Thursday, August 25, 2016

Moggill Rd Congestion Study

What follows is a study I made some time ago into low cost ways of reducing congestion along Moggill Rd, a key through road that goes through Kenmore Brisbane near where I live.  The study is of general interest because many of the identified problems and solutions are applicable for a wide range of urban situations.
Moggill Rd suffers from serious congestion during morning and evening peak travel periods.  Doing something about this congestion is attractive because:
  1. It affects a large number of people
  2. There are plenty of smart, very low cost actions that could make a significant contribution.
  3. There is potential for low cost trials of various ideas.
  4. Many of the ideas could be applied in other areas
  5. Any credible solution will reduce car trips and/or emissions.
Disclaimers:
I (John D) am not a transport expert
Approach:
What follows are a few low cost ideas that are examples of what might be done. For simplicity, the examples I used are mainly based on morning congestion for the 5km strip between Kenmore plaza and Coronation Drive as well as travel from Southbank to the Tilbrook (Chapel Hill) bus stop, route 425 near where I live.
General strategies to reduce congestion:
  1. Reduce the need
  • Work at/close to home.
  • Commute fewer days per week.
  1. Move the need – avoid congestion by:
    • Choose workplace and home location so that travel avoids congestion.
    • Replace some weekday workdays with weekend workdays.
    • Work part of day at home to avoid peaks.
    • Move travel time away from peak.
  2. Change the mode.  ( Use bus/train/ferry/bike etc instead of car.)
  3. Use car sharing. (For Moggill electorate, at least 92% of car commutes are driver only.)
  4. Increase road capacity /remove bottlenecks
Comment: Working at home or riding a bike to work every working day has disadvantages. It may make sense to run a “One Day a Week” campaign aimed at encouraging car drivers to use an alternative to car driving commutes one day per week. Reduces commute emissions and contribution to congestion by a useful 20%.
Background Information:
Kenmore Plaza to Indooroopilly Shopping Center :
    1. Western freeway is clogged all the way back to Moggill Rd during morning peak. (Disincentive to use Western Freeway to avoid Moggill Rd congestion.)
    2. Last Western Freeway exit before city end of freeway discharges onto middle of stretch near Ootana Rd. Map (Most of this traffic turns towards Indooroopilly.)
    3. Eight significant traffic streams enter along stretch.
    4. Eleven sets of traffic lights along stretch. This includes 3 pairs with a gap of less than 150 metres between the paired lights. In addition, there are 6 sets of lights over a one km stretch.
    5. Traffic wanting to get from Kenmore onto the Western Freeway going away from city can:
    • Turn right just after Moggill Rd goes under Freeway. OR
    • Turn right into Fig Tree Pocket Rd about half way along stretch.  (Difficult - no traffic lights to help.)
    • Avoid the stretch by taking long route using Kenmore + Fig Tree Pocket Rds. (Not sure how congested these roads are.)
See appendices at end of notes for additional background information.
PROPOSAL 1: Feeder Bus Concept
It would make sense to replace many low volume, low frequency bus routes with shorter, high frequency feeder routes that use much smaller buses. The function of these feeder routes would be to move people to nearby transport hubs, railway stations, existing high frequency bus routes and/or shopping centers. The potential benefits of this proposal include:
  1. Encourages more people to switch to public transport by reducing waiting time.
  2. Reduces noise, costs and the difficulty of threading large buses through suburban streets.
  3. Reduces walking distance by making it more more practical for the bus to pick up and set down passengers all along parts of the route. (Instead of bus stop only.)
  4. Makes it more practical to integrate bus and rail travel. (Integration is only practical if all parts of the trip are high frequency.)
  5. Makes it easier to reduce the number of buses travelling between transport hubs.
NOTE: Under some circumstances the feeder bus might operate as a Taxi bus that takes/picks up people where they live. Particularly attractive at night or wet weather.
EXAMPLE – ROUTE 425:
Route 425 runs from the CBD to Kenmore shopping center via the Indooroopilly shopping center.. The main function of the route is to service the area on the Mt Coutha side of Moggill Rd between Burbong and Bielby Rd. Most of this area is too far away from Moggill Rd to conveniently walk to the high frequency routes along Moggill Rd. (For map and timetable see here.) For most of the time there is no need to run 425 buses between Indooroopilly shopping center and the CBD. Other bus routes or the train have excess capacity.
Problems with route 425:
Since moving to Brisbane, I have used car only, car + rail and bus to go to work.
Public transport has the attraction of providing time to plan the day and wind down while travelling to and from work. For me, the problem with the bus is that the service is poor and expensive. For route 425:
  1. Only one 50 seat bus every 30 mins most of day
  2. Drops to one bus an hour ex Queen St after 7.25 PM
  3. No service between 11.25 PM and 8.15 AM.
  4. For 4 pm departure from Queen St bus station the trip takes about 40 mins compared with 45 mins on my mountain bike and 20 mins by car.
  5. According to current GOCARD rates peak hour fare is $4.91per trip compared with about $1.00 to drive an already owned car (5 litres/100km – fuel @ $1.60/litre) to CBD. (That is about $2000/yr for the bus Vs $460/yr for the car assuming free parking.)
  6. Even the off-peak concession fare ($1.97) is about twice the cost of driving the car with no passengers.
  7. Route goes all the way to CBD– even if not many passengers on bus.
NOTE: Part of the problem with fares is that governments have a “user pays” mentality. However, the reality is that the user is not the only one that benefits when a car driver decides to use public transport. Every one using the road will will benefit from reduced congestion when someone switches to public transport. In addition, increased use of public transport may avoid the need for expensive road upgrades.
It is also worth noting that appendix B below points out that the average 50 seat bus carries only 8.5 passengers. Making fares more competitive may actually increase income per bus.
Calculations:
Base: Current System
For most of the weekday the service averages 1x50 seat bus every 30 mins. For this case:
Time for round trip =86 mins
Number of 50 seat buses =2.9 (Average buses running to provide service.)
Seats per hr =100
Time between buses =30 minutes
All the options below are based on 50 seater buses being replaced with 10 seater mini-buses.
It is assumed that there is excess capacity on the high frequency routes that the feeder buses link to.
Option 1.1: Premium Option:
Route 425 stays the same except that it will no longer run between Indooroopilly Shopping Center and the CBD. The timetable suggests that this shorter round trip will take about 42 minutes
If number of buses providing the service remains the same as base:
Number 10 seat buses =2.9
Seats per hr =41
Time between buses =14.6 minutes
If number of seats per hour remains the same as base:
No. 10 seat buses =7.0
Seats per hr =100
Time between buses =6 minutes
Option 1.2: Minimalist option:
As for premium except that when the bus exits Burbong St it returns to Bielby Rd via Moggill Rd instead of going to Indooroopilly shopping center. This will reduce the round trip to about 28 minutes. Direction may reverse during the afternoon so that travel along Moggill Rd will be in the less congested direction.
If number of buses providing the service remains the same as base:
Number 10 seat buses =2.9
Seats per hr =62
Time between buses =9.8 minutes
If number of seats per hour remains the same as base:
No. 10 seat buses =4.7
Seats per hr. =100
Time between buses =6 minutes
Discussion: If anything, these results are conservative because:
  1. Smaller, more nimble buses should take less time that 50 seaters to cover the same part of a route.
  2. No account is taken of savings in walking time if travellers are allowed to hail buses anywhere along route. (Except along Moggill Rd.)
  3. There may be better routes.
PROPOSAL 2: Reducing Traffic Light Delays
We have all suffered avoidable delays at traffic lights when:
  1. We are sitting at a red light even when it would be safe to ignore the red light.
  2. We spend a long time getting through an intersection because it takes a number of light cycles before it is our turn to go through the intersection. (This problem can be reduced by increasing the length of the light cycle.)
The basic principal here is that traffic light changes would be controlled to take account of what is going in the area at the time. The simplest system might start the light change when traffic has stopped flowing past a green light. (Up to some time limit.) This option will reduce both the above avoidable delays.
More sophisticated versions may make better decisions by taking account of what other lights are doing and traffic conditions further away from the light being controlled.
Option 2.2: “Give Way Lights”
For this option the red light is replaced by a light showing a “give way sign” for intersections where visibility and simplicity makes it is safe to do so. When the give way light is on the rules re entering the intersection would be the same as if there was a normal give way sign at the intersection.
This option avoids time lost sitting at a red light when it is safe to proceed. It may also reduce delays for other traffic that would have to stop to allow the car held up by the traffic to enter.)
NOTES:
  1. It may be safer to continue to have a red light that stops the traffic before the switch to the give way light is made.
  2. “Stop sign lights” may make sense for intersections with poorer visibility.
  3. The principle could be extended to pedestrian crossings.
Option 2.3: Use Super Street Concepts
Super Streets deal with traffic light delays by reducing the need for traffic lights Key features are:
  1. Traffic entering from a side street must turn left. The road is designed so that this left turning traffic merges into the main traffic stream in the same way as it does on freeways.
  2. Traffic that wants to cross an intersection or turn right does this by first turning left then taking a right turn at a designated “U” turn. The “U” turn is designed so that traffic exiting the “U” turn merges with the main traffic stream without having to stop.
  3. If necessary, over or underpasses could be used to avoid the need for pedestrian/bike traffic lights.
  4. The video that goes with the link suggests that large trucks that want to turn right or cross the inersection will go through intersections in the normal way. This avoids for “U” turns large enough to allow large trucks to turn.
The above link reported that one study in the US found that the super street gave a 20 percent overall reduction in travel time compared to similar intersections that use conventional traffic designs," They also found that super street intersections experience an average of 46 percent fewer reported car collisions and 63 percent fewer collisions that result in personal injury."
Useful gains can be made by using only part of the super street concept.
Example: Lights at Russell Tce and Woodville St/Taringa Pde entries to Moggill Rd
These two sets of lights are only 150 m apart. During morning peak hours this closeness causes problems because a red light at Woodville stops traffic flowing at Russell Tce even when it has a green light at Russell Tce. The combination is also a key bottleneck. Traffic flows a lot more freely after it has passed these lights. (NOTE: Taringa and Woodville are opposite each other.)
Stage 1: Allow left turning traffic leaving Russell Tce to merge with main traffic.
All the traffic leaving Russell Tce already turns left. However, traffic lights are used to control this entry. A major source of delays for both Russell Tce and Moggill Rd morning traffic.
An extra traffic lane starts about 75 m before Russell Tce and ends about 100 m after Taringa Pde. The section of this lane between Russell and Taringa is left turn (into Taringa) only.
Suggested action:
  1. Make all traffic in the outer lane of Moggill Rd turn into Russell Tce. This will require new signs, road marking changes and possibly a barrier to make sure this traffic does turn left.
  2. Consider changing the markings on the outer lane between Russell and Taringa to allow traffic to have more room to merge with main traffic stream.
All this action is very low cost.
 At the end of stage 1, traffic lights will only stop traffic exiting Russell Tce when they are used to allow pedestrians to cross the road. Traffic lights will only stop traffic moving along Moggill Rd towards the CBD when they are used to allow pedestrians to cross and allow traffic travelling away from the CBD on Moggill Rd to turn right into Russell. None of these are major issues during the morning peak hour.
Stage 2: Install a “U” turn (just before Station Rd?) so that all traffic exiting Taringa Pde can turn left.
Suggested action:
  1. Install “U” and associated road markings and signs.
  2. Modify exit from Taringa to allow traffic to merge into traffic along Moggill.
  3. Change signs and road markings to force all traffic exiting Taringa to turn left.
At the end of stage 2 traffic lights will only stop traffic travelling along Moggill towards the CBD and exiting Taringa when the lights are used to allow pedestrians to cross the road or traffic travelling along Moggill away from the CBD to turn right into Taringa.
Comment: The “U” would be easier to justify if it was part of a plan to turn Burbong Rd and Freeway exit into “left turn only” exits and to remove the need for traffic travelling along Moggill towards the CBD to turn right to enter the freeway.
PROPOSAL 3: Smart Re-routing of Traffic
Example: Reduce delays due to the way traffic from Benson St gets into Toowong Shopping Centre
Moggill Rd becomes High St a bit before High St turns right at the Toowong Shopping Center. Traffic going to the CBD then goes through a traffic light before turning left via another traffic light into Benson St. Benson St turns into Coronation drive shortly afterwards.
The section after High street turns right is a significant bottleneck because there are two traffic lights less 100 metres apart. The problem is accentuated because traffic from Benson St going to the the Toowong shopping center or Sherwood St uses the first set of traffic lights to cross the traffic flowing along High St towards the CBD.
Suggested action:
Stop traffic going from Benson St to the shopping center of Sherwood Rd via High St, at least during peak hours. Traffic from Benson St wanting to go to the shopping center or Sherwood Rd would go instead via Sylvan Rd and Bennett St.
APPENDIX A: COMMUTE TRAVEL, CAR OWNERSHIP and OCCUPATION
MOGGILL ELECTORATE
 See: ABS 2011 CENSUS (Also links to more data and other areas)
MOGGILL
%
QLD
%
AUS
%
Employed people aged 15 years and over
Car, as driver
13,857
58.9
1,248,542
61.2
6,059,972
60.2
Bus
1,425
6.1
67,191
3.3
301,187
3.0
Car, as passenger
1,127
4.8
125,269
6.1
537,638
5.3
Train, car as driver
358
1.5
12,688
0.6
77,819
0.8
Bicycle
324
1.4
21,575
1.1
103,914
1.0
 Other
 
27.3
    
People who travelled to work by public transport
2,770
11.8
154,773
7.6
1,046,721
10.4
People who travelled to work by car as driver or passenger
15,045
63.9
1,378,983
67.6
6,620,840
65.8
Car, driver only =At least 54.1% (92% of car commutes)
MOGGILL
%
QLD
%
AUSTRALIA
%
None
394
2.6
110,842
7.2
665,852
8.6
1 motor vehicle
4,068
27.0
547,575
35.4
2,778,576
35.8
2 motor vehicles
7,039
46.6
575,735
37.2
2,802,468
36.1
3 or more vehicles
3,398
22.5
267,081
17.3
1,279,134
16.5
Number of motor vehicles not stated
195
1.3
46,071
3.0
234,292
3.0
At least 96% of private dwellings had at least one car, 69% had at least two.
MOGGILL
%
QLD
%
AUS
%
Employed people aged 15 years and over
Professionals
8,345
35.5
385,581
18.9
2,145,442
21.3
Managers
3,816
16.2
245,606
12.0
1,293,970
12.9
Clerical and Administrative Workers
3,389
14.4
299,326
14.7
1,483,558
14.7
Technicians and Trades Workers
2,158
9.2
304,563
14.9
1,425,146
14.2
Sales Workers
2,084
8.9
199,634
9.8
942,140
9.4
Community and Personal Service Workers
1,878
8.0
202,978
10.0
971,897
9.7
Labourers
1,005
4.3
215,235
10.6
947,608
9.4
Machinery Operators And Drivers
491
2.1
149,322
7.3
659,551
6.6
APPENDIX B: REDUCTION TO BUS SERVICES ANNOUNCED (7 Mar 2013)
(Contains useful data on bus system and loadings)
KEY POINTS:
Number of bus routes to disappear because of low patronage=111 out of 446 (25%) NOTE: The article also said that:
  1. The number of bus routes across south-east Queensland will be slashed from 446 to 335 following a detailed review of services which found more than half carry fewer than seven people. However, elsewhere in the article it was said that: A total of 29 routes are expected to be axed, 87 changed and 102 "improved". It is not clear to what extent those serviced by disappearing routes will be taken care of by modifications to other routes.
  2. Number of extra high frequency bus routes= up 7 from current 19 (37%)
  3. Over the past three years, patronage had improved just 0.5 per cent despite 22% increase in expenditure.
  4. Average 50 person bus carries only 8.5 passengers (17% loading.)
  5. 52 per cent of services carry fewer than seven passengers.
  6. Fares have increased more than 60 per cent in the last four years.
  7. Services with standing passengers - 13,756 (3.1 per cent)
  8. Services with an average load of one or fewer - 27,241 (6.15 per cent)
(Source: Robyn Ironside, The Courier-MailMarch 07, 2013)
This translink media release gave some additional information. Other recommendations included:
  1. A more simplified route number system, reducing duplication
  2. Providing outbound routes heading in a similar direction with a superstop within Brisbane's CBD
  3. Better integration between suburban buses and high-frequency bus or train services
  4. Setting up the Gold Coast network to integrate with light rail.
  5. Address infrastructure constraints (eg. Cultural Centre) by reducing fewer near-empty buses entering the CBD.