TRANSPORT | Losing connections

Posted on 08/03/2013

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Photo: JM John Armstrong & Ross Barber, Long Time, No See? Project

Yesterday I read about the State Government’s review of SEQ bus services, which is outlined online at http://translink.com.au/travel-information/service-updates/seq-bus-network-review. This has now prompted a small lobbying and letter writing campaign, as it appears that the direct bus route which runs mostly along Gympie Road will now terminate at Chermside Bus Interchange and require commuters to transfer. It will also include a few more back street detours to make the trip longer. The points I raise with elected representatives and the local newspaper are noted below. If anyone can think of additional points, then please let me know.

As an Aspley resident, I regularly use the 340 and find that this route, as a continuous route from Aspley to the city running every 15 minutes is not only efficient for me but also provides convenience and safety. I applauded the introduction last year of greater frequency of the 340 and noted news reports that stated this resulted in higher bus usage.

As I understand it, the proposal from the State Government is to discontinue the direct service from Carseldine/Aspley (and beyond) to the city. There is now an expectation that local residents change bus at Chermside to access buses to the city and the along teh Gympie Road corridor. I question the assertion that this is efficient. Data indicates that Aspley residents commute 9km for work, on average. This would mean significant numbers are commuting well beyond Chermside and towards the city, as the major employment and economic node. My experience using the 340 or 341 during peak times indicates that there are significant numbers of longer distance commuters using the bus.

The proposed changes will result in negative impacts which will become disincentives for bus usage including:

  • Added inconvenience and commute lengths, a loss of the gains made as a result of the northern busway and higher frequency. Council’s data indicates that people will only tolerate travel times of around 45 minutes for work. It is already taking 30 to 40 minutes to commute from Aspley to the city. This disrupts work/life/travel balance.
  • Inefficient linkages/transfers and unreliable connections for outer northern commuters at Carseldine Station and Chermside. Despite the high frequency of buses from Chermside to the City, there are times when I have waited up to 15 minutes for a connecting bus.
  • Issues of safety and security for night time commutes in areas which do not have significant passive surveillance, such as Chermside Bus Interchange
  • Value for money. Brisbane residents are already paying the third highest public transport fares in the world. The changes do not provide value for money from a user perspective.
  • The local area and Chermside do not offer the full range of employment, recreational, cultural, health and sporting opportunities required for social inclusion and wellbeing. Providing a local area service does not cancel out the need for direct routes to and from the city.

I believe the expectation of commuters to change buses on a major corridor – as the bus runs directly along Gympie Road for most of its journey – is ludicrous. The service seems to work well now and I believe most users, like me, are satisified with the current service. Corridors are built for transporting people and goods directly, not for imposing unnecessary disconnects and inconveniences for travel. This recommendation is not just poor planning but also poor service design.

Australia’s low density development, as is evident in Brisbane, means that outer suburbs are particularly vulnerable to social exclusion and disadvantage due to transport access and inequitable distribution of economic and social opportunities. Those residents tend to be car dependent and make more trips per day than residents of areas closer to the CBD or other centres. Similarly, some households, particularly low income households, are vulnerable to financial stresses from petrol costs. Dodson and Sipe’s VAMPIRE (Vulnerability Assessment for Mortgage, Petroleum and Inflation Risks and Expenses) Index identifies the extent of socio-economic stress in metropolitan areas, finding an overall national trend of a widening vulnerability gap. With urban structure and car reliance resulting in long commutes to employment, congestion negatively impacts on wellbeing and social capital. While the provision of increased public transport may seem like a solution to this issue, commutes on public transport can be crowded and longer than driving. Service and network design are key issues for public transport – this means enhancing the experience and accessibility. Public transport networks are rarely comprehensive and outer suburbs tend to experience more sparse servicing than middle and inner areas. Any reduction in mobility – be it for reasons of access or affordability – means that people are less able to connect with social, environmental and economic opportunities.

I have just participated in the BCC’s Active Aspley Community Planning Team which highlighted the strong links between public transport, walkability and cyclability. A small change to the bus service that generates disincentives can have a ripple effect and push people back into their cars.

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Posted in: transport