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.