Monday, March 28, 2016

Will Cross River Rail be a Metro?

With much talk about the completely unnecessary Quirky Metro plan from the LNP in the last few weeks, a big question needs to be addressed - will Cross River Rail (CRR) be a Metro?

For starters, what is the definition of a Metro? BrizCommuter's preferred definition is from the excellent metro website
  1. An urban electric mass rail transport system, i.e. it is primarily used to move within the city.
  2. Totally independent from other traffic, rail or street traffic.
  3. High frequency service (maximum interval approx. 10 minutes during normal daytime service.)
There are a wide range of different types of Metro system, as below:
  • Underground, surface, or elevated tracks. 
  • Trains varying from 13m to 250m in length, and 2m to 3.2m in width. 
  • Trains varying from light weight (e.g. London's DLR), to double deck trains (e.g. Paris RER). 
  • Steel wheel (most common), linear motor or rubber-tyre (for steeper gradients or tight bends), or (extremely rarely) MAGLEV. 
  • Self-contained running (e.g Paris Metro), or part of wider suburban rail network (e.g. Paris RER, most Tokyo Metro lines, London's Crossrail). 
  • Frequencies between 85secs (or even shorter on some mini metros) to 12 minutes (looking at you Los Angeles). 
So will the core section of Cross River Rail be a Metro system?
  • Underground tracks - tick!
  • Grade separated on core section - tick!
  • "Heavy rail" suburban trains - tick (though with slow boarding due to only two sets of doors per car side, similar to San Francisco's BART.)
  • Steel wheel - tick!
  • Part of wider suburban rail network - tick (as per Tokyo, Paris RER, and London's Crossrail.) 
  • Frequency - ?? (see below.)
Cross River Rail station
Brisbane's long proposed CRR appears in most respects appears to be a Metro. The big question is frequency. It would be assumed that during the peak, trains will be plentiful, with at least 12tph in the peaks (up to 7.5 mins gap between services) at opening based on 8tph Gold Coast Line and 4tph Beenleigh Line services. This may be better depending on track amplifications between Brisbane and Beenleigh to allow more Gold Coast trains to overtake Beenleigh Line trains. Off-peak, BrizCommuter would expect 8tph, consisting of 4tph Gold Coast Line and 4tph Beenleigh Line services. This would have worst case gaps between services of between 7.5 mins to 12.5 mins. This would again be affected by scheduling possibilities limited by the locations where Gold Coast trains can overtake Beenleigh Line trains. At 7.5 to 10 min frequency - CRR would indeed be able to be counted as a Metro. At 12.5 min frequency, this would be rather debatable as it exceeds the 10 minute frequency generally regarded as a Metro-like "turn up and go" train service. It should however be noted that Los Angeles Metro only runs at 12 minutes frequency!

Could other parts of Queensland Rail's (QR) rain network be counted as a Metro? Many parts of the QR CityTrain network have a 10 minutes or better Metro-like frequency throughout most of the am peak (Springfield Line, Ipswich Line, Ferny Grove Line, Caboolture Line, Kippa-Ring Line, Northgate to City, inner Cleveland Line, South Bank area). However during the daytime off peak, pm peak, and evening, very little of QR's network has a consistent 10 minutes or better train service. Thus at the present, only 4 stations between Bowen Hills to Roma Street (inclusive) can be regarded as having a Metro-like service in Brisbane. With enough trains, crew, and funding, this could easily be expanded.

Getting back to the original question- as long as scheduling permits 10 minute off-peak frequencies or better through CRR (which is quite possible), then CRR could be classed as a Metro. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Mr Quirk! 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Quirk Wins - Disaster for Brisbane's Transport!

Source: 74.1073741825.160527347294794/1232188283462023/?type=3&theater
Despite opinion polls showing the opposite, LNP Lord Mayor Graham Quirk has won a surprising landslide victory in the Brisbane 2016 Council elections. With the LNP having a history of destructive public transport policies, and wasting hundreds of millions on poor value for money road projects, this is very very bad news for sustainable transport. So what does this mean for Brisbane?

  • Bus Network - continued failure to reform the inefficient and confusing Brisbane City Council (BBC) / Brisbane Transport (BT) bus network. Suburbs such as Centenary and Northern Suburbs will continue to be public transport black holes, with car reliance continuing. Bus queues across the Victoria Bridge (above) and along the SE Busway will continue for years to come. Graham Quirk truly has his head buried in the sand when it comes to bus network design. 
  • Cross River Rail - continued lacking BCC support for the urgently required Cross River Rail, at a time what new underground rail lines are progressing well in the much better governed Sydney and Melbourne.  
  • Brisbane Metro - Quirk will continue to promote the massively flawed Brisbane Metro idea. This $1.5b (though more realistically $3b) plan will not increase capacity compared to the busway, force time consuming changes from bus to metro, not serve UQ or RBWH, will push many bus routes back into congested streets, and cause bus chaos during the 6 year construction.  The Metro idea is bizarre given that Quirk has been quoted as saying that Brisbane commuters do not like to change buses as an excuse for not reforming the bus network. Yet the Metro will forced most bus users to change from bus to metro just outside of the CBD! BrizCommuter hopes that the business case will show that the Brisbane Metro is not financially justifiable, however plenty of government resources will still be wasted dealing the with this ill-advised plan. It needs to be noted the state government own most of the busway infrastructure, so it is not like BCC can just do what they like with it! However, if the LNP get back into state government (which is more than likely) it is scary what could happen in regards to this quite frankly dumb idea. 
  • Kingsford Smith Drive - $650m will continue to be wasted on reducing "congestion" on a road that is rarely congested, and has just had a billion $$$ spent on a toll tunnel bypass. As with the Wardell St/Samford Rd intersection upgrade, it will just move the congestion to the next set of traffic lights, or make no difference at all. 
Well done Brisbane voters - you have just voted to continue Brisbane's path of being a laughing stock among "World Cities". 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Are the LNP's Public Transport Policies Destructive?

Brisbane Metro
A recent anonymous comment on BrizCommuter's blog made BrizCommuter think - are the LNP's public transport policies purposefully destructive?

There are quite a number of policies that support this claim, as below:

BaT Tunnel - Cross River Rail (CRR) had gone through multiple review processes so that the most appropriate alignment was chosen. The project was "shovel ready" and waiting on funding. When the Newman LNP state government was voted into power in 2012, CRR was quickly canned for the Bus and Train (BaT) tunnel. This tunnel eliminated the essential bus and rail interchange at Park Rd/Boggo Rd, thus making the project less fit for purpose, and less value for money. Property that around Yeerongpilly that had been purchased for CRR, was sold. After the Newman LNP government lost power in 2015, the BaT Tunnel was quite rightly dumped by the Palaszczuk ALP government. However, due to the properties at Yeerongpilly being sold, the CRR project has had to go through yet another planning process. The BaT Tunnel has set back the urgently required CRR by at least 4 and half years and counting. There have also been claims in the press that the LNP never intended on building the BaT Tunnel.

Brisbane Metro - For the 2016 Brisbane City Council elections, LNP Lord Mayor Graham Quirk announced the Brisbane Metro as a policy. This plan was to spend $1.54b on converting the busway from Wooloongabba to Herston into a non-driverless rubber-tyred metro. This completely detracts from the state government plans for Cross River Rail, and distance future plans for a Brisbane Cross City Metro. Quirk's Metro would have no increase in capacity compared to the busway it replaces. It would force passengers to change from bus to metro just outside of the CBD, increasing journey times. It would force some bus routes back onto congested CBD roads. It would chaos for 6 years during construction when the busways would be out of use. It does not serve UQ  or RBWH, and annoyingly would terminate on stop short of the latter. There are so many things wrong with this idea, it appears to be a "thought bubble" idea designed to throw a huge spanner in the works of Brisbane's public transport system and future plans.

Cleveland Solution - Back in January 2012, in the lead up to the state elections,  the LNP Brisbane Council Council, part of Council of Mayors SE Queensland (COMSEQ), proposed a half-baked alternative to Cross River Rail called the Cleveland Solution. It was planned to link the Cleveland and Ferny Grove Lines with a mainly elevated train line through Brisbane's CBD. Shorter more frequent trains would run on these lines. The costing was underestimated, and the plan would have caused chaos at level crossings that would have been closed to car traffic for more than 50% of the peak periods. The Cleveland Solution would have only increased train capacity through the CBD by only 33%, instead of 100% from CRR. It appeared to be yet another ill-though out plan to divert attention from the well planned CRR. Little has been heard of this idea since 2012.

City2Suburbs Bus Tunnel - This was also another odd initiative of the LNP Brisbane City Council in September 2013. This involved a totally unnecessary $2.2b bus tunnel underneath Brisbane's CBD between Cultural Centre and Centenary Place. The Adelaide Street axis is rarely congested, so what was the point? A bridge parallel to the Victoria Bridge was proposed, when simply "Green Bridging" the Victoria Bridge (as recently proposed by The Greens) would have the same benefit for a much lower cost. The City2Suburbs obviously wasn't too pressing an idea, as there has been no mention of it in the 2016 Brisbane City Council election campaign.

2013 Bus Review - In 2013, TransLink redesigned Brisbane City Council's bus network to improve efficiency and allow for more high frequency bus routes. Centenary and Northern suburbs would have been served by high frequency bus services for the first time. The LNP Brisbane City Council was highly obstructive towards these changes. The LNP state government transport minister Scott Emerson "gave up" and handed the bus review to the LNP Brisbane City Council who promptly dumped it. Brisbane City Council's bus review mainly just resulted in costs to bus routes, with Brisbane's embarrassingly inefficient and confusing bus network remaining to this day. It is bizarre that the LNP state and council governments could not co-operate, and that the destructive Newman government gave up so easily when they had no issue with upsetting public servants, doctors, lawyers, judges, and solar owners. In the meantime Auckland and Houston redesigned their bus networks with no major issues.

15 Minute Off-Peak Train services - This was planned, but not implemented by the ALP Bligh government. However, when Campbell Newman came to power, a "2 year trial" 15 minute off-peak service was implemented on the Ferny Grove Line from mid-2012. Commuters on other lines had to wait another 18 months for 15 minute off-peak services (and improved peak train services) to be expanded onto other lines in January 2014.

Federal Funding - The LNP Abbott federal government refused to fund Cross River Rail, the extension of the Gold Coast Light Rail (G:Link) for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and many other urban rail projects around Australia. This has set back many public transport projects in Australia by many years. Thankfully things seem to be improving after Tony's ousting.

Whilst it needs to be noted that the ALP are also lacking in competence when it comes to public transport (with plenty of planning, and not much funding), the LNP seem to take the prize for incompetence. Given all of the above examples, it certainly appears that the "pro-car" Liberals are purposefully trying to derail public transport progress with laughable and destructive policies that will never happen, diverting attention from what really needs to occur. If their policies are not intentionally destructive, then the LNP certainly have a well oiled machine for producing half-baked and ill-though out public transport projects.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

2016 Brisbane City Election Scorecard

Last Updated 14/03/16 21:30pm

BrizCommuter has already run quite a lot of blog posts on the Brisbane City Council (BCC) Elections 2016. This is intended to be the final post, and is a scorecard of the the policies for each of the three main Brisbane mayoral candidates related to public transport. Any new policies during the last week will be added as an update to this post.
Brisbane City Hall
Previous blog posts (most recent at top) are below:

LNP - Graham Quirk

Brisbane Metro - replacement/upgrade of the existing busways between Wooloongabba and Herston to rubber-tyred metro. Pros: Looks fancy; possible faster journey times within CBD. Cons: $1.54b cost, with no increase in capacity; does not serve UQ and RBWH (and stops one stop short of latter); would require 15,000 passengers per hour per direction to change from bus to metro just outside the CBD; change would increase journey times; lacking in detail such as bus interchange, depot, and around Victoria Bridge area; costs probably highly underestimated; not driverless; detracts from Cross River Rail. Verdict: Another laughable public transport plan from the LNP.
SpeedyCat - express CityCat services. Pros: may help a handful of commuters. Cons: seems to compete with BCC bus routes (Tenerife and UQ to CBD); no detail of frequency (poor frequency means express services are useless); aren't there already express CityCats?
Fares at 2009 levels - Pros: lower cost public transport, Cost: impacts on ALP's public transport fare review. Verdict: fares are none of BCC's business, and much of the inefficiency of SE Queensland's public transport system is due to Quirk's flawed bus network.
Grade - E - laughable metro idea, laughable fare policy, no bus network reform.

ALP - Rod Harding

Brisbane Light Rail - light rail from Newstead(ish) to West End(ish) and UQ via new Green Bridge. Pros: looks fancy. Cons: $1.2b cost, duplicates most of existing Blue CityGlider bus route, already a Green Bridge to UQ, lacking detail, conflicts with other road transport through CBD, detracts from Cross River Rail. Verdict:  Poor value for money 'vote bait'.
Fare Free Friday - free fares on buses on Fridays. Pros: lower cost of public transport. Cons: makes a mockery of the ALPs fare review; valid on BCC buses only (no trains or non-BCC buses) would cause mass confusion; lack of go card data for Friday. Verdict: Completely dumb.
Eastern and Northern Bus Transitways, & Level Crossing Removals - Pros: good cost/benefit. Cons: nothing major. Verdict: sensible policy.
Centenary Glider - Pros: serves public transport black hole of Centenary suburbs. Cons: not original policy. Verdict: another win for the public transport lobby.
Grade - D+ - unnecessary light rail plan, unworkable fare free Friday idea, other policies good.

The Greens - Ben Pennings

Green Victoria Bridge - turning the Victoria Bridge into a Green Bridge with 4 bus lanes. Pros: Only costs $40m; Very good cost/benefit. Cons: might piss off a few drivers. Verdict: Good low cost idea.
New high frequency bus routes & Green Bridges - new Centenary Glider and Green CityGlider high frequency bus routes. Extensions of Blue City Glider across two new Green Bridges. Pros: Bus network reform is urgently required and low cost, Tenerife Green Bridge would have good cost/benefit. Cons: Bridges would be costlier than just bus network changes alone; poor rail interchange for Green CityGlider Bus Route; Green CityGlider should end at Northshore Hamilton instead of Doomben; ? cost effectiveness of Toowong Green Bridge; Tenerife Green Bridge would have a lot of opposition. Verdict: On the right path, some improvements required for Green CityGlider route, not sure about 2 new Green Bridges.
Reduce fares to 2011 levels - Pros: lower cost public transport, Cost: impacts on ALP's public transport fare review. Verdict: fares are none of BCC's business.
Grade - B- - bus network changes and Green Victoria Bridge quite positive, fares not any of BCC candidate's business, new Green Bridges at Tenerife and Toowong would be expensive infrastructure.


Infrastructure: Both ALP's Rod Harding and LNP's Graham Quirk have delivered unnecessary infrastructure 'vote bait' as their primary public transport policies. Whilst BCC can lobby the government, both of these plans have come out of nowhere despite multiple infrastructure reviews during the last decade. Quirk's Metro plan is really quite absurd with many questions unanswered. These policies detract from the urgently required Cross River Rail (CRR). The Greens appear to support CRR, and the Victoria Bridge Green Bridge idea is great, but BrizCommuter is unsure about the 2 new proposed Green Bridges.

Fares: All candidates should be staying away from fare related policies. Fares are set by TransLink, and are currently being reviewed by ALP state government. BCC can lobby the government, but have no direct powers to set fares. Rod Harding's policy is completely unworkable.

Bus network: Bus network reform is urgently required in Brisbane. LNP's Graham Quirk still seems to have his head buried in the sand. ALP's Rod Harding has sensible added the Centenary Glider (designed by Rail Back on Track) as a me too policy.The Greens have multiple policies to improve Brisbane's Bus Network.

Winner? The Greens are the clear winners related to public transport policies. The ALP and LNP's 'vote bait' infrastructure policies are potentially damaging to Brisbane's economy.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Team Quirk wins BrizCommuter Award...

Team Quirk wins BrizCommuter Award for...
...Worst Photoshopping! (Oh, and worst 2016 council election idea.) 

As part of LNP Team Quirk's ludicrous and potentially economically damaging rubber-tyred "Brisbane Metro" proposal, we have the following examples of poor photoshopping:

Exhibit 1: Normanby station. Currently, this busway station is partially open air, and partially under an existing concrete box structure. Team Quirk, and his LNP mates look like they will spend hundreds of millions of taxpayers money on turning it into a replica of a 100 year old Paris Metro station, complete with uneven platform, rats, and the smell of piss in the stairwells. Strange, that Team Quirk chose a photo of a 100 year old metro station instead of one of the shiny new driverless Line 14 stations. As in the artists impression, in order to confuse Brisbane commuters a Paris Metro map will be placed on the wall instead of a Brisbane high frequency public transport map. On second thoughts, the latter would be a bit "minimal" due to Graham Quirk's inefficient bus network. Lets keep the Paris Metro map then. 

Exhibit 2: Mater Hill station. This is currently a surface busway station in a cutting, with a tunnel portal immediately at one end. In this case, Team Quirk appears to want to spend even more money in turning it into a replica of Georges-Vanier station in Quebec's Montreal Metro. Original photo here. BrizCommuter is concerned that those who live and work within a 1km radius of this station (including Mater Hospital, Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, and St Lawrences School) will forced to speak French. Zut alors! Also, this train has Mater Hill as a destination, which is odd as the proposed terminus is Wooloongabba, one stop further on. 

Exhibit 3: Victoria Bridge. Based on the previous two examples, BrizCommuter was half expecting a photo of a Metro Bridge in Paris such as the beautiful Pont de Bir Hakeim. However Team Quirk managed to use the the slightly more realistic, but boring Brisbane Victoria Bridge instead.  A low fence has been retained, to allow Brisbanites to easily climb onto the tracks during Riverfire to get an "electrifying" view of the fireworks. This train has Brisbane as the destination, somewhat amusing for a train that goes from Brisbane, to, er Brisbane. 

Team Quirk have published very little detail on their "thought bubble" Metro idea, such as how they expect 15,000 passengers per hour to change from bus to metro, how Brisbane will manage with no busways for 6 years, and where the depot will be sited. Thus Brisbanites have thankfully been spared more terrible photoshopping. 

BrizCommuter leaves readers with a mock up of a Brisbane Metro station entrance, using one of Paris' famous Hector Guimard designed, art nouveau entrances. Au revoir Quirk!

Friday, March 4, 2016

What is going on at Newmarket?

Ferny Grove Line commuters may have recently noticed some strange looking construction footers appearing at Newmarket. The works can be seen in the photo below.

So what is going on? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Spanish Solution style station - platforms on both sides of the track to allow the station to handle 50,000 passengers per hour, whilst maintaining short dwell times (as per photo below)?
Somewhere in Spain
2. Queensland Rail (QR) are building an architecturally impressive station to rival great termini such as London Paddington, or New York's Grand Central? (Oyster Bar optional)
Somewhere in London
 3. QR are building temporary side platforms whilst the existing island platform is closed for rather belated disability access construction?
Somewhere in-between Wilston and Alderley
Well, option 1 is unlikely, unless patronage has grown by a zillion% since QR last bothered to published their load survey. Option 2 is also unlikely, as most new Queensland stations have the same boring design. Also, there is limited demand at Newmarket for an Oyster Bar. Thus it looks like option 3 is on the money. Given how advanced the construction is, it would be great if QR could get around to telling commuters who use Newmarket what is actually going on!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

06:54 from Shorncliffe - more sardines please?

A Queensland Rail 3-car unit train
Some Shorncliffe Line commuters are well aware of the squishy nature of some of their 3-car unit train services. One of these is the 06:54am from Shorncliffe to Cleveland, which often has standing passengers from Boondall. In fact, this train can be so busy that a passenger was recently observed accidentally standing on a guide dog! (Quite why the guide dog wasn't standing and holding the rails, who knows?)

From a currently unannounced date in 2016 when Moreton Bay Rail Link opens (probably mid-April) this train service could become worse. Why?

  • The Caboolture Line trains will express past Nundah, Toombul, Wooloowin, and Albion. Thus passengers from these stations who would catch the current ex-Cabooloture and ex-Petrie services that stop at Nundah at 07:10am and 07:13am may now be catching the 06:54am from Shorncliffe which stops at Nundah at 07:14am. (On the first day of new timetable you can add passengers who usually catch the 07:01am from Nundah to that list too!)
  • Despite TransLink and QR claiming that there will be a train between Northgate and Roma Street every 7.5 minutes in the peak, there is no evidence on the timetable of any Northgate starting train in-between the 06:54am from Shorncliffe and the 06:39am from Shorncliffe. (Existing Doomben and Airport Line train fills the gap, but only for Wooloowin and Albion).  
  • There is an extra Northgate to Roma Street service 7.5 minutes after the 06:54am from Shorncliffe, but as can be observed on the Ferny Grove and Cleveland Lines, commuters do not like having to wait for a later train because they cannot board the one they want to use. 
  • Some passengers from Redcliffe may use the Kippa-Ring Line instead of the Shorncliffe Line. Thus may remove some passengers from this overcrowded service. However, given the increased journey times and fares from Kippa-Ring, BrizCommuter expects that the loss of passengers from the Shorncliffe Line may be less than expected. 
Now of course, if this service is magically upgraded by Queensland Rail to a 6-car train, the problem will be solved. Unfortunately, as QR do not publish train lengths in their timetables, commuters will not known until day 1 of the new timetable if they will even fit onto this or other train services. 

Depending on the (re-)allocation of 3-car units, there may also be quite a few other "sardine can" train services from the start of new timetables expected in April. With the Next Generation Rollingstock being many months away from passenger service, things may get a lot of worse before they get better. There will be quite a few people late for work on the first few days of the new timetables!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Where is the QR Passenger Load Survey (Again)?

After the dark 3 years of the LNP Newman government, transport transparency has started to improve in SE Queensland under the Palaszczuk ALP government. The TransLink Tracker has made a re-appearance, and Queensland Rail (QR) have added "skipped stations" statistics. Probably due to real time data, even Brisbane bus statistics are now realistic at 16% of buses being late - previously the 'on time' bus figures were laughably in the high 90s%.

However, there is still one big thing missing. That is the QR Passenger Load survey. This has yet again gone missing in action for quite a few years. The QR Passenger Load survey looks at the peak boardings and alightings. It also looks at the rolling stock assignment (e.g. numbers of 3-car and 6-car units services) per line, and the percentage of services that are overcrowded per line. The non-publishing of this data smacks of a lack of transparency. It also means that public transport advocates, journalists, and the public have no idea of the overcrowding situation, and what needs to be done to improve the situation. BrizCommuter calls on both QR and TransLink to start publishing the survey again.

There are also other areas where a lack of transparency is notable with QR.

  • Station patronage (total) - there is no data publicly available on total station patronage. In the UK this is easily available from here (National Rail), or here (Tube).  The station entry/exit go card data would be readily available to TransLink, but is unpublished. 
  • Overcrowding - as per the QR Passenger Load survey, this is not currently published in Queensland. In the UK it is available here
  • Length of trains in timetable - length of trains are not included in QR's timetable, unlike UK operator C2C (below)

In London, even the Working Time Tables (WTT) for the tube lines are published. A WTT shows the detailed workings of each train service, including when trains enter and exit depots, out of service trains, whether the train crew step back, and timings down to quarter of a minute. Now BrizCommuter is not expecting QR to publish their WTT, however it shows the massive difference in transparency between Brisbane and London. Publishing the QR Passenger Load survey again would be step in the right direction!