brisbane: the 100-year flood

Milton floodThe Brisbane River is expected to crest tomorrow at a level not seen for over a century.  The state of Queensland has been enduring severe flooding for weeks, but only this week has the disaster arrived in the capital.

This ABC image from this afternoon is looking east toward downtown Brisbane, with the partly flooded Milton district in the foreground and Moreton Bay in the far distance.

Our firm's headquarters office is in the building under the orange arrow.  We are on Park Road, which follows a little ridgeline surrounded by lower-lying land.  So we are pretty fortunate, so far at least.  Obviously, the power is out, and our offices are shut down as staff focus on protecting their homes and loved ones.

I am watching from afar in Canberra, following the ABC coverage.  I'm thinking about my colleagues and clients, of course, but also about all the urban treasures of Brisbane that lie right along the river, including the major art museums, the State Library, the historic districts, the old botanic gardens, and many of the city's most vibrant and interesting inner-city neighborhoods.

As for transit, the wharves used by the popular river ferry network have been "smashed to pieces," according to the mayor.  A heavily-used segment of floating walkway, which carried the riverside bike-ped path past the cliffs of New Farm, is gone.   Still no word on the city's underground transit infrastructure.

Brisbane is often compared to Portland because in both cities, the urban renaissance began through a new engagement with the river.  As a result, much of the revitalization and urban invention of the last decades has gone into riverside districts that are now in danger.

Loss of life in Brisbane is likely to be low, because unlike nearby Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley, which saw devastating flash-floods yesterday, Brisbane has gotten some warning. 

Still, for anyone who's admired Brisbane's romance with its river, this is heartbreaking.

Include Bus Rapid Transit on Rapid Transit Maps?

Most large transit agencies have a map that shows just their rapid transit services, which are usually rail.  One good test of how an agency thinks about bus rapid transit is whether they include it on their rapid transit maps.  Los Angeles County MTA’s rapid transit map, here, does include the Orange Line, which is exclusive right of way but is hampered by signal delays.  But they don’t show their non-exclusive Metro Rapid product at this scale, which makes sense to me. Continue Reading →

Bus Rapid Transit Followup

I’ll pull together a response to feedback on the controversial Brisbane busway post in the next few days, but meanwhile, Engineer Scotty asks a good clarifying question:

Part of the problem with BRT [Bus Rapid Transit] acceptance in the US, is [that] most visible BRT systems … tend to look and act like rail-based metros. In the US, we speak of BRT lines–the Silver Line in Boston, the Orange Line in LA, EmX in Eugene, OR–and so forth.  The busses which run on BRT are different than the local busses (different branding, different route nomenclature, different fare structures, rapid boarding, longer station spacing, nicer stations, proof-of-payment or turnstiles rather than pay-the-driver-as-you-board)–
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Brisbane: Bus Rapid Transit Soars

BrisbaneBRT1  If you’ve never been to Brisbane, Australia, you’ve probably never seen Bus Rapid Transit done at the highest standard of quality in a developed country.  Only Ottawa comes close.

In the US, in particular, a generation of activists has been taught that Bus Rapid Transit means inferior rapid transit, because there’s no will to insist on design choices that protect buses from delay as completely as trains are usually protected. Continue Reading →

Will a Busway Give Me Direct Service to Downtown?

DSCN4035 In my post on Brisbane’s King George Square busway station, I emphasized that the service pattern was of few routes running at high frequencies.  Michael Setty commented

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 …

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Brisbane: A Tour of the South East Busway

DSCN4035A basic duty of transit consultants like me is to show each city what other cities are doing, and help cities figure out which of those models are right for them.  For example, most people have never seen Bus Rapid Transit done in a way that provides the complete “rapid-transit” experience that we expect from urban rail transit, with complete separation from traffic.  So I thought I’d offer a tour of Brisbane’s South East Busway, which does exactly that.

When assessing your options for a particular transit market, it’s important to realize that many of the features that attract us to rail rapid transit can be provided in a busway setting, including an attention to design that’s too often absent from bus transit facilities.

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