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Author Topic: Brisbane's public transport through American eyes  (Read 2641 times)

Offline triplethree

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Brisbane's public transport through American eyes
« on: June 12, 2012, 08:17:45 PM »
A friend of mine from Dallas, Texas is currently visiting Australia, and on the weekend he visited Brisbane and the Gold Coast. On Saturday I played the tour guide and showed him around inner-city Brisbane. We used the following services:
  • 385 Paddington to King George Square
  • CityCat South Bank to Regatta
  • CityCat Regatta to Sydney Street
  • 196 Sydney Street to Fortitude Valley
  • Train Fortitude Valley to South Brisbane
  • 196 Melbourne Street to West End
  • 199 West End to Cultural Centre
  • 385 Cultural Centre to Bardon
Contrary to popular stereotypes, Dallas has a reasonably comprehensive public transport system. My friend doesn't use it to get to work, but he lives in a middle-distance, middle-class, post-war suburb right near a light rail line on exclusive right-of-way that is frequent (I think he said every 15 mins) and he uses that whenever he wants to go into the CBD.

Which makes it all the more pleasing that he was very, very impressed with Brisbane's public transport services. He loved the frequency (the longest we had to wait for a service was 13 minutes), the Go Card and the free transfers. He absolutely fell in love with the CityCats. Of course, not all was perfect - especially the quality of passenger information, of which more below. Here are some specific details of our journey ...

Go Card availability: I strongly advised my friend to purchase a Go Card as it would make our lives easier for the day, and he saved $5.30 compared to paper tickets, even taking into account the $5 card deposit and $5 minimum top-up. So we walked 15 minutes down the hill to Paddington so he could get one. I don't understand why you can't buy one in Bardon - there are several convenience stores here, so why don't they sell them? Go Cards should be as ubiquitous as cigarettes, chewing gum and mobile phone recharges. (Actually, considering that Go Cards are far healthier than cigarettes, they should be even more ubiquitous!) The 15 minute walk down to Paddo is another 15 minutes we could have spent seeing things.

Sydney Street ferry terminal: We got off the CityCat at Sydney Street, a perfect interchange point between the CityCat, the CityFerry and the 196 BUZ. You beaut, gee whiz, ridgey didge and all that! So you walk up the pontoon and onto dry land, and there's this big display with the ferry timetables. But is there anything showing you where the buses leave from? Nope! I'm not intimately acquainted with the back streets of New Farm, never having lived there, nor have I memorised the Refidex page of the area or the timetable route map. So we ended up just following random people until we saw a bus stop on the other side of an intersection. Our hopes renewed, we made a keen dash for the stop, only to find that it was the stop for the 193 shopping trolley. Then my friend spotted another stop down a side street, and just as we were walking towards it, two 196s appeared to save our bacon! Still, we shouldn't have had to go on a merry little Easter egg hunt just to find out where our stop was. This is where we need one of TripleThree's Connecting Services Diagrams!

Friendly drivers: My friend was amazed at how friendly and courteous the public transport staff we encountered throughout the day were. And he comes from Texas, a state whose name means "friendly". He got into a great conversation with the two 196 drivers, and they even obliged when he asked them if they could take their photo - beaming smiles and all!

Blame it on the boogie: We stopped in at the Wickham in the Valley for a cleansing ale, and as the sun went down this came on:
http://img69.imageshack.us/img69/4259/wickhamlantern.jpg

It was this weird rotating disco lantern slide projector thingy projected from the hotel awning down onto the footpath on Wickham Street. The stupid thing was, it kept rotating 360 degrees, and as it rotated the direction of the arrows kept changing. In that photo the arrows are pointing down Alden Street - a blind alley. No buses or taxis down there!

So close, yet so far: We went to grab dinner in West End, and I reckoned (wrongly) that the quickest way would be to catch a train to South Bris and then walk/bus down Melbourne Street rather than walk to Ann St and catch the CityGlider or the 199 the whole way. As it turned out, we ended up waiting 13 mins for a southside train (it was running late). While waiting, we tried using this thing I've never seen before, on Platforms 1 & 2:
http://img708.imageshack.us/img708/6435/valleystationinfo.jpg

Looks great, doesn't it? Yeah, it's perfect. Except that it didn't work! You can see the Blue Doughnut of Death up the top. It did eventually respond to our manic finger-pressing, but it took several minutes each time. I don't know, perhaps these things are usually in good order and we were just unlucky? And isn't "valley" supposed to be capitalised? We definitely need more of these machines as long as they're operational with correct spelling.

Y U No Give Maps?: My friend wanted a transport map so he could at least orient himself while using the system and figure out which trains and buses to catch. I explained that the bus network was so horrendously complex that it would be cartographically impossible to depict the entire network on a single sheet map, but that train stations should be able to give maps out. We couldn't find a map on the platform at Fortitude Valley, but we did find one on board the train (though you really need one BEFORE you get on the train, so you can see where the trains go!) When we alighted at South Brisbane my friend made a bee line for the ticket office, and asked for a rail system map. The station attendants looked as if he had just asked where he could buy an elephant ear sandwich. First there was confusion ("A map? What's THAT?"), then mild panic at the thought that someone might have the temerity to ask for timely and accurate geographic information about how to use the transport system, then a frenzied search through drawers and shelves looking for a map, and eventually someone found a single-sided A4 colour laser printout of the rail and busway network map. Not an A2 or A3 fold-up sheet map on glossy paper with information about fares, Go Cards, network information, station index, etc. on the back like you find in most civilised cities. Just a printout I could make with my computer and printer at home.

Go Card minimum $5 top-up: As our trip home required a connection at the Cultural Centre where my friend would have alighted with a negative Go Card balance, he needed to top up - only about $2 was required. So we went to the 7-Eleven at West End, where he was told the minimum top-up was $5. I thought that rule was only for the ticket vending machines. I can see why this rule is in place (to minimise admin costs), but still, this rule treats short-term visitors and infrequent users rather poorly. Oh well, at least he'll have more money on his Go Card if he ever visits Brisbane again!

So there's Brisbane's public transport system through the eyes of an overseas tourist - the good, the bad and the hideously ugly. I must say that it was very educational to experience the public transport system I use many times every week from the perspective of an American!
This is the Night Mail, crossing the border
Bringing the cheque and the postal order
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor
The shop at the corner and the girl next door
--"Night Mail", W.H. Auden

somebody

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Re: Brisbane's public transport through American eyes
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2012, 09:59:31 PM »
Interesting.  He could have gotten a cash refund (including deposit) at the International Airport station before he left on his Go Card.

I think the US's reputation is largely well earned.  Wiki reckons 228k daily riders on the DART.  Could be worse; it's around Auckland's patronage but a bigger city.

Quote
http://img69.imageshack.us/img69/4259/wickhamlantern.jpg
I'm sure I've seen that on a night Nightlink doesn't operate also.  ::)

Offline techblitz

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Re: Brisbane's public transport through American eyes
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2012, 10:12:36 PM »
No it wasnt just you....used those help terminals once at roma street and got the exact same quality of use as you did.Lag with no response.I gave up after a couple of minutes looking at the non functioning piece of junk.
Looks like the things run on an ajax or jquery touch based scripting language which is known to be buggy and laggy. Looks like more wasted money.

Offline SurfRail

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Re: Brisbane's public transport through American eyes
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2012, 10:21:02 PM »
No it wasnt just you....used those help terminals once at roma street and got the exact same quality of use as you did.Lag with no response.I gave up after a couple of minutes looking at the non functioning piece of junk.
Looks like the things run on an ajax or jquery touch based scripting language which is known to be buggy and laggy. Looks like more wasted money.

Especially since TransLink already have their own information machines available for installation.
Ride the G:

Offline triplethree

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Re: Brisbane's public transport through American eyes
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2012, 11:02:16 PM »
Interesting.  He could have gotten a cash refund (including deposit) at the International Airport station before he left on his Go Card.
Can you get the refund from Domestic? My friend flew DFW-BNE, then BNE-ASP, he'll soon fly ASP-SYD then SYD-DFW. In any case it's too late now, but it's only $8.95 we're talking about, I'm sure he'll live!

Quote from: Simon
I think the US's reputation is largely well earned.  Wiki reckons 228k daily riders on the DART.  Could be worse; it's around Auckland's patronage but a bigger city.
Ouch. I just went to the DART website, they claim 220k per day. In a service area of 2.27 million people when you sum up the 2010 Census populations of all thirteen member councils. Not good. Oh, BTW, the day before I showed our esteemed tourist around Brisbane, I showed him around the Gold Coast - I met him at the airport and we drove down the M1 in his hire car. He was profoundly disturbed at how identical Gold Coast buses were to Dallas buses! Check it out:

Gold Coast:
http://img204.imageshack.us/img204/5129/31august2008840athelensqb3.jpg

Dallas:
http://www.dart.org/images/guide-bus.jpg

Quote from: Simon
I'm sure I've seen that on a night Nightlink doesn't operate also.  ::)
Yes, and this lantern thingamyjig turned on about 6pm - six hours until Nightlink begins!

No it wasnt just you....used those help terminals once at roma street and got the exact same quality of use as you did.Lag with no response.I gave up after a couple of minutes looking at the non functioning piece of junk.
Looks like the things run on an ajax or jquery touch based scripting language which is known to be buggy and laggy. Looks like more wasted money.
It's so nice to know that things aren't my fault, thanks :) I agree, this QR-only piece of machinery is a sad indication that the "silo mentality" between different operators in South East Queensland still persists EIGHT YEARS after TransLink was formed!
This is the Night Mail, crossing the border
Bringing the cheque and the postal order
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor
The shop at the corner and the girl next door
--"Night Mail", W.H. Auden

Offline Golliwog

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Re: Brisbane's public transport through American eyes
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2012, 11:54:03 PM »
I recall a Translink announcement or something when they introduced those Nightlink/Taxi spot lights. Not sure what the deal with them was other than that they were being installed at popular clubs/bars/etc. This would suggest however that they aren't controlled by TL, but the club who'll turn them on and use them however they want.

Arrow's actually pointing the right way? Who cares about that!
There is no silver bullet… but there is silver buckshot.
Never argue with an idiot. They'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

Offline HappyTrainGuy

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Re: Brisbane's public transport through American eyes
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2012, 12:09:46 AM »
Stupid things. Just useless after consuming a few drinks. I thought I saw it once. Took me 20 minutes to figure out it was just a ceiling light  :conf
"What housing crisis?? There are plenty of free mobile apartments rolling around on the rails every day"

somebody

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Re: Brisbane's public transport through American eyes
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2012, 08:37:59 AM »
Can you get the refund from Domestic?
Yes.  Not from the coast airports though, unfortunately.

If he really wants he can get a cheque sent (I think), but it would be in Australian currency - not worth it!

 

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“You can't understand a city without using its public transportation system.” -- Erol Ozan