brisbane: free fares for a week, ferries out of action

As Brisbane's great flood of 2011 recedes, the Brisbane Times has this roundup of the flood's impact on public transit:

Premier Anna Bligh said travel on buses and trains would remain free for seven days, starting today.

CityCat and CityFerry services are out of action after the surging Brisbane River inflicted major damage to pontoons and terminals, but authorities have been trying to continue rail and bus services wherever possible.

If the river ferries are out for a while, it will be interesting to see how well buses take over their functions.  As you can see on the ferry map below, or on Google Maps, Brisbane is defined by a squiggly river with a spectacular shortage of bridges.  There are many bridges around the CBD but only three other bridges in the west and one in the east.  The big CityCat ferries that ran the length of the river mostly served markets also served by buses running along the shore, but the smaller cross-river ferries made some connections that will be vastly longer by road (Bulimba to Teneriffe, for example, in the city's east). 


Perhaps this will give some impetus to the idea of "green bridges" — bridges across the river exclusively for transit, bikes,  pedestrians, and emergency vehicles.  Brisbane already has one, in addition to two bike-ped bridges.  Portland, a city much like Brisbane in many ways, is building it first.

From far-away Vancouver, Gordon Price shares his photos of some of what's been lost. 

12 Responses to brisbane: free fares for a week, ferries out of action

  1. EngineerScotty January 13, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    One obvious comparison between Brisbane and Portland is the concentration of bridges downtown, and the paucity of crossings elsewhere. There are eight crossings of the Willamette within a three-mile (5km) span near downtown (Fremont, Broadway, Steel, Burnside, Morrison, Hawthorne, Marquam, and Ross Island), with the aforementioned (and unnamed) transit bridge to go there as well (between the Marquam and Ross Island bridges). North of downtown, there’s only two crossings (the St. Johns bridge, and a rail bridge); south of downtown there is only one crossing within the city limits (the decrepit Sellwood Bridge). Further south of that is another freight rail bridge; the next crossing for anything but freight trains isn’t for another 9 miles (15km), a pair of bridges between Oregon City and West Linn–one of which will be shut down for two years starting this weekend to undergo a major renovation project.
    One difference between Portland and Brisbane is the utter lack of water transport here. The only boats which carry passengers are dinner cruises; all the other boats on the river are recreational craft, commercial shipping, and police/fire boats and the like. There is the aging Canby Ferry, a cable ferry carrying autos between Canby and Stafford upstream from Oregon City, but that’s it. Planners have looked at providing waterborne transit service, but none of the proposals have penned out. North of downtown the river is wide, but the uses on the shore are predominantly industrial; south of downtown there’s more residential land use (and a few cities with waterfronts), but navigation becomes a bit dicey.
    Needless to say, the poor east-west mobility outside of downtown has significant impact on Portland’s development and travel patterns.

  2. EngineerScotty January 14, 2011 at 12:12 am #

    The prior comment has inspired this article at Portland Transport. You make a fine muse, Jarrett. 🙂

  3. In Brisbane January 14, 2011 at 1:49 am #

    The Eleanor Schonell Bridge was a really crazy idea when it was proposed, people laughed at it.
    Now it is carrying huge volumes of bus, pedestrian and bicycle traffic well into the night and on weekends, it is unbelieveable given the non-CBD location of that bridge.
    The trick: all cars are banned, and any that attempt to cross will encounter a cul-de-sac at the end. The bridge is also constructed to be impossible to make wider, just to make sure. This leads to huge volumes, particularly when car users must go around the long way to get to St Lucia.
    Of course, that hasn’t stopped calls to allow cars on it!

  4. Tom West January 14, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    From yoru description, it seems that the river ferreis play a very large part in Brisbane’s transit system. Can anyone point at some similar examples? Bristol (UK) springs to mind, but that’s not as extensive as Brisbane.

  5. EngineerScotty January 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    One other interesting question I have about Brisbane is this.
    One thing immediately noticeable about the map above (and from looking at google maps; many transit maps are not to scale, after all), is that the river meanders quite a bit. Would anybody (excluding tourists or sightseers) use the CityCat to travel from the University of Queensland to, say, Bretts Wharf? Or is the CityCat, like many snakelike bus routes I can think of, a route which is intended to serve a large number of overlapping shorter trips, even if the end-to-end journey makes little sense?
    Also, one potential disadvantage of riverborne transit to other forms, especially along a corridor (rather than a “traditional” ferry running back and forth between two stops) is dwell time. Trains and other fixed-guideway vehicles mate with their platforms automatically; busses have to be steered in place, but don’t need to be tethered or anchored to remain in place. Boats have a current to deal with, and thus approaching and departing a dock is frequently a slower and more painstaking maneuver. (Some ferries use underwater cables to guide them, but such cables are often an impediment to other river navigation). If a boat is stopping for only a few passengers at a given stop, and making many such stops en route–how does this affect performance? Are there any unique or unusual technical means employed to permit the boats, particularly the CityCat line, to get in and out of terminals quickly?

  6. anonymouse January 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    @EngineerScotty: typically modern ferries don’t need to be tied down. I know NY Waterway ones just run their engines to push them against the dock. Still, the docking and undocking process does take time, but if you’re ever in NY, go watch the ferries at the World Financial Center: they get in and out reasonably quickly, especially for the number of people they move.

  7. Jarrett at January 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    CityCats have two-person crews: one drives, the other handles fares and also throws out the rope to secure the boat to the dock.  I'm not aware of any underwater cables assisting them in guiding to the dock.  The smaller cross-river ferries have on person doing all these tasks.
    On a normal day the current isn't that strong near the edge of the river where the docks are.
    As for the market, despite the crookedness of the river CityCat is designed for speed and probably would be a good match for a pair of buses (with a connection in the congested downtown) to get from Brett's Wharf to UQ. 

  8. Jack Horner January 15, 2011 at 2:05 am #

    @ Tom West, Engineer Scotty
    If you looked at ridership I bet you would fine that Brisbane’s ferries are really only a niche market in Brisbane transit. But a valuable one for the image of the city for tourists.
    The citycat zigzags a bit from one side of the river to the other, thus combining along river and cross river functions. From my observation a few years ago there is a moderate amount of non-tourist ridership.
    @ Brisbane
    The Eleanor Schonell bridge, connecting the eastern suburbs to the university on the west bank at St Lucia, cars prohibited, terminates in a turning circle at the university, distant from any other road. It’s a great shame it can’t be used to through route buses to western suburbs. It guess this was deliberately done to make it impossible to open it to through car traffic in future. Can you confirm this?

  9. Caskings January 16, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    @Jack The only way the University would approve the project (It terminates on their land) was that it would not run through the University grounds. It had to terminate at the end of the bridge.

  10. EngineerScotty January 16, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    More on the UQ conditions for the Schonell bridge:

  11. In Brisbane January 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    @ Jack Horner
    Yes. This is a deliberate measure to make sure that cars can never ever through-route through the campus.
    Buses are not permitted to through route either, as that would be one step away from converting the busway to car lanes.
    A lot of effort has gone into place to make sure the SOV lobby (single-occupant-vehicle) can’t convert this infrastructure!

  12. EngineerScotty January 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    At the risk of asking the obvious:
    If the car lobby were to have sufficient power to renege on an agreement with UQ and turn bus-only lanes to car lanes; what prevents them from simply condemning the necessary land to install a road and then installing it?