Saturday, 10 October 2015

Relieving congestion in the City Circle and Northern rail lines

The tram network north of the Harbour started with cable grip cars from the ferry terminal at Milsons Point but eventually extended through Mosman to the Spit bridge. A line from the northern side went to Manly and Collaroy. Tram lines dropped down to other ferry terminals on the North Shore. The building of the Harbour Bridge and the adaption of the train tracks on the eastern side to carry trams allowed the trams to access platforms 1 and 2 at Wynyard. When the trams were closed down congestion in York Street became the enduring legacy for North Shore commuters to the CBD.

There were further problems however; congestion in the City Circle and Harbour Bridge rail lines between Wynyard and Central stations. The Wynyard station platforms are directly under York Street so when some Northern bus services were extended to Railway Square Wynyard remained the most convenient station for those commuters needing to transfer to rail services south of the Harbour. Passengers getting off at the set-down bus stop in Lee Street have to transverse the Devonshire Street tunnel to transfer to a train.

Lee Street set-down stop
The problem to be solved by the Oyster (aka Opal) Card for Harbour Bridge bus services is that the buses inexorably pass over the rail stations at Wynyard and Town Hall in order to reach the terminus at Lee Street. Of all the places where bus passengers can transfer to rail: North Sydney is the most debilitating (it over-loads the Harbour Bridge line), Town Hall next then Wynyard.

The number of buses in George Street in not a problem - this can be solved by scheduling. The problem is the small number of passengers on the buses as they approach their terminuses. The only way to reduce congestion in bus routes is to use buses more efficiently.

I explained how the Oyster Card can reduce congestion in bus services from the Harbour Bridge in my submission to the EIS. "Once again there are three, at least, destinations: Wynyard, Druitt Street and Railway Square. You know the rest. The return journey from Railway Square can avoid the bottleneck in George Street between Liverpool Street and Bathurst Street and a right-hand turn in Druitt Street by accessing Kent Street from Liverpool Street".

I apparently left to much for them to work out. Passengers still on a Railway Square bus after a point, say the last stop in Military Road, pay for two extra sections regardless of where they get off.

"People making a casual trip to the city may be prepared to pay the price to stay on their bus, but with regular commuters the cost would mount up. Statistically you are ahead. The Oyster (aka Opal) Card can also impose penalties".

This mechanism alone cannot reduce congestion on the City Circle and Harbour Bridge rail lines. Passengers need to be encouraged to stay on the bus until the Lee Street terminus. At Central there are more platforms for the City Circle line services and additional peak services along relief rail tracks can be provided at platforms at Central terminus.

Here is where financial incentives that can be offered by the Oyster Card come in. The Oyster system knows where you tap on and tap off. It can offer cheaper transfers from the Harbour Bridge bus services to the rail services south of the Harbour at Central Station. Problem solved. George Street must remain the main axis for bus services as it has been from the foundations of the colony.

Jonathan Burrows
The awesome London rail system uses the Oyster Card to provide incentives to encourage proper behavour on the rail lines. Commuters who tap readers at platforms where internal transfers take place are offered a reduction in their fare. This is possibly to close down a loop hole in the system that Jonathan Burrows exploited so spectacularly (Australian innovation: Nobody Pays 9 June 2015).

My Oyster Card was inspected by a uniformed Inspector when I was travelling on the Docklands Light Rail. He tapped the card on the bottom of a reader and looked at the verdict on the front. His reader must have had a list of all the cards that had tapped on and not tapped off yet by wi fi.

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