Sunday, 23 October 2011

Analysis of Northern Suburbs Service Changes (Part 3)

This is the third part of a two-part series, here Parts 1 and 2 are available
In this third and final part of my analysis on the service changes that Transperth will be implementing from 6th of November, I will look at the changes in place for Mirrabooka’s buses. Previous parts 1 and 2 have looked at changes on Wanneroo Rd, feeder buses from Stirling, Warwick and Whitfords train stations, Alexander Dr, and two buses from Morley, one going through Alexander Heights and Ballajura. The Transperth page for these changes is here, and a map is here.
Services from Mirrabooka Bus Station will be given huge improvements, with increases in weekday off-peak and Sunday frequency, a simpler network with after-hours combined service reduced in favour of more service on regular routes, and simplified bus times for one route. The 354’s weekday off-peak frequency will be increased to every 15 minutes, extra peak services will operate, there will be an addition Saturday trip from Mirrabooka to Perth, and it will be serviced exclusively by low-floor accessible buses. The 870 will also receive extra peak services and TUAG (quarter-hourly) off-peak services on fully accessible buses, and there will be an earlier bus from Mirrabooka and later buses from Perth. Route 370 will have some small timing adjustments on Saturdays, will operate on Sundays co-ordinated with route 354 for half-hourly service between Mirrabooka and Perth, will be served only on disability accessible buses, and will have stand changes at Mirrabooka to Stand 1 and at Wellington St station to Stand 5.
On to feeder buses, Route 365 will have major timing changes with off-peak buses every half-hour, Sunday and extra weeknight service to replace the 363, and will become a fully accessible route, the 372 will have major timetabling changes done, with off-peak frequency upgraded to every 30 minutes on accessible buses only and Route 375 will also have major timetabling amendments with services every 2 hours, again only on accessible buses. 376 buses will receive major time changes, additional weekday off-peak and Saturday daytime services every half hour, and buses on Sundays, Route 377 will have major timing changes, with off-peak frequency upgraded to every half hour, the 378 will again have major time changes and an extra trip in each direction replacing, along with the 376 some withdrawn services on route 379, the after-hours service.
The increased frequency is clearly a plus for serving this busy area, and promoting further gains in PT use, where previously few feeder buses across the metropolitan area operated every half-hour. Frequency still won’t be up to the standards on Wanneroo Rd and Alexander Dr, but this is because every 15 minutes two buses will leave, the all stops 354 and limited stop 870, and although this isn’t felt at Mirrabooka, further down the route where the 870 has made a reasonable gain on the 354, waiting times will be shorter, in some cases better than on Wanneroo Rd and Alexander Dr.
In conclusion, all the changes such as frequency increases, more service on regular routes instead of combined after-hour routes and moves to more low-floor disability accessibility buses will drive increases in PT patronage in the northern suburbs, on a frequent, simpler, fairer and more attractive bus network.

Analysis of Northern Suburbs Service Changes (Part 2)

This is the second part of a three-part series, see here for parts 1 and 3
From 6 November Transperth will be implementing service changes on buses across the middle northern suburbs (Wanneroo Rd, Alexander Dr, Stirling , Warwick , Whitfords , Mirrabooka , Morley , Ballajura and Alexander Heights). The network will be made simpler, with some new routes and trips added, increasing frequencies, and after-hour routes cut back or removed, replaced with more services on regular routes (The Transperth page for these changes is here, and a map is here). This second part of the analysis on northern suburbs bus improvements covers changes on Alexander Dr, Alexander Heights, Ballajura, Mirrabooka and Morley service changes.
The service changes to Alexander Dr buses aim to provide frequencies south of Yirrigan Dr up to every three minutes during peak hour on the 886, 887, 888 and 889, every 15 minutes until 8:30pm and on Saturdays using the 887, 888 and 889, as well as services up to midnight and every half hour on Sundays up to Beach Rd with the 887 and 889. This is in addition to the 10 minute frequency on weekdays off-peak already achieved.
To achieve this the 885 will have some minor time changes with an extra trip, 886 will have some small timing changes with a few extra peak trips, the 887 and 889 will have some minor timetabling adjustments and additional peak, night and Sunday trips, to operate every hour until midnight and on Sundays, slightly earlier and later too and route 888 will have some minor timing changes with extra early morning and weekend trips, and Saturday service every half an hour.
The frequency and service span increases are obviously a very big plus to current passengers and to increase patronage, adding Alexander Dr along with Wanneroo Rd into the group of corridors with buses every 10 minutes on weekdays and 15 min on Saturdays, or TUAG standard. The time changes will hopefully correct the current situation where an extra ten minutes of travel time is just lumped in at each end rather than evenly spread out (Perth to Mt Lawley ECU takes only 9 minutes but Mt Lawley to Perth is 19 minutes, and Beach Rd to the terminus takes 20 minutes, but from the terminus to Beach Rd takes 10 minutes (midday), although timetables aren’t available yet.
The 344 from Morley to Warwick via Alexander Heights and Ballajura will have extra services for services every 10-20 minutes in the peak, half hourly during off-peak (up from hourly) and hourly on weekends, with some short services now travelling the whole route, and buses from Warwick running earlier and later. The 345 from Morley to Bennett Springs will become a fully accessible route. A higher frequency and more full length services for the 344  are certainly a plus, making the route simpler and more convenient, and accessible buses are better obviously for disabled passengers but are also preferred by most able-bodied customers.
I have previously said that this will be a two-part series, however I have found that I will need three parts for this analysis, and the next part will analyse Mirrabooka’s changes.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Analysis of Northern Suburbs Service Changes (Part 1)

From 6 November Transperth will be implementing service changes on buses across the middle northern suburbs (Wanneroo Rd, Alexander Dr, Stirling , Warwick , Whitfords , Mirrabooka , Morley , Ballajura and Alexander Heights). The network will be made simpler, with some new routes and trips added, increasing frequencies, and after-hour routes cut back or removed, replaced with more services on regular routes (The Transperth page for these changes is here, and a map is here). This first post of this three-part series covers changes on services on Wanneroo and from Stirling to Warwick, Warwick to Whitfords and Whitfords to Joondalup.
Wanneroo Rd services will be changed and improved significantly, with two routes deleted, two routes renumbered, two new routes, and 374 staying mostly the same apart from a few small timing changes. 363 will be deleted and replaced with extra service on the 373 and 365, while 347 is also to be withdrawn and replaced with the new route 387, from Warwick via Balcatta and Wanneroo Rd to Perth, running every 15 minutes during peak hour and every hour in off-peak. Route 388 will also be introduced, from Warwick on Beach and Wanneroo Roads to Perth running every 10-15 minutes in the peak, and every half an hour during off-peak and on Saturdays. The 346 will be renumbered to 389 and will services will increase to every hour on Sundays, with small time changes on weekdays, and 373 will become the 386, with Sundays services again increased to every hour, with small time changes on weekdays, and only wheelchair accessible buses will operate on it.
 The aim of these changes is to get a bus along Wanneroo Rd as far as Amelia St every 10 minutes on weekdays, every 15 minutes on evenings until 9:30 pm and on Saturdays, and every half hour on Sundays. This is good because TUAG frequencies (every 15 min or less) are important in attracting riders who have the choice of a car. Wanneroo Rd will be join the now lonely club of corridors that run TUAG buses on Saturdays, although Sunday buses still won’t be up to scratch.
Some buses departing from Stirling Train Station will undergo time changes and a few extra trips, and one route will be added but another removed. Routes 413 will have some time changes, 414, 423 and 427 will have some timetabling changes as well as some additional trips. 425 will have timing changes, some extra trips, including some serving Charles Riley Rd and on Sundays, and a stand change at Warwick to Stand 8. Route 428 will be added, operating along Jones St and in Balcatta to Warwick every 15 minutes in peak time, and every hour during off-peak and on weekends. The after-hours route 435 will be replaced with extra 425 services, with some deviating to Charles Riley Rd. Removing an after-hours route will make the network simpler and easier to remember, and the introduction of a new route will improve coverage and make PT for those near Jones St or going Balcatta better.
Warwick services will also have some changes. Route 381 will change stands at Warwick to stand 7, 441 will have major time changes, and it’s route will be modified slightly, 442, 443, 445, 446 and 447 will have major timing changes and night and weekend service, to replace the after hour routes 452, 455, and 457 that will be discontinued, and 444 will undergo major timetabling changes. 344 chnages will be explained in the next part of this analysis. In addition, two services from Whitfords to Joondalup will only be served with low floor disability accessible buses. The network between Warwick and Whitfords will be made much simpler with the removal of after hour buses, and the accessible buses from Whitfords to Joondalup will not only be better for the disabled, they are newer, and more spacious and attractive to able-bodied passengers.
In the next part of this analysis I will look at the revised Alexander Dr, Ballajura, Alexander Heights, Mirrabooka and Morley services.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Why Park n' Ride isn't the answer

Park n’ Rides, or stations with large amounts of car parking, are usually considered good public transport policy. They encourage public transport usage in low density regions. Perth has them at most new stations, and we’re not doing too badly from them. However, maybe we could be better off with a different strategy.
Park n’ rides consume large amounts of land and discourage walk-up patronage. While our Park n’ Rides are mostly at freeway stations on the Joondalup and Mandurah Lines, where walking to the station is already hard, the large parking lots surely aren’t helping. There is also insatiable demand for them, just like roads. They often fill up in the morning peak, so they encourage peak usage over off peak usage. Instead of replacing car usage with PT usage, it lets car usage continue along with PT, which is an easy and fairly good outcome for now but not optimal.
In place of these alienating Park n’ Rides we could allow residential and commercial development, or TOD (Transit-oriented development), buildings that will generate much more traffic that is also more balanced than in Park n’ Rides, while earning money rather than costing money. To compensate for the loss of the car park feeder buses should be run much more frequently.
We could also place Park n’ Rides just beyond walking distance of the station (about 400m for most people) where the attraction of the station is lesser and so land cheaper, with links to the station by feeder bus. This would be the best of both worlds, but it would be difficult to get the land in our existing suburbs because it would probably be housing, and new suburbs should be optimised for walking, cycling and taking a feeder bus to the station, so large Park n' Rides aren't necessary.
In conclusion, we should reduce our dependence on Park n' Rides, although the idea suggested in the last paragraph of car parks beyond walking distance of the station deserves consideration.

The case for good off-peak public transport

Public transport is often used as an alternative to peak-hour traffic, but it should be embraced just as much during off-peak times.
Getting more passengers on off peak and weekend services gets the most out of capital investments already spent, such as railway lines, bus stops and vehicles. A bus has already been purchased so there is no extra cost to run it during off-peak times except for the driver and fuel, but the trip will earn money from fares.
Good off-peak services also gives peace of mind to peak hour commuters that should they need to come to work earlier or later, go home early, stay behind or do an errand that services are available for them at that time.
It also offers an alternative to driving to the city because while traffic isn’t bad, it will become an issue in the future, and parking is still a problem. The city is easy to serve well by public transport.

Trains run every 15 minutes all day everyday and some trips are standing room only, but most buses only run every hour during off-peak and so are unattractive to travellers with cars. Even major bus routes have a long way to go on weekends with only services along Beaufort St and on the Circleroute between Fremantle and Southlands running every 15 min on weekends.
In conclusion, off-peak public transport is a good use of infrastructure and fleets that have already been bought, and although Perth is doing well on this matter with its trains, we could improve, especially on buses.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Why widening and building more roads is not the answer

The usual ‘solution’ to a congested road network is to widen roads or build more freeways. However, it has been proven that building more road space does not relieve congestion in the long term. It just encourages longer or extra trips, with demand for even more roads, or induced demand. Building lots of roads makes cities bland and alienating, and difficult to walk, bike or take PT in, unfair to people who can’t or don’t drive. Also, the amount of roads needed to satisfy every possible travel need is impractical, consuming large amounts of land, and, unbelievably expensive
On the other hand investment in public transport or active transport (walking and biking) are cheaper and carry more passengers than road investments. They also take up less land and are future-proof; they not only can cater for population growth but will stay useful with global warming and peak oil.

In conclusion, building lots of roads will not solve congestion problems, which reminds me of a good quote by Orlando, Florida traffic engineer Walter Kulash, “Widening roads to solve traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity”. If drivers want more roads then at the very least they should pay for them.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The case for public transport if global warming isn’t true

While public transport is a good way to fight global warming, this is by no means the only reason to use it. Firstly, even if global warming isn’t a problem, the pollution causing it certainly is. PT uses less fuel than cars, so it also deals with peak oil.
Public transport can also move more people than cars, so they can reduce congestion and parking problems. By extension of their efficiency, PT takes up less space and requires less subsidy/is more profitable than cars, while still being cheaper, providing mobility to those who can’t or don’t drive. Many people just find it more convenient and less stressful than driving. (ABS Public Transport Use for Work and Study)
In conclusion, to say that global warming isn’t true is no reason to drive everywhere and ignore public transport.

Why free public transport isn't the answer

An idea often suggested in light of rising fares and inadequate public transport is to make it free. This is thought to increase public transport usage and make it better, fighting problems such as global warming.
While free public transport will certainly increase public transport, this will only make it more crowded, and with no revenue from it, public transport will become very expensive for the government. It is also claimed that fare collection costs a large percentage of fare revenue, so by doing away with fares we wouldn’t lose much money. However as I said before, free public transport means that more people will use it increasing costs.
Also, since free travel is not valued, some of these trips may be unnecessary and not taking cars off the road. Night services may become rolling homeless shelters, discouraging use by drivers.
In the end, the only reason why public transport needs to be free to compete with cars is because cars are heavily subsidised and our cities are optimised for them. By raising the cost of travel by car to cost-recovery, public transport-friendly suburbs will develop, allowing high-quality public transport that breaks even or even makes a profit.
However, free public transport in selected areas may be useful, as in Perth with our Free Transit Zone and CAT buses. In following with the second paragraph, the CAT buses are very useful but they can also get quite crowded, and are run from City of Perth's parking money.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Why PRT is not the answer

Another commonly suggested solution to the problems of our current cars is PRT (Personal Rapid Transit), where small rail vehicles offer direct journeys not shared with others. They are usually very light and can operate very frequently, so some think of it as being better for the environment and having more capacity than public transport beating it at its own game. However, I would disagree.
If a PRT vehicle comes every second (very optimistic), then 60 vehicles will come in a minute and 3600 per hour. Single occupancy in cars is normal, so if there is single occupancy in PRT that would be a paltry 3600 passengers per hour. Even with 6 per vehicle (PRT-pooling?), the capacity is 21 600 per hour. If a railway line has trains that carry 1000 people every 2.5 min 24 000 passengers can be carried in an hour, and more is possible. If trains for 1500 come every 2 min, 45 000 can be carried, in which case PRT vehicles would need to carry on average 12.5 people, even with a nearly impossible one min headway.
If PRT can be made lighter than trains, why can’t trains be made even lighter? In addition, PRT infrastructure on every street (necessary for it to be useful) would be very expensive.
In conclusion, while PRT could work in an expensive private community, it is not suitable for serious transport needs in large cities.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The case for road pricing

Congestion charges, congestion taxes, tolls, road pricing – whatever you call it, it’s often a no-go zone for politicians – see the PublicTransport For Perth in 2031 FAQ -  even, if not especially, Liberals. You may be asking, What? Liberals? You expect them to support another tax?, but there is logic behind that statement, and road pricing is needed.

The government has been subsidising the construction of our road network for decades (rego and excise don’t even come close to paying the full costs), so we need to charge properly for the use of roads. We need to charge market rates for roads, more for congested roads and times, and less for quieter roads and times, so that roads are uncongested, benefiting people who need to be on the road, like tradies and emergency services (road-based businesses should be able to get exemptions) If it makes lots of money, so be it. We can use it for essential services, like health, education and police, or cut income tax to offset the extra cost, or even both.

We would have to make sure alternatives like public transport can take the extra load, and if need be we could make it so that half the road lanes are priced and half free, so the toll lanes can be considered express lanes.

Where does this go back to the Liberal statement? Well cutting subsidies and embracing the free market is in line with the Liberal Party’s conservative foundations.

Fantasy Rail Maps, what is wrong with them (Part 2)

In the last part of this series I addressed the cost and efficiency of systems that encourage one-seat rides on trains everywhere. In this part I will look at frequency, reliability and legibility.
While some fantasy rail networks may run very frequently, others may not run many services. This affects cost too; a system that offers one-seat rides very frequently will have an enormous cost, one that offers one-seat rides at low frequencies not so much, but this would make a system very inconvenient, despite the lack of transfers.(I made an earlier post on the convenience of frequent services)
In a train system where services from every line go to every or even some other lines, reliability will take a hit. If a service on Line A going to line B is delayed, then the service behind it going to Line C will also be delayed, and so there will be longer wait times on Line C, and trains from other lines going onto Line C may have to wait for the service from line A.
This last problem, legibility, is a big one. If there are 3 trains stations near your house, and 6 trains serve each station, with each coming from different directions and going to different places, it can be confusing to find out how to get somewhere despite all the direct services. This difficulty will be compounded if frequencies are low, requiring lives to be tied to a timetable.
In conclusion, while I do not advocate useless transfers, I think that we can live with a few transfers if the networks are frequent, reliable, make sense and aren't  a big drain on government finances. Also, while trains have their place in transporting large amounts of passengers, buses will continue to play a major role in low density cities like Perth.

Friday, 7 October 2011

More on PT's (un?)profitability

On my last post I said that some networks increase costs in providing service, and now I've made some quick calculations, to see if public transport can be profitable. For a 30 min bus route, a wage of $12.50 + $6 fuel (39L/100km, $1.50/L for diesel and 20 km/h) means a service costs $18.50 to operate (excluding capital costs and admin). If fares are $1 for this trip (standard 2 zone - $2.60 but remember our tickets can be used for multiple trips) In order for the trip to break even there'd need to be 18.5(19~) passengers using it, and as I said I didn't include capital and admin, because I've got no idea how much these cost, but I'll just bump it up to 22 passengers. At peak hour most buses probably greatly exceed this, but you need to consider the empty trips those buses make going back (against peak). And how about feeder buses in car oriented areas (most of Perth). Often occupancy is less than 10
On the other hand, trains are an easy win. For a 30 min route, a wage of $12.50 +$10 fuel (excluding capital and admin) = $35 operating cost, so at $2.50 per ticket (trains are at least 2.5 times faster than buses), only 14 passengers are needed, 16 for admin and capital.
However, not all is lost for buses. Note the use of the word occupancy. A bus may pick up one passenger, drop it off and get another one, drop off and repeat until 10 passengers have been carried. The 'occupancy may have only been 1 because there was only one person in the bus, but 10 passengers used the bus for that trip. Multiply this by 100 and the increase gets quite significant. However this is an extreme example, so the bus may not reach profitability, but if managed properly it may come close.

Fantasy Rail Maps, what's wrong with them(Part 1)

Some transport enthusiasts create fantasy rail maps, and while some of these may have merit, others are just railway lines going everywhere. I know these are usually not meant to be done in real life, they help in pointing out some problems in transport systems that aim to provide one-seat rides everywhere, especially on rail.
This part will cover cost and efficiency.
Cost is a quite obvious problem in these systems, as most of the services won't have very good patronage, and ticket prices would probably stay the same, so public transport becomes a huge part of the budget, in my opinion a waste of taxpayer's money. While it may be too much to ask for profitable public transport when the car competion is subsidised, that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep costs low and patronage up, especially in rail, where lower labour costs make profits not so distant.
Since these trains would have low patronage, the fuel economy would be terrible, even using electricity. Forget that public transport is better for the environment, if you operate a whole train for just a few passengers. However, some fantasy trains could work as bus routes, but this may still pose some problems, as I will explain in the next part of this subject.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Trains during Royal Show week

Yesterday I took advantage of the extra train services for the Royal Show. It was about 2 so I could be talking about the first peak services but I'm pretty sure they ran extra Whitfords and Cockburn shuttles every 15 min and lengthened the existing services on those lines to 6 cars, as well as obviously add the Showground shuttles. While I wasn't going to the Royal Show, I was going to go Cockburn Central but the Clarkson train came first so I took a trip to Joondalup instead. It was a 6 car set 4 min after another train so as expected there weren't many on it, but it was still had modified middle cars with seats along the sides like at the end to maximize standing room.
While regular services are pretty frequent, I did appreciate the shorter waiting times. The frequency was at a TUAG (turn-up-and-go) level, which means I didn't need to use a timetable, turned up there and took the next train. This sort of frequency is important for creating good public transport that is a fair match to zero-waiting time for cars, and for supporting large cities in which people can still move about as they please.
While Perth has more or less nailed it when it comes to trains, most of our bus network has a long way to go, especially on weekends. Trains have the same frequency on weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays and have roughly the same amount of passengers per train, so why do buses get lower frequencies on Saturdays and even less on Sundays. The recent bus reviews upgraded Sunday services to Saturday levels, but why not weekdays if the trains have showed that people will use the services. Actually, given that buses have a lower capacity than trains you'd expect more of them, but the same is enough.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Why electric cars aren't the answer

An often-touted solution to the pollution of cars is electric cars. However, these may not be as good for the environment as they are thought to be.
While electric cars definitely have less pollution, most of our power sources are still fossil-fuel based. Power plants are more efficient than individual engines, but it isn't enough.
Also, cars contain large amounts of steel, and their manufacture can produce pollution. The batteries also require lithium, most if which is in China and restricted, and rare earth materials like neodymium, terbium and dysprosium, and cab cause environmental damage on disposal.
Electric cars still cause congestion, and pollution from road-building. They also require a large network of charging stations to be practical, but most proposed charging stations would be located in inner-city areas, where driving distances are short and there are plenty of alternatives.
On the other hand, there are some people who will drive no matter what, so by all means, get an electric car, but don't ask for government subsidies and charging stations.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my public transport blog A Transport Geek in Middle School. I will be blogging about public transport issues, especially those in my home and current city Perth. I hope you will find this both interesting and informative.