Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ferny Full

Ferny Grove Line Train
It is now a year since Queensland Rail's sector 2 train timetables were introduced, with much improved frequency, but in some cases trains were halved in length resulting in some services being overcrowded.

Now that the schools, and most of the workforce are back for 2015, has the overcrowding situation on the "problem" 3-car services improved? Sadly, it hasn't. BrizCommuter has this week observed passengers choosing not the board the 07:25am from Ferny Grove to the City at Alderley and Windsor due to the train being too crowded. BrizCommuter has also received reports of the 07:10am from Ferny Grove to the City, and a 3-car evening peak service on the Cleveland Line also being overcrowded this week. Things will only get worse over the next few weeks as the students return to university.

Sadly, this situation is due to successive governments not building enough, or delaying the purchase of new trains. There are simply not enough trains to cope with demand. BrizCommuter predicts that the Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR) order, due for introduction from 2016, will be insufficient to cope with requirements to fully optimise peak timetables, with the addition of the Moreton Bay Rail Link to Kippa-Ring, and duplication between Coomera and Helensvale. Depending on the delivery rate of the new trains, Ferny Grove and Cleveland Line passengers may have to wait until mid-2017 for resolution of these overcrowding problems.

Not a good situation! When petrol is so cheap again, and public transport fares are so expensive, there is not much incentive to take the train.

Friday, January 23, 2015

BrizCommuter Special - 2015 Queensland State Election - 8 days out

Choo choo - it's the election train!
It is now getting closer to the 2015 Queensland State Election, with 8 days to go until voting day at the time of writing.

Unfortunately, this election campaign has been pretty terrible for public transport users, with very few policies, and some of those have been very misguided. Here is BrizCommuter's look at the current state of play for public transport.

LNP

Good

  • Duplication between Beeburrum and Landsborough to increase capacity for passenger and freight trains along the North Coast Line. Campbell (or whoever replaces him) - just don't forget about the rail line to Caloundra and beyond, and to to buy more trains.
  • Possible privatisation of the woefully inefficient and agenda driven Brisbane Transport who run Brisbane's buses. Combined with bus network reform (attempt 2) should significantly improve the efficiency and coverage of Brisbane's bus network. 
Errr
  • BaT Tunnel - whilst this is forging ahead, a few serious issues need to be addressed such as lack of Park Road interchange, and continuation onto Trouts Road/Northwest Transport Corridor (this will be covered in a post-election blog post). 
  • Extending Maroon CityGlider to Enoggera - yes, it is an improvement, but smells of politics designing Brisbane's public transport network again. 
Bad
  • No real commitment to fare reform
  • No commitment to other public transport infrastructure. 
Grade - E (slightly above fail) A drive for efficiency, but lacking in many areas. Also, shame about the LNP  being anti-solar power, destroying public servants career paths, lack of transparency, and heading towards destruction of the reef (allegedly). 


ALP

Good

  • Still waiting!!! (A bit like trying to catch the route 375 today) 

Errr
  • Good plans for rail and busway network expansion (based on Connecting SEQ 2031), but completely lacking funding. 
Bad



  • No real commitment to fare reform
  • Anti-privatisation of Brisbane Transport. Unfortunately, the ALP, along with the RBTU union have been running a scaremongering campaign that is factually incorrect (i.e. blatant lies) related to private operators cutting bus routes. The operators provide the services. It is the Queensland Government/TransLink who will have the ultimate say on route changes, and provide the funding to the operator. Whilst bus reform will cut services on very quiet/poor value for money routes, there would be massive improvements to suburbs currently poorly served. Brisbane Transport (owned by Brisbane City Council) had their chance at reform for a more efficient and less confusing bus network, and fought against it. Time for Brisbane Transport to be privatised, as all other bus and ferry operators in SE Queensland already have!
Grade - F (fail) BrizCommuter thinks that the ALP are far from ready for government when it comes to public transport policies (and many other policies). They seriously need a good public transport advisor, and need to stop scaremongering over the privatisation of Brisbane Transport! 

Greens

Good

  • Commitment to fare system reform and reducing the cost of public transport. 
  • Commitment to improving public transport services. Both of these policies would be from investing more in pubic transport. 
  • Abolishing the botched Transport Tertiary Concession Card for students.
  • Extending concession travel to Newstart recipients.
Errr
  • No actual detailed plans for rail and busway network expansion.
Bad
  • Anti-privatisation of Brisbane Transport. Whilst the Greens want to significantly improve funding public transport, there will continue to be great inefficiencies with tax-payers money until Brisbane Transport is privatised. 
Grade - C+ (above average) The only party committed to decreasing fares and significantly improving public transport services. However, more actual plans are required, and tax-payers money may not be spent as wisely as it could due to Brisbane Transport's inefficiencies.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

BrizCommuter Special - Kate Jones' big mistake?

Public transport is finally starting to become a issue in the 2015 Queensland State Election, centred on Ashgrove constituency where LNP Premier Campbell Newman is contesting the seat against ALP's Kate Jones.

Most regular BrizCommuter readers will be aware that Brisbane City Council's (BCC) bus subsidiary Brisbane Transport has huge issues with it's inefficient "broken" bus network. These issues were covered in these two BrizCommuter blog posts from 2013:

Brisbane Buses
In 2012, the LNP government commissioned TransLink to redesign Brisbane's bus network. Unfortunately, the government "gave in" to political pressure from BCC and dropped TransLinks's excellent (though not quite perfect) bus network redesign which was announced in 2013. The result of this was Brisbane City Council cutting bus and CityCat services to stay within their budget. In a sensible move, the LNP government decided that Brisbane's bus network should be put up for competitive tendering (AKA privatisation) post 2015 election. This would allow a much more efficient bus network to be implemented without BCC inteference, which in term could improve the coverage of high frequency bus services, and decrease the cost of both running and using public transport. 

However, the ALP don't think so. The ALP and Kate Jones have release a petition to stop the inefficient Brisbane Transport from being privatised. The illogical reasoning is "We (the undersigned) do not support Campbell Newman and the LNP Government’s decision to open Brisbane City Council’s bus services to competitive tendering, and possible privatisation. We are gravely concerned that any such moves will lead to cutbacks and a reduction in much-needed public transport services across Ashgrove, Enoggera, Gaythorne, Newmarket, The Gap, Mitchelton, Alderley and Bardon. Our State Government and BCC must do more to improve our bus services and increase routes, instead of putting those services at risk through privatisation." Did the ALP and Kate Jones pay any attention to the TransLink bus network redesign fiasco? If the TransLink bus network redesign had been implemented, these suburbs would have had a much improved bus network (including another high frequency route, and more direct cross town routes), as would have most surrounding suburbs. These improvements would have been at no extra cost to the tax-payer.

A vote against the privatisation of Brisbane Transport, as supported by ALP and Kate Jones, is vote for:
  • Continuation of high public transport operating costs and resulting fares due to Brisbane Transport's inefficiencies.
  • Continuation of an inefficient and confusing to use bus network (i.e. multiple similar routes with different stopping patterns and CBD stops) badly designed by BCC.
  • Continuation of poor bus network coverage across many suburbs of Brisbane, including Old Northern Road, Webster Road, Bulimba, and Centenary Suburbs. 
  • Continuation of public transport patronage decline, and thus increased road congestion. 
  • Continuation of bus network cuts to stay within budget, as occurred in 2013. 
  • Continuation of SE Busway congestion through Cultural Centre. 
Private bus operators have been hugely successful across the world (including elsewhere in SE Queensland) at providing quality public transport at low cost. For example, London's bus network is fully contracted out via competitive tendering, has fares far lower than in Brisbane, and operating costs reduced by over 30% due to competitive tendering. 

When the LNP have better public transport policies than the ALP, it is very concerning to a centre-left political public transport expert such as BrizCommuter! Now BrizCommuter is just waiting for another dumb ALP candidate to suggest bringing back pointless express services on the Ferny Grove Line.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

BrizCommuter Special - 2015 Queensland State Election - 16 days out

LNP Policies
It's that time that come around every 3 years, when politicians pretend that they want to improve public transport - well maybe.

At 16 days out, there is still a lot to change, and this will be covered by further blog posts, but what is the current state of play?

Past history

ALP

In the ALPs last term before they were annihilated at the 2012 QLD state election, they put up public transport fares by 20%, then 15%, then another 15%. This policy designed to decrease public transport subsidy failed, resulting in patronage reductions after many years of strong growth. The result made Brisbane's public transport system the 3rd most expensive in the whole world! However, at least there were some major improvements to Brisbane's bus network with more high frequency routes, even though some of the improvements were 7 months after the actual infrastructure opened.

Cross River Rail was planned, then made half-baked, then postponed due to the state's post GFC finances. The sector 2 train timetables with 15 minute weekday daytime off-peak was planned, but never implemented. A Connecting SEQ 3031 plan was announced, but was unfunded and pie in the sky. Chronic train shortages was also a feature of the ALP years, and a poor decision to not order any more of the most recent batch of trains is now resulting in a sub-optimal peak service on many lines.

LNP

After years in the political wilderness, the LNP came back with a bang, mainly aimed at public sector worker's careers and livelihood. Despite pretending to be reducing the cost of living, and claiming that they were going to fix the fare system, the LNP put the fares up 7.5%, then 7.5%, before reducing them by 5% in a pathetic political stunt that did not fool public transport experts. Amusingly, the LNP even advertised that savings in public transport fares could be spent on petrol for the car - they just don't get it! Thus the cost of public transport has gone up by 10% in the LNPs term, far more than public sector workers pay rises. Patronage has continued to decline, however due to the lack of transparency (what happened to the QR passenger loading study Campbell??) few would know.

The sector 2 train timetable improved off-peak frequencies across the inner-suburban network, however that was actually the ALP's plan. LNP were allegedly forced to continue with it by QR.

The carefully and financially justifiable Cross River Rail was canned, and replaced by the BaT tunnel which appears to be have been designed on a napkin in a coffee shop. With BaT missing out the critical Park Road interchange, it is rather half-baked, and has a poor financial justification.

TransLink came out with an excellent, though not quite perfect bus network review. Unfortunately, transport minister Scott Emerson gave into pressure from loonies in Brisbane City Council, and scrapped the plan. The result was a continuation of Brisbane City Council's grossly inefficient bus network.

2015 Election Policies

ALP

BrizCommuter is not sure if the ALP have realised there is an election on, and crickets could be heard chirping near the ALP policy headquarters. BrizCommuter did eventually find some 2014 policies at  http://www.queenslandlabor.org/wp-content/uploads/2014QldPolicyPlatform_web.pdf. Yes, plans to expand the rail network in keeping with SEQ Connecting 2031 is great, but where is the funding going to come from? What is the fare reform policy? Are the Eastern and Northern Busway extensions actually required? BrizCommuter is also not keen on keeping Brisbane Transport vertically aligned - it will just result in a continuation of its inefficient bus network.

LNP

Despite claiming the states finances are still in a mess, Campbell seems to have found rather a lot of money to bribe the electorate to prevent his nasty and arrogant government from being voted out after one term This funding is also dependant on the asset sales leasing, which of course hasn't occurred yet.

The pork barrelling includes:

  • Extending the Maroon City Glider from Ashgrove to Enoggera. Both the 2012 pork barrelling and proposed 2015 pork barrelling are both in Campbell Newman's electorate. Although this would be personally useful to BrizCommuter, it is disgraceful how Brisbane's bus network is continuing to be designed based on politics. Fail Campbell, fail!
  • Duplicating the Sunshine Coast Line from Beerburrum to Landsborough. This has been welcomed bySunshine Coast commuters. However, BrizCommuter wonders if the Beerwah to Lanesborough duplication should be dropped in favour of building the CAMCOS line towards Caloundra and beyond. Also, a few more trains may need to be factored in, as well as a solution to overcrowding on the inner-Caboolture Line corridor as a result of the above improvements.*
BrizCommuter is glad that the LNP may be applying contestability to Brisbane's bus network. Brisbane Council being removed from running and designing Brisbane's bus network would be very beneficial and could result in a better designed and more efficient bus network. However, it could result in political fallout. 

There has been little in the way of real policy on fare reform so far. 

* If the BaT tunnel was diverted towards and along the Trouts Road Transportation Corridor, then the new line from Roma Street to Strathpine would 1) serve Campbell Newman's electorate, 2) improve public transport in many Northern Suburbs, 3) relieve the pressure on the inner-Caboolture Line due to MBRL (Redcliffe Line) and Sunshine Coast Line improvements. Yes, a bit expensive, but a win-win for Campbell. Unfortunately, the LNP appear to have not though about this idea. 

Conclusion

It is early days, and much may change in the next 16 days. Sadly, the past track record of both parties a big fail when it come to public transport. The ALP currently have no real policies, and the LNP are mainly pork barrelling their public transport policies - oink!