Monday, December 14, 2009

Redex - One month on - a review.

The Redex 'rapid bus' trial has been operating for just under a month now, and after using it several times I decided to write a short review of how it appears to be serving Gungahlin commuter needs. One month is a sufficient period for any new network to sort teething problems out. For those who have short attention spans let me save you from skipping to the end and say - Redex is a good thing.

I have divided the review into 'The Good', 'The Bad', 'the Could Be Done Better' and 'Overall'.

This bus could be any bus. Redex buses need a big RED sticker/magnet on the FRONT of the bus and adjacent to the front door.

The Good

The Redex services arrived close to or exactly to its scheduled departure times from Gungahlin, Civic and Kingston. The services ran quickly and frequently. I used it six times over two weeks and experienced no 'cancelled' (ie: the bus just simply never turns up) services which sometimes happens on other Action routes.

All Redex buses I caught were new and comfortable. I was able to get a seat in every one. The aircon wasnt working properly in one vehicle, and I did alert the driver who said he would tell the depot.

The onboard destination verbal and visual announcements are a good idea, and work well. They also add to the 'tram-like' feel of the Redex service.

The 'limited stops' works well. It adds to the 'tram-like' concept Action are trying to sell, and speeds up the service trip time.  These trip times are averaged over 6 trips in peak hour over a two week period.

Gungahlin to Civic       17 minutes
Civic to Kingston         16 minutes

Kingston to Civic         19 minutes
Civic to Gungahlin       20 minutes

Canberra's best bus stop in Gungahlin Town Centre. It is not a dedicated Redex stop, despite appearances.

The Bad

The signage regarding Redex is poor. Not only are the Redex buses themselves no different externally from other Action buses, but Redex stickers all over a bus stop does not mean it is a Redex only bus stop. This can cause confusion and can be easily remedied.

Redex needs a separate platform at Interchanges. As can be seen from the photo above, at first glance this appears to be a Redex only bus stop. It is not. There is also no dedicated Redex platform in Civic.

Redex buses are not distinct from regular Action buses. As can be seen from the photo above, this could be any other Action bus. From a distance the service number cannot be seen distinctly. The scrolling Redex message is also indistinct. Action need to plaster a big red magnetic or vinyl sign across the front of the bus, or place a large redex placard in the front window of the bus, and also adjacent to the passenger boarding door.

This can easily be done, those ridiculous Movember bus stickers on the front of buses indicate that there are no safety or policy issues, its just a management decision to make the Redex buses more distinct, that needs to be taken, and the signage applied.

Because of the problems mentioned regarding inadequate signage, there are confused passengers. This confusion consists of passengers sailing past what they thought were stops and also asking if the bus goes somewhere it doesn't. Now I know all bus drivers get asked questions by passengers, but a distinct coloured bus clearly NOT a regular Action bus would resolve at least 80% of confused passenger questions. It would also stop the passengers at non-Redex stops from hopelessly trying to wave down a Redex bus.

The biggest problem I can see with Redex continuing past the funded trial is limited passenger numbers.
These numbers are averaged over 6 trips in peak hour over a two week period.

Gungahlin to Civic       3
Civic to Kingston         6

Kingston to Civic        15
Civic to Gungahlin      12

I am not sure how Action are capturing passenger trip data, but they did recently trumpet increased passenger figures, so I assume they are keeping a close eye on this data.

Automated destination announcements linked to GPS - this works well.

Could be done better

There are several small things that Action could do immediately which would raise the profile of Redex and differentiate the Redex service from regular Action bus routes.
  • Separate Redex platforms at interchanges
  • More distinct Redex buses
  • More Redex advertising/promotion
Apart from that I think Action are doing a very good job in delivering a rapid-transit-lite service for Gungahlin commuters. It is a service that should have been delivered at least 10 years ago.

Kingston railway station bus stop. 

Despite limited patronage on the services I was on, Redex is a good model and seems to be working. For public transport systems to work effectively, they must be Comfortable, Frequent and Attractive. I found the Redex service to satisfy all three criteria. The service is frequent enough to not have to worry about timetables, which is a good thing. The buses are comfortable, with plenty of seating, and the trip advice display is a nice touch. I had a friend who is a non public transport user call me from the Redex bus trip he was on and talk it up (although he also mentioned confused passengers). If non-PT users can be converted, then that is a good thing.

Extending the idea.

Tuggeranong, Belconnen and Woden already have direct services from their town centre interchanges to Civic. Redex is really a service which should have been in place at least ten years ago to offer the same service to Gungahlin commuters. Despite that observation, Redex is different in that it has limited stops and runs a slightly longer route to cater for commuter destinations. This fits in with the idea that public transport should link population and employment centres, and that minimising having to change vehicle or mode makes PT more attractive (and adds to quicker trip times).

No doubt if Redex is extended, services like 216/217 can be converted to 'Redex' quite easily.

When first announced, Redex was to operate from the other Canberra town centres. This was changed due to funding problems (as reported in my previous blog post on Redex). If the redex trial in Gungahlin proves successful it should be rolled out across the Action network. As Jon Stanhope said on Sep 29 2009:

"The significant change in relation to the trial is that we're trialing it in a form that we would hope to roll it out and that is an all-day service, 15 minute frequency along those major routes.
"That's what we're trialing and if it's successful, if the people of Canberra respond, then of course that's the model that we'll roll out to Belconnen and Tuggeranong."

If this eventuates, the business case for dedicated Redex buses quite clearly distinct from regular Action services would then exist. By making the Action network more closely resemble a mass-transit network, fed by feeder routes, Canberra's public transport system would be more efficient and deliver quicker trip times. These are important in attracting increased patronage.

I urge Action executives to pick up some of my suggestions and to act on them, Redex needs to be a success so that the limited stop, rapid-transit model can be extended to other Canberra population centres.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brisbane Road trip - Part One

At the end of October my mate, who wishes Internet anonymity and insists on being referred to as ‘Goose’ (from Mad Max 1), and I, decided to go on a roadtrip from Canberra to Brisbane. His mate who I shall refer to as Tarzanelli, moved there a year or two ago, from Melbourne. The plan was drive up, hang out for a few days, drive back.  

I haven’t done this particular trip before, so I was keen to go. Initially we planned on taking the XF Pano, but due to ACT Registration hassles (to be documented at a later date, but seriously – is 93db really that loud?) we took the 1974 Leyland P76 V8 Super instead. Google maps initially suggested that we travel via Sydney and the Pacific Coast. I instantly recognised this was idiotic, and dragged the dots on the Google map inland, via Dubbo, Goondiwindi etc. This would make for a far more interesting trip, with far less traffic, in far less time.

It was decided on grounds of logic, that I would be doing the driving and Goose would be doing the navigating. He is a shocking navigator, but a worse driver. His list of driving sins deserves a blog of its own, but let me list his major crime - he drives a bilious blue nissan micra. His obvious lack of navigational skill asserted itself primarily in Brisbane proper, with comments like ‘Should have taken that road mate’ AFTER we had gone past it. Fortunately I had driven to Gunnedah over Easter 09 and was familiar with the greater part of outback NSW having traversed it several times over the years, so his shocking navigational skills didn’t cause too much trouble.

Here we are filling up at the Yass Junction Service Centre. When I do a long roadtrip, I like to stop after 50 or 60 Km and check everything (fluid levels, tyre pressures, look underneath for weird leaks etc). Yass Junction is roughly 60km out of Canberra, and is convenient for this. You can see my Willow 20 litre water cooler on the back seat just at the edge of the drivers seat - more on that later.

Goose navigating. He has no idea what he is looking at.

The trip to Brisbane was a two dayer, with an overnight stop in Goondiwindi. Primarily this is because I dislike driving in the outback as soon as dusk arrives. As a person who has previously collected a kangaroo with his car, I don’t fancy sharing the passenger compartment with a kangaroo, camel, horse, cow or anything else that wanders the outback. The amount of road kill we saw would indicate my policy is a sound one. I have no bull bar or a B double mass of weight on my side.

Outback servo. These are disappearing and being replaced with ‘Service Centres’ . Note that the fuel is 20 cents cheaper in the middle of GAFA than in Canberra.

This is probably a good place to mention the various approached to preparing for a long distance outback roadtrip. My approach is to take adequate water (25 litres), food (muesli bars, canned food, fruit), spares and equipment to cover possible emergencys, but also to ensure the car is prepared and up to such a trip. Another approach (Gooses) is to take a bag of muesli, a litre of organic soy milk, and a 500 ml Mt Franklin water bottle. Four or five hours into the trip, Goose runs out of water. I offer him some from my water cooler, its filled with big ice blocks and is COLD. He doesn't like that idea, how do we know its clean ? I continue drinking COOL COOL water and 90 minutes later he relents and agrees to drink the POSSIBLY CONTAMINATED BECAUSE IT DOESNT COME IN A PLASTIC BOTTLE water.

Parked outside motel room in Goondiwindi. Check out that Leyland boot space! It was while taking this shot I noticed my hand was filling with oil leaking out of the camera.

Around 4.30 PM we arrived in Goondiwindi. On roadtrips i like to stay at the most ridiculously named motel possible. Sadly, the Jolly Swagman, had no vacancies, so we stayed at some anonymous motel whose name escapes me. This is where I discovered that a litre of 15w/40 motor oil had leaked onto and into my camera. I drained as much as possible out, but some had penetrated the camera. This is not good.  This was my own fault - I like to make sure I have 5 litres of oil and 5 litres of coolant in the boot, and when I was securing the fluid bottles with ocky straps (squint and look at the spare tyre to the left in the boot) I noted one was quite low, so I filled a one litre oil bottle and grabbed a new 5 litre bottle from my garage. The bottle that leaked was the one litre bottle.

Arty shot taken when camera discovered coated in oil, and obvious oil wiped off.

Goondiwindi was a blast. After looking at the various options (a pub crawl) we settled in at the Australia Hotel. The barmaid introduced herself as the Evil Fairy. We drank much beer. We then adjourned for dinner. We then came back and drank more beer. A local called ‘Doug’ joined us. He believes that the Kevin Rudd/Penny Wong government is trying to dispossess agrarian land holders and set the ground for a quiet takeover by China. He has written NUMEROUS letters to the Brisbane Courier mail, but alas, no one is doing anything. he showed us his latest letter, on Cubby station, water rights and the Rudd/Wong conspiracy, and while reading it the Evil Fairy came over and asked if Doug was bothering us with his sad life story. We assured her he was not.

Goose standing in middle of road taking photo of sign.

I had a fairly sleepless night as when we came back from the pub, I was feeling a little schicker. I lay down on the bed and zonked out. I was then woken rudely every hour or so by Goose screaming out MAKE IT STOP or FOR GODS SAKE or WONT YOU SHUT UP etc etc. I was also assaulted by a pillow and various shoes thrown at me from the other side of the room. He claims I snore. This is a filthy horrible lie. I do not snore, if anything, its a gentle purr. In any case, EVEN IF I snore, its rude for one person who is having a ruined nights sleep to wake up the snorer in a vain attempt to make it stop. It doesnt - all it does is ruin two peoples rest. Goose is very inconsiderate.

The next day we rose fairly early and while I endured his whining about a ruined nights sleep, Goose had organic muesli with soy, and torn up cardboard, I had crumpets, froot loops and a coffee. We then packed the car.

947 km from Canberra, not bad for a days driving.

Off we went, with a short detour while Goose took photos of a quaint street sign. I also had to explain to the front desk that some motor oil had been spilt accidentally on one of the quilt covers. The lady at the front desk told me not to worry, as I wouldn’t believe some of the stains shes seen, and expressed surprise that I raised the matter as people normally leave as fast as possible when they cause some damage. I left my details in case the damage was worse than she thought, but to date they haven’t contacted me, so I guess motor oil washes out with a bit of OMO. Maybe I should have thrown my camera in with the wash ?

Goose looking at map and referring to his Google map itinerary. Note, he is looking at a map of Brisbane CBD (we were in Warwick).

We headed out of Goondiwindi fairly early, and looked forward to the relatively short trip to Brisbane. Little did I know that Gooses appalling navigational skills would prove near-disastrous.... (I'm trying for a cliffhanger effect)

End Part One - part two coming soon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

street sightings - Ford GT, Ford Zephyr and a Lotus

This morning I dropped my XF Pano off for some last minute pre-rego inspection items at Kelos. I walked over to the Mall, and passed two very nice cars parked in the streets of Belconnen. The first was this nice Lotus Elise.

Lotus Elise - 0-100 in 5 seconds. None too shabby.

The second was a very tidy 1968 Ford Falcon XT GT.  It looked immaculate, inside and out. From the factory, the XT GT came with a 302 cube Windsor V8 and put out around 320 BHP.

Very nice, I like the old school steel 5 slotters.

Last weekend I saw this old Mark II Zephyr Station Wagon parked in the KFC car park in Fyshwick. I took this shot on my camera phone. Im sure the camera tech specs arent as impressive as my 5 year old digital camera, but at least the phone didnt recently have a litre of motor oil poured accidentally over it.

The station wagon version was built only in Australia from late 1956 to 1960. In 1960, Ford Australia started building the far more modern US designed Ford Falcon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

351 Cleveland Sigma

I was visiting the boys at Baltron and came across their latest 'project' a 351 Cleveland powered Mitsubishi Sigma. The 2.6 litre 4 cylinder and trans has been turfed and test fitting of the 351C was taking place when I was there. These photos were taken early November. The car should be finished in time for Summernats.

I apologise for the poor photos, I spilt 15w/40 oil on my camera a week before and not all of it had drained out of the camera when these photos were taken.


351 Cleveland engine fitted without transmission. It should lean forward a little with trans fitted. At present there is no exhaust manifolds, starter motors etc, but there is room for them.

Driver side.

Passenger Side

After I took some photos, they test fitted a set of extractors, which had to be poked up from underneath. They were also welding up plate steel engine mounts. No body work is planned, but they might get some matching wheels. They plan to run the stock diff. Summernats cruising should be fun in 2010!