For a Better Brisbane

Archive for September 2010

Cycling superhighways

The opening of Brisbane’s CityCycle scheme is now imminent. With this in mind, lets look over at the city of London, England, where they have a plan for ‘cycling superhighways’. These are highly distinct, high quality cycling routes for commuting. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson shows us around.

The cycling lane’s high visibility reinforces the presence of the cycling right-of-way and sends strong message to motorists ‘Expect to find cyclists here!’. Parking improvements also feature prominently. After all, if free parking was good enough to fill our city with cars, perhaps free bicycle parking will lure more people to ride bicycles? At least in Brisbane, it’s always hard to find an obvious bicycle rack. Car parks, being on the street, are always easy to see and immediate in their presence. With cycling racks, most often this isn’t the case.

The other thing that I think is a problem
is parking, which sounds ridiculous but there
are not enough places to park.

– A Londoner talking about problems with cycling in London.

The proposed cycleways mirror existing main roads and main public transport lines in an effort to keep the routes legible and simple. Continuity will mean that cyclists will not have to experience bicycle lanes that appear and then disappear like in Brisbane.

Perhaps an interesting take home message is that not all cycling lanes are equal. In the same way that a simple ‘core’ of high-frequency bus ‘BUZ’ routes are marked out on a special maps, a core network of trunk cycleways could be marked out in the same way to give that sense of ‘hireachy’ and legibility as main cycling routes.


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September 28, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Lisbon: Trams in tight places 2

What do you do when space is a bit tight? Answer- get creative! Many of Lisbon’s tram stops also double as bus stops. The use of kerb lane running also means that passengers just wait on the footpath, like they would for any normal bus. Construction of massive ‘superstops’ in the middle of the street is also avoided as is the need for passengers to cross roads. A similar thing is also done in Adelaide with some Glenelg tram stops.

Placing tracks in the left lane does mean that parking spaces will have to go wherever this done. But when you consider a tram like this carries 246 people (Lisbon) in one go, maybe parking can be provided elsewhere? The entire system does not have to be entirely kerb lane running either, with a bit of thought it might be possible to transition to the more usual track-down-the-centre of wider roads if desired.

Are Brisbane’s roads too narrow for Light Rail? Probably not.

Video creative commons of

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September 21, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Northern Link Tunnel 1

(video embedded from Channel 10’s YouTube channel)

Brisbane’s Northern Link tunnel looks like it is set to be built with the announcement of the successful bidder for the construction of the project going to TransCity consortium. The Northern Link tunnel project is part of a larger portfolio of road-based initiatives (TransApex) within Brisbane’s inner suburbs, including:

  • Clem 7 tunnel (formerly known as the North-South Bypass)
  • Northern Link
  • The Go-Between Bridge
  • A future potential East-West link from the South East Freeway at Buranda over to the Western Freeway at Toowong

The projects connect existing freeways and bypasses, and together form a ‘triangle’ around the Brisbane CBD. The toll is expected to be around $3 one way.

Placing whatever one’s views about this project might be to one side; major upgrades to public transport in Brisbane’s western suburbs are still required. In particular, the upgrading of the existing Ipswich rail line to a very high standard of service with trains every 10 minutes or so off peak, and more frequently during peak hour would go a long way to improving public transport in this area.

Toronto’s subways , for example, run trains every 5 minutes in the off peak and ‘piggyback’ their bus system off it. By radically increasing the trains on the Ipswich rail line, something close to a metro standard of service with bus connections could be achieved, and at the fraction of the cost of building a real metro from scratch.

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September 20, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Monday Movie: Auckland, City of Cars 3

This is the last episode available for the ‘Auckland, City of Cars’ series and the Monday movie mini-series. Jan Gehl, from world-famous Gehl Architects,  talks about the proportion of cycling, public transport and motor car in Copenhagen.

The economics of motorways are discussed, along with an event in 2006 that increased travel speeds and reduced traffic on the roads.

Anyone who keeps putting their head in the sand
and believes that these motorways have a long term benefit,
It’s absolute rubbish.

And they will be looked on as not only having missed an opportunity to put it
into rail but to be completely irresponsible;
Because if you are building infrastructure that is going to require cheap oil to
keep it going, you are wasting your time.

– Peter Newman, Professor (Sustainability), Curtin University

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September 12, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Monday Movie: Auckland, City of Cars 2

“But the density is too low.” This excuse has often been featured in arguments against improved public transport, including arguments against light rail. In this clip, the urban density of Auckland is higher than that of Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Vancouver and Montreal.

Perth rates a special mention. Dr Peter Newman describes leading a community campaign to reopen the shut down Fremantle railway. Since then Perth has quietly engaged in a rail revolution based around a transport network where buses collect passengers in the suburbs and then interchange them with trains for the trip to the CBD.

And what happened to Perth’s old diesel trains? Well, they were sold off to none other than Auckland! Your correspondent caught one at Britomart station, and was shocked to find that tickets were being sold on board inside the train, manually by conductors! The Auckland Regional Transport Authority in 2005 reported train patronage was 7.5 million passenger journeys per year, while more recent figures given by an Auckland public transport blog gives (rising) patronage at 8.4 million passenger journeys per year.  This figure could be easily carried by Brisbane’s BUZ bus network.

If that wasn’t enough, all sorts of woeful explanations such as the “shape” of the city have been advanced as to why Auckland has little prospect for rail. Dr Paul Mees explains how public transport should be done in a well run system.

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September 5, 2010 at 11:20 am

Postscript: Auckland, City of Cars

This is a short clip (3:07 min) from the NZ Television Archive describing the construction of the Auckland motorway system. Brisbane had a similar motorway plan in the 1960’s done by the American consulting engineering firm Wilbur Smith, which recommended closure of the tram system, and eventually led to the construction of the Riverside Expressway, Centenary motorway and South East Freeways.

A second expressway for Brisbane was called for, similar in design to the current Riverside Expressway spanning from where the Story Bridge and Ivory Street tunnel is, right across Eagle Street riverwalk and where the riverside restaurants are today. The New Farm Powerhouse would also have been demolished as it was in the path of a freeway artery.

Motorway construction will always be hotly debated. In his recent book, Transport for Suburbia, Dr Paul Mees describes how density measures were misused, describing how the Auckland Technical Committee at the time allegedly ‘sifted’ a table of city densities, deleting anomalous cities, to show a table of city densities with Auckland having a lower density than it actually had.

The density argument appears in many debates about public transport provision (or rather, how city X is not dense enough for upgraded public transport). It will appear again in the next Monday Movie.

This is not to say that higher densities and transit-oriented developments (TODs) won’t improve transport patronage. On the contrary, it makes sense to have higher density around transport nodes to improve public transport. The point is that funding and improvements must also follow for it to work.* If it does not follow, it is entirely possible to have a comparatively high density city like LA or Auckland, and poor public transport mode share.

By way of analogy, baking a cake with only flour won’t work- one needs all the ingredients, including the flour, to be present for it to work.

Enjoy the clip and see how it all began for Auckland.

*Note: This post was written before the announcement of the Connecting SEQ 2031 document. The Connecting SEQ 2031 document represents a landmark in SEQ planning, and will feature on this blog in due course.

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September 2, 2010 at 12:53 am

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