Days elapsed since Local Edition's end.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Kuttsy's Pitch: #Bris3xit

The current municipal debt, shouldered by the Brisbane City Council (just a tidy sum of $1,803,877,465) which would average out to $1495 (courtesy of the BCC budget speech in 2018) for every man, woman and child in the current BCC area in the 2018/19 financial year.

Reason: the investment in the last ten years in toll road projects (whose tolls didn’t recoup the fanciful figures that were predicted early on) to try to unchain the centre of Brisbane’s traffic issues, along with laying the groundwork for another inner city transport project: Brisbane Metro bus tunnels when outer suburbs needed the investment more.

Meanwhile, in the outer suburbs: councils who have become landed gentry due to rapid urban sprawl and council area changes in the last twenty years, are now struggling, to maintain their position, as their local council interactions and the like makes the front page: just ask anyone in Ipswich or Logan, and for that matter: Moreton Bay, as these growth areas are now beginning to forge their own identities, away from the commuter city identity that has risen since the late 1990s.

Thus, it is now time for Kuttsy’s Pitch to look at the possibility of a “BrisExit”: the transformation of the current bloated BCC authority to a much leaner model (along with delivering devolved authority): beginning with the development of five new 21st century strategies which can become acts of parliament, that can be utilized together to deliver a “BrisExit” model, that appeals to all. After all, it’s a natural move to aim for politics: based on the success of Kuttsy’s Pitch’s looks into public transport fares in December 2014, and into the state of 4BC/4BH in October 2017.



How it would work:

-City of Brisbane Act, 2010 and remaining parts of City of Brisbane Act, 1924 repealed, as well as some dependant acts.

-Brisbane Urban Governance Reform: Enables the formation of five new councils, based off existing BCC ward boundaries (along with major changes to how Moreton Bay, Logan, Redlands and Ipswich councils operate: including provisions for splits of Ipswich and Moreton Bay councils), with a new upper tier of local government administrating over the top.

-Greater Brisbane Authority: Enables, the formation of a new upper tier of local government (the first in Australia), that is a government-like organization, elected by the people of a new “Greater Brisbane”. Responsible for household waste disposal contracting (delivering a single rubbish/recycling contract for the area bounded by Ipswich, Caboolture and Beenleigh), waste disposal centres, kerbside cleanups, public cemeteries/crematoria, sewage, water (merging BCC and Ipswich’s commitment to Queensland Urban Utilities, Logan/Redlands council water/sewage and MBRC’s commitment to Unitywater)  as well as being the go-to board for an unified scheme for development applications and being the driving force for major event bids (such as the Olympics) for BNE/surrounds.

-Streamlining Planning and Development: Unifying five development application systems and various planning schemes, into one consistent system, using one planning apparatus across the new “Greater Brisbane”, that will bring the term “Urban Footprint” from the state govt’s SEQ regional planning program into a new Greater Brisbane planning scheme, as well as being a one stop shop from putting a pool in the backyard, to putting up a 90 story highrise.

-MetBus, MetBaT, CityFerry, qLink: Reforming Public Transport: What transferring the Brisbane Transport bus network to state control (either franchising it out as MetBus, or amalgamating with Queensland Rail’s SEQ passenger division as MetBaT), the Brisbane river ferry network privatized as CityFerry, as well as an wholesale root/branch reform of the entire structure of public transport in Queensland: culminating in the birth of qLink, could mean for everyone in Queensland, and potential for competitive bus tendering in the GBA area.

-Mt Coot-tha and Brisbane Botanic Gardens (City/Mt Coot-tha) for Today and Tomorrow: turning over the two botanic gardens in Brisbane, as well as Mt Coot-tha (including TV station leases)to state control.
But, before we get to this reform strategy, one must look at what could be if constitutional change happens, concerning local government.

KUTTSY’S PITCH TAKES A CONSTITUTIONAL: WHATEVER THE HELL THAT IS.
The biggest question people should be asking themselves, is if the Australian federal constitution is changed (only via a referendum, though: no decision made in parliament), so local governments can negotiate with the federal government in Canberra directly for funding. 

This would mean, Brisbane City Council in it’s current form, would be able to negotiate directly for infrastructure funding, bypassing the QLD State Government, and would likely rank in terms of funding priority, higher than the two territories, and Tasmania, which all have a state/territory legislature (and in the case of Tasmania, their lower house), almost equal in size, to the current Brisbane City Council municipal ward setup. 

Then there is the outlying suburbs of Brisbane, that have now combined, as many residents, as the current BCC area, and would be disadvantaged if BCC can get much more federal funding than the four councils surrounding it. Reform can be done, and it all begins with better urban governance.

Brisbane Urban Governance Reform: The end of the City of Brisbane, as it exists today.

A major step towards understanding why Brisbane needs better urban governance today, is to look at where the BCC originated in the “Roaring ‘20’s”. In 1924, twenty local authorities, of varying sizes amalgamated to form one “Greater Brisbane Council”: with one mayor, one council, and responsible for a city that only had 200,000 residents

Today, it’s well over 1 million residents, and still has pretty much the same setup (elect local wards/directly elect lord mayor) as the 1920’s, and was notably excluded from the local government reform process of 2007-13 (which saw the number of LGAs in Queensland come down from 157 in 2007 to 77 in 2013), and has now outlived it’s usefulness. 

The fact that BCC is the size that it is, has made it become a powerful enemy of any state government, regardless of whoever is in power, and has prevented logic (such as BCC contracting out or selling off, the only local government-owned public transport network in Australia to reduce debt, or BCC chipping in to the Cross River Rail project, to stop it being in constant limbo) from taking hold. 

Council proposals like the “Brisbane Metro” with business cases having just mere paragraphs worth of mentions of how any associated bus reforms will occur, knowing very well, that QLD’s government wouldn’t sell the route needed (while outer suburbs choke on congestion), are developed instead, are making BCC increasingly like a failed state… within a state. 

Hence, it is now time to wind back the clock, and develop smaller administration for Brisbane, not back to the twenty council headache: but to five: A much smaller BCC (with powers dramatically reduced) and four new local councils, all based off existing ward boundaries, and using the river itself as a boundary, also with dramatically reduced powers.

1. New: Brisbane City Council: Consists of Paddington, Central, The Gabba and Morningside wards, 100k voting population, leader retains right to be named “Lord Mayor of Brisbane” Based in Brisbane’s CBD, no longer meeting at City Hall.

2. New: Mt Coot-tha Council: Consists of Pullenvale, The Gap and Walter Taylor wards, 90k voting population. Council chambers located in Indooroopilly.

3. New: Wynnum-Tingalpa Council: Consists of Doboy, Wynnum-Manly and Chandler wards, 80k voting population. Council chambers located in Wynnum.

4. New: Nathan City Council: Consists of Coorparoo,Tennyson, Moorooka, Holland Park, MacGregor, Runcorn, Calamvale, Forest Lake and Jamboree wards, 244k voting population. Council chambers located at Mt Gravatt.

5. New: Gateway City Council: Consists of Hamilton, Northgate, Deagon (minus Moreton Island), Bracken Ridge, McDowall, Marchant and Enoggera wards, 200k voting population. Council chambers located in Chermside.

At the same time, Moreton Bay Regional Council would gain city status (something that should have been done upon amalgamation), and also gain Moreton Island away from Gateway City, potentially as a trade for the Hills District (Arana Hills, Everton Hills and Ferny Hills: currently MBRC division 10) and Albany Creek (currently in MBRC division 9) being admitted as a new ward, to set the LGA border as the South Pine River, not Kedron Brook/Albany Ck as exists currently: as well as splitting the existing Ipswich City Council, in two: with the eastern suburbs along the Ipswich Motorway, along with the growth areas of Springfield and Ripley, becoming part of a Greater Springfield Council, run out of Springfield’s CBD.

Investigations will also happen about a potential MBRC north/south split (restoring the Caboolture-Bribie Island council area, in addition to predominantly rural areas like Samford, and a new council for the predominantly urban areas south of Burpengary Creek (including Redcliffe, North Lakes and Strathpine.) and potential admission of Browns Plains area to any BCC replacement.

However , the amount of divisions, of any new council, will also be based off existing ward boundaries, as well as the number of seats each council has the people elect, to a brand new, “Greater Brisbane Authority”.

The powers of these new councils, and reformed Ipswich, MBRC, Logan and Redlands councils would include:
-Roads and active transport, with a cap on infrastructure spend by individual councils on individual transport projects set at $100m, after which: the state and/or federal governments must fund any additional costs, only if the project is seen as viable by both state and federal agencies: which would mean councils wouldn’t need to go into heavy debt to fund transport issues, let alone reasonable ones.
-Parks and leisure facilities. No cap on infrastructure spend is needed.
-Libraries and community events, no cap on infrastructure spend needed, however individual local authorities must chip in to events the Greater Brisbane Authority sponsor, to get the full benefit. e.g. the Brisbane Festival would be deepened if funding came from all councils in the GBA area, not just BCC.

THE GREATER BRISBANE AUTHORITY: WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?
The Greater Brisbane Authority, is designed to be a new overriding structure, for the councils of Brisbane and surrounds to be answerable to, and is in charge of many different structures that are currently either handled by councils (waste management, public cemeteries/crematoria, water/sewage in Redlands and Logan council areas),  or by council-related entities (Queensland Urban Utilities (responsible for BCC, and Ipswich water/sewage, and would be separated from the mostly rural Lockyer Valley/Scenic Rim/Somerset council areas) and MBRC’s obligations to Unitywater (which would allow Sunshine Coast/Noosa councils to return to dealing with water/sewage either: themselves, or a retaining a Noosa/SCC joint-venture) even, local elections: that can be better done all under one roof. However, to achieve this, it needs to be supported by the public. This is where, the concept of a directly elected administration would come in, opposed to hiring people willy nilly to sit on a board.

The Greater Brisbane Authority concept:
-Elections held every four years:  coinciding with a relocation of LGA election day, from the last Saturday in March, to the last Saturday in October: alternating every two years with the QLD state election. GBA would be responsible for all LGA elections in Greater Brisbane area, not ECQ after establishment: ECQ would oversee first GBA election however.

-Voters would elect a local GBA member, and a Greater Brisbane-wide vote for a GBA chairman.

-All candidates for council seats in the GBA area would be vetted by the GBA themselves for whether they are fit to run, individual donations larger than $100 must be reported, and no candidate (not just for the GBA, but for all councils within the GBA) must take donations from property developers or lobbyists (everything from unions, through to business lobbies).

-GBA “seats” would be decided on a ratio of 1 seat to every 2-3 council divisions.
e.g: Moreton Bay, Ipswich, Redlands and Logan councils entitled to 4 members, Gateway City and Nathan City entitled to 3 members, Brisbane City, Mt Coot-tha Council and Wynnum-Tingalpa Council entitled to 2 members: as well as a directly elected chairman: a total of 25 members.

-GBA meetings would be temporarily based in either the secondary Legislative Assembly chamber or the Legislative Council chamber at Parliament House, until City Hall is vacated by BCC.

-All councillors, mayors and GBA members, would undergo a three day LGA training course, post elections.

The powers of the Greater Brisbane Authority will eventually be extended into development, and zoning, using the SEQ regional plan as a starting point.

The Waste Management Issue:
To understand why waste management needs to also be under one roof: you have to look at the fractured way different councils handle their domestic hard waste: the kinds of stuff residents cannot fit in a household garbage bin.

Logan City: Ratepayers get 4 hard/green waste vouchers per year, afterwards: pay to dispose, while renters, must go through hoops to get their vouchers from owners/real estate agents, or just pay to dispose. Has yearly kerbside cleanup.

Moreton Bay: Universal free disposal of hard/green waste, (up to 500kg per visit) for Moreton Bay residents and ratepayers upon showing proof of residency. Beyond 500kg, requires a letter of authority from Council. No yearly kerbside cleanup.

Brisbane City: Ratepayers get 10 vouchers per year that can be used for either hard or green waste up to 100kg per voucher: after vouchers exhausted a fee applies. Renters must get their vouchers from their landlords. Has yearly kerbside cleanup.

Ipswich City: No ratepayer vouchers, all Ipswich residents/ratepayers charged $10 per visit for first 500kg of hard/green waste. Has yearly kerbside cleanup.

Redland City: Universal free disposal of hard/green waste for all Redlands residents/ratepayers upon showing proof of residency. No yearly kerbside cleanup.

The fact that nearly half a million people have no access to kerbside cleanup services, all in council areas that offer universal free disposal of hard/green waste, is something that needs to be looked at, along with developing a unified scheme for how access to waste disposal outside household pickup is granted, whether it be offering universal free disposal of hard/green waste to all residents of “Greater Brisbane” (which can be covered by a fee for commercial disposal of hard/green waste, as well as fees in rates) , or a simple flat fee. A food waste recycling scheme (preferably from the household as a mandatory third kerbside bin), should also be looked at, as a short term option, to help Greater Brisbane tackle tomorrow's waste issues head on.

Tapping into the future, one flush at a time.

Same applies to water and sewage. We have come a long way since Clem Jones sewered Brisbane in the 1960’s, and the drought of the early ‘00s. It is now time to approach these basic needs, as one (just like Sydney does, and has done for 130 years) opposed to four different organizations handling the delivery of water, and the disposal of sewage. Integrating the municipal systems of Logan and Redlands, along with Ipswich and BCC’s current commitments to Queensland Urban Utilities and Moreton Bay’s commitment to Unitywater, into one retailer/maintenance organization will improve the response to the inevitable: another drought, and our growth that sewage systems must deal with.

Dealing with public cemeteries:

Public cemeteries and crematoria will also benefit, especially as the cost of a basic grave, currently is vastly different, depending on the council:
(All based on basic lawn grave pricing, which include plot, internment and post-burial maintenance)
BCC: $3620
MBRC: $4707
ICC: unknown (due to cemetaries operated out of Councils hands).
LCC: $3809
RCC: $4800 (Cleveland and Dunwich), $4245 (Redland Bay)
A unified cost structure, will also alleviate concerns that councils losing control of cemeteries, will raise prices.

-Streamlining Planning and Development:
The most critical part, is the long-term development of a Greater Brisbane Plan that will guide development in all it's forms in the GBA area, that is consistant with the SEQ regional planning apparatus, and will replace the various planning schemes and town planning apparatus of the various councils of the GBA area, such as:

-Brisbane City Plan 2014, and Neighbourhood Plans, as well as any temporary development application apparatus after BCC split, only if GBA isn’t delivered with BCC split.

-MBRC Planning Scheme 2016 (which brought together three smaller town plans into one)

-Ipswich Planning Scheme 2006

-Logan Planning Scheme 2015

-Redlands Planning Scheme 7.1 (introduced in 2016)

The Greater Brisbane Plan will introduce into local development code, the term “urban footprint”, from the SEQ regional plan (constantly being worked on, since 2005) along with climate change and flood protections: with the mandating of the 2011 flood line being marked in suburban streets surrounding the Brisbane/Bremer, Caboolture and North Pine River catchments, and the 2017 flood line marked in suburban streets surrounding the Albert/Logan catchments.

A GREATER BRISBANE AUTHORITY, AND THE BIG EVENTS OF THE NEXT CENTURY.

It is a well known fact, that SEQ wants to attempt another Olympic bid. 

In the 32yrs since the proposal to hold the 1992 Olympics in Brisbane, came a gallant third to Paris (who will join London as a three time Olympic host in 2024: 100yrs after it last hosted the Olympics) and eventual winner Barcelona, Brisbane has had a aborted 1996 bid (after the AOC went for Melbourne, which didn’t make it past third round voting, losing the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta), a key role in the success of the 2000 Olympics: as host of part of the football tournament at the Gabba, and a proposal to try and bid for the Olympics in 2028, spearheaded by various SEQ mayors: that was railroaded by the IOC awarding 2028 to Los Angeles in mid 2017. 

The Olympic dream of SEQ in my mind shouldn’t be dictated to by a group of mayors, with their own interests, especially as the number of sports at the Summer Olympics has gone up from 23, at Seoul thirty years ago (where tennis returned as a full Olympic sport, and table tennis debuted as a Olympic sport), to the 33 on offer in Tokyo in 2020 (with baseball and softball’s return after being dropped for 2012/16, as well as the addition of surfing, karate, sport climbing and skateboarding), meaning that a approach must be made that plans for a potential 35 sport Summer Olympics (the current 33 for Tokyo, plus two more), be on the drawing board. And this is where the GBA comes in.

A Greater Brisbane Authority, would be the organization that would be bringing any future Brisbane Olympic bid to life, with assistance from councils, state and federal governments, the AOC and a Brisbane bid organizing committee. The chairman of the GBA would be the one person that represents “Brisbane” as a city in all negotiations with the IOC, and would accept the flag, if Brisbane does get their Olympic dream realized, instead of the BCC lord mayor: in much the same fashion, the Mayor of London (the figurehead of the Greater London Authority) accepted the Olympic flag in Beijing, not the Lord Mayor of the City of London (which is purely a ceremonial role).

CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS? BRISBANE PUBLIC TRANSPORT: 19TH CENTURY THINKING FOR A 21ST CENTURY PROBLEM.

A network at breaking point. Two conflicting organizations, not willing to criticize one’s plans, or assist with the other’s vision. This is the current state of play concerning the QLD state government and Brisbane City Council. There is no criticism by George St, of City Hall’s “metro” scheme (especially as it’s running on state funded infrastructure), and there is no assistance by City Hall to the state, to get Cross River Rail out of purgatory. All this while transport infrastructure and networks (with some routes barely changed (mainly route numbering) since the tram replacement scheme fifty years ago) are being stretched to the limit.

With the proposed repeal of the City of Brisbane Act 2010 (which handed ferry exclusivity to BCC), along with the council split, the new councils will be mandated that land and Brisbane River public transport planning and any large scale infrastructure for public transport, will become exclusively a state responsibility within the former BCC area. This would mean, that the new councils, and most critically, the Greater Brisbane Authority: will not be able to develop their own public transport networks and infrastructure for it, only the state can do this.

“Why do you think BCC’s current setup is 19th century thinking?” they ask…
Because, councils aren’t meant to be developing and running public transport networks that conflict with state plans: in fact, local councils aren’t meant to be developing, let alone running public transport networks at all: regardless of size.

As highlighted in “Chermside’s Crossroads” last year: our vision for a reformed Brisbane bus network, is to operate a redefined network consisting of frequent crosstown (both east-west and the GCL) and CBD routes on major corridors and work out the future for the routes that remain. That is simply what we call the MetBus vision: that would evolve the current network into a modern system that Brisbane can be rightfully proud. From a position of a BCC split however (opposed to a government takeover against BCC’s will, as suggested in Chermside’s Crossroads), we can go either one of two ways towards achieving this long term vision.

MetBus, MetBaT, CityFerry, qLink: REFORMING PUBLIC TRANSPORT.
Way 1: MetBus and franchising.
Upon any BCC breakup, the state would take immediate control of the Brisbane Transport bus network, and begin the process towards rebranding it as MetBus. Government control would be shortlived, in a similar fashion to the transition of Brisbane’s trams from a private operation, to a council operation upon the creation of the BCC 95yrs ago, via a state government GOC in charge of the network, until the beginning of the next phase: franchising, with the current operator being split in half, into MetBus North and MetBus South networks (adopting a orange and green livery, replacing the BCC blue and yellow), in preparation for contracting out the MetBus North and MetBus South franchises to potential operators, on a 15yr agreement (the same style as the Goldlinq franchise agreement to operate the Gold Coast light rail) covering operations and maintenance, with Translink/qLink administrating all network and infrastructure planning for the former BCC area. Queensland Rail, would remain structurally separate in this case.

Way 2: MetBaT under state control.
Again, upon any BCC breakup, the state would take immediate control of the Brisbane Transport bus network. However, instead of moving towards franchising, a move is made by using the opportunity of a state-run BT, to move towards a true multimodal operator: something that has worked well in many great cities (Miami-Dade Transit, in Miami, Florida (combo bus/rail/peoplemover), METRO of Houston, Texas (combo bus/light rail), The Met (bus/tram/suburban rail), formerly of Melbourne, Victoria and the most famous example of a multi-modal operator built from the ground up, in the last 30 years, the transformation of the bus-reliant RTD of Los Angeles (who were building a subway line, that would become the Red Line) and the builders of the initial line of the Metro light rail system, the LACTC, into Metro Los Angeles (turning 25 in 2018), operating light rail, subway, buses and bus rapid transit, over a wide expanse of urban area) and has the potential to work in Queensland.

But I am reminded of a line, (yes, from somebody I wasn’t expecting to quote, especially after “last year) from an pre-2GB Alan Jones, about Queensland: way back in 1994 (not long after the interstate migration wave to QLD began), that is oddly significant today.

Alan Jones Live excerpt, 28.3.1994: (sourced from SydneyCityTV on Youtube)

“And if Queensland is the California of the southern hemisphere, does that mean it has inherited the selfishness, the individualism and internal tensions that characterize California?” Excerpt of Alan Jones Live intro, March 28, 1994.

At that same time Jones spoke, Metro Los Angeles was approaching it’s first birthday as a multi-modal operator. The very creation of Metro Los Angeles, occurred due to internal tensions, like the kind that Alan Jones’s line mentioned: where the RTD built subway and the LACTC built light rail almost didn’t meet, due to internal tensions between the two agencies, while the RTD’s bus network was considered a “800 pound gorilla”, by other operators in the greater Los Angeles area. Today, the integrated Metro Los Angeles network is moving ahead by leaps and bounds, and will be able to handle the task of moving thousands, for the third summer Olympics in LA, in 2028 (after all, the 1984 task using RTD’s buses only (the return of rail was six years away), was and still is studied by many Olympic cities) handsomely.

But what does it have to do with the current BCC/QLD Govt relationship you ask?

The selfishness and individualism of Brisbane City Council, in trying to prevent “shudder”, their network being contracted out, by developing infrastructure itself, while there is constant internal tensions between the largest publicly run, non-state/territory government owned bus operator in Australia, and a state government (regardless of who is in charge) who should be trying it’s heart out to reign in BCC’s excess, while also dealing with the QR mess that had been brought on by TMR wanting to have things it’s own way (NGR (DDA issues included), MBRL signalling, inner city rail solution revolving door etc), instead of letting Queensland Rail handle things concerning railways, like it had been doing for 150 years: a complex case of internal tensions between three separate organizations, a local council, and two state government departments, with the council/state relationship likely to be compared to WW1 trench warfare.

However, it can be overcome:  Brisbane Transport, and the Citytrain division of Queensland Rail, would merge into one singular operator, MetBaT (the BaT, coming from the name of the failed BaT tunnel, (named by Lynne Doyle, of Capalaba): standing for Metropolitan Buses and Trains.
MetBaT would also have two individual brands, for the modes it operated:

MetBus, would be the former Brisbane Transport network, rewritten to the MetBus vision: with work happening (in conjunction with Translink/qLink) to link parts of the network seamlessly to the MetTrain network, to get better use of capacity currently wasted by the BCC/QLD Govt internal tensions. MetBus would handle operations and maintenance of the bus network, but would no longer be allowed to build it’s own buses: a boom for companies such as Gold Coast-based Bustech, that currently aren’t looked at by BCC, who instead goes to a bus building facility at Eagle Farm part owned by BCC, nor plan it’s own network and infrastructure. Livery would be orange and green.


MetTrain, would be the former QR Citytrain network, stretching from Gympie North to Varsity Lakes north-south, and out to Rosewood and Cleveland east-west. Timetabling would be handled by Translink/qLink, while the rail infrastructure (i.e. the permanent way) of the MetTrain network, would be retained by Queensland Rail (with future investment planned by Translink/qLink), however, suburban/interurban rollingstock would be handled by MetTrain, along with beginning a project to deliver NGR 2: a replacement for the 200/220series SMU’s and 100/120series IMU’s (27 6 car sets), and add a additional 33 6 car sets, for capacity growth related to CRR, along with potential 15min frequency upgrades after CRR's completion. Livery would be orange and red.

The benefits of rolling infrastructure projects...

The fact that operators need to spend time operating, and infrastructure providers need to spend time building infrastructure: not operators building infrastructure, needs to be made apparent. After all, Melbourne and Sydney have gotten rolling infrastructure programmes down to a fine art. The people who are working today on Skyrail between Caulfield and Dandenong, as well as the second underground heavy rail corridor in Melbourne’s heart will likely go on one day to create a long overdue rail link to Melbourne’s main airport at Tullamarine. The people today that helped drill, Sydney Metro between Epping and Norwest, will be drilling under Sydney Harbour, to Sydenham, within a year or so, to connect to the CBD and to Sydney’s southwestern suburbs, and will eventually deliver a faster rail route to Parramatta. The workforce that extended light rail from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill, is currently working on bringing trams back to Sydney’s heart, (along with the eastern suburbs) after sixty years absence, in 2019-20, will also soon be bringing a light rail network into being, for Parramatta and surrounds, including converting the Carlingford rail line (currently a hourly service running to Clyde from Carlingford) to frequent light rail connecting to Parramatta’s CBD.

And meanwhile, in Brisbane: the closest we got to rolling infrastructure, was the Trackstar programme for QR, which delivered:
-duplicated rail between Caboolture and Beerburrum in 2009.
-Corinda to Darra rail upgrades (a prerequisite for Springfield extension) in late 2010.
and most critically, Darra-Springfield heavy rail line, ultimately completed in 2013.

In a similar fashion, there was the original busway construction program: which delivered
-SE Busway, between Cultural Centre and Eight Mile Plains, in 2000-01.
-The Inner-Northern Busway between Herston and King George Square, in stages between 2004 and 2008
-Eastern Busway phase 1, including a busway feeder to the Eleanor Schonell Bridge, and busway between Buranda and Langlands Park between 2009 and 2011.
-Northern Busway phase 1, RBWH busway station in 2009 (while part of phase 2 (Albion Rd to Kedron) was delivered in conjunction with Airport Link in 2012)

The need is now here, for rolling infrastructure projects to become a fact of life in Brisbane. Cross River Rail, should and must lead into works concerning the Trouts Rd corridor at minimum, a project that would give a new transport spine, to a section of Brisbane currently stuck in the public transport slow lane.

THE HARVEY GRID.

And then there is the sector of Brisbane’s suburban expanse, that needs not just heavy infrastructure investment, but a major dose of network reform. The section of Brisbane’s northside, bounded by Days Rd, Grange, Arana Hills Kmart Plaza, Telegraph Rd, Bracken Ridge and Brisbane Airport: what I’d like to call the Harvey Grid: (after former lord mayor, Roy Harvey: who saw the launch of the Cityxpress services, along with the initial work concerning the Great Circle Line, during his lord mayoralty between 1982-85: along with one election promise at the 1985 BCC poll, that would end up being delivered during Sallyanne Atkinson’s run, the Queen St Bus Station: allowing the Queen St Mall to be extended to George St) which is heading towards a cataclysm of congestion, as the areas within it mature into evolving suburban areas.
Diagram of the "Harvey Grid"
Within the Harvey Grid, there is one major public hospital, two major private hospitals, a university campus (Australian Catholic University at Banyo) along with major entertainment venues (Brisbane Entertainment Centre at Boondall, as well as Brisbane’s twin racecourses at Doomben and Eagle Farm) without adequate public transport, not just to the CBD, but to areas distant and near, and in the case of one: North West Private Hospital, with long walks to public transport services that may have in turn a long wait, to actually board a service.

The seeds of change, are all connected to a intact and complete northern busway: along with increasing the size of vehicles that use it, to free up at least 12 buses a hour for service improvements. There is also the vital question of how the North West Transport Corridor, running from Carseldine to Everton Park, should be used. Chermside’s Crossroads again alluded to the concept of “Northside Rail Enhancement” last year briefly, but we’d like to give it a new name: NorthLink.

The NorthLink vision.

NorthLink would be designed to unchain the Northside’s rail transport network, and provide a second north-south rail corridor for the northern suburbs: much like SouthLink provides a second north-south rail corridor for the southern suburbs. After all: the entire northside, let alone Queensland rail paradigm, beyond Albion all relies on the corridor between Albion and Northgate stations, a route that was quaduplicated 20 years ago. Since then, Gold Coast services were extended from the CBD in 2001 to service Brisbane Airport via Eagle Junction, as well as the long awaited Redcliffe rail line in 2016: alongside increases in rail freight from areas as far north as Cairns. The growth around the corridor (especially from Eagle Junction to Northgate: EJ-Albion expansion would be covered by the dormant and obsolete Northern Freeway corridor TMR owns) would likely restrict additional tracks, whether it be two extra tracks for passenger services, or a dedicated freight corridor. Thus, to create the space for extra services: a second northside passenger rail-exclusive corridor is needed, to open up the opportunities to reshape transport around the Harvey Grid. But to achieve the goal, of even turning a sod on both NorthLink and SouthLink, some drastic changes will need to happen in Queensland’s transport bureaucracy.

The TMR of the future:

How Queensland’s transport bureaucracy should and must change, along with resistance by politicians of whatever stripe they wear, to make these changes: is effectively, a bureaucratic mess, to deal with and yet it is a major factor in why our public transport network is the way it is.

Unlike what many suggest, there is no need for a royal commission into the failings of TMR, dating back to the merger of QLD Transport and the QLD Main Roads Department in 2009: including the move to reabsorb Translink into the now bloated TMR in 2012. However, simple reforms can happen and they can benefit all of Queensland, instead of the south eastern corner.

The options layed out here, are theoretical in nature, and most critically, are realistic.

Current: Department of Transport and Main Roads, with a Translink division.

Option 1: Retaining the existing TMR setup, minus Translink/qConnect.
The spinning off and formal merger of Translink and qConnect, into a new government department named qLink, will be critical to this juncture. qLink would also takeover TMR’s responsibilities for the NGR fleet, major public transit projects currently under the TMR banner (busways, CAMCOS, future GC light rail extensions, and most importantly: Cross River Rail) along with a legislated ability to plan future public transit projects independent of government influence. No additional duties are required.

Option 2. Splitting TMR, into three departments.
The splitting into three departments would see the following happen:

-qTransport: Handling the vehicle and watercraft registration, driver and marine licencing and road and water safety duties of TMR (i.e the QLD Transport side), and Maritime Safety QLD (which would cease to exist).

-qRoads: Handling the road infrastructure duties of TMR (i.e. the former Main Roads Dept. side).

-qLink: Reflecting the qLink transit authority as seen in Option 1.

And then, we have the most radical change. Option three would completely reshape the department, along with several others into a shining light.

3. Splitting TMR into five departments,
-qTransport: Reflecting the qTransport department of Option 2, with a critical difference: the service centre network, along with bus/taxi/limousine/ride share licencing and registration would shift to new departments.

-qRoads: reflecting the qRoads department of Option 2.

-qService: a brand new service centre network for the QLD government as a whole, in a similar fashion to the NSW government’s Service NSW centres launched in 2013. The former TMR service centres, in addition to twenty new shopfronts, would become gateways to QLD government services, that are currently offered only in limited locations, such as Fair Trading (currently with three service centres and six regional offices) and blue cards for child safety (only one shopfront, in Brisbane’s CBD).

-qLink: partially reflecting the transit authority of option 1, and taking over the bus/taxi/limousine/rideshare licencing and registration schemes from TMR, making qLink the department responsible for all public vehicle transport.

-qLinki: responsible for the infrastructure, of the public transport network.

qLink: WHAT IT SHOULD ACHIEVE.
What one public transport agency in Queensland should achieve, within five years, after nearly twenty years of differing infrastructure, and operations is immense. But where to start from.

1. ACHIEVE UNITY IN FARES, BRANDING AND TICKETING:
Currently, in the Translink/Qconnect mess, there is 19 sets of fares, ranging from the sole zone of Bowen, to the 8 zone SE corner, to the fourteen smaller zones that make up the Rockhampton network. There needs to be a wholesale move, towards zone definition standardization, across the entire qLink network (along with standardization of all public transport signage), where the number of zones in each market is reduced into ones similar sized to SEQ. This would mean, lower fares for all, and most critically deliver a streamlined operation of service and fares throughout Queensland.

2. PROJECT ORCHID:
2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the full introduction of the go card smartcard system to the wider Translink SEQ network, after a two year trial in a pre-MBRL Redcliffe area. At the time of launch, it was the second fully realized transport smartcard in a Australian capital city: with Perth’s SmartRider preceding it by a year. At the same time: Melbourne and Sydney struggled to get their rollouts kicked off (Melbourne’s Myki got there in the end: eventually being extended to their regional commuter rail network and regional buses: Sydney’s Tcard was dumped, and the fare system was completely rebuilt (much like SE Queensland’s upon arrival of integrated ticketing in 2004) to eventually accommodate the Opal Card, whose evolution since full rollout, in 2014 (inc. single use smartcards, contactless bank card acceptance and most recently: OpalPay: utilizing Opal card technology for non-TfNSW contracted private operators) is something Melbourne, and Queensland is staring at intently) and many other Australian cities and regions have adopted smartcard technology, however: SEQ and the greater Sydney basin are the only two regions in Australia sharing technology operators, as both Opal and SEQ’s existing go Card are were designed by Cubic.

There has been talk for the last five years about next generation ticketing in SEQ. The best way to go, for the next stage of evolution for the go Card is to retain Cubic, and bring the future development of both Opal and the next generation Queensland transport smartcard together, so innovations are shared.

The best way in my mind, to show commuters that go card is getting a facelift, is to roll out a new name for the next generation product (far better than Translink’s “new payment system”), as it begins it’s advances: the name of this would be, “Project Orchid” (named for QLD’s state flower: the Cooktown orchid), with the final product named “Orchid”. What Project Orchid should deliver, in my mind:
-A upgrade to smartcard readers, to reflect what Opal looks like (including standalone readers for stations and wharves that are not only functional, are also aren’t ugly: unlike what go card readers are now (literally eyesores), that can operate with two systems (initially, go card, then a rollout of Orchid upgrades) efficiently.

-Negotiations to extend the OpalPay program to the Gold Coast/Tweed region, with reciprocal use of Opal (through OpalPay) on G:link lightrail and Surfside buses (charging TL fares) and Orchid (through a new OrchidPay service) on Surfside’s NSW network (charging Opal fares) to deliver a cross-border arrangement for a fully integrated network on both sides of the NSW/QLD border once new readers are installed, and Orchid upgrades occur. This OpalPay/OrchidPay interoperability agreement will also apply, to Airtrain rail services in Brisbane (initially to Roma St) and Sydney Airport Link rail services (initially between Wolli Creek and the City Circle) before eventual rollout to the wider public transport networks of both cities.

-the Orchid system would fulfil the dreams first sought after in the early 2000’s about transport smartcards. Every station vending machine would become Orchid-enabled from day one of the new product: with a standard developed for wider rollout, including in retail stores, to utilize Orchid, alongside Paypass/Paywave tap and go systems.

-Orchid would also handle far more ticketing products, as well as offer a convenient replacement for paper tickets, that have long outlived their usefulness: especially in comparison to southern states and in WA:
-Melbourne: axed magstripe integrated ticketing in 2012, in favour of a Myki-only solution.
-Sydney: axed magstripe integrated ticketing (which had been only truly integrated (inc. light rail and private buses) for five years) in August 2016, in favour of a rollout of both a single use Opal ticket, and tap and go capability with major credit and debit cards.
-Perth: axed magstripe MultiRider tickets, upon launch of SmartRider in 2007.

3. DRIVING PUBLIC TRANSPORT USAGE GROWTH
The need is there for a more proactive transit authority, like what qLink will become, to seriously look at making major investments in the public transport network in terms of what services people actually use. The first of these will involve a move towards decreasing the number of services that run below 30min frequency.

-The 30 Minute Guarantee: A scheme, to upgrade 50 bus routes in Queensland, to a minimum 30min frequency between 7am and 7pm, 7 days a week. Routes would be targeted due to their potential for growth in patronage, if improvements were made. 30 Minute Guarantee routes, would become directly funded and planned by George St, instead of bickering between state and operator.
Example routes that could be part of the scheme, include: the 660 and 680, feeding Kippa-Ring Station, the 354, servicing Prince Charles Hospital, the 611 servicing Sunshine Coast University Hospital and the 622 connecting Noosa and Maroochydore via the Sunshine Coast airport.

-Regional Rail Revolution: Investigate the feasibility of new regional rail services in QLD, that can encourage decentralisation. The key corridors to invest in would be:

-Brisbane-Toowoomba rail, that is competitive with car and coach transport in both speed, and price: with provisions to investigate Stanthorpe-Toowoomba as a regional passenger rail corridor of the future.

-Brisbane-Bundaberg rail via CAMCOS and possibly NorthLink corridor, that is of regular frequency, and possibly higher speed than today, with provisions for a Hervey Bay spur.

-Investigating the feasibility of the Kaguru-Calvert section of Inland Rail, being built with a passenger component, alongside the reservation by the state/federal governments of the HSR corridor between Kaguru and Roma Street to be built as a separate project (inc. potential for a six to eight track terminal (to allow for interstate trains and rapid regional rail), including bi-mode trains, to run using electric traction between Kaguru and Roma St, and diesel traction between Kaguru and Sydney Central, until such time as a HSR line between Brisbane and Sydney is feasible.

-Mackay, Townsville and Cairns linked by a high standard regional rail service, in addition to the current Spirit of Queensland service. Currently, it takes 11-12 hours, to travel from Mackay to Cairns, on corridor built for the steam age. With the right improvements, you could potentially run a 7 day service between the centres of NQ’s population, and allow same day travel between Townsville and destinations like the Whitsundays and Cairns. The speed improvements with better track and alignment would also potentially slice four hours off Brisbane-Cairns and possibly costs for the journey.

-Development of modern sleeper carriages for the Inlander (able to be converted to standard gauge), Spirit of The Outback and Westlander: along with a comprehensive upgrade of the line between Townsville and Mt Isa (inc. provision to allow a relatively simple conversion to standard gauge, along with safety improvements), and beginning work on linking Mt Isa with the Adelaide-Darwin rail line at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, to operate not just freight, but a extended Inlander to Darwin, providing a second rail service into the city: one serving the east coast from the Northern Territory (which hasn’t existed since, the ceasing of “The Alice” (a sister service to The Ghan pre-Darwin extension, originating out of Sydney, instead of Adelaide) 30 years ago and would be a major boon for Townsville and Mt Isa), in addition to the Ghan tourist service.

-Co-funding two of NSW's XPT replacements (inc. sleeper accommodation), along with potentially guaranteeing slots in Brisbane, for post-peak train arrival for Sydney-Brisbane services, once Cross-River Rail is a reality.

-On DemandLink: The rollout of on demand services, linking major bus and railway stations in the SE with surrounding areas (at the cost of a single zone bus fare per person) that is usable with any new ticketing system. A similar strategy can be used by QR to replace some coach transfers to/from the Spirit of QLD at Proserpine (with three roam zones in Airlie Beach/Cannonvale, linking to connecting buses running from Shute Harbour-Proserpine) and open up new connections, such as Mission Beach-Tully, Miriam Vale-Agnes Water/1770 and Bundaberg-Bargara.

-CityFerry: Contracting out to a private operator, the Brisbane CityCat/ferry network, and potentially looking at a next-gen CityCat (replacing the original 6, launched in 1996), that is capable of travel into Moreton Bay, and beyond UQ (to at least Chelmer/Tennyson). The potential of bringing the Gold Coast ferry project under the same umbrella, will also need to be investigated.

And, finally: - Bus region reform: The rollout of a new contracting system for bus operators, based on the Sydney model: instead of fiefdoms, which hold the network back as a whole, a region-based model would be a stronger way to deal with bus operator contracts in the SE corner (whose negotiations will include public hearings for the first time) and reduce the miles of bus contract areas in the SE down to 7/8 (if MetBus is split), and encourage the amalgamation of operators, along with future competitive tendering opportunities. Many operators are queuing outside Queensland, waiting for the doors to be opened, such as CDC Buses (operating HillsBus in Sydney, and services in the Hunter Valley and Blue Mountains), and Transit Systems (operating networks in Sydney (alongside on-demand service Bridj), Adelaide, Darwin and Perth in Australia, as well as in the UK and Singapore overseas) that want to come here, and bring fresh ideas to a network getting stale.

MT COOT-THA AND THE BRISBANE BOTANIC GARDENS (CITY/MT COOT-THA) FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW.

Mt Coot-tha. Brisbane’s lungs, and home to our commercial television stations. A iconic lookout, yet due to the decision by Brisbane Explorer tour buses to quit Brisbane, in 2017 there is no current tour from Brisbane’s CBD to the lookout for those outside organized tour groups, instead having to endure a half-hour ride, on a suburban bus from Brisbane’s CBD, that only runs hourly (and at odd frequencies on weekends). And, because Mt Coot-tha is a workplace, for hundreds of people, the 471 is no use for anyone working on the hill without a car (other than the lookout/botanic gardens): because it terminates… at the Mt Coot-tha lookout. It’ll only get worse, if the zipline proposal happens, especially if they do not enhance transport up Mt Coot-tha, otherwise, there will be one day a jam of news vehicles, commuters, zipline visitors and tourists, causing chaos on Mt Coot-tha, unless solutions are made. 

The first solution is: Mt Coot-tha must be linked by a better public transport option.
This better public transport option is not a cable car. This better public transport option, is to inaugurate a Mt Coot-tha Loop, running from Toowong Station, and looping around Samuel Griffith Drive, with key stops at:
-Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens,
-Mt Coot-tha Lookout
-near each of the commercial stations (Range View picnic area for Nine, Brush Box picnic area for Seven and near the station building itself for Ten (stop named Peter Clarke, after TVQ chopper pilot who passed away after a fatal helicopter accident on Mt Coot-tha in 1998) to allow for commuter usage.
The frequency from Toowong, would be greater all-round than what exists today.

The second solution: The state administers Mt Coot-tha as a national park.
The transition of Mt Coot-tha to a national park, would end the legislative hula, that Mt Coot-tha is currently governed under: with BCC running the day-to-day side, but with state legislation administrating the three television station sites on Mt Coot-tha, and how the sites are used. A national park designation would also mean that any activities proposed on Mt Coot-tha outside current uses, would be under tighter scrutiny by the state government. This also brings us to the next solution.

The third solution: renegotiate the commercial stations 99yr leases on Mt Coot-tha.
This would indeed be a tricky one. The big question that lies here, is whether or not it is feasible, to introduce legislation, that modifies the three TV station’s leases, to allow for a opt-out clause at 65yrs (2024, BTQ/QTQ)/60yrs (2025, TVQ) that has conditions attached, which includes:
-A 2/3 preservation rule would be activated if all three commercials take the opportunity to leave at the opt-out clause. This means, at minimum, one of the 1959 station sites, and TVQ would remain on the hill, and be preserved as historical working examples of Australian television stations built in the 1950s/60s.
-The transmitters (run by TX Australia) remain insitu.
-No demolition of TV facilities on Mt Coot-tha, if only two commercial stations take up the opt-out clause, with tourist operators allowed to use the former TV station sites, to launch helicopter tours of Brisbane, with studios refurbished to working order, to allow for television production houses a non-tied studio facility in Brisbane.

And finally, the fourth solution: Establishment of a state-run Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Parklands Trust.
A state-operated trust, to run the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha, the City Botanic Gardens in the CBD, New Farm, Victoria and Musgrave Parks as well as Roma St and South Bank Parklands, is a must if our parklands are to thrive into a third century. Every other state in Australia has their primary botanic garden/s administered by the state itself, with Brisbane’s being a unique case. The tying of some of our largest inner-urban parks to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, will allow for a major change in how we think of our parkland. The potential will be there, for some satellite gardens, at Victoria Park and New Farm Park, along with stronger cross-promotional opportunities for the Mt Coot-tha Gardens and the inner-city. The existing library at Mt Coot-tha will become a satellite of SLQ specifically based on horticulture.

Well, that is that: Kuttsy’s Pitch’s look at what could be, if we pulled our socks up, and reformed local government in Brisbane and surrounds, for the twenty-first century. 

We now ask you (yes, you the reader) to begin a long-haul push towards de-amalgamation of Brisbane City Council, along with wider SEQ LGA reforms occuring in conjunction with the introduction of a Greater Brisbane Authority over the top.

This means, contacting local members, contacting federal members, and asking them whether or not, de-amalgamation of BCC and better local government in SEQ is supported. It should be such a grass-roots issue, that it becomes watercooler talk. And, when that watercooler talk expands, it'll be the biggest issue that concerns Brisbane and surrounds, because it's simply a new way to look at local government in Queensland and, for that matter: Australia.

A second tier local government for Brisbane and surrounds, will not just guarantee a City Deal for SEQ (just ask Manchester in England) but guarantee trust in local government, that many people have thought was lost, in light of the Belcarra inquiry by the CCC in 2017.

It doesn’t matter, if you are living in a Brisbane suburb overrun with development, with no way to stop it because of the complexity of BCC, or live in a outskirt council who wants not just trust in local government, but are asking for better voice for issues affecting people from Beenleigh to Beerburrum, from North Straddie to Grandchester, that is decided by the people, not by a group of mayors whose priorities will likely bend to the demands of Brisbane City Council and the Gold Coast City Council, QLD and Australia's two largest local governments. 

It is now time to change local government in SEQ for the better, before we regret the missed opportunity to do so.

If we end up regretting it, local government in SEQ may soon be too broken, to fix it.

No comments:

Post a Comment