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Posts Tagged ‘Brisbane

Canada Transit Special: The New Toronto Rocket (Toronto)

With all the feeder buses and, in the future, feeder Light Rail services to Toronto’s subway system, capacity is being stretched. The TTC costs about CAD $1.4 billion to operate and ridership is now reaching record levels – ridership on the TTC in 2011 is forecast to be around 483 million rides. This means one thing- more capacity is required.

New trains are coming into service on the busy Yonge-University-Spadina line. These new ‘Rockets’ as they are called are the same dimensions as the older trains but have 10% more space. If you look carefully at the trains, you will see how few seats there are on the trains. This is common in high capacity subway systems where distances travelled from the city are relatively short to medium (say 20 or so km).

As Brisbane becomes a larger city, there are some things that can be done to increase capacity on trains and buses without having to expend huge amounts of money on building new lines or waiting forever for big ticket projects to complete, be funded or be planned for. These non-infrastructure solutions are sadly too often overlooked; making existing infrastructure work more efficiently doesn’t seem to be as sexy as a new piece of busway/railway/subway/Insert High-Cost-Planning-and-Waiting-Forever-Infrastructure of Your Choice Here

In larger cities more people stand on public transport. Fact. Train services that only travel relatively medium to short distances could have internal seating changed to free up more capacity without having to buy more trains or build more tracks. The same principle could also be applied to Brisbane’s existing buses which have a low floor section in the front of the bus. If seating in this low floor front section were changed to 1 by 1 seating or another arrangement, the bus could hold more people, would take longer to fill and leave less people behind.

So the message is simple: For more capacity remove and reorganise the seats.

Record ridership projected for 2011 budget 


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July 23, 2011 at 9:32 am

Brisbane’s BUZ Revolution: Quality, and they will come

Credit: Alan Warren, Brisbane Transport in 'BUZ Routes' presented at the Thredbo 10 conference. Reproduced under copyright provisions for reporting the news, criticism, study, research and review. A link to the original paper may be found at the bottom of this post.

The staff over at the Auckland Transport Blog have picked up on this blog’s comment about Brisbane’s BUZ. This blog had a earlier post about Brisbane’s spectacular success with the BUZ concept, but it is worth banging on about our own city’s success with BUZ buses again here. Spectacular increases in patronage due to no-compromise wide service hours, high frequency and a common interchange point. The table above (published by AKL Transit Blog) speaks for itself- huge patronage growth in the off-peak and weekends.

Now imagine what would happen if you did frequency and scope-of-hours upgrades like that to the train system?

This blog argues that rather than trying to copy Paris, London, Tokyo and Berlin- Australian Cities have their own successes in public transport, and these are home-grown strategies that work under Australian conditions with the kinds of cities that we have. Talk about non-obvious; we should be looking at our own backyard, because many solutions are under our noses!

Perth has performed a revolution on its trains, and Brisbane has performed a revolution on its buses. Now imagine what would happen if all this was put together (Perth doing a bus revolution and Brisbane doing a rail revolution?). We would finally have a comprehensive, convenient, frequent public transport across ALL modes, from anywhere to anywhere. A comprehensive public transport system that works and is totally affordable, certainly much more affordable and faster to carry out than ‘European’ ideas such as putting a metro station on every street corner. (How much would that cost?)

This blog intends to collect these examples of success together so that they can be easily referred to. But for now there will be a few more posts about Perth’s Rail Revolution, debunking the density delusion, and the TOD and patronage impacts that Perth’s improvements have had.

Update: Paper referenced is here

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January 27, 2011 at 7:50 am

Perth’s Rail Revolution: Peter Newman on why Perth chose rail

In 1979, the WA state government closed down the Fremantle railway line as a first step to closing down Perth’s rail system. A report by The Bureau of Transport Economics investigated electrification or replacing the rail line with a busway, and it was the busway which had the higher benefit-cost ratio.

This report presents the evaluations of alternative public transport improvements in the urban corridor between Perth and Fremantle, The alternatives considered are a continuation of existing services, electrification of the existing rail service, and replacement of the railway with a busway.

Perth-Fremantle corridor study, Bureau of Transport Economics, January 1973

Community outrage at the line’s closure and replacement with a bus service led to the formation of Perth’s Friends of the Railways, which included then Fremantle councillor, Peter Newman, who is now a world-renowned expert and professor of sustainability at Curtin University.

In 1983, the incumbent government was voted out of office and rail services were re-instated on the Fremantle line. In 1985 the line was electrified (many of the diesel trains would ultimately end up being sold to Auckland, NZ). The electrification of the Fremantle line led to a patronage increase of 20% (compared to when the line was closed). Rail extensions to the north, and later to the south, were built.

Interestingly, in 1992 patronage on the Perth rail system was 7 million, which is about where rail patronage in Auckland is today. By 1997 this had grown to 30 million, and in 2009/2010 this stands at 56 million and growing.

Brisbane’s patronage is 65.1 million passengers for its rail system, which is only just in front, despite Brisbane having almost double the number of stations, rapid population growth, and buying new trains that are identical to the ones being run on the Perth system. Comparison with Adelaide, which didn’t do any major upgrades and still runs diesel trains, over the same time period, showed more or less stagnant patronage. The basic service frequencies in both Adelaide and Brisbane are 30 minutes off-peak, all day, which is locally regarded as horrible, and bus connections leave much to be desired.

A crisis can be transforming, and cause a sudden change in both public policy and on-the-ground outcomes. The crisis facilitated dramatic changes to Perth’s rail system, and now it has come full circle, with high rail patronage for a city and network of its size and probably the nation’s best train service frequency, with trains every 15 minutes in the off-peak, all day and weekend to all stations. Linked to a feeder bus system, passengers are collected from bus stops in their street and then transfer to trains for the trip to the CBD. It doesn’t seem credible to say that a rail system cannot serve ‘dispersed trips’.

In each case there was a political process. You’d have to say the transport planners really didn’t want this. They always said, “anything a train can do, a bus can do better and cheaper.

And they are wrong.

And the reality is, we have shown that over and over again. But many of the transport planners still say it. They have a fetish about flexibility.
In reality what you need is speed and capacity.

– Peter Newman

While Brisbane looks to copy London, Paris, Tokyo and Berlin, where we really should be looking at is in our own backyard! Places like Perth where buses feed rail and Melbourne where orbital bus rapid transit (BRT) has been a success show that even with cities spread out like ours, good public transport is possible.

Brisbane’s Trams

video: aussiesmithys

(Clicking the video will take you to YouTube due to restrictive copyright on the music, an unfortunate eternal bane of blogs)

The BrisUrbane Blog came across this wonderful montage of Brisbane’s trams. Trams (or for North American readers, streetcars) are not light rail, but can be upgraded to light rail standards by increasing stop spacing and introducing other priority measures such as separation from traffic and signal pre-emption. Think of a tram as doing a similar job to a normal bus on normal roads with a lot of frequent local stops.

The trams were shut down on April 13th, 1969 after frequencies on the routes had been progressively cut and fares increased (which caused a loss of even more passengers), and progressive ‘bus-titution’. A fire at the Paddington tram depot a few years earlier was the icing on the cake, destroying much of the fleet.

At the time it was argued that trams got in the way of cars, they could not pull up to the kerb like buses could, buses were cheaper and anyway, the future was a massive plan of freeways covering all points of the compass which express buses could be run on, but trams could not (even today there are echoes of this, with ideas of running buses through the North Link tunnel, now known as ‘Legacy Way’).

At its greatest extent, one could catch a tram to Chermside, Enoggera, Toowong, Salisbury, Mt Gravatt, Carina, Balmoral and other places in between. One can only envy Melbourne to retain their system, but at the time, most cities worldwide were ripping up trams, even Paris, France was doing it. And if Paris was doing it, well how could Paris ever be wrong about anything to do with making a livable city? Every city around the world seems aspire to be more like Paris, regardless of the realities, so how could it be wrong?

This video has very good picture quality and colour, which makes it great to watch.

* Background research for this blog came from Clark, Howard R. and Keenan David R.; “Brisbane Tramways – The Last Decade”, Transit Press, 1977 (Reprinted 1985). ISBN 0-909338-01-9

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January 2, 2011 at 9:37 pm

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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

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

Yeerongpilly TOD

The Yeerongpilly TOD site. Image CC Click for linking URL

Slowly but surely the Yeerongpilly Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is taking shape. The first consultations are now underway to transform the current Animal Research Institute site into a mixed-use Transit Oriented Development. If the Cross River Rail project goes ahead, the Yeerongpilly TOD would be just two train stops away from the CBD.

The site could support a “main street” like atmosphere with shops, restaurants, commercial and retail development.  Building heights are proposed to be varied, transitioning from high to low. This will hopefully allow a diversity of dwellings to be offered at every price level, not just the high-end.

Transport-wise, Yeerongpilly rail station is expected to be the main focus, although it is a bit of a walk. The bus services in the area really need to be upgraded to acceptable levels of frequency and directness as they provide access to Corinda and Indooroopilly;  The current Tennyson Rail line to Corinda and Indooroopilly only sees a handful of services per day.

Community feedback is being accepted now. For further detail on the concept plans, visit the Department of Infrastructure and Planning’s website here.

Yeerongpilly TOD concept plan of development. Copyright The State of Queensland (Department of Infrastructure and Planning) 2010. Used under fair dealing exemption provisions. URL here

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October 19, 2010 at 7:48 pm

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