Public Transport

Translink has released draft new rail timetables for comment. They have been developed in response to the opening next year if the Richlands branch which will require recasting is the Ipswich and Caboolture line timetables.

Much was made in the media of how there would be trains every 15 minutes all day. While this is true – and a good thing – for stations Darra to the city, there are a lot of things that are not so great.

Firstly, in order to get the 15 minutes headway, what they have done is alternate all-stops Richlands and Ipswich trains, meaning passengers from stations beyond Darra still have to stop all stations on the long trip to the city.

Secondly, such express services there are in the peak have been pruned with no real benefit to the passenger.

Thirdly, Translink has pretty much thumbed its nose at Caboolture line passengers. Not only have their peak hour express services been cut back, there is no compensating off peak service upgrade: still only a 30 minute all stop service off peak.

While I understand and applaud the desire for service pattern rationalization I’m very disappointed that the don’t seem to be able to break out of the old “half hour all stops to everywhere” paradigm. It’s all the worse because the new draft Integrated Regional Transport Plan for SEQ (“Connecting SEQ 2031″) does.

Translink should be using this opportunity to try the new not just repeat the old.

My new boss and a number of my key clients are located up the Sunshine Coast, so I am finding myself up there about once a months for various meetings and workshops that can’t be done remotely.

It’s a really tedious trip to make, averaging about 1.5 -2 hours by car. This means a typical 90 minute meeting pretty much wipes out a day, once you take into account travel and preparation time.

Unfortunately, the Sunshine Coast is not currently linked to Brisbane by any serious public transport. There are long term plans for a suburban rail extension from Beerwah to Maroochydore (the so-called CAMCOS line) but this is at least 15 years away, if not further. In the meantime, the closest rail link is the North Coast line which passes through the Sunshine Hinterland to Nambour.

TransLink provides a bus service connecting with trains at Landsborough that is the main PT link to the Sunshine Coast. Unfortunately both the train and bus are really not good for business-type trips from Brisbane to the coast. It takes 2 to 3 hours do do the trip and there are also a grand total of 4 services that arrive on the Coast before midday.

It’s about time to do something serious about this.

Not only does CAMCOS have to be brought forward (instead of being pushed back as is constantly rumoured) but some decent interim solutions need to be found

  • more contra-peak Nambour trains need to be run (if the network can cope – it’s a single track line)
  • all trains at Landsborough need to be met by a direct bus to Mooloolaba and Maroochydore (not deviating through Chancellor Park back streets, although I guess the University is acceptable)
  • in fill express buses need to be provided from Caboolture direct to the Coast at times when the Nambour rail line is at capacity

I can’t be the only one who would rather not have to drive.

Just about all the proposals I have seen for enhancing Brisbane’s PT network fall into 2 categories

(1) expand into new outer suburban areas (and if necessary enhance CBD capacity to cope)
(2) put something clever (e.g. light rail) up the inner city corridor between West End and the Valley.

I would like to put in a plea for those missing people. People like me who live in the middle suburbs, who are not far enough out to benefit from the suburban rail and busway networks as they currently stand, and are not high profile inner city ‘renewal’ areas. Instead we have to put up with congested roads complete with buses stuck in congestion.

This past Monday as my ”express” bus edged down in the inside lane of Musgrave Road in Red Hill I counted no fewer than 7 local buses stationary in traffic in the outside lane. Many of these buses had standing passengers.

These people are trying public transport but I fear that as road improvements (such as Hale Street Bridge and the Western Link) come on line, will switch back to car.

I’d like to make a special plea for this corridor. I believe that something has to be done to provide a dedicated public transport facilities for the Waterworks Road corridor. What I would love to see is a light-rail based solution. It would be expensive and would involve tunnelling, but I think it is needed. I rather fancy something like the SF “Muni” solution: light rail that runs in a tunnel in the city centre and where needed plus median running on the street where there is room.

Imagine it, something whizzing past and under traffic from Ashgrove Village, under Red Hill, down and around Latrobe Terrace Paddington and onto the City, the Valley, Newstead, maybe under the river to Bulimba. The possibilities are endless.

It’s not going to happen. The planners won’t buy it because we don’t deserve PT because we don’t live in high density housing units, and the engineers are too busy building road tunnels – supported by politicians who should know better.

Oh well…

Around Australia, each state Department of Transport or equivalent conducts regular household activity and travel surveys. These are massive affairs surveying thousands of households to understand their travel behaviour. In part the huge amounts of data are needed to calibrate the equally massive strategic transport models that (more or less) predict future travel demands.

Mostly, the data from these surveys is kept confidential which means it is not available to outsiders without special permission. An exception to this is the NSW Transport Data Centre which is brilliant in that lots of the data is released, so you can examine behaviour by local government area. (The outputs of the travel models are, of course, terribly commercially sensitive and almost never shared with anyone)

Not long ago I downloaded a batch of their Sydney data and whacked it into Excel to see what I could do with it.

One of the first things I did with it was to take the figure which showed the average mode share for car driver by LGA (1997-2001 average) and did a simple linear regression against the 1996 ‘transit access’ figures that I had previously calculated for my thesis in 2005.

Transit Access (a percentage) is defined as the proportion of an area that is within 800m of a train station or 400m of a bus route that runs at least every 15 minutes during the day and at least every 30 minute at night and on Sundays. (I had previously developed this measure and found that it was about the minimum public transport level needed to generate a reduction in private vehicle VKT).

This time I was more interested in overall number of car trips, because this can be very important in understanding traffic impacts (and hence infrastructure requirements) of a urban development.

The result of this regression is shown below (my apologies if the graph is a bit blurry)

In short, it shows a 70% correlation between increase in ‘full time’ public transport coverage and decrease in car driving. I am so happy with this, I am now using it as a convenient ‘rule of thumb':

Each 1 percentage point coverage in full time public transport generates a 0.25 percentage point drop in car driver use.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

The Freeway south from Perth (the “Kwinana Freeway”) currently ends somewhere south-east of Kwinana and north-east of Baldivis. This freeway is part of the highway that runs from Perth south to the boom areas of the WA South West (Bunbury, Busselton, Margaret River etc.) , gets very congested at peak times and is going to be extended in the near future (the “Peel Deviation”).

Hugging the freeway all the way down are a number of current and potential urban development areas, including Baldivis, Amarillo and Ravenswood. Obviously, this makes them prime contenders for ‘car dependent’ suburbs as it will be quick to drive and PT will have a hard time competing (the new Mandurah rail line is too far west of these suburbs).

Here is my ‘heretical’ idea. It is a given that the freeway will be extended, but how about it be built as a genuine long distance highway? In other words, it should be designed in such a way that it bypasses the urban areas without interchanges. The people of Baldivis and Amarillo would have access to much the same road network as at present (ie be no worse off) but public transport would be given a big fillip by continuing to be time competitive. It would have to be carefully designed so that interchanges could not be retrofitted at some time in the future.

This would require some work to sell, but nothing a good politician shouln’t be able to handle!