Brisbane’s Subway Station: King George Square

Hello from Brisbane, the capital of Australia’s state of Queensland. I thought I’d offer some quick views of the city’s underground station at King George Square.


The station lies under what will be a central square for Brisbane, similar in function to Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland.  The station exit gives this view of Brisbane’s iconic town hall; the construction works for the square are just to the left.


There’s a generous mezzanine with information displays and a bit of public art.  The art is based on local newspapers from World War II, advising Brisbanites of “Rules for Air Raids.”


The architecture features a series of planes meeting at odd angles, vaguely reminiscent of Melbourne’s Federation Square.  These also have the effect of opening the station entrances toward the sun.


A special feature of this station is a Cycle Centre, a business where you can store your bike securely or leave it for repairs. It has its own cycle-only access from the street.


The platform looks like a modern subway platform anywhere, with burnt orange walls that echo the transit agency’s logo.


A typical subway station then, except — what’s this?? — Buses!


King George Station is on the new downtown segment of the Brisbane Busway network.  The new segment extends north from the existing Queen Street terminal to form a continuous bus-only roadway under the heart of the city, used by frequent service all day and evening.  Just north of this station, the busway comes to the surface and passes through Roma Street station, where it connects with the extensive commuter rail network.  Eventually, the busway system will extend in four directions from the city, in a mixture of dedicated road medians and fully separated bus roadway segments.

In the underground stations, a glass wall separates the bus lanes from the platform.  Doors in this wall are aligned with each bus door, and open only when a bus is present.

This feature provides for safety, by preventing customers from entering the bus roadway, and allows the platform to be air conditioned while the bus roadway obviously can’t be.  (The roadway is underground here but emerges just north of this station.)

Along the platform are six bus positions.  Each is typically pre-assigned to a route or group of routes.  The displays show the next eight trips leaving from each stop.

Note the service pattern: few routes, and frequent service.  Some of the busway services run partway out the busway and then branch off, while others run the busway’s full length.  These routes combine to provide intense frequency along the core parts of the busway itself.  Current service adds up to a bus every 2-3 minutes all day each way through this station, and the capacity is there to run several buses per minute.

I like this detail:  Instead of providing an automated information system for showing which bus you’re boarding, a camera takes a real-time video of the bus’s overhead sign and displays it on the monitor over the boarding door.

This means there’s no danger of system errors in which the platform monitor
shows one thing and the vehicle sign shows another — which is all too common in
over-automated displays.

The rapidly expanding Brisbane busway network is designed to create as rail-like an experience as possible.  Brisbane lacks large high-rise centers on the edges of the city, which are typically what you need to provide a concentrated two-way market for frequent rail transit.  The busways respond to this geography by providing a service that can branch at the outer ends to serve many destinations, while still adding up to a metro-like frequency through the dense parts of the city.  Like the Seattle transit tunnel, it’s designed to be convertible to light rail, but for now, growing volumes of buses are meeting the need.

In the next Brisbane post, a tour of some outer busway stations.

9 Responses to Brisbane’s Subway Station: King George Square

  1. Joe April 28, 2009 at 6:48 am #

    King George Square Station hopefully will mean further improvements to the Brisbane transport network, especially for the inner city, but unfortunately the design choice of grey, slate-style tiling clashes horribly with the light red-ochre facade of City Hall itself, which is one of the few impressive colonial era buildings in the city. The area has been like a bomb site for some time, ever since the fountains were removed and work on the station began. It remains to be seen if what was once a popular, communal space will become so again once work has been completed

  2. Michael D. Setty April 29, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    I wasn’t sure at first what the Brisbane Busway service patterns were, so thanks for clarifying this issue for me. What is really happening in Brisbane contradicts the marketing pitch made for so-called “Quickways” (grade-separated busways) by, which emphasizes so-called “world best practices” focusing on the ability of buses to operate directly from origin to destination, never mind the fact few origins and destination pairs have enough volume–even for 30-minute headways. In other words, OF COURSE the vast majority of rides are on the relatively few, very frequent services, contrary to the Move San Diego folks and their transit guru, Alan Hoffman of The Mission Group (

  3. Jarrett May 1, 2009 at 2:42 am #

    Joe. Yes, the construction took a long time, but that’s not surprising to me given that they had to dig down three levels to build the station, then build the square on top of it. I do like the design for the new KG Square, but a lot depends on the details of implementation, I agree.
    Michael. Yes, the “case” for BRT often overstates the degree to which you really will, in practice, run direct buses branching to a lot of destinations. The all-day pattern in Brisbane consists of just a few routes. Some peak-only routes also use the busway, providing additional direct services to other areas only in those hours.

  4. Linda May 17, 2009 at 11:56 pm #

    Brisbane’s busways are impressive but a great deal could have been done for a great deal less money (and materials with all their associated environmental footprint) with on-road bus priority which would also have the effect of reducing traffic (due to the ‘double wammy’ effect of both increased general traffic congestion and reduced bus journey times.

  5. Jarrett at May 18, 2009 at 12:03 am #

    Linda. I disagree. The Busway provides continuous two way service stopping at a series of stations. It’s two-way rapid transit, not just peak express service. To run such a service pattern on an on-freeway bus lane requires either (a) stops directly on the freeway (very unpleasant for passengers, and hard to get feeder bus service to) or (b) flyovers between the lane and stations alongside the freeway (prohibitively expensive).

  6. Nathanael October 17, 2009 at 9:23 pm #

    I notice a major level boarding FAIL, which I would not expect in a new-build rail station. Are they planning to replace the buses with buses with different height floors or something? (Or am I seeing an excessive width gap?)

  7. Todd August 5, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    I’m curious about the platform edge doors – are there stricter standards in Australia about door placement on vehicles? Can you share a little more about exactly how they operate? I’m thinking of how such a system would have worked should Ottawa have built a bus tunnel instead of the current rail plans. With every model in the fleet having doors at different locations, the short answer is, I guess it wouldn’t.

  8. Jarrett at August 5, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Todd.  Brisbane's fleet is extremely consistent, and seems to involve only a few models of buses.  I believe that the spacing of doors is consistent, though I'm not sure if this is the result of industry standards, industry habit, or Brisbane procurement policy.

  9. Janet September 20, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

    Wow. I didnt know there was a camera and sign that directs you to the buses. SInce when did that come in? i was there in brisbane months ago and had a hard time finding the bus pick ups. Thanks for sharing the update! It seems much safer for pedestrians and the bus drivers.