Opinion Pieces: The number of people using train services in the peak suggests that BRT should (must) have a real future

Opinion Pieces: since 2007, Prof. David Hensher has written an opinion column in the Australasian Bus and Coach magazine, where he monthly discusses a lot of different transport-related hot topics. In this section we are revisiting these columns.

August 2011

One of the main arguments used to support rail investment over bus systems is the carrying capacity of trains per hour. We are told that bus rapid transit (BRT) could never provide the service capacity required to offer an alternative to heavy rail investment. What is the evidence? We look at the recent figures provided by CityRail in Sydney.

The one hour morning peak to the city as measured at various stations for the nine metropolitan lines (excluding the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast) shows a maximum of 17,280 passengers on the Western line passing through Redfern Station (a station next to Central). The next highest patronage is 16,905 on the Illawarra line at Sydenham, followed by 16,680 on the North Shore line passing through St Leonards Station. The patronage drops off very fast, down to 11,735 per morning peak hour on the Airport and East Hill lines, with the remaining lines having patronage levels at surveyed locations between 9,615 and 3,810. The best in the afternoon peak from the city is 15,240 passengers counted at Redfern on the Western line.

With this factual evidence, let us note that many of the BRT systems (including Brisbane busway system) already have up to 10,000 passengers per hour (see graph below), which covers peak patronage levels for all but four of the nine lines in Sydney, with growing evidence that BRT can accommodate all patronage levels currently observed on the entire CityRail network.

Food for thought

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