Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Northshore Hamilton - Transport Fail

CityCat - slow, low capacity
The Courier Mail have today reported that "The Queensland Government today announced it will work exclusively with Leighton Properties to finalise a detailed proposal to design and build more than 700 apartments as well as commercial buildings on a 2ha riverfront site in Northshore Hamilton". Watching the embedded video, it appears that 2.5km long Northshore Hamilton development will ultimately create 15,000 jobs, have 4000 apartments, and a conference centre. With the potential for around 40,000 transport trips to or from Northshore Hamilton daily, you would expect good public transport?

In the typical transport failure that once can only expect in Queensland, the public transport options will be:
1) CityCat - frequent enough (every 15 minutes), but very low capacity (max 162 passengers), takes a painfully slow 45 minutes to get to the CBD, and has poor onward transport links. Capacity would be a pathetic 648 passengers/hour/direction.
2) Shuttle bus service from the Doomben Line - assuming the Doomben Line is not being upgraded, then read into this a pathetic half-hourly feeder bus. Additional time to change from bus to rail will make this somewhat unattractive. Capacity, using a normal size bus would be 120 passengers/hour/direction.

What should be done:
1) At the minimum - a high frequency (CityGlider like) express bus route from Northshore Hamilton to the CBD. This would only handle around 1,200 passengers/hour/direction at 5 minute frequency and large multi-section buses. This may be insufficient in the future.
2) More preferable - extend and partially duplicate the Doomben Line into Northshore Hamilton. This is possible as the railway land already exists. A 15 minute frequency should be sufficient, and would allow journey times to the CBD in less than 25 minutes, with good onward bus and rail connections. This could handle 4,000 passengers/hour/direction. A local high frequency bus route could feed parts of Northshore Hamilton that are beyond walking distance of the train station.

The latter would require urgent re-design of the Northshore Hamilton development, and a road bridge over the railway on Kingsford Smith Drive. Backwards car centric planning means that it may be too late for this. In any European city, a development such as this would be served by heavy rail. Sadly, in Australia, it seem that planners cannot see beyond their car dashboards.

Northshore hamilton website: http://www.northshorehamilton.com.au/Home

Sunday, May 24, 2015

#GetMovingSEQ - BrizCommuter's Thoughts

More rail please! 
Whilst BrizCommuter has been on a bit of a hiatus for the last year or so, most readers of the blog would be aware that Brisbane's public transport is an overpriced, inefficient, and confusing mess. With complete lack of action (i.e. putting the shovel in the ground) on the much needed cross city rail tunnel (Cross River Rail/BaT Tunnel) due to the incompetence of three consecutive state and two consecutive federal governments, Brisbane and it's sprawling suburbs are heading towards congestion meltdown.

Unfortunately, Brisbane's only newspaper, the Courier Mail,  has had a car bias for many years. This is not surprising as the Murdoch press has been aligned with the right side of politics for some time. Stories have never quite got to the point of the issues, one of the reasons by Rail Back on Track lobby group, and blogs such as BrizCommuter are in existence. It is thus of a pleasant surprise that the Courier Mail has just started a campaign, called #GetMovingSEQ to help resolve Brisbane's looming commuter crisis via social media pressure.

The first story in this campaign is below:

So what in BrizCommuter's opinion needs to be done to sort out Brisbane's congestion crisis:

Short term - 2015 to 2022

  1. Redesign Brisbane's inefficient and confusing bus network, with a less confusing, and better designed bus network with more high frequency routes. Cost - nothing, apart from political balls! 
  2. Make the best use out Brisbane'e existing train infrastructure by installing ERTMS level 2 high capacity signalling to run the best possible service (24tph per track through the CBD in peak, and 15 minute service on all lines off-peak) on the existing train network. To achieve this, there may also need to be track enhancements along parts of the Gold Coast/Beenleigh Line corridor, additional trains purchased, and additional train stabling. Cost approx. $2.5b. 
  3. Make public transport fares more attractive, to increase public transport patronage, helping to reduce road congestion. Cost - nothing. 
  4. Extend the Gold Coast Light Rail to Helensvale. Cost $1b. 
  5. Finalise the design and actually start building the cross city rail tunnel !!!
  6. Start designing considerable expansion of SE Queensland's rail network - North West Transportation Corridor/Trouts Rd Line (see previous blog post), rail to Caloundra and Mooloolaba, rail to Greater Flagstone, Gold Coast Line extension to Coolangatta, Cleveland Line duplication, Gold Coast Light Rail extension to Burleigh, Doomben Line duplication and extension to Hamilton Northshore. 
  7. Stop the spread of low density urban sprawl away from existing/planned transport corridors, as it is unsustainable for transportation. 
  8. Design new suburbs to allow for bus services or even a low cost busway (that can feed train lines, or higher frequency bus routes). Runcorn's (England) busway is a good example of this. 
Longer term - 2022 to 2030 years
  1. Open Brisbane's cross city rail tunnel. Total cost approx. $5b. 
  2. Build the North West Transportation Corridor/Trouts Rd Line (see previous blog post), rail to Caloundra and Mooloolaba, rail to Greater Flagstone, Gold Coast Line extension to Coolangatta, Cleveland Line duplication, Gold Coast Light Rail extension to Burleigh, Doomben Line duplication and extension to Hamilton Northshore. Estimated cost on average $1.5b/year.  
  3. Instead of extending busways, build low cost bus lanes where required. Cost, approx. $1b. 
Sadly, both sides of state politics, and the current federal government,are so incompetent when it comes to public transport that BrizCommuter doubts we will even see the first dot point in the near future, let alone the other requirements. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What is Tony Abbott's problem with trains?

Multiple essential public transport projects are required to prevent Australia's state capitals and major cities from becoming congested and economically uncompetitive cities. These projects include:

  • Brisbane's cross river train tunnel (Cross River Rail/BaT Tunnel).
  • Melbourne's Metro Rail Project.
  • Gold Coast Light Rail extensions.
  • Adelaide rail network electrification. 
Unfortunately, Australia's budgie smuggler wearing, misogynist, homophobic prime minister Tony Abbott refuses to fund public transport infrastructure projects from federal funds. This stuck in the 1950s policy, makes Australia look backwards compared to pretty much every other developed country in the world which is now investing in public transport over roads. Whilst road spending is still important, there have been many studies shown that investing in urban road infrastructure does not resolve congestion. 

So why does Tony Abbott have such a hatred for trains?
  • Was it due to their being no Thomas the Tank engine and Friends character being called Tony?
  • Was he teased at school for having a train set instead of a Scalextric?
  • Is he worried that asylum seekers or gays might come into the country via train? 
  • Is he worried that trains could have female drivers?
  • Will the oil companies help fund his retirement?
  • Is it due to lack of income to the LNP from companies involved in public transport?  
  • Or is he just an idiot stuck with 50 years out of date policies?
There is little question that unless Tony Abbott has a policy U-turn on federal funding for public transport, then he will be crippling Australian cities economically and environmentally for decades to come. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Trouts Road corridor - the key to unlocking SE Queensland?

Trouts Road Corridor 
The North West Transportation Corridor, also known as the Trouts Road Corridor is a strip of land running through Brisbane's Northern Suburbs designed for future transport development. Originally planned as a freeway back in the 1970s , it was more recently featured as a rail line in the previous ALP's government's Connecting SEQ 2031, released shortly before the end of there last tenure. Little had been heard about this transport corridor during the LNP tenure, and the seemingly abandoned BaT tunnel design did not have stubs to allow it to continue towards the Trouts Road Corridor. Sadly due to political ineptitude from both sides of politics at both state and federal level, Brisbane's cross city rail tunnel is currently dead in the water. However, this could at least provide some opportunity for re-thinking the requirements.

To maximise long term capacity on all of the present and future northern railway branches (Sunshine Coast/Caboolture, Kippa-Ring, Shorncliffe, Airport, Doomben, and Ferny Grove) the options are as follows:

via Exhibition, Albion, and Northgate
  • Additional tracks and a grade separated junction would be required between the Victoria Park BaT/Cross River Rail portal, and Albion. This area is already partially developed, and track amplification would be very expensive. 
  • An additional two tracks (6 total) would be required between Albion and Eagle Junction. This area is almost fully developed, and track amplification would again be very expensive. 
  • An additional track (4 total) would be required between Northgate and Petrie. This area is partially developed and an additional track would be expensive. 
Note 1: Assumptions are made that between Eagle Junction and Albion that Caboolture/Sunshine Coast would require a track pair, Kippa-Ring/Shorncliffe would require another, and Airport/Doomben/(+Ferny Grove) would require the other. ERTMS signalling would allow for up to 24tph on each track. 

Whilst increasing overall network capacity, this plan would not decrease peak journey times for commuters on any line, and would not provide any expansion of the rail network.  

via Trouts Road Corridor (North West Transportation Corridor)
  • The BaT/Cross River Rail tunnel would ideally be routed towards a tunnel portal north of Alderley, with a station at Kelvin Grove. As with any tunnelling, this would be very expensive, but opens up a new catchment to rail travel. 
  • Three tracks would ideally be required along the Trouts Road corridor (peak direction express track for Sunshine Coast/Caboolture services to overtake local Strathpine to City services). Few property resumptions would be required, as this is a reserved transport corridor. It would open a huge new catchment to rail travel. 
  • An additional track would be required between Strathpine and Petrie, along with a grade separated junction and reversing facilities at Strathpine. 
Assumptions: Assumptions are made that Caboolture/Sunshine Coast/Strathpine local services would use the Trouts Road Corridor, Kippa-Ring/Shorncliffe would use one of the existing track pairs between Northgate and the CBD, and Airport/Doomben/(Ferny Grove) would use the other existing. ERTMS signalling would allow for up to 24tph on each track. 

Benefits: This plan would considerably increase overall network capacity, would significantly decrease peak and off-peak journey times for Sunshine Coast/Caboolture Line commuters travelling to the CBD, and would provide a huge expansion of the rail network with new stations around Kelvin Grove, Everton Park, Flockton Street, Hamilton Road, Albany Creek Rd, and Carseldine (West). 


BrizCommuter would estimate that whilst building the Trouts Road corridor in the near future would be more expensive in the short-term. However, the long term cost/benefit of the two options would sway in favour of Trouts Road corridor as it would remove the need for unnecessary enhancements between Exhibition and Strathpine via Northgate.

BrizCommuter is somewhat pessimistic that we will see a new cross Brisbane rail tunnel built for a long while, however when plans do come to fruition, it should be designed with Trouts Rd corridor in mind instead of running trains via Exhibition, Albion, and Northgate. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Brisbane - New World City?

Brisbane's "popular" public transport system
Brisbane City Council proudly claim that Brisbane is Australia's "New World City". This is a rather convenient phrase as a "World City" has little meaning, no different from calling something "World Class".

Assuming that this "World City" catchphrase means a "Global City" or "Alpha City" - cities that are "considered to be an important node in the global economic system", then as far as public transport is concerned, does Brisbane stack up to being a "New World City"?

  • Surely a "World City" would be able to build a new rail tunnel such as Cross River Rail when there is a looming capacity crisis? Not Brisbane!
  • Surely a "World City" would have an easy to use, simple, and efficient bus network? Not Brisbane!
  • Surely a "World City" would be able to build a busway for cheaper than a train line? Not Brisbane!
  • Surely a "World City" would make public transport more attractive than congested roads with low fares? Not Brisbane!
  • Surely a "World City"would have a half-decent daily fare option for tourists? Not Brisbane!
  • Surely a "World City" would have enough trains to cope with peak service demand and new train lines? Not Brisbane!
  • Surely a "World City" would have refunds for severe public transport delays? Not Brisbane!
  • Surely a "World City" would include trains that bypass stations as cancelled train statistics? Not Brisbane!
  • Surely a sub-tropical "World City" would have a train network that can cope with a bit of rain? Not Brisbane!
According to the source of all truth - Wikipedia, Brisbane is in fact not a "World City" by its "Alpha City" definition, but is in fact a "Beta City". Going by that definition, if it was a man, it would fail miserably to pick up the pretty ladies. Feel sorry for "Gamma City" Adelaide. 

When it comes to public transport, Brisbane is an Omega City. Going by that definition, if it was a man, it would end up with the ugly chicks (and no BrizCommuter is not referring to Annastacia). 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

TransLink - Information Slow-verload.

When something goes wrong on public transport, it is a good idea to tell the travelling public what is happen within a reasonable timeframe. Unfortunately, it seems that TransLink haven't quite got this memo. Here are three examples just from the last fortnight, why TransLink (and also at times Queensland Rail) need a huge kick up the posterior when it comes to providing information to long suffering SE Queensland commuters.

Signal Failure
QR's illogical policy of sometimes using one track pair through the CBD during the daytime always causes delays. However on this day, a signal failure was added to the mix. BrizCommuter's train from Bowen Hills to Ferny Grove arrived at Bowen Hills 5 minutes late. Due to a signal failure, it departed 19 minutes late. As QR were just utilising one track pair through the CBD, trains on all northbound lines would have been blocking back through the CBD. Unfortunately, TransLink didn't announce the delay on their website until 90 minutes later. No messages were received on MyTransLink app.

Cancelled Train
Just when Ferny Grove Line sufferers thought running 3-car units in the am peak or skipping stations in the pm peak are annoying enough, QR kindly cancelled a busy service. This time, TransLink managed to have a message on their website only 10 minutes after the train was scheduled to depart Ferny Grove. Unfortunately, the next advertised services was incorrect - can anyone at TransLink read a timetable? The message made it to MyTransLink app, just as the cancelled services would have reached it's terminus at Roma Street. A little bit late one thinks?

"That" Storm
Things can go pear shaped pretty quickly during wet weather and storms. However the rain event on Friday 1st May 2015 took the biscuit for lacking information. Around 4pm when TransLink's website showed all service as being normal (apart from the Caboolture Line), many commuters were already Facebooking and Tweeting that their trains were going nowhere quickly.

BrizCommuter was travelling home after 6pm, sat next to guards compartment, and could hear detailed messages going out about delays and operations (notably 15 minute gaps between trains through Fortitude Valley). Unfortunately none of that info was being passed on to commuters at CBD stations. Maybe QR were a bit embarrassed about Fortitude Valley station being taken over by a synchronised swimming team again? Many reports from around the internet, show that customer information during and after the storm varied from poor to non-existent.

The icing on the cake was passengers on the Caboolture and Sunshine Coast Lines being told "to find their own way home". Erm, doesn't that defeat the point of public transport? Only in Queensland!