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Transport: we mustn't miss this very fast bus

There's a much better alternative to trains, trams and traffic, writes David Hensher.

THE continuing media focus that suggests the need for greater investment in public transport is to be commended - but let's place this recognition in context.

If money was no object and the public really wants government to significantly increase public debt, then let's invest in heavy and light rail - but would everyone be happy?

Unfortunately there are two large deficiencies in this popular perception of a solution to meeting Sydney's transport needs: the huge cost (in the billions of dollars, not millions) and the inability of such a solution to deliver more than a service to specific corridors, to the neglect of the systemwide network needs.

There are many ways of investing in improved public transport, assuming it will substantially resolve the claims about Sydney's traffic congestion. These include heavy rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, where buses have their own roads just like trains have their own track and do not compete with cars in mixed traffic.

Globally there is growing support for delivering service capacity through bus rapid transit as a legitimate alternative to heavy and light rail within the traffic density range that Sydney experiences.

Typically, $1 billion buys 400 kilometres of dedicated bus rapid transport in contrast to 15 kilometres of elevated rail or seven kilometres of underground rail. Most importantly, this not only delivers greater network coverage but also shows the error of the accepted view of the capacity of specific public transport modes (buses up to 6000 passengers an hour in one direction, compared with up to 15,000 for light rail/tram and more than 15,000 for heavy rail/metro). Advanced bus rapid transport systems can move 38,000 passengers an hour in each direction.

There is a growing number of examples around the world and the International Union of Public Transport in Europe stated recently that bus rapid transport is increasingly preferred over fixed-rail systems for value for money. Some will immediately ignore this argument and keep pushing fixed-corridor rail systems that are very expensive and which will fail to serve the fuller demands of the Sydney metropolitan area.

Our challenge is to get away from thinking of bus rapid transport as those awful polluting buses that get delayed because they compete with cars and occasionally are offered bits of disconnected roads in the form of bus lanes and transit lanes.

We can start the investment, as Brisbane has, in bus rapid transport with clean-fuelled buses and get away from the adage that trains are sexy and buses are boring.

There is an urgent need to set aside dedicated roads or land parcels for bus rapid transport to achieve its potential, remembering that the width of a right of way required for bus rapid transport is far less than for railways, not only in the central business district but across the Sydney network.

The announced strategic corridors outlined by the State Government this week are a good start provided they are fully connected and dedicated to bus rapid transport. Castlereagh Street, for example, is a good candidate for the CBD link.

But the technology must not be the driver. Rather, the way forward is to identify systems (that is, integrated vehicles and infrastructure) that will provide a high level of service capacity throughout a connected network, delivering frequency, connectivity and visibility so that we know where the services run to and from.

All of this support for public transport must be part of a large package in which we consider ways of financing improved public transport, and a good start is to learn from the experiences of London and Stockholm, where congestion charging schemes are in place.

The money raised in London and Stockholm is earmarked for investment in public transport - a sensible strategy.

Politically it has worked, which is very important. Over 30 per cent of commuters who were previously car users now use public transport, continuing car users see benefits in improved travel times and, most importantly, the politicians have earned respect for taking such an initiative. All of this seems so obvious in many ways; yet will Sydney rise to the occasion?

Professor David Hensher is director of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, in the Economics and Business Faculty, University of Sydney.

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A congestion charge in the CBD would be a great idea. It would be better to do it sooner rather than later.

Here's another good article from the SMH. This one's a bit more about heavy rail in the North-West and light rail in the CBD.

Transport shambles
May 19, 2006

TRAFFIC chaos in the CBD will worsen if the State Government continues to rely on buses instead of expanding light rail or charging motorists to drive into the city, a report prepared for the Government warns.

The independent study finds extending light rail from Central to Circular Quay would be a more efficient and reliable way of relieving pressure on the city's public transport than adding buses or depending on trains.

If the Government did nothing to improve public transport, an extra 36 buses would have to travel along George Street in the morning peak period to cater for the increase in passengers expected by 2021, it says.

"Travel conditions for buses and other traffic is already poor in George Street, the main corridor which will experience increased demand for bus seats," the report says.

"An increase in the number of buses and/or the conversion to articulated buses is likely to add to traffic congestion and/or reduce bus running times."

The report, which finds there are "no insurmountable issues" to preclude extending light rail, has been kept secret by the Government since it was delivered in September 2004 by the transport consultants, Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Obtained by the Herald through freedom of information laws, it is one of the most recent in a series of reports commissioned by the Government since the mid-1990s into the feasibility of light rail in Sydney.

Its disclosure will fuel demands from transport experts, the City of Sydney Council and business and community leaders for a wider light rail network. The Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam, has promised to extend light rail if the Coalition wins next year's election.

It follows sustained criticism of the Government over its transport strategy. At a forum hosted by the Herald last month, it was warned the city would lose investment and residents to Melbourne and Brisbane if public transport was not improved.

This week, the City of Sydney Council increased the pressure by setting aside $13.5 million over four years to upgrade streets or contribute to infrastructure for a new light rail route.

But yesterday, the Transport Minister, John Watkins, said he was not convinced light rail was the best option. Potential problems included the additional journey time if passengers had to change modes of transport at Central or Circular Quay, for example from a bus to light rail.

There was also concern over the east-west traffic congestion that would be caused if a light rail route was given signal priority in the city streets, he said.

"I haven't closed the door to light rail in Sydney. But I have to say, the more I look at it … I just don't see it working," Mr Watkins told the Herald.

"If I have $1.5 billion to spend on public transport, where should I spend it? Should I spend it in the CBD to replace an existing form of public transport, or should I spend it somewhere else where it gets a bigger bang for the buck?"

The Parsons Brinckerhoff report analysed how a light rail system along George Street or Castlereagh Street would cater for increased passenger demand compared with conventional or articulated buses, an extended monorail system, increased train services or measures to limit private cars in the city, such as a congestion levy or increased parking charges.

Light rail beat or drew equal with its closest rival, articulated buses, on all criteria except for the initial infrastructure costs, which would be about $126 million for a new light rail route. Signal priority would be the greatest challenge facing the project, the report said.
 

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sydney_lad said:
Transport: we mustn't miss this very fast bus

Advanced bus rapid transport systems can move 38,000 passengers an hour in each direction.
I would be interested to see how this would work. At 100 passengers per bus this would involve 380 drivers and 380 buses running at a headway of less than 10 seconds. I'm not sure how long the average bus is, but allowing 15 metres, these buses placed end to end will extend for nearly 6 km.

How do you load more than 10 passengers per second, and do they ever get off again?
 

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let's have double articulated buses with no seats!

Or better still, double articulated, double-deck buses with no seats.

Oh but can't have double deck buses... there's some conspiracy theory running around the Internet that the European bus manufacturers are conspiring to not offer double deck vehicles for some reason or other...
 

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38,000 thousand an hour is a bit far fetched.

After reading the article I am slowly starting to agree on the idea of having a rapid bus metro kind of service.

400km of track at 1 billion sounds like the bargin of the century
 

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sydney_lad said:
Transport: we mustn't miss this very fast bus

There's a much better alternative to trains, trams and traffic, writes David Hensher.

<snip>

:bash: There is a growing number of examples around the world and the International Union of Public Transport in Europe stated recently that bus rapid transport is increasingly preferred over fixed-rail systems for value for money. Some will immediately ignore this argument and keep pushing fixed-corridor rail systems that are very expensive and which will fail to serve the fuller demands of the Sydney metropolitan area.

Our challenge is to get away from thinking of bus rapid transport as those awful polluting buses that get delayed because they compete with cars and occasionally are offered bits of disconnected roads in the form of bus lanes and transit lanes.


<snip>

Obtained by the Herald through freedom of information laws, it is one of the most recent in a series of reports commissioned by the Government since the mid-1990s into the feasibility of light rail in Sydney.

Its disclosure will fuel demands from transport experts, the City of Sydney Council and business and community leaders for a wider light rail network. The Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam, has promised to extend light rail if the Coalition wins next year's election.

It follows sustained criticism of the Government over its transport strategy. At a forum hosted by the Herald last month, it was warned the city would lose investment and residents to Melbourne and Brisbane if public transport was not improved.

This week, the City of Sydney Council increased the pressure by setting aside $13.5 million over four years to upgrade streets or contribute to infrastructure for a new light rail route.

.
Buses may have their place, and in cities like Hobart & Canberra & Warnambool, that's all there is. And in the last case, at least, all there should be.

I know how much you Sydney people love your railway system, but I'm still intrigued as to how a bus service could deliver something better ... especially from Penrith or Sutherland.

Cheap PT: Cruddy PT. That's the whole story.
 

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Transport: we mustn't miss this very fast bus
There cannot be a very fast bus network in the majority of areas in Sydney.

The roads are too small, too clogged and very unsuitable for long vehicles like buses intended for fast speeds.

A lovely network of dedicated surface corridors cannot be magically conjured out of nowhere.

For a more down to earth solution Cityrail should make each railway line independent just like what their map says. Perhaps a high speed train line for western sydney along with a large feeder bus network in the outer west(where roads are newer, bigger, and less clogged).
Perhaps state transit should upgrade and reform their network so that more buses are running where/when they are needed instead of some routes at certain times where buses are practically empty.

Light rail is just a waste of money compared to double decker buses.
 

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buses are definately the go. not saying that rail is crap though. Brisbane has 2 busways already with another 2 on the way. currently there is about 25km of busway in brisbane which is set to be close to 60km in the coming years. they are as good if not better than trains and are felxible to reach the places trains cant.

if brisbane had the chance again, we would have built busways over passenger railway and left rail for freight and high speed intercity services.

seriously, sydney should look into it. it would be awesome for ur city except i dunno if u have the room unless ur willing to reduce existing road space
 

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perhaps a bus system connecting Sydney's suburbs (Parra, Penrith, Cronulla, Manly-Dee Why, City, Liverpool-south west) would be of some help, especially if it goes direct and uses the tollways. That's fat chance gonna happen in Cityrail.

but Sydney can't feed on just buses alone. The most efficient cities have the lot: rail, bus, highways.
 

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Reducing road space has to happen sooner or later.

If busways are to be used, may as well string up wires above the busway and the main routes along each end of the busway, and use trolleybuses for most of the services. Coal (for electricity production) is cheap and plentiful in this country. We also have heaps of Uranium. We have surprisingly little oil that's good for diesel production.
 

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Buses carry 40-50 people in reasonable comfort and use about as much fuel and road space as 4 cars. So long as there's more than 4 passengers on the bus at any given time it's 1:1 and you can expect an average of 20 passengers for most of the day if the services are any good. As such, the coal requirements would be substantially lower.

Further, using grid linkage via trolley poles is a more efficient use of coal than charging batteries, where you lose much of the electricity in battery inefficiencies. As such, revise the above as equivalent to 2 electric cars.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Cityrail said they were going to set up trains that only stop at Penrith - Parramatta - Central, that will be good if they actually do it. I also read a couple of weeks ago there's plans of building around 5 more train stations in the inner-city, we defeanately need that.

The north-west needs a rail line, it's pretty much the only area of Sydney that isn't covered by rail.

I really do think that light rail in the inner city would be a good idea too.
 

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sounds good doesn't it? But unfortunately with the efficiency rail can give us, it can be pain with finding enough space, clearing and constructing it. Penrith-Parra-Central would be very quick on buses, providing buses use the M4. It avoids three of many people's pet hates: Cityrail, tollways, and traffic.

Right now there's a lot of roadworks happening in the Hills/North West area. Hopefully that'll pave the way for expanded bus systems. Rail probably would come.. 2015 at the earliest. 8 years is a long time, and buses can fill that considerably long gap
 

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MrPC said:
Buses carry 40-50 people in reasonable comfort and use about as much fuel and road space as 4 cars. So long as there's more than 4 passengers on the bus at any given time it's 1:1 and you can expect an average of 20 passengers for most of the day if the services are any good. As such, the coal requirements would be substantially lower.

Further, using grid linkage via trolley poles is a more efficient use of coal than charging batteries, where you lose much of the electricity in battery inefficiencies. As such, revise the above as equivalent to 2 electric cars.
ok, that's a more reasonable response than I got last time I mentioned electric cars :)

sydney_lad said:
Cityrail said they were going to set up trains that only stop at Penrith - Parramatta - Central
Not sure if there's the track capaciy to do that, and they'd stop at least at Blacktown and Strathfield as well (as they should!). Just as North intercities should stop at Strathfield, Epping and Hornsby and South Coast intercities should stop at Hurstville

The north-west needs a rail line, it's pretty much the only area of Sydney that isn't covered by rail.
Northern beaches, south eastern suburbs and far south west don't do too well either...
 

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There are still a few issues that aren't being addressed here: staffing levels for one. Here in Melbourne trains are generally packed with a few hundred commuters, but neither Connex or their immediate predecessors can afford to supply a guard.

One of the consequences of this sort of development: services which disappear under light loadings, e.g. after peak hour in the evening. And services up the middle of a freeway are only useful if they deviate to where people actually live.
 

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Yardmaster said:
There are still a few issues that aren't being addressed here: staffing levels for one. Here in Melbourne trains are generally packed with a few hundred commuters, but neither Connex or their immediate predecessors can afford to supply a guard.
Train guards were one of the most egregious wastes of space that ever existed. They haven't actually been needed since the days of hand operated train brakes and their abolition in the 90s was long overdue.

If more staff are to be added, the first place I'd put them would be on platforms as greeters (answering questions and making sure people who don't show or validate a ticket are stared at as if they're lepers). Next would be on board customer service staff.

Sticking a guard in a box in the middle or at the rear of a train would serve no function whatsoever.

Yardmaster said:
One of the consequences of this sort of development: services which disappear under light loadings, e.g. after peak hour in the evening.
Huh?

If anything bringing back guards would increase the number of cancellations as the absence of the 2nd person would mean the service couldn't depart.

Yardmaster said:
And services up the middle of a freeway are only useful if they deviate to where people actually live.
They are also useful if intersecting services are waiting or are running every few minutes. If you're referring to Doncaster heavy rail, there'd only be a fairly short section on the freeway with one station in the median at North Kew, and one just after it exits the freeway at Bulleen. The rest of the route would be underground under Doncaster Road, again with north-south services feeding in at the stations and services from the east and north east feeding in at the terminus at shoppingtown or east doncaster.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
hornetfig said:
Northern beaches, south eastern suburbs and far south west don't do too well either...
Sorry i should have been more specific, it's pretty much the only area that isnt covered by rail, that actually wants a rail line ;)

The nimbys in the Northern Beaches and Eastern Suburbs would rather drink an off latte than have a rail line.
 

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MrPC said:
Train guards were one of the most egregious wastes of space that ever existed. They haven't actually been needed since the days of hand operated train brakes and their abolition in the 90s was long overdue.
I'd agree with you here ... but in Sydney? Last I saw they were still on board.

MrPC said:
If more staff are to be added, the first place I'd put them would be on platforms as greeters (answering questions and making sure people who don't show or validate a ticket are stared at as if they're lepers). Next would be on board customer service staff.
Agreed.

MrPC said:
If anything bringing back guards would increase the number of cancellations as the absence of the 2nd person would mean the service couldn't depart.
Yes, I've heard these stories about trains, trams and whatever being held up while the guard got his cup of tea, his nooky, delivered his baby or finished his crossword, but I have to say in my entire life without a car, the only place where it was blatantly obvious that the guy was just doing his own thing rather than his duty was Johore Bahru, Malaysia.

I cannot comment about some of the "ticket inspectors" at Central City Stations in my childhood, since I would not wish to speak ill of the dead.

Re. Buses in the Middle of Freeways:

MrPC said:
They are also useful if intersecting services are waiting or are running every few minutes. If you're referring to Doncaster heavy rail, there'd only be a fairly short section on the freeway with one station in the median at North Kew, and one just after it exits the freeway at Bulleen. The rest of the route would be underground under Doncaster Road, again with north-south services feeding in at the stations and services from the east and north east feeding in at the terminus at shoppingtown or east doncaster.
If the service ran under Doncaster Road (this proposal has been around about as long as the freeway), well and good!
I was mainly replying to the Penrith > Sydney proposal. Yes, if you have connecting services every few minutes, everything would be fine, but you won't ... if you did, they would be there now, at the railway stations.

I think the essential point I was trying to make here was, if you are trying to move 38 thousand or so passengers per hour, you don't try to do it in buses which hold c. 100 passengers at a time, take a lot longer to load, are more prone to accident, require more staff, and so-on. Sydney 8-car double-decker trains carry how many people at a time (even with the guard)?

My basic point of comparison here is Singapore, which has immense bus-terminals, but they're generally all linked to their MRT system. I used the buses quite often, but I can't say I found the expereince very comfortable: and it generally involved waiting in a very long queue prior to getting on the bus. It wasn't the speed of the bus that was important, it was the time taken loading and unloading, and the rather circuitous routes designed to meet all takers.
 

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sydney_lad said:
The nimbys in the Northern Beaches and Eastern Suburbs would rather drink an off latte than have a rail line.
They'd like the rail line, they just don't like the stations in residential areas. Not really a problem in the Eastern suburbs because there a numerous strip malls of varying sizes, more of a problem on the Northern Beaches.
 

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The ideal place for busways is in areas of varying density, where not too far from the core busway there are lower density areas that cannot be serviced by rail due to the cost/benefit.

The major reason it works better than say bus>train>train>bus is because for the same journey you'd just need bus>bus. You think loading times are important? You can always put more places to load from or longer platforms etc etc. It's wait times that are. No point in waiting 30minutes for a train that carries 750 people when you can wait 2 minutes for a bus tha carries 50.

Heavy / Metro rail certainly has it's place, especially when you can totally automate them and avoid 'driver strikes'. Rail without it's own full time ROW is worthless, and costs more than providing ROW for busses, once you have to have a driver, they might as well steer too.

There's something great about hopping on a bus in the city, with it's own ROW until it's out of the inner city, opening a book and not having to look up till you're 200m from your house, even living in the burbs.
 
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