Frequency really is freedom

One of the very constant and justified criticisms of the public transport in SEQ is the overall poor frequency, of both rail and bus, as you move out from the inner CBD core and surrounding suburbs, frequency drops off rapidly

Jarrett Walker coined the term " Frequency is freedom ". One of the most important determinants of patronage outcomes is that services must be frequent. Rail services at 30 minutes or hourly, or worse, connected to bus services at similar poor frequencies make it very difficult for people to use the system. It matters little if the buses are wrapped in pretty colours, there is free wifi on board trains and buses, and you can see your next train or bus connection is 50 minutes way with real time. What does drive patronage in the final analysis is how long do we have to wait?

The railway to Springfield Central has 30 minute off peak trains with very poor connecting and feeder bus arrangements. We do not know what the overall train or bus frequency will be for the Moreton Bay Rail Link, but past experiences in SEQ suggest we are unlikely to be surprised about service frequency, particularly off peak. Billions of dollars invested for very poor service arrangements.

There are constant claims by the authorities that there are not enough resources to increase frequency where it matters, out in the suburbs. Well maybe it is time for some new thinking.

Fifteen minute service is the without doubt the real aim. Perth WA, has generally 15 minute train frequency or better when it matters, supported by frequent feeder and connected bus services. Patronage on trains in Perth is 13 million more passengers annually than Brisbane, a city with a smaller population. It shows potentially what can be achieved in SEQ.

OK, how do we proceed from here? It might be time to think incrementally. It might be within resources sooner to aim for 20 minute train frequency as a transition to 15 minutes. On the outer Caboolture, Ipswich, Shorncliffe Cleveland lines, and Springfield Central and Kippa-Ring lines, a change from 30 minutes to 20 minutes frequency means effectively 3 trains per hour instead of 2. A significant improvement from the present situation. Twenty minute frequency on the Ipswich line will be still be manageable in terms of the freight train paths required.

Bus network reform for Brisbane will allow for increases in feeder and connecting buses in the suburbs to match the improved train frequency.

Fare reform alone will not drive patronage increases, there needs to be a significant boost in service frequency, particularly out in the suburbs.

Again I stress 15 minutes is the real aim, however if that is beyond the present resources, just maybe 20 minutes might be a good staging point. Other jurisdictions have done this with excellent results.

For example in Melbourne, both the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines run largely at 20 minute frequency off peak, they overlap at Dandenong, which means a 10 minute frequency between Dandenong and CBD!

Similar things can be achieved for SEQ.

New thinking required Queensland.