Free public transport for students and seniors in the Northern Territory

From 01 January 2009 seniors, pensioners and carers have been able to travel for free on all scheduled bus services on the Territory’s public transport network. This initiative is part of the Northern Territory Government’s plan to extend the bus network and increase public transport use.

The Northern Territory Government has also announced that the FREE Bus Travel Package is providing free bus travel for Territory students from Tuesday 27 January 2009. Visiting Australian students will also enjoy free travel on the Territory’s school and public bus network. The free service is available to primary school students through to University students.

Source: NT Transport Group via Austalasian Bus and Coach

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Reading: Fuel for thought

While digging around the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) web site I discovered Fuel for thought, a publication by the Future Fuels Forum 2007. This June 2008 publication informs us how the Future Fuels Forum thinks transport fuels will pan out in our future with modelling from now to 2050.  It is an interesting document and I suggest you read it if you are at all interested in the future of transport fuels in Australia. Click the cover page below to download the PDF (1.5Mb).

challenges and opportunities (PDF)

CSIRO 2008: Fuel for thought - The future of transport fuels: challenges and opportunities (PDF)

Apart from being relatively easy to read and informative for those of us without a scientific or economic background it provides great insight into the conservative information upon which our governments are making decisions that impact your future and mine. It isn’t all conservative mind you. The modelling for a continuing rise in demand for oil and a sharp decline in supply shows we could pay as much as $8 per litre for petrol in the not too distant future and the authors do stress the urgency with which alternatives for oil must be found.

While the document was written before the global financial crisis really started to bite the bulk of it remains relevant. If you do read it I’d like to know what you think so please leave a comment.

Advanced Engine Components is doing good business in China

Following on from its December 2008 deal with Tata Motors in India (previous post), Perth based Advanced Engine Components (AEC) has recently announced a $1.2m order for their Natural Gas Vehicle System (NGVS) kits and associated engine components from Aussen Engine (Aussen) in China. Aussen is building compressed natural gas (CNG) engines for buses and trucks. The buses are for Wuhan Public Transport. Wuhan, with a population over 9 million, is the capital of Hubei Province. The trucks are for the Guizhou Province.

Separate negotiations for delivery of a further $600,000 worth of NGVS kits to Wuxi Xilian Diesel Engine Manufacturing (Xilian)  is in final stages of negotiation with delivery expected by 30 April 2009. The CNG engines, to be built by Xilian, are for the Nanjing Xincheng Bus Company. Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu Province. Nanjing Xincheng Bus Company has been running fifty buses delivered in April 2008 that were built by Chongqing Hengtong Bus Company with Xilian AEC CNG engines. Xilian has also taken delivery of twenty two ACE NGVS kits for liquefied natural gas (LNG) bus engines for Haikou Public Transport Company. Haikou is the capital of Hainan Province.

Xiamen Kinglong Bus Company in Shaoxing has purchased and taken delivery of ten Weichai WT 615 LNG engines from AEC. The buses are for Hangzhou Public Transportation Company. The order follows extensive trials in a competitive tender situation.

Guiyang Public Traffic Company has purchased forty buses from Huanghai Bus Company in Dandong. The buses have FAW DDE 230 hp AEC LNG engines. The purchase follows eight months of competitive trials against other LNG engines.

At 31 December 2008 there were approximately 400 natural gas vehicles, using the ACE NGVS, in active service throughout China. The above sales are certain to at least double that number.

Source: Advance Engine Components (PDF)

Google Transit available for Perth and Adelaide

Way back in March 2008 we got wind of the fact that Google Transit was going to be rolled out in Perth. Well, this week Google announced that the Google Transit Layer is available for Perth and some public transport information is available for Adelaide. Google Transit Layer enables users of Google Maps to source public transport information directly from the map.

Google Transit for Leaderville Station in Perth

Google Transit for Leaderville Station in Perth

Unfortunately, at this stage the Transit Layer shows a different level of information depending on which city you view. In Perth, users can see the layout of the entire public transit system, zoom in on a particular route and click on a bus stop or train station to find out which buses or trains pass through (as shown above).To activate the Transit Layer you click More on the top right of the Google Map and check the Transit box.

In Adelaide you won’t be able to see the network as a layer on the map but can still click on bus stops and train stations to bring up a window with colour-coded routes and a direct link to the Adelaide Metro web site (as shown below). Tram users in Adelaide can also see timetables. As there are no layers to activate you just zoom in to the area of interest until the bust stops, train stations and tram stops become visible.

Google Transit Bus Stop I3 North Tce Adelaide

Google Transit Bus Stop I3 North Tce in Adelaide

This is another excellent tool from Google. If you’ve got time please have a play around with it and let us know what you think in the comments.

Source: Techworld

City Living versus The Great Australian Dream

For a few years now I’ve harboured a dream to be able to live life without a car. I have this imaginary lifestyle in my mind where I live in the centre of a city. Everything I need is within walking or cycling distance. On the rare occasion that I need to do a long road trip I’ll just hire a car.

A series of articles that appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Lithgow Mercury (here, here and here) got me thinking about it again. You see, Sydney planners are wanting to build an underground rail line from Central Station to Parramatta. Along that line they want to build high rise (up to 15 storeys) apartment blocks with the aim of encouraging their increasing population to live withing walking distance of the new mass transit system. From a sustainable mobility perspective the Sydney plan sounds great. The problem is the planners are fighting The Great Australian Dream. The big house with the big backyard.

Aussies want at least four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a double garage and room for the kids to run around out the back. The Great Australian Dream is the main driver behind urban sprawl in all our capital cities. To get the big block you have to live in the outer suburbs. Living in the outer suburbs means you will most likely need to drive a car to work, if not all the way then at least to the nearest decent public transport. As a result The Great Australian Dream clogs our roads in peak hour and causes us to curse everyone else following the same dream we are.

The sad news is that the Great Australian Dream is a lifestyle that is unsustainable in a peak oil world. The Sydney planners know it and so do a lot of other people, particularly Europeans who are practiced at living the width of a wall away from their neighbours. The rising cost of oil as supplies diminish will increase demand for public transport but Governments will be unable to build and maintain the infrastructure required to service the urban sprawl. We are going to have to adjust our definition of living and part of that adjustment will be living closer together, closer to public transport and closer to work.

Right now I’m almost living The Dream. I’ve got a big yard in a very quiet neighbourhood. The house is small but I’ve got a big shed. The problem is that I’m 35km from work and about 15km from the city where my better half works. There is no nearby public transport so getting to work would involve a drive followed by multiple bus and train journeys. Cycling and working from home are my best options for reducing car use but neither can be achieved every day due to distance and the need to see clients or work at clients’ sites.

So, what would it take to get me living closer to my neighbours, closer to public transport and closer to work? I’ve been mulling this over for the last few days and it all comes down to two words – lifestyle and happiness. To achieve the lifestyle and happiness I desire when living in a city centre I’d need the living environment to meet five criteria.

1. I am not prepared to live in a shoe box. I’m a country boy and I like my space. That doesn’t mean I need a big house, it just means I need room to move and an uncluttered environment in which to live. Good views would help.

2. If I’m going to move from being surrounded by not much to living shoulder to shoulder then I want to do so in a truly environmentally friendly building. It will need to be well insulated, take advantage of winter sun and summer breeze and have lots of natural light and ventilation. The building or development will have its own power supply, preferably cogeneration or trigeneration powered by natural gas.

3. Silence. I don’t want to hear the neighbours and I don’t want them to hear me. I don’t want to hear traffic even with the windows open.

4. There will be secure storage for bicycles and general living stuff underneath the building. There should be no need to clutter the place up by bringing bicycles upstairs or locking them to anything you can find. Each tenant should have their own private storage space.

5. The building or development will need to have shared facilities that provide safe and secure space for kids and adults to be active and get outdoors. Ideally it would be in a precinct that restricts the entry of cars thereby freeing up as much space as possible for parks, barbecues, swimming pool, gyms, etc. To my mind the design has failed if it encourages or necessitates car use.

That’s it. If I could find a place like that I’d seriously consider moving to the city centre or a public transport hub. I’m not sure about you but I haven”t seen or heard of any developments that meet, or even come close to, the above criteria in my city or others.

This brings us back to Sydney. If the designers and developers of the urban living environments along the Central to Parramatta mass transit system are going to tempt those chasing The Dream to live in their developments they are going to have to focus on lifestyle, not just stylish buildings. They are going to have to provide outdoor living space while building high quality, high density housing. And they are going to have to make the developments environmentally friendly otherwise they’ve lost before they’ve begun.

Victorian Transport Plan released

The Victorian Department of Transport released the Victorian Transport Plan (VTP) earlier this month. Not having a great understanding of Melbourne and Victoria make it hard to assess the VTP but at least Victoria has a plan. The proof will be in the execution.

Highlights include:

  • Up to 70 new trains and 100km of new track for Melbourne’s suburban rail systems
  • Up to 50 new trams
  • Up to 270 new buses and the continuation of the hybrid bus trial
  • Regional rail improvements to boost capacity by 9000 extra passengers and hour
  • Upgrades to regional transport infrastructure (in partnership with the Commonwealth)
  • Improved freight access to Port Melbourne
  • Completing the Melbourne ring road
  • Improving regional rail lines including electrification of existing lines
  • Fostering research into second and third generation biofuels
  • $100 million increase in funding for bicycle lanes and shared paths
  • $5 million public bicycle hire scheme for inner Melbourne
  • Encouraging the use of low emission vehicles
  • Mandatory emissions targets for State Government fleets

Negatives:

  • No transport emissions reduction target set
  • No inclusion of viable alternative fuels such as natural gas

You can download the VTP here (9.2Mb PDF).

You can download maps showing the detail here.

Freight Futures is a companion plan to the VTC dealing specifically with Victoria’s long-term freight network strategy. You can download Freight Futures here (5.3Mb PDF).

Advanced Engine Components executes CNGV deal with Tata Motors

Not long ago we reported that Advanced Engine Components (AEC) in Western Australia had agreed a Letter of Intent to enter into a ten year Purchase Agreement with Tata Motors of India for the sale of natural gas vehicle systems, related components, spares and services. AEC have announced the execution of that deal with Tata.

AEC will design, develop, test and certify compressed natural gas (CNG) kits as part of the natural gas vehicle system (NGVS). The NGVS is for naturally aspirated and turbo charged CNG versions of Tata’s four and six cylinder engines for commercial vehicle application.

AEC has commenced development on the NGVS for the Tata CNG engines. A key component of the NGVS for the Tata engine development programme is completion of the fifth generation AEC electronic control unit (“ECU”). The fifth generation ECU is a significant advance on the current ECU incorporating simplified state of the art components, with incremental development capacity.