For a Better Brisbane

Archive for February 2011

Rockingham: Bus Rapid Transit (to the Train Station)

Paper: Transit Oriented Design: Rockingham Case Study

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is often compared to rail as a competing mode, and debates over bus vs rail can be particularly heated. The problem with this ‘debate’ is that there’s no ‘ideal’ mode for any city. Walking and cycling are all slower than any public transport mode, but that in itself does not mean that we build cities with no footpaths or no cycleways. Car probably has better ‘service characteristics’ than all modes of public transport but that doesn’t mean we make cities only for the car.  Each mode has their own strengths, so again the answer is integration and matching the right mode for the job at hand.

Rockingham, WA is a seaside settlement 40 kilometres south-west of the Perth CBD, with a growing population (about 3.7 % p.a.) and about 20,000 jobs. During the planning of the Mandurah rail line, the train line had to miss the city as large deviation of the rail line was otherwise needed to reach it. A solution had to be found and BRT was that solution.

Frequent buses run every 15 minutes with priority measures such as dedicated bus lanes along the route. A short  dedicated busway was built to allow buses to travel along the busway and feed into Rockingham Rail station. A dedicated cycleway feeds directly into Rockingham Rail Station so if you like bicycles you can ride there. The Rockingham City Centre Transit System, as it is called, can be converted to Light Rail operation when passenger demand warrants it. Using streetcar, BRT and at higher passenger demand, LRT to feed rail stations is not unprecedented but unheard of otherwise in the Australian context.

Contrary to the idea that ‘you can’t serve trips off-line with a rail service because it doesn’t branch’ and ‘a rail service can’t pick people up in the suburbs’, you can get the train to collect the passengers by simply running BRT out of the train station. You get the flexibility of bus and the ability to pick people up from bus stops in their local street combined with the speed (up to 130 km/h), comfort and capacity of rail. And with excellent ‘busway-style’ interchanges right next to the platforms and frequent bus services, is it even worth complaining about the possible ‘transfer penalty’ involved?

How much of our transfer-phobia is the result of poor experiences with transferring where services didn’t connect, there were bad or no facilities, the walk was too long or the connecting service wasn’t frequent? Many cities have existing rail assets and perhaps this is one way to increase access and use of them. Bus vs Rail or Bus and Rail?

These measures are supporting re-development of  Rockingham City Shopping Centre and further development within the City of Rockingham. Why can’t we have buses to the train station like this in Brisbane?

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) feeding the Mandurah rail line. Image: Nearmap/BrisUrbane. CC-BY-SA

Review: Perth’s Rail Revolution

Freeways are now fair game for retrofitting Public Transport infrastructure such as LRT, BRT and Rail. Image: 'Perth infrastructure' by Flickr user Phillip C

The BrisUrbane Blog has found slide presentations about Perth’s Rail Revolution and further details about the Perth system written by Peter Martinovich, who was the Deputy Project Director for the NewMetroRail project. There’s some good material for those interested in the finer details about the project;

Application of a Commuter Railway to Low Density Settlement, Peter Martinovich, Public Transport Authority of WA.

The first slide in the presentation compares Perth to ‘a comparable Australian city’. It is plain to see the enormous turnaround in patronage once the rail system was upgraded, modernised and extended. Perth’s patronage can be checked at any time using this link. Recently TransPerth have begun giving line by line breakdowns of patronage, patronage on the trains are now heading for 56 million boardings.

Slide 10 shows the arrival modes at the train stations. Bus brings in about a third to half of all passengers and car brings in roughly the other half. Walk up patronage is about 500 or less per day, which is tiny. The planning team defended the use of Park and Ride at stations stating that it was necessary for adaptions of a rail service to low density areas and that overall it was only 2% of the total project cost, but brought in 50% of the patronage.

Slide 12 shows the challenge of car dependancy- Perth has 10.7 meters of road per person, which is more road per capita than Sydney, Melbourne, the Australian average or the US average. Slide 24 shows how they calculated the projected boardings from land density, population and trip making rates. It’s worthwhile highlighting the density of this area; the average dwelling density is given as 10 dwellings per hectare on which TransPerth runs frequent trains every 15 minutes. In comparison, Brisbane’s TransLink considers a basic bus service viable at densities of 7 dwellings per hectare. That’s what seamless integration can do, 90% of the patronage comes from outside the walk-up zone around stations.

Perth’s low density settlement, limits numbers who walk to a train station, to a max of 500 daily.

– slide 20,  Bus-rail and car-rail integration to collect patronage had to be used because walk up patronage alone could not support the line.

Slide 26 shows the types of bus-rail interchanges deployed in Perth. Murdoch has a specially constructed busway overpass where passengers are dropped off and then walk down to the platforms. Warwick has a bus interchange on stilts positioned directly above the rail station, and both are smack bang in the middle of a freeway (sounds crazy doesn’t it?; but it works!) Clarkson and Cockburn are interesting because it seems that TOD development has been stimulated.

Slide 27 shows the TOD paradox.  They could use the park and ride area around the station for TOD or Park and Ride but only at the cost of the other. They reasoned that the park and ride was a better land use because it would allow TOD to occur outside the walk-up zone; It shows that they realised that a ‘cut and paste TOD job’ would not work under the conditions at hand and the TOD idea would have to be  adapted. Again, tight integration would allow TOD to happen further away from the station.

Note that for a TOD we need and absolute minimum population of 10,000 within walking distance of the station to yield up to 700 daily walk-ons

– Slide 31;

There was just no way 10,000 people were going to be within 800 meters of the station. Integration had to be used, and TOD around stations would have to come after.

In conclusion, a number of innovations are clear as is a willingness to think against and question prevailing ideas. A full-blown frequent rail service has been supported on low density. Stations have been spaced further apart to increase speed and cut rolling stock requirements. The train line has been put down the middle of a freeway, which is quite radical, and all stops have been pulled out to make sure integration (like placing an interchange on stilts above the station in the middle of a freeway). Even the philosophy of TODs being accessed only by walking has been turned upside down and a case for the value of park and rides has been made (which are often frowned upon).

Perth’s legacy isn’t just a great train service. It’s a legacy of creativity and innovation that will all make us rethink what’s possible with low density.

Application of a Commuter Railway to Low Density Settlement, Peter Martinovich, Public Transport Authority of WA.

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February 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Perth’s Rail Revolution: Perth to Mandurah (NewMetroRail) 3

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’.

To get the railway line into the Perth CBD, the train line not only had to run down the middle of the Kwinana Freeway, and bus-rail interchanges designed, some high above the freeway on piles, but a number of bridges had to be strengthened to take the trains and two twin tunnels had to be bored using Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) under the Perth CBD. This is what tunnel boring machines should be doing in Brisbane!

The video goes into details about the engineering works. Today, the basic off peak frequency is a train every 15 minutes. Anyone who uses the system will also notice that, unlike Brisbane which has huge gaping gaps between the train and the platform, Perth’s platforms are level with the floor of the train, which makes it easy the disabled to use.

Perth really is a model to show how high car ownership, low density, the introduction of ‘forced’ transfers from a previous direct bus trip and even the problem of having to run the train line down the middle of a freeway are not barriers to supplying well patronised, high quality, frequent public transport service that is well supported, accessible from a person’s street stop through a feeder bus transfer and affordable to construct.

The results really speak for themselves (see timetable below):

Sample of the Mandurah line timetable, midday weekday off peak (with annotations). TransPerth,















Original animations of the project’s stations, features, amenities and route appears in this post here.

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February 4, 2011 at 10:37 pm

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