For a Better Brisbane

Archive for November 2010

A little something from the New Yorker

The BrisUrbane blog came across this piece from the New Yorker about traffic in Moscow, Russia. Click the link to see the video.

Moscow has a very busy metro system, very wide roads and multiple ring roads around the city. And traffic is still congested. It doesn’t seem that it is possible to build one’s way out of congestion. At least with public transport you can get more people where they want to go at a set level of congestion and with a more economical use of space too.

The BrisUrbane Blog is always skeptical when it hears the latest “plan” to “ease”, “fix”, “solve” congestion. It doesn’t seem like other cities have engineered their way to “Sunday afternoon” traffic levels, and it seems doubtful that Brisbane will be the first.


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November 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

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Cross River Rail: Now one step closer

Cross River Rail is now one step closer. This nation-building impact of this project is only now becoming clearer with the release of the reference design for the project. If this project is able to secure funding (despite interstate capitals such as Melbourne and Sydney having their own rail tunnel aspirations) it will be a huge boost for Transit-Oriented Development and city building at large. Cross River Rail will support no less than three TODs or urban redevelopment projects- Yeerongpilly, Woolloongabba, and RNA Showgrounds (Exhibition station).

The project will benefit the entire region by unlocking the rail network’s core. It is this kind of infrastructure Brisbane, and South East Queensland needs. Although the price tag is big, the benefits are even bigger.

Acknowledgement: The BrisUrbane Blog wishes to acknowledge the Cross River Rail project team for permissions to reproduce copyright material here. To participate in ongoing community consultation or find out more, visit their website at

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November 11, 2010 at 11:03 pm

The Cycling Economy

If the suburb of West End, Brisbane were a city, Portland, Oregon, USA might be what it would look like. Portland is known for a city-wide ‘freeway revolt’ which led to the defeat of an extensive freeway plan for the city, the Mount Hood Freeway proposal and then diverting those freeway funds into building what is now Portland’s MAX Light Rail system.

Portland is also known for cycling. What’s worth highlighting is what cycling is doing to Portland’s economy:

Portland’s reputation for bicycling and green building is helping create a new bicycle economy. According to a 2008 study by Alta Planning + Design, Portland’s growing bicycle industry contributed about $90 million to the local economy in 2007 and employed 1150 people.

This industry includes businesses that specialize in custom bicycle frames, bicycle components, bike racks and bicycling apparel and many retail bicycle shops. Several local design firms specialize in bicycle facility planning and design. Portland’s for-profit bicycle events attract riders and racers from around the world. A successful bicycle tourism industry draws on Portland’s reputation as a premier bicycling city, helping attract conventions and drawing tourist dollars both locally and from abroad.

– Portland Bicycle Plan, 2030

Brisbane is making good progress with its cycling initiatives. Unlike many other cities, Brisbane has a lot of trees in the urban area, pleasant, warm weather for most of the year and Jackarandas which make cycling very attractive for sightseeing.  Increasing the supply of highly visible on street bicycle parking and a legible, physically-protected-from-the-car north-south cycling route through the CBD, Fortitude Valley and on towards Brisbane’s northern suburbs will be something very important to encourage cycling.

Finding space for Copenhagen bike lanes through Brisbane’s CBD might be an issue, but further out, one barrier to having proper and perceptibly safe cycling lines like Copenhagen lanes seems to be paid car parking. Unfortunately bike lanes don’t seem make revenue like paid on street car parks do, which is going to be a bit of an obstacle to overcome if a Copenhagen lane is to replace them.

For example, Montague road, West End has space for 4 lanes of cars. 50% of that road space (2 lanes) is being used for pay car parking. Those lanes would probably be better off as bicycle lanes.

Click here to see a map of Brisbane’s bikeways.

YouTube Video from the New York Times YouTube channel

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November 9, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Connecting SEQ 2031

The beginnings of a huge shift in transport thinking are underway. The Connecting SEQ 2031 draft plan was released a few months ago and is open for consultation until the 26th November. For those interested in Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) or sustainable transport solutions, the opportunity for your voice to be heard will close soon.

This plan signals a break with the idea that South East Queensland will be forever locked into a cycle of car-dependency and that only palliative measures can be taken to improve the situation.

As with any plan, there will be strengths and weaknesses. Strong points include the decisive move to rail based transport. South East Queensland is gifted with one of the largest commuter rail systems in the world (by length), but sadly it is underutilised. The advantages of heavy rail–  high-speed, tracks stretching over the entire region, high-capacity, labour and cost efficiencies make it the ideal fit for South East Queensland’s growing needs. The Cross River Rail will be absolutely essential. A frequent network of bus services over the entire region will also greatly improve transport.

Some of the weaknesses of the plan include the uncertainty over funding, the absence of a plan to deal with busway capacity, the metro proposal and, yet again, the complete absence of Light Rail options for Brisbane. The earlier 1997 plan dismissed Light Rail as “too costly”, unfortunately since then Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and now the Gold Coast have all built and extended their LRT systems or have LRT systems in initial construction stages. LRT is also being considered in Perth and Hobart. Perhaps Brisbane will be the last state capital in the country to consider LRT?

A plan to deal with the capacity of the busway system, particularly the South East Busway and the capacity of the CBD to take more buses is also absent. At certain points along the South East Busway there are now buses roughly every 20 seconds or below in peak. While functional now, it is highly questionable whether simply adding more and more buses will cope with future demand all the way to 2031 under the current working philosophy. And is it really cost-efficient, fuel-efficient and labour-efficient to run such a large number of single buses directly into the city each with their own operator?

The proposed metro also seems questionable. Is it really a necessity for Brisbane? Brisbane is not Paris, London, New York, Tokyo or Berlin. The service proposed mainly serves the inner city area which is already saturated with transit options. The real problem is out in the car-dependent suburbs where people have fewer transit options where rising living costs threaten to make long distance commuting unaffordable.

The main ingredient of a metro isn’t fancy trains, stations or technologies. The main ingredient of a metro is high frequency. By upgrading the heavy rail network, a metro-style system can be created from existing rail assets at a fraction of the cost of a brand new system and rapidly. Coupled with Light Rail and improved bus options, this blog believes that the proposed metro system is probably not required. Although upgrading busway corridors to metro may be one idea to look at. The merits of a metro will feature in future posts.

Video is © The State of Queensland (Department of Transport and Main Roads) 2010. The Connecting SEQ 2031 website and video is at

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