Saturday, May 05, 2007

Transit improvement top ten

Following is a list of what I consider are Australia's most important public transport improvements over the past 25 years.

1. Perth: Suburban rail electrification/northern suburbs line/service increases. Revitalised a dying rail system and tripled patronage. Made further extensions possible, most spectacularly the southern line currently under construction.

2. Victoria: Regional rail projects. A package of measures, including large service improvements on the five main corridors, restored trains on some lines, fare integration and new trains. Criticised for its expense at the time but the service improvements (particularly) have delivered patronage and benefits beyond the official 'fast rail' name.

3. Adelaide: 'Go Zones'. A service planning innovation where several overlapping bus routes are timed to provide a frequent even-headway combined service along a busy corridor and marketed as such. The Adelaide equivalent of Melbourne's trams. Recent improvements have increased the number of 'Go Zones' and extended service to Adelaide Airport. More recently the concept has been adopted by Brisbane in their 'BUZ' services.

4. Brisbane/SEQ: Translink fare reform and bus improvements. Brisbane is a late convert to fare integration (Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne had achieved it by 1983), but when it happened it covered a large region rather than a single city and greatly simplified fares and ticketing.

5. Perth: Bus route and service reviews. Main outcomes have included harmonised headways and better connections with trains, and service frequencies more aligned with need (especially around major trip generators where frequencies and spans were increased). Many service idiosyncracies and route duplications were ironed out, with resources transferred to service improvements elsewhere. The system was made less CBD-centric, with the highly-successful Circle Route being introduced. Other cities such as Adelaide and Brisbane now have their own Circle Routes and Melbourne is planning several similar.

6. Brisbane/SEQ: Gold Coast Railway. Included as it has brought rail services closer to the main population growth area in Australia without rail access.

7. Perth/Adelaide/Melbourne: Multimodal fare integration. Eliminated transfer penalties, so encouraged thinking of and use of public transport as a network (subject to adequate service integration).

8. Melbourne: Sunday service improvements. Network-wide improvements to Sunday trains and trams are an example of service reflecting changing living, working and travel patterns. As an example, train services during the day increased from every thirty or forty minutes to every twenty, which is similar to Saturdays. The success of this is demonstrated by rising patronage, further assisted by a discount Sunday ticket introduced several years later. Despite only very limited Sunday trading, Perth later followed suit, with almost all stations now receiving a fifteen minute service.

9. Various: Inter-peak service improvements. If good enough, these improvements change the concept of public transport from something that one must make an appointment to board to a more casual 'turn up and go' service. This is much like how one expects water as a tap is turned on. Though they may not result in full buses and trains, they are cheaper than peak service improvements since infrastructure and vehicles already exist. Fuel, labour and wear and tear are the main marginal costs, though cost-recovery can still increase since the fixed costs are spread across a larger passenger base who find the service more attractive.

10. Various: Public transport websites and online journey planners. Especially where the whole state is covered, this allows passengers to more easily plan trips.


Jarf said...

Adelaide's Go Zones are definitely one of the best innovations bus-wise. It's a shame the same hasn't been done with their rail network.

Daniel said...

As Tony Morton remarks on the importance of various upgrades, "frequency, frequency, frequency".

leccy said...

A belated posting...

The Adelaide Circle Line actually dates right back to 1978, so it predates Perth by at least 2 decades. It continues to putter along, but has hardly been a roaring success.

In my opinion, the reason that Perth's Circle Route has been so successful is that it has provided a reasonably frequent limited stop rail feeder service for a lot of areas that otherwise had infrequent direct city bus services. From what I have seen the busiest section is the short run from Oats Street station to Curtin University.