Thursday, December 20, 2012

Light Rail green lighted to return to George St

Rail returning to George St is a very strange idea if you ask me.  Even the Sydney's Light Rail Future document states that the capacity of Light Rail is 9000 people per hour.  The current bus services along George St already carry more than this.  The document does go on to suggest that buses may be re-directed to Sussex St and Elizabeth St.  It is not clear how they will reach Sussex St along the amber dotted line without interacting with the Light Rail but it is clear that to reach Elizabeth St they will interact with the Light Rail on Eddy Ave, potentially reducing the capacity.

What is worse, is that it seems that some of the passengers who currently access Elizabeth St on bus services are going to be expected to take this sluggish and indirect light rail service, using up some of its capacity.

This is going to be very inconvenient for most.  Sussex St is not near to many places of employment.  Elizabeth St is better, but not nearly as central as George St had been in the past.  Others will have to interchange, probably requiring a separate fare.

So far, they have failed to remove taxis from the bus lane (by making it a "Bus Only Lane") between Market St and Hunter St, but it is OK to remove the buses from this area.

Basically this whole plan is to solve bus congestion by reducing the roads they can access.  Even Labor didn't do anything this stupid.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Parking space levy only allowed to be used for parking?

According to the Auditor-General, the parking space levy is the major funding source for "the Commuter Car Park and Interchange Program (now the Transport Access Program)".

This seems to mean that all this money ($104 million in 2011/12) is only allowed to be used for car park programs, among the worst bang for buck in the industry.

If true, time this policy was reversed and the money put into services which people can actually use.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cabinet decision on Light Rail to UNSW due soon

According to a recent Telegraph article a cabinet decision is due this coming week.  In my opinion, this idea is purely ideologically based.  Currently, the bus services in the region have flows in both directions in both peaks.  This system will take out the counter peak flows on the 891 and 895 bus services while leaving the peak direction flows largely on buses.  This may be different with fare integration as you could carve out the via Central bits of bus routes 339, 374, 376, 391 and remove the 372, 393 and 395 services.  However, most of the advantages could be had with just fare integration.  Why is it being seriously considered?  Mostly because the 891 doesn't really achieve.  I proposed a number of solutions to that here.  Indeed, it's not necessarily clear that the trams will solve the problem.

According to this SMH article, this is yet to be approved by cabinet.  From the article:

"A spokesman for Action for Public Transport, Jim Donovan, said he had been told by a senior public transport bureaucrat that a proposal to integrate fares in Sydney had been put to the cabinet but not yet signed"

This is absurd and unacceptable, and should be a major focus for fixing transport in Sydney but it isn't.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Opal Card Roll out starting 7 Dec 2012

In what is hardly news, it has been announced that Sydney's Opal Roll out is to start shortly, on the Neutral Bay ferry from 7 December 2012.  What is news about this, is that there is to be free journeys after 8 journeys in a week - a foolish policy in my opinion, borrowed from SE Qld who also use the Cubic system.  Similarly, there is to be a fixed dollar daily cap, which means that again long distance commuters are to get an advantage over people living more sustainable lifestyles - this seems to be borrowed from WA who have a cap but their system sensibly doesn't include AM peak journeys in the cap.  Finally, there is a $2.50 daily cap for Sundays - probably borrowed from Vic.  Arguably, the latter isn't too bad as it may promote public transport use on Sundays, but it does represent farebox leakage potentially.

What hasn't been announced is that there will be an integrated fare system with Opal.  This should have been announced long ago.

Regrettably, it will take until 2015 until the system is fully rolled out.  After all this time, if the system is on time at least it will be done.

Update 28/11/2012:
It seems that an equivalent system is being rolled at on Auckland's derided public transport system.  It will be done in 2013, and is already on trains.  So it looks like Sydney will be among the last significant cities in the world to have a reasonable fare policy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cityrail Marshalls

Cityrail have introduced Marshalls on Town Hall platform 3, as detailed in
this SMH report.  This is an attempted solution to the capacity limitations on the Western and lower Northern Lines which run through this platform with limited space for intending passengers.  A lot of the problem has been and remains people trying to board impeding people trying to get off.  The reality is that Cityrail encourage this behaviour by blowing the whistle or playing the "Stand clear, doors closing" message while people are still trying to get off.  This is an unprofessional and unacceptable practice which remains to this day.  It no doubt contributes significantly to the low level of regard Cityrail is held by Sydneysiders.

This practice must end, forthwith!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Infrastructure NSW's criticism of the under utilisation of the City Circle

Infrastructure NSW has bagged the City Circle for being under utilised, which it is.  Why is this so?  Put simply there is not enough rolling stock to fill in all the paths.  There is currently in the busiest hour at Central approaching the Town Hall leg of the City Circle 7:57am to 8:53am 15 trains made up of:
2 Bankstown via Lidcombe
7 South line via Fairfield
2 Bankstown via Sydenham
2 Ashfield all stops
2 Liverpool via Regents Park

The Infrastructure NSW plan would remove the ability to fill in the gaps with Bankstown via Sydenham trains.  The only option would be to reverse the parts of Clearways which have been achieved and go back to using the "Illawarra Junction" near Macdonaldtown to achieve this - a move sure to reduce reliability.  Ron Christie has slammed this aspect of the Infrastructure NSW plan particularly.

Currently, there are only a few impediments to putting more trains on the Bankstown and East Hills lines, which would fill up the City Circle.  Better that this option is left in reserve for future growth.

The Infrastructure NSW report should be binned.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My submission to the Transport Master Plan

Transport Sydney as well as the Sydney Morning Herald have already made some good comments on this Master Plan, as well as the Infrastructure NSW counter plan.  I'm not going to repeat those comments.

Here is what my submission to Transport for NSW regarding their "Master Plan" was:
The lack of a commitment to integrated fares is a major no no for me.  This is an enabler for a sizeable portion of the development of the network which should occur.  The proposals for near side bus termination depend on this to succeed, for example.

There are no targets for increased mode share outside peak hour.  This is clearly a reason for situation where after 9pm the M52 drops back to an hourly 520.  Given that the M52 gets just over 60 boardings per trip there is clearly demand for increased service here.  Another example is the 392 which only runs half hourly but gets over 50 boardings per trip.  Clearly there isn't much focus on increasing patronage outside of peak hour.

The Infrastructure NSW report gets bus and light rail far more right in my opinion. 
(a) There is a need for either far more express bus routes and/or far wider stop spacing.  Current limited stop services such as the L94 are not sufficient to encourage people to walk further to an express stop.  Adding an L92 running every 15 minutes would change this for many people.
(b) I don't see the merit in the proposed light rail between Central and UNSW.  That would be running with light loads Central bound in the AM peak while buses run dead in the opposite direction, whereas the current situation means that the buses can be loaded in both directions.  Possible solutions for managing the 891 queue on Eddy Ave better are one or more of:
    (i) remove the shelter at stand D and move forward the stopping point of the first bus, allowing 3 or more buses to board simultaneously
    (ii) move the head of the queue for intending passengers closer to where the bus stops - every second counts
    (iii) when a second or third bus is approaching move passengers forward so they are ready to board when it arrives
    (iv) a pedestrian overpass of Eddy Ave which would reduce traffic congestion and allow departing buses to clear the stop more quickly.  This would also be far more convenient for passengers, best with an escalator and a lift on the north side of Eddy Ave.
    (v) schedule more buses
    An alternative is to move the pick up to Chalmers St but I do not like this solution
(c) Unless the light rail is faster through the CBD than the 20km/h permitted for the current operator, it is a pointless exercise.  It remains unclear why a new light rail system would not face the same constraints as the present one.

Northern Beaches BRT as proposed is apparently unjustified, however I cannot see what prevents a bus lane northbound along Spit Rd in the AM peak to allow returning buses to queue jump the traffic crossing the Spit Bridge, other than the truck and bus speed limit.  If that is really a problem, the trucks could be pushed in to the right lane.  This would allow the same number of buses and drivers to carry more passengers.  Similarly, upgrading the transit lanes to bus lanes and/or making them longer ought to be justified.  Increased public transport use will improve the business case of the proposed BRT here.

Where is the plan for faster or more frequent services anywhere?  Half hourly midday frequency on the South Line, terminating half the ECRL trains at Chatswood, only half hourly services for stations Doonside to Penrith outside of peak is poor.  There used to be 4 trains per hour for stations from Doonside to Penrith.  Currently outside of peak travelling by Cityrail between Paramatta and Town Hall takes 33 to 35 minutes.  This should be much faster.  In peak the trip between Redfern and Paramatta can be done non stop for an average speed of 57km/h.  For comparison, in 1995 a non stop trip between Petrie and Northgate in Qld ran at an average speed of 75km/h.  Trips between Caboolture and Petrie can still be done at an average speed of 95km/h if the train is on time.

Connecting the new Harbour crossing to Hurstville instead of Homebush seems brain damaged.  After spending all that money no increase in capacity for the Western Line, which is critically overloaded?  I expect you ought to be able to connect to the Inner West line between the Illawarra Junction and Macdonaldtown station, then allow the suburbans to connect with the city circle and the mains with the Harbour Bridge.  Connecting to the Illawarra line means that the capacity is sent where it isn't needed and passengers bound for stations like Rockdale will not know what station to go to for their next service.  The Erskenville-Sydenham sextup, done properly, would allow Illawarra line trains to run in to Sydney Terminal without masking capacity in the Eastern Suburbs Railway.

Some of the Metrobus routes are mis-designed, particularly the M50 but nothing seems to be in train to review these.  Stopping at 9pm on a branded service is poor in my opinion.  Smartbus is until midnight 6 days per week, BUZ is until after 11pm 7 days.

The most significant short coming of the master plan is the lack of integrated fares.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Draft Transport Masterplan fails

Sandy Thomas was being far too kind when called this plan a lightweight piece of fluff.  So much is missing from this plan it isn't funny. 

While the plan has numerous mentions of interchanges, integrated fares is never mentioned, and a fare structure review is mentioned only once.  The low level of importance attached to this issue is likely to soon see Sydney with a fare structure found in few places outside the third world.  The rest of Australia already has integrated fares and Auckland and Wellington are likely to get it soon.

A number of interchanges in Sydney have failed.  Edgecliff, Newtown and Pennant Hills are three which spring to mind.  At Pennant Hills, the M2 bus services are actually cheaper to use than the train, which is underutilised.  This is a perverse outcome as the bus services are more expensive to provide than feeder buses and it no doubt contributes to the negative growth which has occurred in peak rail patronage at this station.  Newtown isn't strictly an interchange but it is far faster on a train than a bus particularly in peak yet few people get off the bus to use a train there.  The lack of integrated fares are part of the problem.

While the plan has quite a number of mentions of increased frequency, it is not mentioned what services particularly are to have their frequency increased, nor the operating hours of such frequency, nor what the appropriate frequency would be.

Chapter 4 shows that the proposed southern destinations of the single deck trains are actually expected to be the least congested in 2031, which is presumably before the second harbour crossing would be built.  It also shows that the Northern Line is likely to continue to be under served.  No capacity increase is planned for Strathfield-Town Hall, unfortunately.

Chapter 4 also shows that the East Hills line to Macarthur is expected to be under served.  Didn't anyone tell them that the Erskenville-Sydenham sextuplication would allow trains from Macarthur to access Sydney Terminal?  Not without significant spend if the absurd Hurstville metro proceeds, but that is very unlikely anyway.

The Northern Beaches Bus Rapid Transit proposal is reprised unchanged, even though the study (strangely) found no options with benefits greater than costs.

The Light Rail proposal is just inconvenient for most people as it requires detouring via Central.  Perhaps the idea is that the via Taylor Square buses would remain but this is not explained.

While the plan suggests that rail has a low mode share to the Airport, no suggestions for action are made.  Surely the problem is that the fares are far too high and buying out the private partner is something which could be looked at.

Even if the plan's unfunded proposals are implemented, it still forecasts increased congestion, in some cases by a quite significant margin, particularly Rouse Hill-Macquarie Park.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Service slow downs from 2005

I have come across some timetables from 1996.  Graphs of the service speed are shown below.

Here's the North Shore Line:

And the Northern Line:

Very annoying to have to put up with these ultra slow services which apply now.  The services were slow enough before they were slowed further.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Enrique Peńalosa, former Bogota Mayor speaks

I found this very worthwhile viewing.  He mostly talks about pedestrianisation.

Lifted from the Auckland Transport blog

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Where would we be if we had the Western Express instead of the Epping Chatswood Rail Link?

Much better off.

I would presume that on opening of a Western Express (WEX a.k.a. CBD enhancement project), the Blue Mountains trains would use it along with the Western Line trains.

Harbour Bridge trains (sector 3):
  • 4/hour Epping
  • 4/hour Hornsby all to Eastwood, West Ryde, Strathfield, Redfern
  • 4/hour Cabramatta via Granville
  • 4/hour Glenfield via Regents Park
Moving the South Line to the Harbour Bridge has to be considered a given as it is a faster path on the middle pair of tracks (suburbans) from Strathfield to Macdonaldtown and no conflicting move penalty for doing so as applied in the past with that option.

The above assumes that turnbacks would be constructed at Regents Park (to turn around Bankstown trains) and at Cabramatta, with the Lidcombe turnback becoming unneeded.

A Glenfield via Regents Park to the Harbour Bridge should be somewhat faster than the existing service to Liverpool and help get people out of their cars.  The major limitation with the proposed patterns is that there is little room to allow for growth in patronage on the Western Line, other than with the larger trains proposed, without kicking the Blue Mountains trains out onto the Harbour Bridge, which in turn blocks increases in the Harbour Bridge services.  One solution might be a Homebush-Lidcombe sextuplication, but I have no idea what that would cost.

Outer City Circle, AM peak, would handle all trains from Bankstown, Ashfield, Homebush and Campbelltown via Sydenham.  This would enable simplicity in timetabling and therefore reliability as every train past Erskenville platform 1 would head the same way, however it might be a little controversial as the via Museum path is left with significant unused capacity.  The Erskenville-Sydenham sextuplication would be the next enhancement to increase capacity in this part of the network.

In the PM peak, I would expect that the Campbelltown via Sydenham trains would leave the CBD via Museum, however, the Bankstown trains would be more balanced running via Town Hall at all times.

You can see that the WEX would indeed be well used and the only thing preventing CBD capacity from the west from being fully populated is the lack of rolling stock.  While the via Museum leg of the City Circle remains under utilised, that is left in reserve to allow for increased running via Revesby and Bankstown.  This leg cannot be used for Western Line trains in any event and only 4 trains per hour in the AM peak from the Bankstown line are able to be moved to it and filled in by other trains from the West.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

NWRL justification

The justification for the North West Rail Link, contains a couple of interesting points in objective 4 in section 22.3.1:
(a) 29 million trips within 5 years of its opening, which is about half the number of trips currently using the bus system in the relevant region, region 4.  Obviously, people will still continue to use buses into Parramatta and other locations but I expect more than half of bus users are going to or from the CBD-Macquarie Park area.
(b) almost 160 buses are to be removed from the CBD in the morning peak.  This is approximately the amount of buses which enter the CBD in the morning peak from the North West.

I have little doubt that point (b) would not actually happen within the next decade, particularly while the rail-rail interchange at Chatswood remains.

Basically, the justification does not suggest an increase in the public transport usage in the North West.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Northern Beaches BRT study released

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has recently been studied for the Northern Beaches.  Long story short, it finds that none of the studied concepts is cost effective.  Why might this be? 
  1. 24 hour bus lanes are a bit wasted if off peak services are to be kept mediocre.  I mean, for crying out loud, 20 minute weekend frequency on the L90 (to Palm Beach) dropping back to half hourly evenings and early mornings, with the L88 (to Avalon) not operating is mediocre at best.  In general, 15 minute frequency is what is needed to boost patronage as a 14 minute wait is far more acceptable than a 19 minute one.  Similarly, the L80 (to Collaroy Plateau) reverts to a half hourly 180 on Saturday and the L85 (to Mona Vale via North Narrabeen) is also half hourly.  Those heading beyond Burnt Creek Deviation are best off to avoid the all stopping services as they are about 8 minutes slower from Wynyard to Condamine and King Sts, so effectively there are only 5 buses an hour on this corridor Saturday daytimes with 20 minute service gaps, speaking generally.
  2. A 6 lane Spit Bridge is hard to justify as there are already 3 lanes for the peak direction.  This does prevent the limitation of needing to reduce to a single lane counter peak, but it is easy to see that not being justified.  The Roseville Bridge is a reasonable alternative for counter peak travel for half of the Northern Beaches.
  3. Option One seems to include the removal of the tidal flow arrangements on the Spit Bridge, with a single lane for cars in both directions.  This is not made clear however.
  4. The suggestion of removing the L60 (Chatswood-Mona Vale via Dee Why) is bizarre.

What are alternative proposals? 
  1. Have a counter peak bus lane along Spit Rd, preferably extending all the way back to the Warringah Freeway.  This likely would need to be combined with pushing trucks into lane 3 from the start of the Truck and Bus Speed Limit shortly before Medusa St.  There are no right turns until the end of the current speed limit, even if there is one immediately after its end.  This bus lane is important as it allows buses to queue jump the counter peak traffic letting them both serve the counter peak demand better and return for another peak run without requiring more buses to provide the same service.
  2. Upgrading the peak direction Transit Lane to a Bus Lane between the Spit Bridge and the Warringah Freeway.
  3. Actually establishing some sort of PM peak priority north of Ourimbah Rd.
  4. Increase off peak services.  BUZ in Brisbane and Smartbus in Melbourne have both seen high take up of their services.  Metrobus in Sydney has been less successful, even if there are good services in there.  Services stopping at 9pm is no doubt a factor in the lack of success of Metrobus.  This would do much to reduce traffic congestion on the beaches and also help justify 24hr bus lane proposals.
  5. More limited stop services outside of peak hour.  It is unclear why the L80 should downgrade to a 180 on weekends, for example.
  6. Free transfers.  This will improve the service for all in that people can use a feeder and trunk model to get faster journeys.  Some will prefer a slower single seat, of course.
More generally, it is not entirely clear why median stations would be preferred over kerbside stations, nor is it clear why North Sydney termination with interchange to what are already reasonably full trains would even be proposed.

None of the options in the report break down the costs into their components, largely leaving the reader guessing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Is Western Fast Rail back on the agenda?

As I previously blogged, the current government has made a number of apparently ill thought through and half baked announcements, firstly Richmond to Campbelltown then single deck metro from the North West to Chatswood.  The questions seems to be why?  I suggest that they have been softening up the voters for something they may not like.  What that might be is a revitalisation of the Western Fast Rail privatised project.  Reports from when the Liberals were still in opposition quoted the current transport minister as saying that the project should be looked at more seriously.

This is complete supposition; but you heard it here first!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Use of the Lane Cove Tunnel

There was recently a consultation period about removing the 613, 614, 615 and 616 bus routes from Epping Rd and sending them via Lane Cove Tunnel (which would append X to their number).  This is a welcome and overdue change. 

This also represents the last of M2 to City services going to the Lane Cove Tunnel in peak hour.  However, outside of peak there is still the half hourly 610 which goes via Epping Rd.  The best solution here is to merely extend the M61 to Rouse Hill along the 610 route and run the 612 outside of peak where justified.  Perhaps this will eventually happen.  Without the M61 it seems like there would be little in the way of service outside of peak hour between Castle Hill and the CBD.

A related question is what of STA services to the Macquarie area?  Currently the peak only 293 and 297 services are the only services which use the Lane Cove Tunnel.  Why is the 288 (QVB to Epping via Coxs Rd and Macquarie) not in this list?  The whole part along Epping Rd through Lane Cove would still be served by the 292 which has similar operating hours, and trips could be added to the latter with the money saved by the faster operation of sending the 288 via Lane Cove Tunnel.  Even the Epping to Lane Cove service is provided by the 290.

The service planning does seem to have a lot of inertia.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

CBD Enhancement dropped!

Unfortunately, it seems from recent documentation that the previously planned CBD enhancement from Eveleigh to Wynyard and beyond is to not proceed.  This is a decision which means that there will not be much improvement in Cityrail for decades, particularly for the Western and Northern Lines.

Giving the Western Line its own path through the CBD would be best practice.  It's the busiest line on the network, and busier than the North Shore line (counting the upper Northern Line), Illawarra Line and Eastern Suburbs Line all of which have their own path through the CBD.  So why not separate the network out further which will help with allowing more and stricter sectorisation?  That would get these passengers out of the current Town Hall and Wynyard significantly easing platform congestion and the new platforms should be able to be built wider than the existing platforms. Alternatively with what is known as bifurcation which means that there would be 4 additional platforms per station to reduce/remove dwell time in the CBD from being the capacity restriction.  This would leave Parramatta dwell times as the limitation.

The above linked documentation mentions some restrictions which are either soon to be removed or can be.  Numbers 3, 4 and 9 can be easily removed, they just choose not to.  In the case of number 9 which the document details removing this does mean trains need to take a slower path, however, this limitation is solved by the CBD enhancement (formerly called the Western Express) as described above, as is number 7.

Such an unceremonious dumping deserves an explanation, however the linked document above seems to be an attempt to deflect the criticism rather than explain it.  It does not refer at all to the plan to increase CBD capacity along the "Metro West" alignment as originally planned, but an alternative plan which had never been publicly proposed involving a Cityrail expansion along the "Metro Pitt" alignment, which would not help the Western Line.

I just wonder if they are pushing some agenda, and if so then what?  Perhaps it is just to be different from the Keneally government's sensible Western Express plan.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cityrail timetable proposals in recent news - Part 3

An official video shows that the second phase of this plan involves:
  1. A new harbour crossing, connecting to the Metro Pitt alignment.
  2. Metro connecting to the Bankstown line and part of the Illawarra line.
  3. Removal of Campbelltown via Sydenham. 
  4. No increased capacity for the Western, South or North lines beyond what is possible now.
  5. Some Western line trains to take the slower path around the city circle.
Almost every aspect of this plan is daft.
  1. Sending metro trains down the Illawarra line to Hurstville means that some Railcorp passengers will be taken away from the Eastern Suburbs Railway, to be replaced by no one.
  2. Overtaking manoeuvres will no longer be possible.  All trains will likely need to run with the same stopping pattern, presumably Redfern, Sydenham, Wolli Creek, Rockdale, Kogarah, Hurstville and then all stations to Waterfall or Cronulla.  A capacity reducing skip stop is also possible.  It will be exceedingly difficult to operate the South Coast trains with only one pair of tracks the whole distance.
  3. Removing the Bankstown line from the city circle removes what is the only swing player between the Town Hall and Museum legs.  This will not be helpful.
  4. Removing Campbelltown via Sydenham will result in slower journeys and be less competitive with road transport, particularly with the planned M5 widening.  I do not think that additional frequency through the Airport line adds nearly as much value.
  5. Additional Western line paths into the city circle requires them to either add a conflicting move at Macdonaldtown or traverse Strathfield platforms 7 and 8.  The latter will increase journey times, the former would reduce reliability.  There is a good reason why every inquiry has recommended a new CBD path, to prevent such trades from being made.  This new path is being done in such a way as most of the benefit which should be realised is completely wasted.  You might as well run in to the Wynyard platform 1 and 2 dead end as the trams used to.
If a crossing under the harbour is to be done, it really should increase capacity for the other side of Central.  This plan does not achieve that at all.  It wastes some of the presently available capacity.

I hope that we hear nothing further about this plan.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cityrail timetable proposals in recent news - Part 2

It has recently been announced that the promised plans of double deck services from the North West all the way to the CBD are to be revised.  They are going back to a North West metro, single deck, and only running as far as Chatswood as a first phase.

Firstly, this means that the upper Northern Line will need to revert to running via Strathfield.  Unless it is going to take paths through Town Hall platform 3 from the Western Line it will also mean that the upper Northern Line will terminate at Sydney Terminal.  The only question raised with this is if there is enough capacity between Redfern, Central and Town Hall.  Well in the AM peak 4/6 Bankstown line trains add to this capacity.  This should be relatively simple to expand to the other two with a timetable review.  This capacity should be relatively easy to provide in the AM peak, and the PM peak is far less congested.  Reversing the direction of the Bankstown line around the city circle full time may well be a reasonable option, as might Melbourne weekend style Bankstown-Town Hall-Museum-Bankstown full time.

Secondly, it means no expansion to Railcorp and in fact a slight contraction as they will be removed from the Epping-Chatswood Rail Link.  In my opinion, this is real positive to the proposal.  I'm really not sure how long we can go having Railcorp consume $3 billion per year and rapidly rising.

Thirdly it means an interchange at Chatswood for trains which are allegedly already full.  However, they aren't as full as trains on other lines and the upper Northern Line passengers are to be removed from this patronage.  It will also be possible to increase the numbers of trains on the North Shore by up to 6 per hour.  There will be plenty of capacity for passengers from the North West who will have a cross platform interchange at Chatswood, much like Glen Waverley line peak hour passengers in Melbourne who need to interchange at Richmond to reach city loop stations.  Hardly the end of the world.

All in all the first phase of these changes is quite good, which is something I will not say about the second phase in my next blog post.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cityrail timetable proposals in recent news - Part 1

A Sydney Morning Herald article has reported that it is being suggested for a number of stations to lose their access to Town Hall, but the Cumberland Line is to be given an upgraded service and run through to Richmond.  These changes are sure to be unpopular and reduce the effectiveness of Cityrail, so the question is why would it even be considered?  One word: sectorisation.  This means that parts of Cityrail can function independently of the whole, as has been all but achieved with the Illawarra and Eastern Suburbs lines.  Cityrail branded this concept clearways a number of years back.

Basically, to have a strict sectorisation the Cumberland line would need to either be completely removed, or pushed into what is known as sector 2, meaning lines accessing the City Circle.  This means that lines through Parramatta platforms 3 and 4 need to go to sector 2, and given that it is not possible to come from the Richmond line without accessing these lines, the Richmond line needs to go along for that ride.  Since trains serving Harris Park, Wentworthville, Toongabbie and Pendle Hill normally only use Parramatta platforms 3 and 4, these trains would no longer be able to reach Central.  Similarly, Clyde, Auburn, Lidcombe and Burwood would no longer have a single seat service to Parramatta.  Clyde stops would need to be added to selected south line trains.  The most popular peak pattern - All to Redfern/Parramatta/Blacktown/Mt Druitt all to Penrith would need to be slowed down significantly with probably 6 more stops.  It's not entirely clear why the lower Northern line cannot run through Town Hall with sectorisation however, even with the conflicting move* between outbound interurbans and inbound suburbans north of Strathfield.  It is also unclear how Blue Mountains line trains would operate at all if this is done.

This is sectorisation becoming the enemy of Cityrail doing a good job, rather than its friend, which it usually is. I feel this is being leaked now to soften up users of Cityrail for a timetable which isn't going to be liked.  It is certainly true that the Western Line needs its own path through the CBD though, which should have been built before the Epping Chatswood Rail Link was.

What alternatives are there for 2013?
Alternative One:
Increase running into Sydney Terminal for the Western Line.  It is unclear why there are still 3 (both directions combined) Springwood trains per day crossing the Harbour Bridge.  This was done before the ECRL freed up a few paths across the Harbour Bridge so there is precedent.

Altenative Two:
Run additional lower Northern Line trains into Sydney Terminal. This is a satisfactory option for increasing the Northern Line which is incredibly overcrowded but does nothing for the Western Line, which is nearly as bad.

Alternative Three:
Run all lower northern line trains into Sydney Terminal. The existing trains should not be damaged in this way, even if increased in frequency.  Varied stopping patterns cannot reasonably apply for the Western Line between Redfern and Parramatta so all my comments above would apply in that zone and about the Blue Mountains Line trains being virtually unable to run.

Alternative Four:
Connect the lower Northern line the City Circle, moving some or all of the inbound AM Bankstown line trains to the Museum.  This has a conflicting move* at Macdonaldtown and thus would surely reduce reliability to pre-2005 levels so has a snowballs' chance of proceeding.

* A conflicting move is where one train needs to get in the way of a train on another track, blocking its progress.  While it can be timetabled, things don't always run to timetabling.  It ultimately reduces reliability.

UPDATE 22/6/2012: Or here's a better idea: Terminate the Cumberland line at Parramatta from the south.  This means that Parramatta platforms 3 and 4 can become part of sector 2 and Harris Park commuters need to backtrack to Parramatta to reach the CBD.  This is not really a big problem as they are likely to have a faster trip to the city by doing this in any event.  This means that all tracks and platforms at Westmead and west are available to sector 3 trains without violating sectorisation and it also means Cumberland trains don't run relatively uselessly all the way to Blacktown.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

69 growth buses to be bought for Sydney.

Nine news report (video) that it will be in the state budget that there is to be 269 buses bought in the upcoming budget.  69 are to be "growth buses".  It leaves questions about what type of buses are to be bought unanswered.  Is it to be like for like replacement or bigger/smaller buses, and what of the replacement buses - what type?

There is a need for a number of double decker buses, not just for the M2 services to the north west, but for the Northern Beaches services such as the L90.  I do not know why they wouldn't buy double deckers, perhaps it is an unknown quantity?

Update 13/6/2012: Budget papers seem to contradict each other.  One says that all 69 growth buses are for private operators, another says that it is to be split. 140 replacement buses are for STA, that is known.  $521 million for private metro + outer metro subsidies, and $337 million for STA subsidies.  Doesn't sound like there will be much improvements to services, particularly in the STA areas on these figures.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Patronage figures from Parliament

The answer to a question about bus patronage through the Maroubra electorate, gives us some interesting data to work with.  I do not know why the 391, X92, X10 and X77 services are not included.  From 1 January 2011 through 31 May 2011:

RouteTotal BoardingsAverage boardings per trip

A few conclusions seem possible from the above data:
  1. 392 corridor is under serviced.  This picks up 3 trip generators - Eastgardens, UNSW and the CBD so it is possible that a number of trips see spaces occupied more than once, but even so it seems an upgrade is justified.  I would go further and say that the 392 trips should all be converted into an L92, serving L94 stops between the Kingsford nine ways and Museum, running every 15 minutes until 11:30pm 7 days a week.  The L94 should also provide the same level of service.
  2. 341 could presumably be more cheaply served by some sort of para transit on demand service.
  3. 316 under achieves.  It could be better removed and converted into 317 trips and improve the legibility of the service.
  4. 302 under achieves.  It is noted that while this serves UNSW, Eastgardens and the CBD it seems that people don't find the service very attractive, in spite of all the destinations served and the low frequencies of the alternatives.  The route could be reviewed and perhaps folded into the 303.  Serving Central would be sure to increase the potential patronage.  There are some 303 short workings from Todman Ave to Botany, which suggests a Botany terminus could be more desirable, although I am not sure why.  Alternatively, the marketing could be the problem.
  5. 376/377 corridor does not justify two routes.  If there was integrated fares, there would not need to be two routes - via Central and via Oxford St.  Those going to Central would be able to interchange.  As a former user of the common part of the 373/377 corridor, I can report that the majority of the 377 patronage comes from the common part of the corridor.
  6. X09 seems to under perform.  This seems to be mostly due to train fares to Green Square station being reduced.  This route has since seen a 20% reduction (-2 trips in the PM peak), as with the X10.
  7. M10 and M20 perform arguably satisfactorily.
Without the M20, there would be no connection to Central for Bourke St and the upper end of Joynton Ave.  If the M20 is to be removed, such a connection should be provided in another way.

The L09 operates counter peak only so if it isn't collecting passengers it would be dead running anyway, so I have no concern about that one.

An alternative to the proposed L92 would be an L96, based on the argument that between the 395 and 396 Maroubra Beach is busier, but that ignores the patronage which would be generated by the frequency increase as well as the patronage from the 391, which is unknown.

Basic problem is that there are insufficient service kilometres in Sydney outside of peak hours, even if this is the least severe in the Eastern Suburbs.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Opal: Integrating ticketing versus Integrated fares

Opal has been promised as the solution to Sydney's fare mediocrity.  It is not at all clear that this is correct.  What is entirely possible is that MyZone fare structure will be sold through Opal.  MyZone is not an integrated fare structure, it is a differential fare structure.  Integrated fares would require a mode blind single flag fall system.  IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) have been quite vocal against an integrated fare system.  Politicians don't like changing it much either as it leads to either some people suddenly having to pay more, or significantly less fare revenue.

What Opal will surely be is an integrated ticket, which means a single ticket which can be used on any transport mode i.e. Cityrail/STA bus/private bus/ferry.  This should free users from the need to purchase separate tickets for each mode constantly.  It is not clear whether it will free users from loading certain passes on to the card to obtain the appropriate fare, as applies with Melbourne's myki.

An integrated fare system is the first step in a transformation in Sydney's public transport.  If you are coming from Bondi Beach to the city, you should not need to pay extra to get off the bus at Bondi Junction and get on a train.  Ceasing to discourage these types of transfers would be very beneficial for the efficiency of the system overall.  The train costs the same regardless of how many people use it and has no capacity issues, however if more people use the bus then more buses must be run.  Within STA there are a number of routes and deviations on routes which only exist to remove the need to transfer.

It is possible that, like Brisbane, an integrated fare system would be implemented and the needed restructures to bus routes not occur.  There would still be some benefits in this case.  At least people can escape the George St traffic jam by getting off their morning bus at Newtown and using a train, for example.  These created spaces on the bus can also then be reused on the way to the CBD.

Every other major Australian city has already implemented an integrated fare system, including Canberra.  Adelaide did it in the 1960s.  Auckland is planning to implement it this/next year, and Wellington will likely follow.  Christchurch already has a one free transfer system.

I fear that Sydney is going to be left as the only city in the region without an integrated fare system.

Monday, June 4, 2012

STA's recent performance

STA's March 2012 Quarterly Performance information has recently been released.  In short, it shows that overall patronage has reduced as compared to the previous corresponding quarter, but Metrobus has increased.  Newcastle buses has increased slightly.  The question not addressed in this is why its patronage would decline?

One possibility is Harbour Bridge bus congestion is pushing people back to their cars.  I blogged on what I think of the plan to fix this before.

Hopefully the 8th of March, 2012 eastern region rebalancing will help send more buses where they are needed, but there needs to be much more done.

The question is, have STA actually been asked to increase public transport use?  The only performance objectives I am aware of in Sydney are about increasing public transport's market share of the journey to work or study.  So therefore it is hard to criticise the STA if they have done what they have been asked to do, even if that falls short of the mark.

Even more recently, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian is asking STA to become more "efficient", or face the possibility of privatisation.  It seems that increasing patronage would be lucky to become an afterthought.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Second rail harbour crossing back on the agenda

The Sydney Morning Herald has again reported that a new harbour crossing is back on the agenda.  The SMH reports that the advice to Gladys Berejiklian is this is needed for natural growth and the NWRL.  Well, sort of.  It is only needed in this or the next decade because of the NWRL.

It was always disingenuous and/or dishonest to suggest that the NWRL without a second harbour crossing was a reasonable policy, but it was a winning strategy at the 2011 NSW election.  In my opinion Infrastructure Australia was absolutely correct to rebuff the current NWRL plan.

Some people have suggested that signalling improvements could delay the need for this.  Well that may be, but it would not come cheap and nor would it remove some remaining conflicting moves particularly at Macdonaldtown.  Signalling improvements also would not help to remove the south line from the need to pass the platform faces between Summer Hill and Macdonaldtown - these lines are slower than the centre pair of tracks, which are slower than the northern pair of tracks.  There needs to be a study on the bang for buck of this particular option.  Personally, I believe it will defer the need for track amplifications only slightly so should not proceed.

What about single deck?  Well while you might have more trains, the number of seats on the line would be reduced for sure.  It is unclear whether or not the number of standing spaces would be increased by enough to compensate, but I think it is fair to say that reduced seating is against what Sydneysiders want.  There are similar issues with increasing the number of doors per carriage.

The SMH also reports that the "City Relief Line" is dead.  Well, that's creative politicking right there.  Transport for NSW report that all options feature a "CBD enhancement" which is basically the city relief line by another name.  As for the suggestion the under the harbour line might connect to the Illawarra, that is insane, and a waste of web bandwidth to debunk.

Friday, June 1, 2012

New Cityrail timetable for 2013

Last month a new Cityrail timetable was promised for introduction in late 2013.  What should it contain?
  1. Increased Cumberland line services.  Only 5 per day apparently well utilised services is a bit of a waste of the infrastructure built.  It also reduces the incentive to put jobs into Parramatta.  The Epping-Chatswood link is given credit for Optus moving into the Macquarie Park area, but the lack of service on the Cumberland is somehow not thought responsible for the low growth in jobs in Parramatta
  2. Extension of the current Chatswood terminators from Hornsby via Macquarie Park somewhere.  Not reaching the city results in these trains being under utilised.
  3. Increase in Parramatta's off peak service.  4 low speed trains per hour off peak is a poor service for such a major centre, not counting Blue Mountains trains.
  4. Remove Campbelltown via Granville and have a minimum 15 minute frequency for Campbelltown via East Hills and Airport.
  5. 15 minute all day frequency for the South Line - currently this drops back to half hourly in the middle of the day weekdays and evenings.
  6. 15 minute all day frequency to Penrith.
  7. Removing city to Liverpool via Regents Park trains thanks to utilising the Lidcombe turnback.
  8. Further rationalisation of stopping patterns.
  9. Faster trains.
What is it unlikely to contain?
  1. Increased Illawarra line trains - some say that it isn't possible to increase this while freight is still operating on the 2 track between Hurstville and Sutherland.
  2. Increased Epping via North Strathfield trains, both at peak and off peak.  Increasing the peak trains would require either trimming Western Line trains or increased running into Sydney Terminal.  Increasing off peak trains seems relatively unlikely, perhaps because it would make it harder for freight to connect with Flemington.
  3. Increased trains to Berowra - these have conflicts with freight and interurbans which do not apply for Hornsby terminators.
  4. 10 minute frequency (or better) on the Inner West and Bankstown lines.
  5. Bringing back Parramatta via Bankstown trains.  These trains are a conflicting move nightmare, and it isn't entirely clear that it is so necessary to encourage those living from Berala to Erskenville to work in Parramatta as opposed to the CBD.
  6. Something to connect the Carramar to Sefton stretch to Parramatta, at least in peak.  The M91 does connect Chester Hill.  Otherwise it will be in necessary to double interchange at Birrong and Lidcombe or Cabramatta and Granville or single change at Cabramatta.
  7. Faster trains.  Witness the slow downs which have recently been announced for a couple of trains on the Newcastle line from 18 June 2012.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Metrobus reviewed

Metrobus was started by the previous government, with an obvious agenda of visibility as part of its plan to attempt to at least arrest the degree with which they were to be booted out of government.

So what is good about it?  Firstly, a real bonus from Metrobus has been increasing the capacity of the vehicles.  The current restrictions on non-Metrobus buses within the STA are pretty absurd: a standard size bus is only allowed 15 standing passengers for 58 total passengers.  Even a bendy bus only allows 88 total passengers in Sydney Buses, but a Metrobus bendy is allowed 115 passengers aboard.  While there are some slight changes to the interior seats, mostly this change is simply a matter of policy.  It would be good to see this increase spread to other buses.

Secondly, overruling Treasury by actually providing public transport at non peak times is a real positive. An improved services is now provided on some cross town routes (M41, M54, M90, M91, M92) which otherwise would have been left to rot on an even more mediocre service.  Similarly, the frequency upgrade for the L20/M52 and 600/M60 is a positive.

What is bad?  All of the original routes (M10, M20, M30, M40, M50) have design issues.  It seems unlikely that they are money well spent for public transport in Sydney.  Other routes do not offer services after 9pm and have only 20 minute frequency after the evening peak and on weekends.  Shutting down at 9pm hardly makes the service dependable, and while the 20 minute evening frequency is arguably acceptable, it is less acceptable weekend daytimes when traffic congestion is still quite bad.  The 520 which replaces the M52 after 9pm runs approximately hourly, which isn't exactly good.

With the M10, it seems that the money would be better spent on increasing 39x and 436-440.  Only counter would be layover space in the CBD, but this counter cannot apply at weekends and evenings.

M20 does have a real positive in connecting Bourke St and the top of Joynton Ave with Central.  Conceivably, this service could be provided by moving the 302 & 303 or 301 to serve Central, and increase the frequency.  Moving the former pair of routes would also connect Todman Ave to Central which does seem like it should equally be a winner.  The other side of the M20, the Pacific Highway already has plenty of service, and the increase here seems overkill.

M30 provides an increase along Military Rd which is surely useful, however the other side completely avoids most potential passengers who would be waiting on Castlereagh St.  While it may well pick up a number at Railway Square and get some through passengers, this route seems to be a bit misguided on the south side.

M40 is like a 272 connected to Bondi Junction.  So perhaps south/east bound use the Cahill Expressway, extend to North Bondi and serve 333 stops, as the passengers bound for Bondi would be found on Elizabeth St?  I can live with a bias to Bondi passengers, with a side benefit of serving the eastern side of the CBD with respect to 272 corridor passengers.  Given that there are a large number of 272 passengers, it is likely there will be several takers for the M40 serving Elizabeth St on the Willoughby side during peak hour.

M50 is the worst of these in my opinion.  While this does connect Coogee with the University of NSW and the University with Central, both of these functions are already performed by routes which already exist.  It also connects Drummoyne with the city and provides a through route to UNSW.  Increasing the 370 between Green Square and Coogee would have done far more good.  Even the load factors are slightly below the all Sydney Buses average.  The good point about the M50 is serving the inner part of Victoria Rd, but I am sure that could have and should have been done by increasing 5xx series routes.

M52 is the best performing of the Metrobuses, getting nearly 60 passengers per trip on average.  This is roughly a doubling of the frequency of the old L20 so it's not really a new route at all, just a frequency increase and a rebranding.

Service kilometres have increased with Metrobus, but STA's overall patronage hasn't.  Similarly, Park St congestion has been AIUI significantly worsened by these changes.  While there are clearly good services, the case seems pretty compelling for reviewing some of the network.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Morning peak bus congestion on George St

In my opinion, bus congestion on George St is a bigger problem than on York St.  The difference is that it has come on much slower: congestion here has been problematic for over a decade.  This problem is significantly more difficult to solve than York St.  George St is where buses from Parramatta Rd, Victoria Rd and Glebe Point Rd and Newtown ultimately end up.

This morning, Clover Moore has again called for trams on George St.  It is not entirely clear why people who could easily interchange for Cityrail now and get a faster trip but don't would want to bother with doing this.  Perhaps the tram will be free or there will be a reasonable fare structure in the future?  Even if so, it is likely that such a move will encourage commuters to drive in to the CBD, the exact opposite of sustainability and good policy outcomes.

George St can be improved a little in the morning peak though.  Upgrading the bus lane between King St and Hunter St to a bus only lane would prevent taxis from blocking buses.  However, buses need to be able to get off George St relatively easily also.  One possibility is turning up Margaret Street, however it would be quite tight when a car is waiting to turn left out of Margaret St lane 2.  You could close this lane to eastbound traffic, but that is probably overkill.  An option is moving the stop line back, a la Cribb St, Milton, Qld.  These options largely depend on increasing Margaret St's westbound capacity between Clarence and York Sts.  Another option is increasing the Grosvenor/Harington Sts move a la L37, X04, 502.

There are a few options for buses from Victoria Rd:
  1. Turning left from Druitt St up Clarence St
  2. Using Bathurst St and turning left on to Elizabeth St
  3. Serving the southern end of town instead.
  4. Continuing along Park St.
Late last year, STA re-routed some buses via Bathurst St however, it is not entirely clear what possible advantage this had as they still join the George St bus jam.  Perhaps the original idea was to turn right at George St and serve the universities as well as businesses from Town Hall to Central, but it got mangled.  I think either that happens which would help quite a bit for some, or the peak only Victoria Rd buses should turn up Victoria Rd.

One other change which will help enormously is to increase the amount of interchange.  A number of commuters would benefit from getting off the bus at Newtown and then continuing their trip in to town on Cityrail.  This would allow less buses to come in to town, even if the routes still continue as the routes could see their seats/spaces filled more than one time per trip.  Fares are a large obstacle to achieving this.

Monday, May 21, 2012

De-bottlenecking York St

Yesterday I blogged that the NWRL cannot be relied on to fix this problem.  So what other fixes are possible?

  1. The southbound M40 would benefit from using the Cahill Expressway to Elizabeth St.  This will avoid the Park St interchange, but who cares?
  2. The Pacific Highway is over serviced and IMO the best solution is chopping off the northern part of the M20
  3. STA routes E86-9 have been removed from York St to use Grosvenor and George Sts in the AM peak.  This treatment should be spread to all AM peak only Hillsbus routes - 613, 614, 616, 617.
  4. A double decker bus meeting all ADRs (Australian Design Rules) has come on to the market.  Yet this has not been ordered by any NSW operator to the knowledge of the author.
  5. Carrington St is not used as a drop off for Wynyard terminating buses.  This is presumably due to the difficulty of accessing Clarence St via Margaret St.  The fix for this problem would be to reverse an eastbound lane of Margaret St between Clarence and York Sts.  This would allow these buses to return to their depots more quickly or perhaps in time to make another peak run.
Put simply, there are a number of relatively simple fixes, just not actioned.

Harbour Bridge bus congestion - will the NWRL fix it?

Recently, 358 buses were timetabled to arrive at Wynyard from the Harbour Bridge in the hour from 8am to 8:59am on a work day.  79 (or 22%) of these buses are M2 services.  So one might expect a significant reduction in congestion once you consider queueing theory's prediction that a small change in supply or demand can have a dramatic effect on waiting times.  This prediction has a number of problems:
  1. The remaining services can be expected to continue to grow.  Growth of 2.5% p.a. over 10 years would put us basically back where we started
  2. Cityrail's network could not handle this many additional passengers travelling over the Harbour Bridge without a lot of pain.  Transport for NSW's preferred plan is to run the trains for the upper Northern Line into Sydney Terminal, however two trains per hour via Gordon must also be trimmed.  These changes seem extremely unlikely to survive political interference, and the alternate plan of terminating every second NWRL train north of Sydney Harbour seems likely to proceed
  3. If only half of the promised 8 per hour trains actually reach Wynyard, it is likely that the short workings will not add much value.  Their value would be increased by the previously proposed quad between St Leonards and Chatswood.  This would allow people bound for stations up to St Leonards to use the short workings, and running the full distance trains express between Epping and St Leonards would also channel people who can use the short workings on to them.
  4. Integrated fares have not been achieved in Sydney, and even if they were it is unclear that people from the Hills District would be willing to use a feeder bus to reach the station.  If they will not, then that means very expensive parking must be provided, a reduction in the market penetration of public transport or the buses along the M2 to the city and North Sydney would need to be retained in a reasonably large number.
  5. An additional 25 or so buses reach North Sydney from the M2 between 8am and 8:59am on a working day.  It is estimated that between the Wynyard direct and North Sydney/Milsons Point buses that 4 trains per hour reaching North Sydney and Wynyard would be insufficient to meet demand.
So it can be seen that the North West Rail Link can not be relied on to fix bus congestion on the Harbour Bridge.  A subsequent post will go in to solutions to fix these problems.