Archive for December, 2013

A merry Christmas to all the readers. Here’s hoping Santa was kind to you this year. This blog’s author, historically a Westie – though residing in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs these days, received a Western Sydney Wanderer’s jersey.

WSW

Western Sydney also received some good news right before Christmas in the form of support for an airport at Badgery’s Creek from Liverpool Council, which includes the Badgery’s Creek area. It’s clear that the debate over an airport has moved on from whether one should be built, and is now over how best to build one so that Western Sydney receives the maximum benefit.

Today’s post is about engineering solutions for efficient movement of people in the form of 2 videos.

The first is in Spanish with English subtitles from Santiago, Chile (taken from the great transport blog Human Transit). It explains how a gate in the middle of a platform ensures that passengers enter the train carriage at the right spot, rather than trying to jockey for a good position when leaving the carriage onto the platform. While this gate appears irrational from the perspective of the individual, it makes the movement of people more efficient overall, even to the benefit of those who might appear to be worse off as a result.

In Sydney, the marshal’s trialled at Town Hall appear to mimic this sort of idea. While the North West Rail Link could initially see overcrowding at Chatswood as large numbers of passengers transfer from one train to another until such a time as a second Harbour Crossing is completed. Both scenarios could learn something from this low-tech engineering solution.

The second video looks at how intersections in the Netherlands are designed to allow bikes and cars to cross safely. The simplicity of the solution is breathtaking. Even more impressive is the way it allows right hand turns to be executed safely and easily (in the video they are left hand turns, due to the Dutch driving on the opposite side of the road to Australians).

With the accelerated expansion of bike paths in Sydney, this is also somewhere that city planners in Sydney could learn a thing or two from overseas.

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Public transport in Sydney is going through a complete re-vamp, with “The Hop” becoming the universal brand for public transport. This is an essential part of creating a system that is seen as a complete and unified public transport network, rather than one which is just a collection of networks (rail, ferry, various bus operators, etc) cobbled together. It also presents an opportunity to create information for the passenger (or “customers” as the government now insists on calling them) that is prepared in a way that is most logical and useful from their perspective.

This food court is connected to the train station via an underground walkway, though it still takes 1-2 minutes to reach the platform on foot. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

This food court is connected to the train station via an underground walkway, though it still takes 1-2 minutes to reach the platform on foot. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

The introduction of real time data for transport apps (first for buses, then later for trains) is a definite improvement. Providing passenger information displays (PIDs) on the Sydney Trains network in locations other than on the platforms or next to the ticket gates is another good move. Two examples of the latter include the PIDs that were put into the Westfield food court adjoining Parramatta train station many years ago (see image above), allowing passengers to see when the next train arrives before beginning a walk to the platform which could take a number of minutes; while a more recent installation of PIDs near the street entrance of the shopping arcade that leads into Wynyard Station (see image below) tell passengers when the next train to a particular station arrives and to which platform, removing the need for them to check all upcoming trains to work out which one will get them to their destination first.

Wynyard Station itself is located within a shopping arcade, so the distance from the entrance at the street to the station proper involves a not insignificant walk. That makes this passenger information display at the arcade's entrance a valuable addition for passengers. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

Wynyard Station itself is located within a shopping arcade, so the distance from the entrance at the street to the station proper involves a not insignificant walk. That makes this passenger information display at the arcade’s entrance a valuable addition for passengers. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

This final example is actually a step back in time to the 1990s, when PIDs were often organised in this way. At major stations, passengers could look up their station from an alphabetically ordered list to see which train would get them to that destination fastest. This is important, as the quickest journey may not simply be the next train to arrive, such as if a subsequent train is an express that overtakes the earlier train.

Today this system of communicating information is all but gone. Even the example above from Wynyard isn’t as straightforward and logical as first appears. Rather than ordering stations in an easy to look up manner, it orders them in chronological order of soon to arrive trains. It also only lists major stations.

Someone taking a train on the Western Line or T1 must now look at 3 different screens to work out which train to catch. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

Someone taking a train on the Western Line or T1 must now look at 3 different screens to work out which train to catch. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

On top of this, the process of looking up train services by line has been complicated by the re-naming of lines to numbers (T1, T2, T3, etc).  Someone who wants to reach Westmead from Central, for example, should take a train on the Western Line (T1). But there are 3 different PIDs for T1 (see image above), and each of them lists all the line names (Western/Northern/North Shore), rather than the more logical choice of labelling them T1 – North Shore/Northern (left), T1 – Western (middle), T1 – Northern (right). This would allow the passenger to focus on the middle PID to find when the next train to Westmead is and which station they need to go to. Given that this very information is available a short walk from where these PIDs are (see image below), giving this information in that format should not be a difficult thing to achieve.

Some station information does split out the new amalgamated train lines into their component parts, to allow passengers to work out which platform their train departs from. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

Some station information does split out the new amalgamated train lines into their component parts, to allow passengers to work out which platform their train departs from. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

Even better, Transport for NSW could return to providing information to passengers by first asking them where they want to go, then telling them the best way of getting there. This would be a big improvement of the current system where the passenger must also work out how to reach their destination, then look at the relevant PID and wait for all the stations to scroll along before determining when and where to go for their next train.

13 rapid bus routes featuring high frequencies all day and with stops as far as 1km apart are to be created in coming years as part of a state government initiative to revamp Sydney’s bus network. These will be supplemented by an additional 20 suburban routes, with retain the traditional 400m stop spacing and often act as feeder services to heavy rail, light rail, or rapid bus routes. Altogether, 1.5m people will live within a 10 minute walk of a bus stop for one of these 33 routes, while 90% of Sydney’s population will remain within 400m of a bus stop.

Proposed rapid and suburban bus routes for Sydney. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney Bus Future, pp. 18-19)

Proposed rapid and suburban bus routes for Sydney. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney Bus Future, pp. 18-19)

Longer stop spacing will allow for faster journeys. For example, the duration of a trip from Ryde to the CBD would drop from 37 minutes to 25-30 minutes. But it would require some passengers to walk further to reach the nearest bus stop, sometimes 400m-600m further.

Frequencies would also be guaranteed between the hours of 6AM and 7PM, with 5-10 minute frequencies in the weekday peak and 10-15 minute frequencies in the weekday off-peak or weekends. Currently, only metrobuses offer this sort of frequency guarantee, and then only run at 20 minute frequencies in the evening and on weekends.

Though most of Sydney is within 400m of public transport (left), only small parts of it are close to frequenct transport all day (right). The new rapid and suburban routes will aim to increase this coverage. Click to englarge. (Source: Sydney Alliance.)

Though most of Sydney is within 400m of public transport (left), only small parts of it are close to frequenct transport all day (right). The new rapid and suburban routes will aim to increase this coverage. Click to englarge. (Source: Sydney Alliance.)

This would therefore represent a significant improvement to Sydney’s all day high frequency network, as measured by areas within 400m of a transport service every 15 minutes every day of the week. This network currently exists for parts of Inner Sydney, but is woefully inadequate for most of Western Sydney.

2013-12-12 Rapid and Suburban bus table

Click to enlarge

This all makes a rebranding of Sydney’s buses much more likely. Previously, buses were branded based on the operator. Currently all buses are being given the Transport for NSW sky blue bus colours, except for the red metrobuses and green shuttle buses. This new proposal would convert this into a different 3-tiered system, with rapid, suburban, and local buses.

Buses in Sydney used to be branded based on operator, such as STA (top left) or Hillsbus (top right). Today the are being converted to be branded by purpose, such as shuttle bus (bottom left) or metrobus (bottom right). The next move appears to move to a rapid, suburban, local bus structure. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

Buses in Sydney used to be branded based on operator, such as STA (top left) or Hillsbus (top right). Today the are being converted to be branded by purpose, such as shuttle bus (bottom left) or metrobus (bottom right). The next move appears to move to a rapid, suburban, local bus structure. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

Bus Rapid Transit is also put forward as a future possibility for 3 corridors: Parramatta Road, Victoria Road, and the Northern Beaches, while the report also suggests a possible extension of the currently under construction light rail line on Anzac Parade South of Kingsford as well as construction of the Western Sydney Light Rail Network proposed by the Parramatta City Council.

Transport for NSW’s Opal smartcard begins operating on the 333 bus today. While the bus trial began earlier with the 594-594H bus, this represents the first major bus route to begin operating with Opal, and one that also feeds into the Eastern Suburbs Line on which Opal also currently operates.

Opal brochure stating that the 594/594H and 333 bus routes will form part of the trial for buses. Click to enlarge. (Source: Beau Giles)

Opal brochure stating that the 594/594H and 333 bus routes will form part of the trial for buses. Click to enlarge. (Source: Beau Giles)

This rollout was previously hinted at by the inclusion of the 333 bus route in the Opal brochures (image above), and by the expansion of Opal top-up locations to places along the 333 route to Bondi Beach (image below).

Opal top up locations have begun to pop up between Bondi Junction and Bondi Beach, suggesting the 333 will be the next bus route on which Opal will be rolled out to. All other top up locations are near train stations and ferry stops on which Opal currently operates. Click to enlarge. (Source: Beau Giles)

Opal top up locations began to pop up between Bondi Junction and Bondi Beach well before the 333 was confirmed as the next bus route on which Opal would be rolled out to. All other top up locations are near train stations and ferry stops on which Opal already operated. Click to enlarge. (Source: Beau Giles)

This suggests that Opal top up locations are a good predictor of which routes Opal is set to be rolled out to.

Opal top ups at these locations would be consistent with the next Opal route passing through both Coogee and Randwick (such as the 373, 373, or 314).  But the low number also suggests that this could be some time away.

What has been confirmed is that the next expansion of Opal on the rail network will be on the Northern and North Shore Lines, out to the Central Coast, followed by the Western Line. Both of these are scheduled to occur in the first quarter of 2014. However, based on past experience, Opal’s rollout has generally happened 1-4 months ahead of the initial timetable, so this could occur as early as December (unless Transport for NSW decides to pause the rollout during the Christmas/New Year period).

Opal was initially said to be completely rolled out “by 2015”, but more recent announcements have begun to mention “end of 2014” instead, a sign that the rollout is on or ahead of the initial schedule. Opal was rolled out to all ferries in August earlier this year, while there is still no word on when it will be rolled out to light rail, other than the “end of 2014”.