For a Better Brisbane

Archive for August 2010

Monday Movie: Auckland, City of Cars

Public transport policy matters. Often urban density is thought as the key guide to predicting how many people will use public transport, but in this documentary (parts 2 and 3 will screen on this blog next Monday and the monday after that) we will see how policy decisions impact on patronage.

While it is great to see ideas to improve our ways of getting around Brisbane, it’s also good to look at real world examples of what the (car-first) alternatives are. When people think about freeways and traffic jams, they often think of Los Angeles, USA.

To look at a place that has pursued a road based program, look over the Tasman– at Auckland, NZ.

  • Los Angeles 2500 persons per km2 (Demographia, base year 2000)
  • Los Angeles 2730 persons per km2 (Derived from Mees 2010)
  • Brisbane 900 persons per km2 (Demographia, base year 2006)
  • Auckland 2200 persons per km2 (Demographia, base year 2006)

Surprisingly,  LA is actually quite a dense city. It’s at least 2.5 times the density of Brisbane. The same can be said for Auckland, which is about 2.4 times more dense than Brisbane. Yet Brisbane has better public transport use than either city. Density can do so much, but it won’t put buses on the road or trains on tracks– because governments must play a proactive role in making that happen. Take note Brisbane!

This short documentary (5 minutes) features Dr Paul Mees of RMIT, Jan Gehl of Gehl architects, Dr Peter Newman of Murdoch University and David Lindsay. Enjoy!

It’s probably got one of the worst public transport systems you could come across anywhere in the world. And I think you could say, the worst urban rail system of any city in any developed country in the world.

– Dr Paul Mees

(Densities are independently calculated by two independent authors, whose works can be found in the interchange. It is expected that there will be some small variation).


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August 30, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Roma Street Parklands: Development + Parklands

Brisbane residents love wide open parks. But they also need places to live that don’t take 30 minutes plus and two traffic gauntlets a day just to get to and from work. Often in debates about land uses, it is automatically taken as granted that parks and high density development are taken as mutually excluding opposites -black and white, park or development. Fortunately the world isn’t so clear-cut. The need for breakout recreational space and space to live in can be met at the same time, but it takes a big block of land to do it.

Brisbane has at least two precedents of parkland + high density development: Roma Street Parklands and South Bank Parklands. These parks are easily the most popular and loved recreational spaces in Brisbane. Their popular use makes them enjoyable but safe places.

Many of the buildings are around 10 storeys in height. Traffic parking on the street isn’t free and there are many traffic calming devices. But what about all these people, aren’t they generating colossal levels of car traffic? The answer is, surprisingly, no. Anybody who takes a walk along at peak hour at the end of the work day will be surprised to see how little car traffic is on Parkland Boulevard. Even more surprising is the extremely high level of cycling on this road, no doubt helped by the nearby bicycle centre at King George Square.

Public transport use couldn’t be easier with Roma Street Station just down the road. But why bother when the CBD is 500 meters down a wide pathway, you could walk to work! There is just one thing missing though- lots of restaurants and outdoor dining along the Boulevard.

If anyone wants to see how parkland and development can go together, go to Roma Street. Even this blog envies such a nice place.

Roma Street Parklands, Official Site

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August 23, 2010 at 9:58 pm

The Melbourne Tram Network: blowing SEQ transport patronage away

Editor note: Lots of interesting discussion about trams and light rail in the news today. Due to this, this post has been released early. There is a difference between trams and light rail, this will be explained in a later post.

The BrisUrbane Blog reads in a Brisbane City Council flyer that “buses are the lead mode” and that patronage was higher than Queensland Rail’s heavy rail network.

So what conclusions are readers being invited to draw here? Surely not that ‘buses are better’, as that would be an unsound comparison between modes, simply because they serve different functions and have different levels of service. This point was touched on in an earlier post. And there is no bus in Brisbane that can carry 1000 passengers in one go or travel at 130 km/hour or has a toilet on board. Buses are also simply not suitable or fast enough for long distance travel to Ipswich, Caboolture, Sunshine and the Gold Coast, for example.

If anything, the low patronage on the rail network probably indicates poor frequency and a lack of connecting bus services. Who wants to wait half an hour for a train and have to drive to the station?

The TransLink website states that in 2008-2009 181.9 million passenger journeys were made. Sounds big doesn’t it? But Melbourne’s Yarra Trams, which runs the heritage city circle tram line and 27 other tram routes recorded 178 million passenger trips (as of March 2009). Yarra Tram’s most recent figures for 2009-2010 has journeys at 180 million.

So in other words, the Melbourne tram network is carrying almost as many passenger journeys as:

  • All of Brisbane’s buses, busways and BUZ buses
  • All the other TransLink buses in the entire South East Queensland area
  • All the QR trains on the rail network (from Gympie North to Varsity Lakes in the south and west to Ipswich)
  • All the CityCats and CityFerries

The difference- about 2 million trips or so, is equal to the annual travel on a single BUZ route, say BUZ route 111.

And it gets more interesting- Brisbane has just over 1000 buses, while Melbourne has about 500 or so trams. Brisbane transport has over 1700 drivers, while Yarra Trams has over 1150.  So not only does Yarra Trams manage to carry well over twice the number of journeys than Brisbane’s buses do, it manages to do so using half the number of vehicles and with less drivers than Brisbane does.


Yarra TramsFacts & Figures and Our Achievements (figures yet to be updated with current year figures)
TransLinkKey Facts & Figures
BTbuses.infoAbout BT

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August 17, 2010 at 5:21 pm

The link: Public Transport + Urban Development

A developer's flyer. Reproduced under fair dealing exemptions.

What does public transport have to do with developing a future which isn’t dependent on the car and has more options for travel than being stuck in the morning commute on your local arterial roadway?

A well run public transport system with easy connecting bus services to train stations and frequent trains is very convenient to live near. Places near good public transport are in demand. It’s a win win situation- the more people who use public transport, the lower the average cost per passenger km becomes, fewer people need to leave or sneak out of work early to beat the traffic and people have a real alternative to being stuck in a traffic jam.

The more people who use public transport, the more services get put on, boosting the frequency. This boost in frequency makes it even more convenient to catch public transport, pulling in even more passengers.

Rapid public transport travel to the city is the main selling point for this particular development. This blog observes that such developments are often near train stations. Now, if only there were more train services…

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August 15, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Citizens’ Public Transport Forum

Commuter lobby group Rail Back on Track's flyer for the event. Copyright reproduced with permission.

Did you miss the Brisbane Institute’s derailing traffic congestion event? If so, don’t worry because there is another chance to meet the people who plan and oversee public transport in Brisbane and South-East Queensland generally on the 4th of September. The event, organised by Robert Dow’s commuter lobby group ‘Rail Back on Track‘, will feature the following guests:

  • The Hon. Rachel Nolan MP, The state Minister for Transport
  • Mr Peter Strachan, CEO of TransLink
  • Mr Luke Franzmann, Director of the Cross River Rail project
  • Mr Alan Warren, Brisbane Transport
  • Dr John Nightingale (with a presentation about TODs)
  • Chris Hale, The University of Queensland’s Centre for Transport Strategy and TOD researcher

Participation at the conference includes a public forum and is by registration (fee involved) for  limited places only. Registration can be done here.

The BrisUrbane Blog is not the organiser of this event.

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August 11, 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Events

Lisbon: Trams in tight places

Is it really true that Brisbane’s streets are too narrow for light rail and trams? While the streets of Brisbane seem less wide than those of, say, Melbourne, trams did run up and down CBD streets — Adelaide Street for example, in the past. There are also other options such as kerb lane running, and putting one line in a one way street and its pair in another, or even putting the service in a cut and cover tunnel under the street.

Selected CBD streets:

  • Alice Street: 4 lanes (2 are car parking)
  • Adelaide Street: 4 lanes (2 reserved for bus stops)
  • Ann Street: 4 lanes (bus lane present)
  • Elizabeth Street: 4 lanes
  • George Street 3 lanes (near casino)
  • Margaret Street: 4 lanes (2 are parking)
  • Mary Street: 4 lanes (2 are parking)
  • Queen St: 4 lanes

The map image above is of Lisbon, Portugal. Here the streets are extremely narrow, and in places, hilly. And yes even here, they have trams. Oh, and they have half the space on the street Brisbane does.

Lisbon tram. CC Flickr user Andrew3000. Click for image URL.

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August 7, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Events: Derailing traffic chaos

Brisbane from the air. Image credit: CC Drewbooks, flickr user, click for linking URL

The Brisbane Institute tonight hosted a panel discussion titled “Derailing traffic chaos“. Present at the discussion were key public transport and community group persons such as

  • The Hon. Rachel Nolan MP, Minister for Transport/Member for Ipswich
  • Luke Franzmann, Cross River Rail Director and former head of TransLink
  • James Coutts, Infrastructure and Planning Assistant Coordinator General
  • Sigrid Sanderson, Engineering firm AECOM
  • Cr Margaret de Wit, Brisbane City Council Public and active transport chairwoman
  • Robert Dow, Administrator, Public Transport Advocacy Group Rail Back On Track

Each panelist gave a few words or a presentation. The first began with The Hon. Rachel Nolan MP about how Cross River Rail would free up the core of the train network to run more trains to areas all over South East Queensland and also how this could transform the region. Luke Franzmann continued next, talking about Cross River Rail and how that could carry up to 30 000 people/hour/track. A slide was dedicated to explaining that rail had an advantage over bus, in that huge numbers of buses would swamp the CBD requiring many King George Square-like stations if the people were served by buses.

A Transit Oriented Development (TOD) presentation by James Coutts followed, discussing how TODs were springing up at Bowen Hills and the enormous task of meeting projections for accommodating projected dwellings in Brisbane, even with higher density, the difficulties with the private sector facing the Global financial Crisis and now new financial woes in Europe, and the role of Government in co-ordinating land use.

Sigrid Sanderson said a few words about transport planning, highlighting the four C’s: cost, convenience, competitiveness with alternatives  and comfort. And also a discussion about non-work public transport trips such as trips generated by shopping, education and recreation.

Cr Margaret De Wit highlighted the Newman Administration’s new Citycat on the Brisbane river, the 500 buses under construction, the Go-Between bridge’s uptake with cyclists and the Clem7 tunnel. Robert Dow explained that new trains and stations were nice, but frequency was the “bottom line” when it came to what commuters want. Scrapping Brisbane’s trams in 1969 was mentioned as a bad decision, as Melbourne gave a good example of what the system might have looked like if it were still around today. Light rail was also possible, even in Brisbane’s narrow streets, he continued, you just had to get the cars out of the way to make space for it.

All in all, a full house on a pay-to-enter panel discussion, showed that there was significant community interests in the projects mentioned above.

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August 2, 2010 at 9:57 pm

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