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.