Sunday, March 23, 2008

go figure

For a long while I have been watching and waiting for the full introduction of TransLink’s vision: integrated smart card travel.

Getting a clearer picture of people’s public transport habits and ticketless transition from one mode to another was going to allow transport planners to better design routes and timetables to make urban transport seamless.

So what’s in it for those mystery people who calmly beep through the barriers at Central?

go cards are "designed to make catching public transport simpler, whilst as much as possible ensuring that existing costs of travel are maintained.'

For a standard working week – Monday to Friday – I take 10 ‘trips’. If I buy a weekly ticket, I pay for 4 days peak fare and get my Friday thrown in for free (which is ironic, because it is the day I’d least like to go to work).

For this regime a go card is neutral (apart from the intro fee). After 6 trips in a 7 day period, the rest of your travel is half price, effectively meaning that Thursday and Friday are half price.

Of course what you don’t get is any travel on the weekend. My current weekly (or monthly) ticket gives me FREE travel – within my allotted zone - on Saturday and Sunday; something a go card doesn’t do.

These days, I do a fair amount of travelling on public transport on weekend and this will definitely increase once the rugby season kicks in and we are making trips to the likes of Ashgrove, Everton Park, Albion (to play "The Filth") etc., not just on Saturdays, but now on Sundays. (Oh for the love of the game…)

In addition, we are often making extra trips on public transport during the week (and being a bit naughty: sharing my weekly ticket if Penny is making that extra trip).

All in, I’d say I get excellent value out of paper ticket thank you very much.

Till now, for Penny, things aren’t so clear cut. A weekly is hasn’t always the best value, as she hasn’t always required at least 4 days travel in a week (though again, this will change with rugby fixtures). Often Penny has to jump on and off public transport through the city (say at Central for a short while, then on to Buranda and possibly back to Central, then home). Technically speaking, what constitutes a ‘trip’? If she exits the transit system at Central, but a couple of hours later needs to travel to Buranda, is that 1 trip or 2?

Doing the sums gives a fairly clear-cut answer on what’s best for us: go card isn’t. The fare structure is clearly designed for the public transport commuter/private car owner. Nothing about it is transformative: in a sense it is transport paradigm neutral. Offering nothing to the likes of me, and just a few minutes of convenience each month to the typical Brisbane household.

So why worry? Well, you just know that in a few years time we will be made to get one: paper tickets will be thing of the past and full and regular users of public transport will be made to pay more than they did before.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Measuring our cycling

There is a funky Web 2.0 mash-up at where you can plot your route on a Google map.

Though obviously made for runners [and I'd never do anything that rash], it's good for plotting how far we cycle/walk.

Bikes on trains and getting to Ballymore

More rugby stuff; this time at Ballymore for the "Reds Family Fun Day".

Ballymore has a wonderful setting; in parkland next to Breakfast Creek. Sadly, this means it's a pig to get to, whether you are on foot, in the car or using public transport.

Our choice was train it to Bowen Hills, change, then out to Windsor station, then cycle from there; half on road; half on bikepath [4.67km return + 2km to the station at our end].

Trains on bikes

I have often taken my bike on QR CityTrains. If you are willing to cycle a few kilometres at either end, it is a useful way of extending the 'reach' of public transport corridors, or to enjoy recreational cycling in a totally different part of the city.

But it is never really easy; clearly it was never envisioned that taking bikes on trains was going to be commonplace in Brisbane as neither the stations, platforms or rolling stock were designed with bicycles in mind.

Central station platforms 5 and 6 - I think - are the only platforms that don't involve a 30cm step up to the carriage: Small kids trying to lift heavy bikes up onto trains, panicking that the doors are going to close on them, always creates tension.

If they could just wheel them on; it would be so much calmer.

CityTrain's new rolling stock does cater better for cyclists, with large roomy, seatless areas at the rear of each unit.

But there are only 4 new [double] units in operation. And sadly most of the time they ply the AirTrain route, presumably so they don't get too grubby from too many customers! Most of the old rolling stock is exceptionally cramped with bicycles on board.

On Sunday, there was a whole bunch of people with their bikes on board (most of them kids, I'm happy to say).

QR should start retro-fitting some of this old rolling stock, by stripping out some seats and having a large bike area near at least one set of doors per 3-car unit.

Maybe that way, QR would be more willing to accede to Council requests to allow bikes on board at peak times to encourage cross-modal transit.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Reds crushed

Cycled to Toombul shopping centre for a few errands; it was such a nice day we decided to have lunch at Kalinga Park [7.6km return].

Late afternoon we took the train to Roma Street and walked up the hill to Lang Park (like we normally would) to see the Reds get crushed by a classy Stormers side (as normally happens).

At least the boys got to walk around the pitch during the Junior Rugby march pass.

Friday, March 7, 2008

First rugby training

The main challenge today was getting to the rugby club at Hugh Courtney Oval [3.7km] for the boy's evening training session; kicking off around 5.30pm and normally going on for an hour (though in this instance it was more like 2 1/2 as it was a grading night.

We are reluctant to cycle there as it means cycling back in the dark with two knackered kids.

For this week, as both Penny and me had knocked-off work early, we walked down to the club. It took a while (45 mins), but hey, a beautiful warm afternoon, walking by Kedron Brook, through Kalinga Park, is pretty pleasant way to pass the time all the same.

Too bad Campbell Newman* wants to destroy most of it by gouging a massive car tunnel through it.

Ordered a taxi for the trip home; about $11.

For next week's training, I can catch a bus out of town that drops me pretty much at the club; the others may walk.

Plan B, is just cycle in the dark.

*Oh, and the Labor Group. Actually, everyone but The Greens.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Giving up the car - Week 2

OK, so I've had to hire a car a couple of times this week due to the fact there are still many places even just a few kms from the CBD that are completely inaccessible by public transport. Unfortunately these more industrial areas are where I often get the work. But, I'm still in the money.

With planning, you can cram a lot into those hire car days... grocery shopping, going to the cash & carry, taking all that old stuff to the charity shop, popping in to IKEA for a couple of things and coming out $500 later...and so on. Why spread all of those chores out when you can squeeze them in to that one or two days when you have the luxury of a car.

The best part about hiring a car has to be the fact that you get a new, well-maintained car without 3 pairs of smelly socks, football boots and old chip packets on the back seat.

  • Money saved: -$67.46 (To date: $265.84)
  • Exercise: a lot !

Monday, March 3, 2008

Roads, mostly

I flexed-off work today and Penny didn't have any on, so we enjoy a day sans les enfants.

Took off for Shornecliffe on the bikes, along Shultz Canal and across the Boondall Wetlands for a fine lunch at the Full Moon.

After exercise, a couple of beers, a good feed and sitting in the warm sun, you loose the enthusiasm for further exersion, so we only managed a few more kms up the promenade before kopping out and catching the train home.

All-in, did 31kms.

Sadly, construction of another Gateway motorway (sorry "upgrade") is well underway, meaning a great swathe of the Ramsar Convention listed Moreton Bay wetlands - bought-up by the ratepayers of Brisbane - is being bulldozed under a mass of ashphalt and concrete.

Ironically, this is an initiative from the [Smart-] State government. Cars are the way of the future, apparently.

I'd hate to think that Queensland is 25 years behind the times when it comes to transport policy thinking.

I was saddened to see that there were no protestors lying in front of bulldozers and chaining themselves to trees.

When I think back to how much trouble the UK authorities went through to build the Newbury Bypass all those years ago - and that was just through an oak and beech tree thicket.

I thought about doing an Arthur Dent and laying fruitlessly in the mud and arguing with a pointless bureaucrat. But then, well, you know, "bypasses have to built".