Thursday, July 28, 2016

System Meltdown (Again)

Not a good day QR?
On Wednesday 27th July 2016, Brisbane suffered yet another Queensland Rail (QR) system meltdown highlighting many issues:
  • A "signal failure" at Bowen Hills caused all trains to have to run via one track pair through the CBD instead of two during the am peak. 
  • The result of having to send 40 trains per hour (tph) per direction down a track that can only handle 24 tph, meant that trains were soon queueing down the track, and delays reached 30 minutes. 
  • A Brisbane to Ipswich train was cancelled, resulting in a hour long gap between services during the am peak. 
  • Some trains from Caboolture were routed via the Ekka Loop, bypassing 3 core stations including Central, pissing off rather a lot of passengers! 
  • Severe overcrowding experienced on many train services. 
  • No information was reported given to passengers waiting at stations that there were would be delays. 
  • Information was only given on-board BrizCommuter's train after the last opportunity to change onto a high frequency bus route. The diverted Caboolture Line train passenger were not informed until the train had been diverted! 
  • Delays were being quoted as only being 10 minutes, when some trains were delayed 30 minutes (BrizCommuter's train was 21 minutes late through the CBD). Some claims on Facebook are of hour long delays. 
  • It took until early afternoon for the system to fully recover.
  • Unlike London where passengers are re-imbursed for delays of more than 15 minutes, there is no refund for delayed passengers in Brisbane.
  • BrizCommuter has heard reports of surgery and clinics being delayed in one Brisbane hospital due to large numbers of staff arriving late. The delays would probably have affected many businesses, and many workers lost out on wages.
Not going anywhere at Fortitude Valley
So what can Brisbane learn from this meltdown?
  • The urgently needed Cross River Rail (CRR) would provide for more system redundancy and resilience compared to current situation of all trains services running through the same core network. The ongoing failure of CRR is embarrassing when Melbourne and Sydney's new rail tunnels are full steam ahead. 
  • Improved signalling is required to not only increase timetabled service frequencies, but also increase absolute maximum capacity when issues arise. 
  • There needs to be higher frequency counter-peak services (e.g. from Brisbane to Ipswich and Springfield in the am peak).
  • There needs to be better operational handling so that counter-peak services are not cancelled. 
  • Core network delays need to be relayed to passengers at train stations before they board. 
  • Core network delays need to be relayed to passengers before interchange points, as in London and other cities, so that alternative routes can be used. 
  • Delay times communicated to passengers need to be more realistic. 
  • Passengers should be re-imbursed automatically via the go card system for these delays.
Step up your act QR and TransLink! 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Un-fair? Short vs Long Distance Journey Costs

Tokyo - expensive long distance commutes
BrizCommuter has often complained about how shorter distance commuters are ripped off by TransLink's fares compared to longer distance commuters. BrizCommuter's opinion is that those who live closer to their place of work or study are living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and thus should be rewarded as such with lower fares. BrizCommuter has always lived with 15km of his place of work during his 20 year career, utilising relatively less infrastructure, resources, and energy to get to work than many other commuters. Those who choose to live a longer distance from their place of work (e.g. commuting from the Gold Coast to Brisbane), are living a less environmentally friendly lifestyle, as more infrastructure, resources, and energy are required to get them to and from their destination. Thus longer distance commuters should be penalised by higher fares for their lifestyle choice. Of course, not everyone has the choice (e.g. if one partner works on the Coast, and another works in Brisbane), so fares have to take into account the range of lifestyles across the urban conurbation.

In this blog post BrizCommuter takes a look at the cost of fares for 1km, 5km, 20km, 40km, and 80km adult single peak fare journeys (or as close as possible to these distance) in Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London. The percentage increase in fares are calculated from the cost of the 5km journey. Brisbane fares are based on the new fares expected to be introduced in January 2017. In other cities the fares are current fares, as of 1st June 2016.

1km $3.20
5km $3.20  0%
20km $3.90  24%
40km $5.96  86%
80km $10.32  223%

1km $2.25/Free
5km $2.25  0%
20km $4.13  83%
40km $6.08  170%
80km $8.70  287%

1km  $3.38
5km  $3.38  0%
20km  $4.82  42%
40km  $4.82  42%
80km  $8.30  157%

1km  $3.90/Free
5km  $3.90  0%
20km  $3.90  0%
40km  $3.90  0%
75km  $3.90  0%

1km  2.40GBP
5km  2.90GBP  0%
20km  5.10GBP  75%
40km  9.40GBP  224%
80km  25.50GBP  779%

Hong Kong
1km  HK$2.4
5km  HK$3.4  0%
20km  HK$10.2  200%
35km  HK$19.5  474%

1km  140Y
5km  170Y  0%
20km  390Y  129%
40km  720Y  323%
80km  1320Y  676%

All Australian cities have relatively low fare increases as distance increases compared to Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London. This clearly reflects the urban sprawl of these relatively low density cities in Australia. and the environmentally unsustainable lifestyle that Australia is already struggling with. More on that later.

Tokyo and Kong Hong have considerably higher fare increases per distance, despite having a very high population density that makes public transport more efficient and relatively small commuter bases. For example, in Tokyo, one of the world most populous cities, the Chuo Rapid train services terminates at a station 53km from Tokyo. That is slightly further than Caboolture from Brisbane Central. Further than that, are hourly local trains, or an hourly express train that has an extra surcharge on top of the fare quoted. Imagine if Sunshine and Gold Coast commuters had to pay a surcharge for their limited express trains?

In the UK, a green belt surrounds London, and the outside of the green belt are commuter towns, many of which are on the coast. It seems that if you want the commuter or seaside town lifestyle (the 80km fare was based on Brighton to London) then you will certainly have to pay for it in the cost of your commute!

So what is wrong with Australia's urban planning? The uncontrolled urban sprawl of Australia's major cities is causing serious infrastructure gaps. For example in SE Queensland, there are currently multiple new towns (e.g. Flagstone, Ripley, Yarrabilba) under construction away from existing commuter train lines. All of these initially require very expensive new road infrastructure or widening of existing roads. If train lines are to be extended to the former two, that will cost around a billion $. Adding new branches to train lines adds pressure to the core rail network resulting in multiple billion dollar projects such as Cross River Rail needing to be built. Not building core infrastructure just increases congestion. Simply, continuing to build out, instead of up, is not sustainable into the future.

A second issue is oil prices. Despite fluctuations, oil has been relatively cheap since the 1970s. With the world likely to be heading for instability over the next few decades, there is a high risk of very large increases in oil prices. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out how peak oil will affect a sprawling urban conurbation such as SE Queensland. Peak Oil could be quite disastrous for SE Queensland's economy if public transport continues to be playing catch up. An increase in electric cars (which still require a energy source) may alleviate some of this risk, but the risk exists. At least cheaper longer distance fares is an attempt to reduce the number of longer distance fuel guzzling car journeys.

On the plus side, Melbourne and Perth are one very few world cities to have free fare zones within the CBD (tram only in Melbourne). This helps very few commuters getting from home to work, but assists with CBD travel during the daytime, plus is attractive to tourists and business travellers.

So is the urban sprawl responsible for the low fare increases per distance in Australia, or are the low fares responsible for the long commutes? It is a bit of chicken and the egg scenario. Certainly, there is little question that shorter distance commuters "doing the right thing" in Australia are being screwed in favour of longer distance commuters. BrizCommuter is also disappointed that the Palaszczuk government ignored the Fare Review Taskforce's recommendations that included cheaper shorter distance fares, and relatively higher longer distance fares.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Pokémon Go on Brisbane's Public Transport

Pokémon Go is a new smart phone game craze that has been in the news in the last few days. The game uses augmented reality, and BrizCommuter gives it a week before a player falls off a platform trying to catch a Pokémon and gets squashed by a train.

Here is BrizCommuter's guide to rare Pokémons that may be found on and around Brisbane's public transport system:

Brisbanemetromon - this Pokémon can be found around Brisbane City Hall, or a mental asylum.

Competentpoliticianomon - this can only be found in states other than Queensland.

Kipparingcommuteromon - a Pokémon that was suppose to appear in the game at launch, but now might not appear until 2017.

Nextgenerationrollingstockomon - this rather shy Pokémon has only ever been seen inside Wulkuraka depot.

Sundaymorningtrainomon - this Pokémon is known to run early, and if you arrive on time, you've missed it.

Crossriverrailomon - this Pokémon is thought to not exist.

And finally, here is a (painfully old) related joke:
How do you get Pikachu onto an overcrowded Queensland Rail 3-car train?
You Pokémon!