Friday, September 30, 2011

Good, Bad and Interesting things about Adelaide Transport

Presenting a paper at this year's Australian Transport Research Forum in Adelaide has provide a chance to sample that city's public transport. Here's four good, four bad and four interesting points based on observation.

The good

Go Zones. Frequent service corridors covering most inner suburbs out to about 10km from the CBD. They are extensively advertised at stops, on timetables and at the Metro Shop.

Airport accesss on regular services. J1 and J2 provide a 15 minute service 7 days a week. Service spans are very wide, with service starting before 5am even on a Sunday morning. The profile of the service is quite high - airport staff recognise the numbers and the information desk is well stocked with timetables.

Rail electrification. Project includes several new and rebuilt stations, sighted on the Noralunga line.

Glenelg tram. New extension is well patronised. It also serves major trip generators including a university, convention centre and hospital under construction.


Pedestrian crossings. Imagine a journey where after a couple of minutes travel you stopped, were paused 2 minutes, could lurch forward a few hundred metres and stopped again. This is walking in Adelaide. Long traffic light cycles at CBD intersections reduce overall walking speeds to a crawl. In the suburbs islands and seperate signals (for each direction) at divided roads further slow transfer between train and bus. The Melbourne equivalent would be if every intersection had traffic light cycles like King Street.

Infrequent trains. Unlike Melbourne or Perth, where trains form the most frequent 'spine' of the network, train frequencies are often 30 to 60 minutes, making recourse to a timetable essential.

Low bus network legibility. It is difficult for the visitor to see the logic of the bus network. If you board a bus in a CBD street you cannot be assured it will continue straight along it. There is a large number of route numbers, with various letter and number prefixes and suffixes. Buses are significantly less legible than trams in Melbourne, but there are no inherent reasons for this to be the case.

Few maps on the network. Compounding limited legibility is that while many bus stops have times, few have maps of either the route or network. The only place where there's a city-wide network map appears to be inside the Metro Shop. Go Zone network maps are similarly available on the web but not at the point of need on the system. Maps of individual routes don't seem to be nearly as common as (say) Melbourne.


Ticket purchase on trains. Instead of at machines at stations.

Can see to the front on trains. Most systems' trains only allow passengers to see out the sides of a train. With at least some of Adelaides you can also see out the front. This gives a quite different view of the network.

Single zone tickets. The liability is a high minimum fare, though there is a cheaper short-distance ticket. The advantage is simplicity. The ratio between single and daily ticket is not dissimilar to Melbourne, making a daily tickets a good choice.

Stops are numbered. The acid test of a public transport system's legibility is whether people can find themselves to a destination at night. Large numbers on stops are viewable from the bus, so can help if trying to ascertain where you are (printed timetables refer to these numbers against timepoints). On the flip side timetables are not stop specific - they are instead full timetables where the passenger must estimate arrival times for themselves.


Brent Palmer said...

The advantages of having the ticket machines on the trains are (1) fewer machines required, and (2) less chance of them being vandalised.

Anonymous said...

I found the airport bus for an arriving passenger hard to find, they need signs in the terminal to send you upstairs to the departure level.

Google transit integration is great and makes up somewhat for the confusing mish-mash (for a visitor) of bus stops in the CBD.

I like the front windows on trains, but wonder if they will be on the new electric stock, if the Vlocity is anything to go by then they won't.

Mike said...

I've been to Adelaide twice in the past month and as a fellow Melbournite can support what you say.

While the pedestrian lights are a problem, what annoyed me far more was the lack of traffic light pre-emption for the trams, which stayed stuck for what seemed ages at the lights.

Melbourne has yet to really get the benefit of traffic light pre-emption but at least at many lights, trams do get a faster passage than those in Adelaide.

The extension out past the railway station was particularly bad for mon-pre-emption yet this was the newest link.

Peter Parker said...

Anon, I think the issue of regular bus stops being hard to find at the airport isn't unique to Adelaide. It took me a litle while to spot the stop but I didn't have to leave the airport building to do so.

Whereas the equivalent stops in Melboune and Perth can't be seen from the airport building, and in the former's case are some distance away.

So it's not ideal but Adelaide does better than the others. And staff awareness of the service was very good as well.