WorldTransport Forum Comment on WTPP Vol 12, No. 3
Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2006 10:19:15 +1000
As a resident of Brisbane, I hope nobody takes offence at the following and hope it will result in ongoing detailed critical review rather than international conferences and other promotional material that promotes our Busways without reference to impacts and context.
I totally agree with the points John raises below which were to all intents completely ignored in the initial decisions by government in regard to transport planning and provision in SEQ (including the Busways) and thus continue to be ignored ..
So Brisbane has Busways, but it is also about to spend over $2 billion on a tunnel for more convenient travel by car ... and there are several more tunnels planned .. also for cars ...! This of course was predictable ... see http://www.yeatesit.biz/transfiles/busways.pdf
Did anybody consider how this would impact on children walking or cycling to school, to illustrate just one of John's points below?
Put simply, it is far too easy to focus on the easier or more politically acceptable parts of integrated planning rather than "integrate" the complexity of issues ... and in many ways, the energy<>pollution issues are relatively easy for as is well known, if not often accepted by politicians and other interested decision makers, traffic prediction is not exactly accurate or even reasonably reliable.
Put another way, as Bent Flyvbjerg et al and others have shown, these big projects rarely if ever have legitimate well researched and well supported justification that is then monitored and evaluated critically and independently over time so not surprisingly the benefits are exaggerated and the costs underestimated or ignored ... exactly what is happening in Brisbane with its billion dollar Busways and billion dollar tunnels ... paradoxically, all designed (not necessarily intentionally or explicitly) for more cars on the roads ....
For example soon after the first Busway was opened, an informal platform survey found that most of the passengers either (i) worked at or near the outer end major regional retail centre (ie Garden City at Upper Mt Gravatt) and were primarily using the busway for additional non-essential trips that they would never have done before the Busway or (ii) drove to the Busway often a longer distance than previously (another form of induced travel) and quite a few of these had transferred from using rail (30 minute frequency) to using the much higher frequency buses on the Busway but relying on the very large and very expensive Park'n'Ride parking because there was so little improvement in service levels of local buses as a result of the Busway. Why? Because virtually all the buses went into the CBD on the Busway.
Aside from recent transport conferences held in Brisbane with a focus on the Busways, there has been an enormous effort put into publicising the Busways in Brisbane and beyond.
But at the same time, there has been almost no critical review so it is not surprising that people see the aspects that have been promoted.
There is however some information about the busways provided via investigations by the Queensland Parliament Public Works Committee (see http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/view/committees/committees.asp?area=PWC&LIndex=7&SubArea=PWC )
see PWC Report 39 and a further report (which reduced criticism) at PWC Report 42 at http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/view/committees/committees.asp?area=PWC&LIndex=7&SubArea=reports&Bindex=3
Transcripts of public hearings can be found at
Also, while there has been rhetorical support for "integrated" public transport, in fact nearly 10 years later, very few buses go close to the some 70 train stations in Brisbane because the bus system still remains extremely radial ... a point further exaggerated by the Busways ... thus the buses and Busways operate in opposition to, rather than in "integrated" support of, the already high capacity rail system.
So not surprisingly, there is a major congestion problem with buses in the CBD approaches and an increasingly greater layby and float problem .. the solution to which is building more Busways (extensions underway in the CBD right now).
But like cars, more buses simply congest the roads once their useful role and performance is exceeded ... so SEQ is rapidly becoming a case study well worth considering as to whether BRT and an emphasis on buses is simply the result of conceptual thinking that sees buses as more efficient cars ... and Busways as freeways for buses ...!
But in addition, Brisbane now has a series of related problems ... not enough buses ... but then it is argued, there is nowhere for more buses as the CBD and approaches are already congested ...!
Busways are no different to freeways and motorways ... they provide a dream of unlimited capacity, flexibility and utility when opened but end up congested and in need of increased capacity ... .
Until the points that John makes below are also included, rail will be seen as too expensive and inflexible by those who regard buses as large cars ...
You might also find it useful to see what has been said eg
Paul Mees at http://www.brisinst.org.au/resources/brisinst_publictrans.html
Peter Newman at http://www.brisinst.org.au/resources/newman_peter_busway.html
and some of my own articles at
These are sourced from a collection of articles at http://www.brisinst.org.au/resources/brisbane_institute_transportseries.html
The local newspaper is "The Courier-Mail" which has current news at http://www.couriermail.news.com.au/queensland and recent news at http://www.couriermail.news.com.au/archives
So if anyone wants a research topic of local<>global interest and importance, come to Brisbane and have a long critical look ... but please, if you really want to get behind the rhetoric and marketing/promotional hype, be prepared to try to travel without relying on using a car.