For a Better Brisbane

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


4 Responses

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  1. This blog is looking at the Adelaide city road layout and my observation is that you have a grid city, perfect for Public Transport, particularly one based on trunk corridors and transfers. (this is just my opinion only!) And you have two orbital roads which circle the city neatly. If any city comes close to Dr Paul Mees’ squaresville, it’s Adelaide (and to a lesser degree Melbourne).


    February 20, 2011 at 5:17 pm

  2. In Adelaide, we have two lines that have trains every 15 minutes – Noarlunga and Gawler. But whether you get trains every 15 minutes or not depends on which station you use.

    Both lines have unusual stopping patterns where one train serves all the major stations plus some of the minor stations, and then the following train 15 minutes later also serves all the major stations, but stops at minor stations that were skipped by the previous service, and skips the minor stations that the previous service stopped at. In effect, the minor stations still get a service at 30 minute frequencies.

    We also have the problem of the lack of facilities allowing people to access the train stations here in Adelaide. In addition, most of the stations here are very rundown although the situation is gradually improving.

    I definitely do think buses have their place in an integrated system, the busway we have here in Adelaide called the O-Bahn works brilliantly. But when they don’t connect with the trains or compete with them, you wonder how effectively we’re really using our vehicles and infrastructure.


    February 20, 2011 at 4:55 pm

  3. Hello welcome to the BrisUrbane Blog. Thanks for commenting.

    Which lines have 15 minute frequency in Adelaide? The Brisbane Busways are excellent and this blog is very supportive of the choice to build them. They have been constructed in areas where there is no rail.

    While we have 2 main ‘trunk’ busways, we have something like 7 railway lines, and if you try and use a train, the frequency is just terrible. Many people can’t even get to their local train station because it is too far to walk, near enough to drive, but not enough car parks and the bus doesn’t go there.

    Having a bad public transport system does not make cars inherently better anymore than having a bad train system makes buses better. Things need to work as a single, unified whole.


    February 20, 2011 at 4:22 pm

  4. In Adelaide we also have this problem of competing transport modes. We have suburban rail lines running to and from our far northern and southern suburbs, and yet we also have competing express bus routes to the city from these locations instead of a properly integrated network.

    Since the trains went to 15 minute frequencies from 30 minutes a few years ago, the balance has slowly been tipping towards the trains although Adelaide is still very much bias towards buses. I imagine Brisbane still has this problem as well with all the busways being built everywhere?


    February 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm

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