Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Too much expresso?

It seems that QR like serving up expresso, so much that those trying to travel outbound to or from Oxford Park, Grovely, and Keperra in todays am peak, might as well have stayed in bed.
3 outbound Ferny Grove services were effectively cancelled for users trying to start or finish their journeys to or from the above mentioned stations. With two consecutive trains expressed, this created a gap between services of 45 minutes instead of the timetabled 15 minute frequency. Most of the affected travellers would have been school children, who shouldn't really be left to wait around on train platforms for longer than necessary.  

Whilst it could be argued that by expressing these services reduced the impact on the majority of users travelling inbound, BrizCommuter thinks that QR were serving up too much expresso this morning. 

Oh, and just to add, one of the inbound trains that ran late, was one of the dreaded 3-car unit services, with reportedly hundreds of passengers left behind at inner Ferny Grove Line stations yet again as the train was full.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Still doing the go card rort?

...unless you travel short distances a lot. 
Back in 2014, BrizCommuter wrote his most popular blog post "Doing the go card rort" which has helped many a commuter (mainly long distance commuters) to know how to reduce their weekly public transport costs on Brisbane's overpriced public transport system. The post was also picked up by the media on many an occasion. The go card rort is possible due to the "9 then free" fare structure, and lack of zone based daily and weekly capping.

So with new fares in January 2017, and the replacement of "9 then free" with "8 then 50%", is the go card rort still possible? In this scenario, BrizCommuter looks at the three rort scenarios for a (new) 5 zone/(old) 13 zone commuter such as Nerang or Landsborough to Brisbane Central. With no rorting, and 10 peak journeys, the weekly cost will be $92.88.

The Easy Rort

This involves one lunch time one zone off-peak journey on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. This will result in 50% fare journeys from Wednesday evening (inclusive).

Weekly Cost = $85.08
Weekly Saving = $7.80

The Pro Rort

This involves two one zone off-peak journeys on Monday and Tuesday. Maybe during morning tea, and lunch. 50% fare journeys from Wednesday morning (inclusive).

Weekly Cost = $82.48
Weekly Saving = $10.40

The Extreme Rort

This involves three one zone off-peak journeys on Monday and two on Tuesday. Maybe during morning and afternoon tea, and lunch. 50% fare journeys from the peak journey home on Tuesday (inclusive).
10.32x3=30.96
5.16x7=36.12
2.56x5= 12.8

Weekly Cost = $79.88
Weekly Saving = $13 (over $600 saving a year)

Conclusion

Whilst the new fare system was designed to reduce the rorting that was occurring with the go card system, doing the go card rort will still be possible for longer distance commuters after the change to "8 then 50%" in January 2017. As the savings by doing the rort are far less than the old fare structure, then it is likely that only the keen or miserly will continue to do the rort. However, this continues to show the new fare structure is simply re-arrangeing the deck chairs on the Titanic, and that a account based fare system that allows for daily and weekly zone based capping is urgently required for Brisbane and SE Queensland.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Locked Out at Enoggera!

Some commuters at Enoggera train station had a bit of a shock last week when they found themselves locked out of their favourite parking spot. A plot of vacant private land near to the train station has become a popular parking spot, as the stations car park often fills up to capacity quite early in the am peak (along with most other Ferny Grove Line stations). After a few years of no activity, the owners of the land have finally got around to blocking off the land. With lots of displaced cars, this will add to pressure of street parking on streets around the train station, something that is sadly all too common in Brisbane. So what is the problem with car parking at Enoggera train station, and other train stations in Brisbane?

Not enough parking spaces - purveyors of bad city planning - Brisbane City Council, have banned the addition of station car parking within a set distance of Brisbane's CBD. Thus the demand outstrips supply, resulting in street parking chaos, and forcing many commuters to drive to work instead, adding to congestion on roads.

Not enough feeder buses - purveyors of bad transport planning - Brisbane City Council (starting to see a trend?) have resisted reforming the bus network. Thus rather than having buses feed the train network, the buses try and compete with the train network. Given that just one Ferny Grove Line train service has the same capacity as all of Brisbane Transport's competing bus routes in the am peak, it is obvious that passengers prefer to use the train when they have the choice.

White elephant bus interchange - as above, Enoggera has a large, and largely under-used bus interchange. Frequent feeder bus services from Northern suburbs (e.g. along Old Northern Road corridor) should feed into either Enoggera or Mitchelton bus interchanges. This would take considerable pressure of parking. This plan was knocked back by Brisbane City Council during TransLink's bus network review in 2013.

To conclude, the lack of feeder buses and station parking is causing a lot of pain for commuters and residents around train stations. Much of this is due to failed Brisbane City Council policies. It is time that Brisbane City Council are removed from transport planning.

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.

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

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

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

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

London
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%

Tokyo
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!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BrizCommuter becomes PerthCommuter

Perth Train Station
BrizCommuter recently went on a business trip to Perth and tried to use the public transport system as much as possible. Here are BrizCommuter's thoughts on Perth's public transport system.

First Impressions

Before departing Brisvegas, BrizCommuter looked to see if Perth's smart card called "SmartRider" could be purchased online or at the airport. The answer seems to be no - not a good start. This forces new arrivals to have to pay the inflated paper ticket fare to get the CBD.

The 380 airport to CBD bus runs every 30 minutes. More frequent would be preferred, but it seems that with terminals split across two geographic locations, and lack of demand, more frequent buses may not be currently justifiable. The timetable at the bus stop was 10 minutes later than the online timetable, and the bus turned up exactly halfway in between the two times. Of the 10 passengers boarding at the airport, BrizCommuter was the only passenger travelling all the way to the CBD. It seems that most take the taxi. Thankfully rail services will start running from the Airport to the CBD early in the next decade.

Once at Elizabeth Quay Busport, Perth's large 1980's bus station, BrizCommuter purchased a SmartRider card, which is $10 for the card, and then at least $10 credit. Purchase was smooth. There are some useful cheap food outlets at this bus station.

Buses

As with many cities, Perth has a confusing mix of bus routes. Perth's bus system is thankfully loaded into google maps, which makes it easier to find a group of routes that may serve the same location. It is easy to find timetables on Transperth's website. No online realtime information could be found.
It is easy to find the right platform at Elizabeth Quay Busport, with good signage. With most bus routes running from one place, it is far less confusing than trying to find the right bus route in Brisbane. There is also a smaller bus station serving Northern suburbs near Perth Train Station.

Perth has a geographically very long CBD (East to West). With buses stopping at all closely spaced bus stops, it often took the bus more than 20 minutes to travel from Elizabeth Quay Busport to The Causeway. Perth could maybe do with an East to West bus tunnel?

Most buses had automatic fold out ramps (rather than manual in Brisbane) which makes life easier for the disabled, elderly, those with prams, and the driver!

Perth has some high frequency bus routes such as the 950 that runs every 8 mins off-peak and every couple of minutes during the peaks. However, many bus routes are infrequent, including rail feeder services in the suburbs.

CAT Buses

Perth has a free fare zone in the CBD, which makes life easier for the tourist, business traveller, or local. A smart rider card is required for free fares within the CBD on trains. Perth has four free bus routes called Central Area Transit (CAT) which run every 5 to 15 minutes during the day. Three of these routes run on weekends. This is a big improvement on just 6 years ago when one route ran on weekends, and only every 45 mins. Whilst being very useful, allow a bit of extra time when depending on the CAT buses. BrizCommuter tried to use one route in the am peak, to find a 17 minute wait (according to the indicator at the bus stop) on a 8 minute frequency route, so walked a block to catch a different CAT route, only to not be able to board due to the bus being full. What a CATastrophe! The rest of BrizCommuter's CAT bus experiences were great. The CAT bus services stop abruptly at around 7pm.

Trains

Perth is well known for having an excellent frequent off-peak train service, with pretty much everywhere on the network having a 15 minute day-time off-peak frequency or better, even on weekends. The daytime off-peak on the central part of the Mandurah and Joondalup Lines through the CBD should really be better than the current 15 minute frequency.

Peak frequencies are also pretty good on the Mandurah, Joondalup, and Armadale Lines. Strangely the Fremantle and Midland Lines gets worse in the peak for some commuters as the lines split into two express stopping patterns, each running approximately every 20 minutes. Only a few stations are served by both stopping patterns. The express services only saves 5 minutes or less for commuters from Perth to Fremantle or Midland, yet doubles the average wait time for many commuters from 10 to 20 minutes. BrizCommuter would rather see an all stations service running every 10 minutes instead on these lines.

Counter peak frequencies were often as good a the peak frequencies (every 5 to 20 minutes) unlike the commonly encountered 30 minute counter peak service gaps in Brisbane.

BrizCommuter tried to observe some peak services for crowding without looking suspicious. Most trains only had standees only around the doors, though one Fremantle to Perth train was observed being "overcrowded" with standing passengers all down the aisles. Having read up a bit online, it seems that Perth has overcrowding issues caused by insufficient trains, as with Brisbane. All trains in the peak were observed to be "full length" 4 or 6-car services rather than 2 or 3-car services.
B-series train at Canning Bridge
Trains are similar to Brisbane's SMU trains (both generations). The older A-series trains are made up of 2-car units, usually coupled to make 4-car trains. The newer B-series train are made of of 3-car units, usually coupled to make 6-car trains in the peaks. Trains appeared to be well kept, and clean inside. It was quite odd to be riding on a "Brisbane-like" train through a newly constructed rail tunnel!

Elizabeth Quay Train Station

An interesting thing to note is the tight curve as the trains enter and exit Elizabeth Quay station to/from the South. The squeals from the wheels can be heard a kilometre away. Some form of noise control may be required (maybe more lubrication on the curve or covering the open cutting).

Finally on the subject of trains, it seems that Perth's train system runs quite happily without guards. There is a noticeable high security and/or platform staff presence in the CBD, which is good a Perth seems to have a few more undesirables than some other Australian capitals.

Fares

Perth uses the SmartRider smart card system, though paper tickets are also available at an inflated (though still cheaper than in Brisbane) price. The zones are quite large, with zone 1 extending more than 8km from the CBD. The short journey fares are much lower than in Brisbane (including Brisbane's 2017 fares). For example a single zone 1 fare in Perth from June 2016 is $2.25 or $2.55 using SmartRider, compared to $3.20 in Brisbane using a go card in 2017. The Perth system positively encourages short distance journeys, whilst in Brisbane it will still be cheaper to use a car for short journeys. There is also automated daily capping, using the DayRider functionality.  As mentioned previously, there is also a free fare zone in the CBD, and free CAT buses in Perth and Fremantle. Even though Perth has no off-peak discount, and no weekly capping/periodical options,  it is difficult for frequent public transport users to rack of high fares as in Brisbane. It seems that Perth's fare system tries much harder to attract locals and tourists to use public transport.

The SmartRider readers at suburban train stations are not particularly noticeable, being a dark green colour. BrizCommuter walked straight past the reader on his first exit! BrizCommuter also experienced one bus with unreliable SmartRider readers (? maybe low power).

Conclusion

Perth sets the standard for high frequency off-peak train services in Australia, though is being overtaken by Melbourne in this respect. Peak train services could be better on some lines, and more trains seem to be required. Fares are well priced, and short distance journeys are cheaper than all other major Australian cities. The free CAT and high-frequency routes are very useful, but many suburbs are served by infrequent bus services. The opening of the airport train line will be very useful for locals and visitors. Overall, Perth's public transport system seems to be generally well governed and operated.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Brisbane Metro Subway System - Propaganda Response

BrizCommuter was not amused to see some of his ratepayer money being spent on a propaganda leaflet that has quite likely been posted to every household in Brisbane. So what is in this propaganda leaflet for Quirk's Brisbane Metro Subway System?

  • "Services every 2 MINS" - if the Brisbane Metro was planned to be driverless then 90 second frequency would be possible, with a 33% capacity increase. It is bizarre that a driven system is proposed in the 21st century. By the way, the existing busway has services every 20 seconds in the peak! 
  • "7 KMS of fast uninterrupted travel" - well actually it's interrupted by these things called stations. Journeys to the North of Herston, and to the South and East of Wooloongabba will also be severely interrupted by having to change from bus to metro. 
  • "Carry up to 30,000 passengers per hour" - untrue Mr Quirk! A 60m long rubber-tyred metro train based on Paris MP05 stock will carry a maximum of 481 (very squashed) passengers. At 2 minute frequencies this is 14,481 passengers per hour per direction. This is a similar capacity to the exiting busway! However, previous information has mentioned 300 capacity trains, would would result in 9000 passengers per hour, far less than the existing busway - a retrograde step! 
  • Improved CBD amenity through a reduction of buses on streets - as the Quirky Metro is replacing the existing busway, then there are only a few places where buses would be reduced on streets - and that is around either end of the Victoria Bridge. In fact, the Quirky Metro may force more buses that currently use part of the busway (e.g. 345, 390, 444) back onto the streets. 
  • Victoria Bridge dedicated to Brisbane Metro Subway System, and other bus services pedestrians and cyclists - good point, but only if the Victoria Bridge can handle the weight of rubber-tyred metro trains. 
  • More effective use of existing infrastructure - based on the capacity calculations above, it isn't. Why spend more than $1.5b for no increase in capacity? Simplifying the bus network at next to  neutral cost would be a far better use of existing infrastructure. 
  • 3 NEW STATIONS + upgrades to existing stations - misleading. There are no new station locations on the route, only the requirement to have to have both a metro station and bus station at the termini, and at Cultural Centre. 
  • Smoother, quieter, and quicker than light rail - somewhat of moot point at there is no current plan for light rail. Rubber-tyred metros are anything but quiet! 
  • IMPROVED JOURNEY TIMES - a previous BrizCommuter post has shown that as passengers will have to change between bus and metro at Wooloongabba and Herston, then most journeys will result in an increase in journey times. 
Other prize quotes include:
  • "Previous investigations by both Council and state government have identified Brisbane's bus network is already at capacity in many CBD locations" - so why did Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and his councillors not support TransLink's bus network review that would have solved this issue back in 2013? Bus network reform would resolve this issue at almost neutral cost, and avoid spending $1.5b on an unnecessary metro system. 
  • "Wooloongabba and Herston will mark the furthest points of the route at each end" - this is a big problem. BrizCommuter doubts that the bus interchange component has been seriously thought about. The changing between modes will increase journey time. The Quirky Metro will also not serve major busway trip generators including RBWH, Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH), and University of Queensland (UQ). In fact annoyingly, the Quirky Metro will stop one stop short of RBWH and PAH, much to the annoyance of staff and patients. Interestingly, some academics also agree in this recent Courier Mail article. 
  • "Council is currently working on the Business Case" - Brisbane City Council is currently wasting $16m of rate payers money on a business case for something that does not improve anything. To be approved, the business case would have to be as fraudulent dodgy as the business case for Clem7 and Airport Link to get through. 
  • "Brisbane Metro Subway System is estimated to cost approximately $1.54b" - BrizCommuter highly doubts that this is realistic, and the Queensland Government has even estimated a $3b price tag. 
  • "Approximately four years to complete" - during which buses would be forced onto congested city streets - chaos would be good description. 
And finally, why does the logo look like a monorail? Have Brisbane City Council been watching too many Simpsons episodes? 

As a Brisbane ratepayer, BrizCommuter is very concerned that the LNP run Brisbane City Council are so delusional that they are countinuing to waste rates on a business case for such a nonsense project. At a time when the urgently required Cross River Rail is struggling to get funding, it is disgrace that Brisbane City Council are still promoting his pointless idea. The Quirky Metro proposal will be a huge waste of money, and a destructive, retrograde step for Brisbane's public transport system.  

Sunday, June 12, 2016

How do the fair fares compare?

In the previous blog post, BrizCommuter provided an overview of the recently announced public transport fare review for SE Queensland. We have already ascertained that seniors and 8 or less journey a week commuters will see savings varying between 4% to 35% due to the single fare discounts. However, what about heavier users of public transport who may be affected by the change from "9 then free" to "eight then 50%"? Will there also be savings to families from the free fares for children on weekends?
The January 2017 changes    Screenshot from TransLink's website
BrizCommuter had a look at a few scenarios.
Scenario 1) A typical 9-5 worker who has 10 peak journeys between home and work each week.
Scenario 2) A 9-5 worker who has 10 peak journeys between home and work each week, 2 mid-week CBD off-peak trips (meetings, lunch time activities, or go card rorting), and 2 weekend journeys between home to South Bank.
Scenario 3) The same as 2) but also taking into account the costs for the rest of the family (partner and two children aged between 5 and 14) to travel from home to South Bank. The partner drives to work.

These scenarios will have the commuter living in the "old" zone 2 (e.g. Alderley, Eagle Junction, Morningside, Indooroopilly) , "old" zone 6 (e.g. Springfield, Cleveland, Loganlea), "old" zone 15 (e.g. Robina, Eudlo).

Scenario 1
Zone 2: Old 9x$3.93=$35.37  New 8x$3.20 + 2x$1.60 =$28.80
Zone 6: Old 9x$6.69=$60.21  New 8x$5.96 + 2x$2.98 =$53.64
Zone 15: Old 9x$13.09=$117.81  New 8x$10.32 + 2x$5.16 =$92.88

For a typical 9 to 5, 5 day a week worker, who drives at other times, there will be significant percentage savings for commuters from all of the sampled zones. However, the financial savings are much larger for longer distance commuters $24.93 from "old" zone 15 vs $6.57 from "old" zone 2. This adds to BrizCommuter's assumption that this fare review is biased in favour of longer distance commuters (who can still rort the system too!) This encourages environmentally unsustainable lifestyle of living longer distances away from the place of work. A good fare system should encourage short distance commuting, as does Perth's fare system which is approximately 30% cheaper than Brisbane's new fares for short distance journeys (existing zones 1 and 2). For commuters who already own a car, and have free car parking, it will still be cheaper to drive to work for short distance commutes.

Interestingly the fare review taskforce was far less skewed in favour of longer distance commuters. Unfortunately, the Palaszczuk government ignored this advice when they finalised the new fares.

Scenario 2
Zone 2: Old 7x$3.93 + 2x$2.68=$32.87  New 6x$3.20 + 2x$2.56 + 2x$1.60 + 2x$1.28=$30.08
Zone 6: Old 7x$6.69 + 2x$2.68=$52.19  New 6x$5.96 + 2x$2.26 + 2x$2.98 + 2x$2.39=$51.02
Zone 15: Old 7x$13.09 + 2x$2.68=$96.99  New 6x$10.32 + 2x$2.26 + 2x$5.16 + 2x$4.13=$85.02

For heavy public transport users, the new fare system is not so good. In fact the savings are less than $2/week for both "old" zone 2 and 6 commuters, and in some scenarios heavy public transport users may even end up paying more. A good fare structure should encourage heavy use of public transport, and encourage leaving the car at home. This fare structure does not do that for short to medium distance commuters without/not travelling with families. BrizCommuter might be using the car more at weekends!

Scenario 3
Zone 2: $32.87 + 2x$3.14 + 4x$1.57=$45.43  New $30.08 + 2x$2.56=$35.20
Zone 6: $52.19 + 2x$5.35 + 4x$2.67=$73.57  New $51.02 + 2x$4.77=$60.56
Zone 15: $96.99 + 2x$10.47 + 4x$5.23=$138.85 New $85.02 + 2x$8.26=$101.52

For heavy public transport users, travelling with the family on weekends, there are savings of between $10.23, $13.01, and $37.33 in "old" zones 2, 6, and 15 respectively. Depending on the cost of parking, it might be possible for the short and medium commuters to make a saving by using public transport instead of driving. Longer distance commuters may make a significant saving. However, due to slow journey times and poor frequency of weekend train services, BrizCommuter would doubt that even with the savings that the new fares would encourage long distance commuters to take the train instead of the car.

Conclusion

The vast majority of commuters will see fare reductions with the new fares, expected to be introduced in January 2017, which is a good thing. However, the financial savings will be significantly less for those who "do the right thing" by living closer to their place of work, and using public transport instead of driving at off-peak times and weekends. Many of these are young adults and families. It is a shame that the very people who should be rewarded for trying to use public transport are the ones who will benefit the least from the new fare structure.  

The poor functionality of the go card system prevents an equitable daily and weekly capping, as occurs in London. The "9 then free" was good in that it encouraged heavy use of public transport. The down side that as it was not zone based, and was thus rortable by longer distance commuters who could save more than $50 a week by making the effort to go "extreme rorting". The elimination of this appears to be have been compensated with large $$$ value fare reductions for longer distance commuters, who incidentally can still rort the system. However, the lack of free journeys screws those who genuinely use public transport frequently, most of whom are inner-suburban commuters.
Cheaper zone 1 fares in Perth   Screenshot from TransPerth's website
So what would BrizCommuter do without improvements to the go card system's functionality? Well despite its rortability, maybe the 9 then free wasn't a bad idea after all? Shorter distance ("old zone 1 and 2") journeys should match the inner-zone fares in Perth ($2.25 to $2.55) instead of $3.20 set the Queensland government. Outer zone journeys should be increased to match the existing fares for the inner of each of merged zones (so still no increase for any commuters). When the next generation ticketing system is introduced at the end of this decade, an "account based" system is urgently required that can handle daily and weekly capping.

As always, feel free to use the comments system if you disagree!

Fare review - re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic?

Current situation


TransLink's current 23 zone-fest
For many years BrizCommuter has been complaining about TransLink's excessively high public transport fares in Brisbane and South East Queensland. These have been proven beyond doubt to be discouraging the use of public transport. This issue worsened considerably under many consecutive fare rises from both sides of politics, allegedly instigated by the government's department of treasury.

To add insult to injury, when the go card system was implemented, useful functionality such as daily and weekly zone based capping (as found in London) was not purchased. The system can only cap fares based on number of journeys, but irrespective of the zones used. To limit excessive fares for people who "do the right thing" by using public transport, the 10 then free, then 9 then free cap was introduced. On the good side it means that commuters such as BrizCommuter will not keep paying more fares after they have made 9 journeys in week, often resulting in free fares by Friday pm peak and weekend travel. It has also encourage public servants to use their own go card to get between meetings, and not spend taxpayers money on taxis. On the bad side, as the cap is not zone based then it is easily rorted by longer distance commuters who can obtain huge savings on their weekly fares by taking trips in their breaks. The system is also capable of off-peak fare discounts (but am peak fares start bizarrely at 3am), or reducing fares (e.g. to 50% after a set number of journeys) as occurred in the past.

Another issue is the huge number of fare zones (23) which particularly penalise passengers travelling north to south, or vice-versa. The base fares are also relatively high, resulting in driving often being cheaper for journeys up to around 40km if the commuter already owns a car. Long distance journeys are relatively cheap by international standards, in particular due to their being no fare surcharge for express services.

The final fare issue, is that both Brisbane Transport and Queensland Rail are so inefficient that fares, or at least fare box revenue, are adversely affected by money wasted on guards, and Quirk's messy bus network.

Despite promising a fare review, the LNP Newman government failed to deliver. The ALP Palaszczuk government has however been working on a fare review for many months. Now the review has been publicly released...

The fare review

The results of the fare review are now available. The fare review  task force suggested a set of changes, but then the government has adopted different fares to those suggested by the task force. The changes are in this document.
The 8 merged zones
The new fares and zones will be introduced in early 2017 (probably January). The changes will be:
  • Zones reduced from 23 to 8, and fares reduced from current levels - it is good that single fares have been lowered for all users. Short distance journeys, reduced by 15c to $3.20, should have been reduced further (a la Perth). BrizCommuter also thinks that longer distance journeys, some reduced by more than $3, have been reduced far too much. This imbalance continues to promote environmentally unsustainable long distance commuting lifestyles, and penalises those who do the right thing by living closer to their place of work or education. It is good that short journeys across the new zone borders (e.g. Enoggera to Mitchelton) will not result in costing anyone higher fares, though only by 2c. 
  • "Nine then free" replaced by "8 then 50%" - this move reduces the ability for rorting by longer distance commuters, but penalises heavy public transport users (including many students and young adults) who should be rewarded to get cars off roads. It may also penalise public servants who currently use their own go cards to get between meetings - good news for taxis. The lack of free fares also means that public transport spending will more unpredictable for some users. The lack of zone based daily and weekly capping functionality in the go card system is an achilles heel that prevents are fair and equitable fare structure. 
  • Children under 14 travel free on weekends if they have concession go card - this is a good move to promote weekend travel, and make the loss of the "nine then free" less painful for those with families travelling on weekends. Shame about the terrible weekend frequency of trains and many bus routes. 
  • 2 journey cap continues for seniors - despite having 50% reduced fares, it seems that seniors will continue to get daily capping. These seems somewhat unfair to everyone else, especially students. 
  • Off peak hours changed - the off-peak fare discount still applies, however it now starts at 6am. Unfortunately the go card system is too dumb to work out fares by touch off time which would be far more sensible. This means that Gympie North commuters who travel in the am peak get an off-peak fare! 
  • More concessions - more people are now eligible for concessions including (at long last) jobseekers Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, and asylum seeks. 
BrizCommuter's next article will look at before and after cost comparisons for a range of commuters. However without any in-depth analysis it seems that those who benefit the most travel are those who travel within merged zones (except inner-Brisbane), environmentally unsustainable longer distance commuters, families travelling on weekends, seniors, the unemployed, and asylum seekers. Those who benefit the least are those who travel within inner-Brisbane, very frequent public transport users, and those who live just outside of the new zone borders. Sadly, inner city and frequent public transport users are people who should be encouraged more to use public transport. 

Ultimately, due to the lack of "account based" functionality in the go card system it is impossible for there to be a fair and equitable fare structure until it is replaced. This is likely to not be until the end of this decade at the earliest. Thus the fare review is akin the re-arranging the deckchairs on the titanic, though at least the deckchairs are now slightly better arranged. At least the ALP Palaszczuk have had to balls to do something!

TransLink's fare changes website:
https://haveyoursay.translink.com.au/seq-fare-review

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Quirky Metro - the delusion continues

Despite Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk's Brisbane Metro idea being the worst idea since, well, the last time the LNP managed to stuff up Brisbane's public transport plans with the BaT Tunnel, Quirky is still rolling on in the land of delusion. This week we have seen a press release stating how many jobs the totally unnecessary construction will create. The SEQ Council of Mayors (purveyors of ludicrous plans such as the Cleveland Solution and the City2Suburbs bus tunnel) are also about to waste loads of ratepayers money on an advertising campaign to attempt to get the federal government to spend money on their ill-conceived ideas.

Here is a reminder why the Quirky Brisbane Metro is a terrible idea:

  • Busway congestion could be resolved by an almost $0 bus network reform, instead of spending $1.5b+ (more realistically $3b) on a totally unnecessary Metro system. 
  • It would increase journey times, as passengers would have to change from bus to metro at Wooloongabba and Herston to access Brisbane's CBD.
  • It goes against Graham Quirk's excuse for lack of bus network reform of providing one seat journeys. 
  • It has lower capacity than the existing busway.
  • It does not serve RBWH, PA Hospital, and UQ, three major trip generators on the busway network. In fact it annoyingly stops just one stop short of both RBWH and PA Hospitals.
  • Important parts of the design, such as the interchange design  have not been properly considered.
  • It does not provide any new journey opportunities, unlike the urgently required Cross River Rail. 
  • It is providing political distraction from the urgently required Cross River Rail.
  • It does not solve Brisbane's rail capacity issues, unlike Cross River Rail. 
Please, Graham Quirk, return to the land of reality - instead of wasting billions of $$$ on something that not required, start supporting Cross River Rail and bus network reform. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Changing of the Guard

BrizCommuter recently read up on an excellently written article on Driver Only Operation (DOO) in London at London Reconnections blog.

Other than one highly unionised train operating company, it seems that there is little impediment in London to DOO. Trains in Melbourne and Perth are also run in DOO. Benefits of driver only operation include:
  • Improved financial efficiency - the train crew can be halved, and/or staff redeployed to driving, customer service, passenger safety, or revenue raising roles. 
  • Improved service frequencies - with less train few, it is more financially beneficial to run high frequency train services.
  • Reduced train platform interface accidents (according to Transport for London data). 
  • Potential for improved station dispatch times.

Of course, in backwards SE Queensland, our painfully inefficient train operator Queensland Rail (QR) still has guards. BrizCommuter is not aware of any plans to remove guards from trains, and thus SE Queensland commuters will continue to suffer the pain of high fares due to inefficiency, poor off-peak service frequencies for the outer-suburban network, and poor weekend frequencies across the entire network.

There is also the looming potential catastrophe of the delayed Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains which was discussed briefly a few weeks ago on this blog. On QR's existing trains, the guard works from the middle of a 6-car train (usually the front of 4th car), or the back of a 3-car train with different stopping points. This means that the guards position on the train aligns with the point marked on the platform for wheelchair or assisted boarding passengers who need assistance. Many refurbished stations such as Fortitude Valley have the platform raised at this point, and it seems that even recent and future planned station refurbishments have the raised platform in the centre of the train. In the NGR, there is no middle cab for the guard to work from. Also, the NGR trains will co-exist with existing trains for around 35 years. So what will happen to the guards position on the train?
  • Will the guard work from the back of the NGR train causing confusion to customer requiring assistance waiting in the middle of the train, and defeating the purpose of the raised platforms?
  • Will the guard work from the middle of the NGR train and operate the doors from doorside controls? If so, how will the guard monitor the train platform interface upon departure? This may also increase station dwell times if the guard's door closes after the others, but before the train can start moving. 
  • Will QR finally bite the bullet and start to dispense with guards? Though now customers requiring assistance would will have to wait at the front of the train.   
  • Or have either QR, Department of Transport and Main Roads, and successive state governments not really given this serious though, with a high likelyhood of this being another MBRL style balls up that ends up in the media. 
You can guess which one BrizCommuter thinks is most likely!