand out to others, or even send by pigeon (which might be faster than the route 522 bus). The message needs to get across that the extortionate public transport fare increases in SE Queensland just cannot continue!

Part 1 of BrizCommuter 2014 fare comparison takes a look at bus fares, daily fares, and weekly fare options:
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:
A petition to lower public transport fares:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 World Fare Comparison - Part 3

Tokyo - high income and cheap fares
BrizCommuter has been running the world fare comparison for quite a few years now, and has often been asked by readers to publish a comparison showing public transport fares vs average income. Now, this is no mean feat. Average income is somewhat difficult information to compare. The most reliable source was from the following, which uses average per capita income per year in GBP:
This is a UK comparison, with source information spread from 2007 until 2011, and published in 2013. It is unknown of the average income has been adjusted due to these time factors. Exchange rates were likely to have been applied earlier in 2013, and are thus different to the exchange rates used to calculate the fares with a falling Australian Dollar value. In cases where there is no city specific data, then country specific data has been used (this has been used for all Australian cities except for Sydney). Thus it should be taken into account that the methodology is far from perfect and this comparison should only be seen as a rough guide only.

Fares are based on the cost of an adult weekly ticket, weekly cap, or 12 single tickets (10 peak, 2 off-peak) - whichever is cheapest. The journeys are 5km train journeys from inner-suburb to CBD. Fares are as of 6th January 2014, and exchange rates for fares are as of the 26th or 27th December 2013.  This cost (in AUD) has been divided by the average income per capita per year/52 weeks in a year (in GBP). The resulting score is just a ratio figure. In the results, a higher number show a higher cost of public transport vs average income. The list has been ordered with the most expensive city at the top, and least expensive at the bottom.

Most expensive
Berlin  44.14/279.69=0.158
London  57.90/388.12=0.149 (0.083 if bus only)
Brisbane*  37.26/570.06=0.065
Adelaide*  36.50/570.06=0.064
Shanghai  6.60/105.23=0.063 (0.021 if bus only)
Melbourne*  35.80/570.06=0.062
New York  33.75/586.5=0.058
Toronto  37.92/697.87=0.054
Paris  24.62/509.56=0.048
Perth*  25.20/570.06=0.044
Sydney  28.00/640.10=0.044  (0.071 if other modes used)
Sao Paulo  14.61/340.54=0.043
Los Angeles  20.16/575.29=0.035
Hong Kong  10.44/553.19=0.019
Tokyo  19.32/1072.42=0.018
Singapore  10.92/907.31=0.012
Least expensive

At the most expensive end of the table is Berlin at 0.158 and London at 0.149 with very high public transport fares vs income. However both cities (especially London) have very frequent and integrated public transport systems, so could be seen as still having good value for money. Sadly income figures were not available for Stockholm and Oslo.

Of the sampled cities, Brisbane came in 3rd with a figure of 0.065, closely followed by Adelaide and Melbourne. Sydney fares quite well for train only fares at 0.044, but terribly at 0.071 if you want to use more than one mode of transport. This situation may improve with the Opal Card. Perth is the cheapest of the Australian cities at 0.044, with public transport costing approx. 32% less than Brisbane assuming similar income. How does Perth manage public transport fares so well when SE Queensland doesn't? With Brisbane and Adelaide having the worst train frequencies of all of the cities listed, they could be seen as being the worst value for money train networks vs average income.

Shanghai has relatively expensive train fares vs income at 0.063, similar to Australian cities, but bus fares are considerably cheaper. Is using the metro a more premium method of public transport in Shanghai?

New York and Toronto are interestingly mid-table at 0.058 and 0.054 respectively, with Paris slightly cheaper at 0.048. Paris is well known for having very affordable public transport, although this may change with future price hikes planned to build multiple new metro lines.

The only developing city (apart from Brisbane) in the list is Sao Paulo at 0.043. This is interesting as there were huge riots due to a planned fare increase recently. It is unknown which demographics use public transport in Sao Paulo, which has a huge rich/poor divide. This fares may been cheap for those in higher demographics, public transport may still be difficult to afford for those in lower demographics. Whilst on the subject of demographics, Los Angeles comes in as a relatively affordable system at 0.035. However, Los Angeles is well know for public transport only being for the poor. For example BrizCommuter travels in a stretched Hummer whenever he is in LA.  Thus whilst LA comes across as having very affordable public transport, it may be relatively expensive for the demographic that uses public transport.

At the most affordable end of the table is Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Singapore at 0.019, 0.18, and 0.012 respectively. These cities have a few things in common. They all have a high population density that allows for efficient public transport, and this they all have excellent and frequent public transport systems. This makes for extremely good value for money public transport system. Interestingly despite these three cities having a very high cost of living, they all have very low fares. Tokyo and Singapore also have very high average incomes, yet the fares are kept very low and affordable. Singapore even goes one stage further towards sustainable public transport by making car registration extremely expensive. On the down side, all of these cities charge per trip, and transfers between modes (such as train to bus) often charge an extra fare (although at least using the same smart card). Even taking this into account, the systems are still very good value for money in relation to income.

Of the 16 cities sampled, Brisbane has the 3rd most expensive public transport fares vs average income. This confirms what we already know, that TransLink's fare system has abysmal affordability and is poor value for money. It is thus no surprise that patronage has stagnated, resulting in no reductions to taxpayer subsidy. A thorough review of public transport fares and fare structure is required in SE Queensland, as is a further review of operating efficiencies, notably Brisbane City Council's (Brisbane Transport) highly inefficient, confusing, and ineffective bus network.

BrizCommuter world fare comparison - part 1:
BrizCommuter world fare comparison - part 2:
The Awful Truth: