Monday, June 29, 2015

Legacy of Failure

Westbound tunnel - no buses planned
When Brisbane's Legacy Way was first announced, then Lord Mayor Campbell Newman announced that it would be used by up to 2000 express buses per day. Unfortunately due to typical Queensland political incompetence (seemingly involving the previous Labor State Government), the direct connections between Legacy Way and the Inner Northern Busway at Kelvin Grove were never constructed.

In a desperate attempt to make some use of Legacy Way for buses, Lord Mayor (and bus network failure denier) Graham Quirk announced that Route P443 would use Legacy Way for a three month trial. This routing started from Monday 29th June. Unfortunately, due to the lack of direct Legacy Way to Inner Northern Busway connection, the inbound route P443 bus has to:

  1. Exit Legacy Way onto the Inner City Bypass
  2. Travel outbound (yes, outbound) on the Inner City bypass for a kilometre
  3. Exit the Inner City Bypass onto a congested slip road at Herston
  4. Negotiate a junction and some traffic lights
  5. Travel one and half kilometres inbound along the Inner Northern Busway to get back to where is passes the Legacy Way portal

This laughably indirect routing means that there are likely to be only a couple of minutes time savings based on the timetabled 23 minutes from Chapel Hill to Roma Street via Coronation Drive. At least reliability should hopefully be better via the tunnel! Opportunities of adding stops at QUT Kelvin Grove for students travelling in from Western suburbs have been missed, as the re-routed P443 will not stop at any Inner Northern Busway stops until Roma Street.

The re-routing of the route P443 will also only occur for inbound am peak journeys. This is because an outbound pm peak journey connecting between the Inner Northern Busway and Legacy Way would involve an even more out of the way detour via the spaghetti junction at Bowen Hills/Windsor. Thus it is faster to use the existing outbound route via the congested Coronation Drive.

Interestingly Translink have so far failed to produce a timetable showing the new route, or new arrival times in the CBD for the re-routed P443 bus. Whether this is due to lack of time since the announcement, or just laziness, is unknown.

The failure to construct a direct connection between Legacy Way and the Inner Northern Busway has resulted in just 7 express buses per day instead of the originally envisaged 2000 express buses per day using Legacy Way. A great opportunity to improved public transport journey times from the Western and Centenary suburbs has been missed. This has to be high up the list of epic Queensland public transport failures, a list that is sadly very very long.

TransLink notice:
http://translink.com.au/travel-information/service-notices/51176/details

Friday, June 26, 2015

Skipping stations - time to tell the truth QR?

Not again! 
In the last year or so it has become common practice for Queensland Rail (QR) to make trains skip stations when running late, especially during the peak period. This allows the train to arrive at the terminus station within the margins to be deemed an "on time" statistic, and also allows for on-time running on subsequent journeys. This "on time" statistic is completely misleading for the customers who could not use that train service as it was bypassing their station. For the affected customers, who generally seem to be inner-suburban commuters, the "on time" train is effectively a cancellation, and a typical additional (and unacceptable) wait of around 15 minutes is not uncommon.

In Melbourne, where trains skipping stations is also a chronic issue, Metro Trains are finally being held to task. Station skipping data in Melbourne for the last 13 months was released by Public Transport Victoria in early May 2015. This showed 2119 services having been changed to an unscheduled express service within the 13 month period, with one month having 322 affected services.

Unfortunately in Brisbane, the station skipping statistics have not yet been released. BrizCommuter calls on QR and the Queensland Government to release these statistics as part of QR's on time running statistics. Commuters should be told the truth! In fact, whilst they are at it, what ever happened to the QR Passenger Load Survey which has also gone missing in action (again) for the last few years? Or is the flailing public transport patronage too difficult for successive Queensland Governments TransLink, and QR to admit to?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Is Graham Quirk delusional?

Exhibit A - Bus congestion at Mater Hill
Brisbane's Lord Mayor Graham Quirk was recently quoted in the press as saying that "no major changes to the (bus) network are needed" and that "passengers do not like changing" despite a Brisbane City Council task force showing the opposite.

Enter exhibit A - a photo of the SE Busway at Mater Hill, at 4pm on a weekday. 8 buses are shown to be queuing to get into Mater Hill busway station, in fact the queue was probably much longer. Of 12 consecutive buses observed in this queue:
  • All were less than 50% full, only one was more than 25% full - simply too may different routes serving the CBD causing confusion, inefficiency, and congestion. 
  • Some buses were serving the same transport corridor, but with different stopping patterns - it is inefficient and confusing to have more than two bus service variations along the same transport corridor (all stops and express). 
  • Some buses were serving the same route, but had different CBD stop locations - again, this is inefficient, confusing, and decreases the effective frequency for each route.
  • Slow boarding times, due to passengers entering bendy-buses through one door. 
How can this be resolved?
  • Consolidate bus routes - instead of up to 7 bus routes along the same transport corridor (I'm looking at you P129,130,131,132,136,P137, and138), bus routes need to be consolidated. Each major transport corridor should have no more than 2 bus routes (local and express). Variations that serve back streets should be turned into feeder services. 
  • Consolidate CBD stop locations - buses heading along the same transport corridor should share the same CBD stop locations (e.g all buses routes serve Mains Rd share exactly the same stops through the CBD instead five as at present). 
  • Consolidation of bus services, and more even loadings, will result in less congestion along the SE Busway, resulting in faster journey times and improved reliability. 
  • Efficiency savings due to bus route consolidation, can free up buses for more high frequency bus routes to serve existing public transport black holes. 
  • Multiple door access - shorter dwell times, resulting in faster journey times and less congestion. 
This can all be achieved within the existing budget. Both Graham Quirk and his Brisbane City Council seem to have their head buried in the sand when it comes to bus network reform. Auckland has been able to revolutionise it's bus network, but why not Brisbane?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Moreton Bay Rail Link - not enough trains?

NGR - Can't come soon enough! 
The Moreton Bay Rail Link (MBRL) is expected to open in mid-late 2016.  Queensland Rail's Next Generation Rolling Stock (NGR) is also expected to be introduced into service from mid 2016 after being shipped in from India. There are currently only just about enough trains to run Queensland Rail's sub-optimal peak timetables, resulting in overcrowded 3-car units on the Ferny Grove and Cleveland Lines, odd gaps in peak services, and bizarre early finish of the pm peak express service on the Cleveland Line. Thus the big question, is will there be enough trains to operate a decent train service on the MBRL from opening?

In the am peak's busiest hour, 9 Caboolture Line services start from Petrie (every 6 minutes, with one 12 minute gap). It would be sensible to extend all of these services to start at from Kippa-Ring, the terminus of MBRL. Any less would result in overcrowding and/or uneven loadings. BrizCommuter estimates a 15 minute journey time in each direction (10 if the train is out of service), and an 8 minute peak dwell time at the terminus. Thus to handle all of the services that need to be extended from Petrie to Kippa-Ring, would require an estimated six additional 6-car trains.

Thus unless approximately six NGR trains are delivered, tested, and troubleshot, before the opening of MBRL, there is a big problem. Unfortunately, it looks like this may not be the case. BrizCommuter thinks is it is quite likely that due to lack of trains the Moreton Bail Rail Link could open with an inadequate train services due to lack of trains. If this occurs, the resulting initial overcrowding and poor service frequency will limit the uptake of use of this new train line, and create a poor reputation (a la Gold Coast Line). Alternatively MBRL opening may need to be delayed to wait for sufficient NGR trains to be introduced into services - movement of official opening dates to "late 2016" despite claims of the project being "months ahead of schedule" make this look like it could be the case. Thus MBRL could follow the list of SE Queensland infrastructure implementation disasters caused by piss poor planning, and clueless politicians:

  • Extension of Inner Northern Busway to RBWH, but the route 66 bus wasn't extended to RBWH until 7 months later -  resulting in passengers waiting up to 55 minutes to board a bus that wasn't already full!
  • Duplication of the Ferny Grove Line from Keperra to Ferny Grove - yet trains still terminated at Mitchelton for a further two years. 
  • Opening of Richlands Line, which initially operated with a dodgy peak shuttle service to Darra, and ensuing "just missed" connections.  

Better get those trains delivered quick!