Inefficient, unreliable, infrequent, unaffordable: every day, more people are becoming fed up with the current public transport system. Is it time for a massive overhaul of our bus network?

By Liam Rowe, 2018 Youth Member for Pine Rivers

Every day, more people are becoming fed up with the current public transport system. They are abandoning public transport for the car, and adding to the congestion on our city’s roads.

Inefficiency, unreliability, low service frequency and unaffordability are the main issues that people complain about when considering public transport. In fact, the bus on-time running percentage declined from 95.51% in the first quarter of the 2015-16 financial year to 94.45% in the final quarter of the 2016-17 financial year. People do not want to pay more when the buses aren’t showing up on time.

A key issue is that Brisbane City Council is running in competition against Queensland Rail, resulting in a large number of CBD-bound bus routes basically duplicating train lines. This is a major cause of the inefficient and unreliable bus network, and fares being higher than other Australian capital cities.

Having too many buses in the CBD is one of the main contributors to congestion, which delays many bus services that travel into the CBD. There are currently over 600 buses entering the city during peak hours and consuming much of the space on the roads.

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Bus congestion on Victoria Bridge

With CBD access for many residential neighbourhoods mainly provided by peak-only buses, this means that there are many areas without bus services outside of peak times. Route P341, otherwise known as the Taigum Rocket, is an example of this. It is the only bus route that travels through Fitzgibbon, and only runs during peak-hour. As such, the entire estate is not serviced by any bus outside of peak-hour. There are many routes in the Redlands that do this as well, including route 251 to Ormiston.

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Route P341 moving along Elizabeth Street, travelling to Taigum via Fitzgibbon

Having too many bus services travel all the way into the CBD from the outer suburbs isn’t the most cost-effective way for buses to travel. This is the main reason why public transport fares are as high as they are.

To improve reliability, efficiency and affordability, the bus network needs to be reformed so fewer bus services travel into the CBD. Only routes serving inner suburbs and high patronage express routes should travel into the CBD. The lower patronage neighbourhood services should only travel short distances, conveying passengers to major transport hubs such as train stations and interchanges along the high patronage bus routes. This is shown schematically below.

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Ineffective (L) and effective (R) transport planning

Without proper bus reform, more people will stop catching public transport, and Brisbane’s traffic woes will worsen to a point that it’ll become unbearable for the whole city. We must see these changes.