Sunday, January 31, 2016

Quirky Brisbane Metro Capacity

Paris Metro MP05 train
A claim by LNP Lord Mayor Graham Quirk on his BaTty Brisbane Metro plan is that it will ultimately operate at 30,000 passengers/hour by 2031. Now it doesn't seem to be clear if this claim is per direction, however per direction is the commonly used figure for mass transit, and using 'per both directions' would be misleading.

Most busway stations are 60m long. Mater Hill is 45m long. We'll use 60m as the train length. There is a possibility that platform lengths could be a bit longer as there would only be one 'busway lane equivalent' used by trains.

Paris Metro's newest rubber-tyred MP05 trains are 90m long (6-cars), 2.4m wide, and have a capacity of 722 passengers/train. At 60m train length (4-cars) the capacity would be 481 passengers/train.

Given that the trains in Brisbane will be manually driven, and based on information in the media, trains will run every 2 minutes, that's 30 trains per hour per direction (30tph).

481 passengers/train x 30 tph = 14,430 passengers/hour.

Thus BrizCommuter is calling the 30,000 passengers/hour claim as probably false and/or misleading. Even worse, at 14,430 passengers/hour, the Brisbane Metro will not be able to handle any more passengers than the SE Busway which can theoretically handle approximately 15,000 passengers/hour (reported figures vary between 12,000 and 18,000 for maximum theoretical capacity). Also, this Brisbane Times article makes it clear that the Brisbane Metro capacity will be half of that at opening. If this is by running trains at half frequency (every 4 minutes), then the journey time advantage of using trains instead of buses would be nulled by the increase in wait times.

$1.54b spent for no increase in capacity. Who is Team Quirk trying to fool?

Original BrizCommuter post on Graham Quirk's Brisbane Metro idea:

Update 17/03/16 - Information that Rail Back on Track have obtained from the LNP campaign,  are of a 50m train with 300 passenger train running every 4 minutes in the peaks, and ultimately every 2 minutes. That equals 4,5000 to 9,000 passengers/hour/direction which is far less than the current busway capacity. Oh dear!

Quirky Council Election Promises

Rubber-Tyred Metro in Paris
There must be an election coming when both sides of politics (LNP and ALP) are promising public transport infrastructure. In this case the promises are from the candidates for Brisbane City Council's (BCC) Lord Mayor - LNP's Graham Quirk and ALP's Rod Harding.

Before we look at their 2016 council election promises, if BrizCommuter was to be Lord Mayor there would be two major public transport policies:
  • Bus network reform - fix the current inefficient and confusing to use bus network with a simplified network, more high frequency coverage, consistent CBD "super stops" for each transport corridor, and rail feeder services - cost neutral.
  • Support Cross River Rail - to increase rail capacity into the CBD, with two completely new stations - BCC would need to fund a share of costs.
So what have the mayoral candidates proposed?

Graham Quirk (LNP)

  • Conversion of the Inner Northern Busway and SE Busway to "rubber-tyred metro" between Herston and Wooloongabba. (Unlike nearly all new mini-metro systems, this will apparently not be a driverless metro).
  • Victoria Bridge would become a "Green Bridge" carrying buses and metro trains. 
  • Underground Cultural Centre station. 
  • Bus routes would feed the metro.
BrizCommuter's thoughts:
  • Would decrease journey times between the metro stations as long as the frequency is high at all times of the day. However, this may not be case due to non-driverless labor costs. 
  • Would not significantly increase capacity through the inner busway system (approx. 15,000 passengers/hour/direction, 50% of the media claim), though loadings may be more even.
  • Does not serve major trip generators on Brisbane's inner busway system - UQ and RBWH (it would annoyingly stop one stop short of the latter). 
  • Would force an additional change just outside of the CBD for passengers who currently have a direct bus route to the CBD. This could increase journey times for these commuters. (Note: BrizCommuter supports trunk and feeder networks, but with changes in suburbs, not on the edge of the CBD).
  • Some displaced bus routes (e.g. 444, 385, Maroon CityGlider) would have to be re-routed through the CBD on roads, with longer journey times due to traffic congestion.
  • Would require significant bus terminus infrastructure at bus/metro change locations - Wooloongabba (it is assumed Eastern and SE Busway services would be routed here), Roma Street, Normanby, and Herston. 
  • There would be 6 years of busway disruption and delays during construction. 
  • No obvious depot location. 
  • Inconsistent with long term government plans for a Brisbane metro.
  • $1.54b cost seems unrealistic. 
  • Grade - D - Replacing part of the busway system with metro is likely to have a poor cost/benefit ratio, though this may be better if the entire busway network was converted with extensions (and gaps filled in). This election plan may cause more transport issues than what it solves. Just fix the bus network Mr Quirk! 
Rod Harding (ALP)

  • Light rail/tram system running from Newstead to West End, and possibly UQ via new bridge. 
BrizCommuter's thoughts:
  • Proposal currently lacking any detail.
  • Could potentially be extended to Northshore Hamilton via Kingsford Smith Drive.
  • Trams and buses would have to share some roads through CBD. 
  • No obvious depot location.
  • Current plan does not directly solve any major transport issues. 
  • Grade - E - Looks like it was designed on the back of paper napkin to capture the over 60's votes.

Both plans are ill thought out, vote grabbing ideas, that do little to solve Brisbane's most pressing transport issues. BCC needs to leave public transport planning to the state government. 

Old BrizCommuter post on converting busways to light rail:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Barry the Brissie Bus

BCC's Literary Masterpiece - Bruce the Brissie Bus 
Parents who take their kids to the library, may have noticed that Brisbane City Council (BCC) have published a children's book called "Bruce the Brissie Bus". In fact BabyCommuter, and ToddlerCommuter both love this book to be read to them at bedtime. However, of course BrizCommuter has started to read an alternate, and slightly more truthful version. Here is BrizCommuter's sequel to Bruce the Brissie Bus, called Barry The Brissie Bus.

Barry woke as up as the sun rose above Eagle Farm Bus Depot. Barry was new type of diesel bus, and had been built to replace the gas buses that occasionally spontaneously exploded. 

Barry's driver for the day was called Dave, who climbed into the drivers seat. "We've got an exciting day ahead of us today" said Dave, travelling on lots of different Brisbane City Council bus routes. "Our go card readers are broken again, so everyone with a go card gets a free ride" said Dave. 

"First, we will be on the rocket service P343, taking commuters into work from Aspley". Barry chuckled at all of the stranded commuters waiting at bus stops which his rocket service did not stop at. He overtook the Buz service 345, and the all stops 390 bus, which both said "Sorry, Bus Full" on the front. "Can we just be nice and pick them up?" asked Barry. "Against the rules" said Dave. 

After that, Barry had a fast empty run out to Chermside. Barry asked Dave "why his bus was running out of service when so many people were waiting at Roma Street for a route 66 bus to QUT Kelvin Grove and RBWH?" Dave said "they're used to it, anyway, sensible people drive in Brisbane".

Barry then operated a route 333 service into the City. He enjoyed playing the bus conga, where the  routes 330,333,334,335,340,370,375,379, all run together in a convoy. "Lets all do the conga, lets all so the conga" sang Dave. 

After the Conga fun, Barry operated a route 390 service out to Mitchelton. Dave said "we love racing Queensland Rail trains". After a break, Barry was lucky enough to run a route 361 welfare bus service around the backstreets of Dorrington. His single passenger has a whinge, saying "TransLink wanted to cut this bus service, how would I get to the pokeys to spend my pension if this bus didn't exist?" Barry was concerned that the passenger may be carrying a pitch fork. 

Barry then took some tourists to Mount Coot-tha on route 471. They all looked rather shocked when Dave told them how much the paper ticket fare was. Then they looked even more shocked when Dave told them that was only for a one way trip! Barry overhead the tourists discussing that they wouldn't be visiting SE Queensland again given the cost of transport and lack of day tickets. 

Finally, Barry was able to operate a route 111 bus out to Eight Mile Plains along the SE Busway. Barry was not amused by getting stuck in big queue of half-empty buses on the Victoria Bridge. Nor was he amused about the tight squeeze through the Melbourne Street portal. "You need to breath in" said Dave, narrowly avoiding a CityGlider.

"Phew" said Barry, I'm glad most Brisbane Transport bus services don't run late into the evening, I need a big sleep! 

The End. 

Note: the above is probably funnier if you have read the original, available at BCC libraries.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Where are the Next Generation Rolling Stock trains?

NGR artist impression - the real one still doesn't exist yet!
The  January 2014 timetable added overcrowded 3-car services on the Ferny Grove and Cleveland Lines due to lack of trains. On Queensland Rail's (QR) Facebook page and Twitter, angry commuters were informed that these would be converted to 6-car services when the Next Generation Rolling Stock (NGR) were introduced into service in late 2015. Well it is now early 2016, and there is no sign of these new trains. Not even a single delivery of a test train. According to the Department of Transport and Main Roads website, the first delivery of the NGR is now mid 2016.

Moreton Bay Rail Link (MBRL) is expected to open possibly as early as April 2016. This is likely increase rolling stock requirements as the the current Petrie services will be start or finish at Kippa-Ring, another 14km down the track. Also, there will be additional peak services running every 15 minutes running from Northgate to/from the CBD. Given that none of the "third world built" NGR trains have been delivered, let alone tested and debugged, BrizCommuter is very concerned that the lack of rolling stock issue is only going to get worse. Issues with the guard being moved to the back of the train may also throw a spanner in the works. From the opening of MBRL until there have been sufficient deliveries of the delayed NGRs, expect even more cancellations and 6-car services being replaced by overcrowded 3-car services. More misery for ripped off commuters!

Equally as concerning, is that not enough NGR trains (75 6-car units) have been ordered. Thus even when they have been delivered there will be barely enough trains to replace the existing ageing EMU (43.5 6-car units) and ICE (4ish 6-car units) trains, and cope with MBRL, the new Northgate services, and resolving the overcrowded 3-car service issue. Additional trains are also required for:
  • Improving the irregular pm peak frequency on the Ferny Grove Line
  • Improving the irregular am and pm peak Gold Coast Line service (also pending Helensvale to Coomera duplication)
  • Starting the 15 minute service to Brisbane Airport earlier in the morning
  • Extend the (bizarrely early finishing) pm peak express service on the Cleveland Line to run later.
  • Minor improvements to other lines (e.g. improved shoulder peak, and peak of peak services). 
  • Improved off-peak and counter peak services.
The above require a significant addition of new trains. Sadly it looks like SE Queensland train services are likely to continue to be far from optimal for some time due to an ongoing lack of trains.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Brisbane City Council - incompetence experts?

Brisbane City Council's (BCC) bus network (run by subsidiary Brisbane Transport) is infamous for being one of the worst designed and most inefficient in western civilisation. Why?
  • Multiple bus routes with minor variations of different stopping patterns on the same transport corridors, often with confusingly different stops through the CBD (see screen shot below).
  • Too many bus routes (many infrequent, and mainly carrying air) serving the CBD, causing Busway congestion.
  • Many transport corridors and suburbs lacking high frequency bus services (e.g. Old Northern Road, Centenary Suburbs).
  • Bus routes compete with train services, and rarely connect or feed train services (or even other bus services).
  • Severe overcrowding on some routes, often not resolved for years.
  • Too many routes, too confusing, lack of decent bus route information. 
  • Some bus routes still the same as the tram routes they replaced (just less frequent).
  • Too expensive - due to the high inefficiency.

TransLink redesigned the bus network in 2013, which was a huge step in making the bus network more efficient, with more high frequency coverage, and easier to use. Unfortunately BCC were obstructive, and TransLink's changes did not progress. Thus BCC just cut some bus routes instead. Whilst other cities such as Hobart, Auckland, and Houston have recently had successful bus network redesigns, Brisbane is still a languishing inefficient mess. This is due to LNP "Team Quirk" being in denial that the bus network is broken. 

With a council election looming, there are a few "vote grabbing" changes to the bus network. However, just when you didn't think Brisbane's bus network could get worse, four more shining examples of incompetence have been announced:
  • Routes P426, 431, 466, P455, P456 to be routes via Legacy Way tunnel - faster journey times to work - tick, access to Herston and QUT Kelvin Grove busway stations for work or uni - tick. So whats the problem? What the same journeys home in the evening? Due to incompetence of BCC and successive ALP and LNP governments, no link was created between Legacy Way and Inner Northern Busway. Thus this useful re-routing of these bus routes only occurs in the inbound direction, adding even more confusion to BCC's bus network. On the way home, its back to getting stuck in traffic on Milton Road, with no stops at QUT or Herston. 
  • Route P332 - has been extended to run from it's current Chermside to CBD route to run from Zillmere to UQ. This is due to some route 330 and 66 buses being overcrowded. This a rather bizarre decision that has create a very long and thus likely to be unreliable bus route. Why not just make the 330 and 66 more frequent? Or extend and divert the currently semi-useless route 77 to UQ? Or even create high-frequency rail feeder bus routes for Zillmere and Bracken Ridge? The routing of the P332 through the CBD means that it takes nearly 10 minutes longer to get from RBWH to UQ than the route 66 it is meant to relieve! 
  • Route 475 - is being increased from hourly to half-hourly. Funnily enough, BCC reduced it from half-hourly to hourly in 2013. Doh!
  • Route 238 - trial "bandaid" route 238 which is a rail and CityCat feeder bus service serving Hawthorne, Bulimba, Morningside, and Cannon Hill is step on the right direction and designed to reduce congestion on Wynnum Rd. However its restriction to a short 68(ish) minute part of the am and pm peak hours makes it pretty useless for many potential users. Get out of work late, you might find yourself stranded in Hawthorne! 
Whilst we are yet to hear from (the LNP) Team Quirk for council election policies, you can bet that bus reform probably will not be one of them. The ALP are also flashing around and ill though out tram system. What Brisbane urgently requires is:
1) Bus network reform - at no extra cost, Brisbane can have a much easier to use bus network, with better high-frequency coverage.
2) Support for Cross River Rail - for more CBD station coverage, and increased capacity on many Queensland Rail lines.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Brisbane Brain Drain

Last year, Fortitude Valley train station has a "1 in 10 year flood event" twice within a few weeks in November 2014 caused by heavy storms. Given that Fortitude Valley train station has not flooded for some time, despite heavy storms every year, it was pretty obvious that something was wrong. Generally, train lines are designed to handle 100mm/hour storms, double that of roads. Both of these storms were less than that, though this rainfall rate may have been exceeded during very short periods.

The report into the flooding events has recently been finalised. However, as with the usual lack of transparency in Queensland, it does not appear to have been released to the public. The only information is thus obtained from this Brisbane Times article. The report showed that there was insufficient drainage, and that some of the drainage pipes were blocked despite QR apparently installing CCTV in the drains to check for blockages. BrizCommuter also suspects that nearby development near the cutting may also have increased storm run-off.

The fix is of course to install new drainage under the tracks, and feed this run-off into an existing Brisbane City Council (BCC) drain that exits into the river in the Newstead area. Whilst necessary, this poses a few problems:

  • Track closures - these will be required for around 45 weeks if carried out between 12am and 4am. Queensland Rail claim the fix may take 3 years. If evening track closures are required, this will continue to cause misery to shift workers and night owls who keep suffering from Queensland Rail QR's annoying evening track closures. However, it could be completed within a few weeks if all 4 tracks are closed. This latter option would severely limit system capacity as trains would have to run via the Exhibition Line and turn back at Roma Street. It could even prevent Ferny Grove trains from reaching any CBD stations during the closure period. Fast fix, slow fix, or no fix, passengers are likely be affected. 
  • Drain capacity - a new 2sq m cross section drain is planned to be built under the tracks. However, this will feed into a 100+ year old Brisbane City Council drain that may not be expanded. Given that the path of this drain is known for flooding in Fortitude Valley and Newstead area, then the new drain may cause more issues downstream. BrizCommuter thinks that Brisbane City Council may need to significantly increase the capacity of their drain at great cost.
  • Governance - the project will require QR and BCC to co-operate. Something that they don't seem to be able to do with rail feeder bus routes. BrizCommuter is thus a bit pessimistic of success here!
Storm Water drain map of Fortitude Valley  Source: BCC
Additionally, QR have claimed that they will have a rapid reponse team at Fortitude Valley station if there is a heavy rain event. BrizCommuter hopes that they have a rather large mop and bucket! If the work isn't completed within a few years, then at least Fortitude Valley train station can be used for the rowing contests in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. 

Brisbane Times article:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What kind of go card toucher are you?

BrizCommuter demonstrating "The Slapper"
BrizCommuter is always fascinated in the many ways that commuters touch their go cards on and off at readers. Below are a few examples:

The Grinder
The grinder seems to think that grinding their go card in a rotating motion against the reader is somehow going to make the touch on or off more effective. Might be good in the sack.

The Slapper
The slapper not surprisingly slaps their go card flat against the reader. Sometimes precision timing on how long the go card is flat against the reader results in efficiency. (Note: BrizCommuter is a highly efficient slapper).

The Timid
The timid go card user seems to think that if the go card touches the reader, they will get electrocuted, have an asteroid fall on their head, or cause a plague of locusts. Thus their go card will hover a few centimetres away from the reader and never touch it.

The Interferer 
The interferer has his (it's usually a guy) go card in a wallet along with stacks of other RFID cards such as PayWave, etc. This RFID interference consistently results in a touch on fail, followed by another, followed by another, followed by an increasing queue of pissed off commuters behind. This happens every day without fail, as the interferer can never grasp what the problem is.

This is not a go card reader! 
The Technophobe
The technophobe, tries to touch their go card against the ticket gate direction arrow, instead of the go card reader. If this occurs more than once, they probably need to be locked up, for life.

The Evader 
The evader doesn't actually bother touching on as they don't have a go card. Often seen tailgating other commuters through gates. Naughty, naughty, but not bloody surprising given how much it costs to use public transport in Brisbane!

The Deforester
The deforester insists on burning their own money by using paper tickets. If cross-bred with the technophobe, may try and touch their paper ticket against the go card reader, or even worse, the direction arrow on the ticket barrier.

The Senior
The senior has a successful touch on, then passes the same go card to their partner to touch on as well. Oh dear...

The Dory
The dory has a successful touch on, but then due to self doubt or just pure forgetfulness, touches on again just in case, causing a touch off. This repeats until they wonder off to the ticket office to ask why they have just incurred multiple $10 fixed fares.

The Potter
The potter is either a geek, or a hipster, or even worse, a combination of the two. The potter will melt-down the plastic of the go card and place the RFID coils in a magic wand, a paleo bar, or a penny farthing. Very rare in Brisbane.

The First Worlder
The first worlder, used to living in more developed countries, tries to touch on using their mobile phone, or credit card. They may also try and pay for snacks in a convenience store with their go card, or even try and use it on other transport systems in the same country. This all results in a failure because Australia is so bloody backwards.

Which one are you?