For a Better Brisbane

Perth’s Rail Revolution: Perth to Mandurah (NewMetroRail) 2

Credits: The Orange line to Mandurah railway, Channel 9 Perth

In 1979, the WA state government closed down the Fremantle railway line as a first step to closing
down Perth’s rail system. The BrisUrbane Blog continues its Perth Rail Revolution special with highlights from a Channel Nine Perth special ‘The Orange line to Mandurah railway’. It gives an idea about what Brisbane’s own Cross River Rail project might look like.

Perth’s Mandurah line is important because it demonstrates how public transport can be made successful and how freeways can be rehabiltated or reclaimed for public transport use. The key here is tight integration of rail modes with feeder buses to overcome low density and high car ownership, so that even in the Australian context, they can become successful systems.

We have about 1.3 million people, but they are widely spread
to the point to where our city’s population density is close
to the lowest in the world.

Only three other cities worldwide have a higher vehicle ownership
per person, and our love affair with the motor vehicle continues
with more than 90% of all private trips made by car.

– Philippa O’Connell, presenter.

Claims that low density, high car ownership, and passenger resistance to transferring present impossible barriers to successful public transport as ‘explanations’ as to why we can’t have good public transport are now starting look very unconvincing to this blog.

It’s worthwhile to also re-examine the idea that the advantage of busways is it can reach people in the suburbs, while with rail most people don’t live near the station, and the rail can’t reach them. The BrisUrbane Blog has heard arguments and has even seen presentations to this effect; It may be more of a mis-interpretation of the fact that busways can offer direct trips, an example-

But open BRT is most likely to be the project that delivers something a rail project cannot do: direct service to many branches without having to build rail on all the branch lines.  This has been a perfect fit for Brisbane, because that city has a very strong CBD but few other major centers, so the need is for service that can follow the busway some distance from the CBD but then branch out to cover several suburban corridors.  This is the one service pattern for which there is no rail option.

– ‘Bus Rapid Transit- Some questions to ask’ by Jarrett Walker, HumanTransit Blog

The Human Transit blog argues that busways can offer ‘transfer free direct trips’ from the suburbs, which of course is true and widens the catchment area to increase patronage. But it’s also true that if a connecting bus were put on you could get the same effects with a rail system, and this has been done with the Mandurah rail line and it works.

By simply extending high frequency feeder buses from rail stations, it also saves on having to pay for a person to drive the bus all the way to the city, and you can also widen the catchment area to increase patronage and pick people up from the suburbs just like buses exiting a busway system and fanning out into the suburbs would. It might also decongest the CBD of buses.

There is a transfer involved, but how big an issue is that really? In a previous post, we heard Dr Peter Newman talk about how replacement of the busway lanes with the Mandurah rail line took patronage from 16,000 passengers/day (busway lanes) to 50,000 passengers/day (integrated rail).

So is putting on a high frequency feeder bus from a train station really such a big issue?

While the mere existence of the option to extend rail catchments by using buses is not necessarily an argument for or against conversion of Brisbane’s highly successful and excellent SE busway to a rail based option (this blog will look at the merits of this possibility at a future time) it is, however, an argument for better feeder bus services to rail stations on Brisbane’s existing QR CityTrain network, as the busway has been designed to fill in the gaps where there isn’t rail in Brisbane.

Consistent with Dr Mees’ writings in Public Transport for Suburbia, the integration of bus and rail and transfers is the key here. It would seem highly unlikely that the Perth Mandurah line would be anywhere as successful as it is today if it were not for integration with the feeder bus system. Without the buses feeding rail along this line, it could be argued that a rail line would probably be insupportable.


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January 26, 2011 at 12:57 pm

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