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Friday, 17 April 2015

The Public City: Essays in honour of Paul Mees

A regular theme of this blog is the need for urban ferry planning to be approached from the perspective of transit planning theory. Mariners who take on the task of network planning without a proper understanding of public transport network theory do themselves a great disservice.
(Equally, public transport planners who tinker with waterway networks, without first developing a deep understanding of the peculiar constraints of maritime environments, do so at great peril).

An excellent recent contribution to public transport policy is "The Public City: Essays in Honour of Paul Mees", edited  by Brendan Gleeson and Beau Beza and published by Melbourne University Press. The essay by Tim Petersen, Public transport beyond the fringe,  provides a beautifully clear explanation of how low density populations can be effectively served by public transport.

The essay has relevance to urban transit ferry systems where demand levels may not justify high frequency services.

Low frequency services are normally equated with low quality, but Peterson shows that quality, and high usage, is still possible with 30 or 60 minute headways  

Petersen uses the small town of Trullikon (population 600) in the Canton of Zurich as an example of how public transport can achieve a high mode share without high population density.

Trullikon is not on a railway line, but it has a bus service which connects with the train and operates at 30 minute intervals from 6 am to 8 pm, Monday to Friday and hourly between 8 pm and midnight. A modified span of service operates on week-ends. 

Despite its low density and small population, 19% of journeys to work from Trullikon are by public transport. No city in Australia, apart from Sydney, achieves this level of public transport use for the journey to work.

According to Petersen, Switzerland's pulse timetabling and high punctuality are critical ingredients to success.

He states further:

"Overarching bodies like Zurich's ZVV (the co-ordinating government transport agency) or Graub√ľnden's AEV are essential for the planning and governance of a Swiss-style network. Standardised system headways and operating hours are basic requirements of an effective pulse system, and there will inevitably be some lines that have weaker patronage levels and must be subsidised by stronger services. A multi-modal fare system that allows transfers without penalties is needed and a large pool of long-term travel pass holders is also an advantage".

We have in Sydney the co-ordinating agency (Transport for NSW), but unfortunately pulse timetabling and the right fare structure do not appear to be on the agenda.