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Metros & Urban Rail

Improving accessibility of light rail - CAMS in the Gold Coast Rapid Transit project

Train passengers

The Gold Coast Rapid Transit (GCRT) project is a game-changing public transport initiative for the Gold Coast, which will seek to increase public transport usage in a region dominated by car travel.

A crucial part of the early stages of the project was effective research around ways to ensure easy access for passengers to the system.

  • How would those all-important walk-up trips which are going to be fundamental to the success of the project be maximised?
  • How did the project ensure that people won’t be thwarted by busy roads, indirect routes, lack of way-finding and connectivity?

As the first phase of the project currently enters a testing and commissioning phase, this thinking piece looks at the tools employed in the Corridor Access and Mobility Study (CAMS) commissioned by Gold Coast City Council (GCCC or ‘Council’) and completed by Aurecon in 2011.

The objective of the CAMS was to look at ways of maximising efficiency of access for pedestrians and cyclists travelling to each GCRT station and avoid a merry-go-round of potential GCRT patrons continuing to use their cars for trips which could be made by light rail.

This paper reviews the tools employed in CAMS, which included an audit of on-site conditions within the station walking catchments, delays encountered by pedestrians and a series of prioritised interventions to improve integration with the surrounding areas and inform the design of station typologies -- all to support the vision of a 40-km light rail network for the Gold Coast.

The three assessment frameworks used were developed by the UK-based Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), in conjunction with Transport for London.

Ben Vardon, who led the study on behalf of Aurecon, said, “The study’s findings demonstrate the inextricable relationship between walking and personal security, the need for streets not roads, and the hallmarks of a dynamic, accessible station.”

Assessing Walking and Cycling Environment Quality

Pedestrian Environmental Review System (PERS) software was used to analyse links and crossings within a defined walking catchment of 800 m from the future station sites, corresponding to the theoretical 10-minute walking distance. In this framework, links, being the individual path segments and crossings referring to formal and informal crossing points, were analysed separately using a scale to individually rate a number of weighted parameters to assess the quality of the walking environment.  

CommutersOver the study area, the pedestrian elements that scored the poorest were kerb ramps, tactile ground surface indicators (TGSIs) and path widths. It was observed that the more built-up areas have higher footpath widths; however, the effective width is often lower than 1.5 m because of street furniture, café seating, shop signage and landscaping.

A similar method was employed for bicycle path links in the wider catchment area of the Cycling Environmental Review System (CERS) study. The overall scores for the cycling links for each region considered, generally fell within the average range with the area west of Precinct C falling into the poor range. This was due to factors such as higher traffic speed and lower vehicle proximity, relative to cyclists.The traffic proximity parameter measures the separation between cyclists and traffic on the roadway. 

Within the study area, there were examples of facilities provided without adequate separation of cyclists from traffic.

Many of the roads within the study area are of high order (district or above) and posted speeds above 70 km/h are common. This environment triggers the need for larger separation of cyclists from traffic.

Assessing impediments to walkability that would lower patronage forecasts

PedShed was used to determine how delays on the network within the theoretical walking catchment become a limiting factor to the number of patrons able to reach the GCRT within a five- or a 10-minute walking time, covering distances typical for those wishing to access public transport to commute to work. The technique reveals where the delays are on the network, in this case the majority occurring at signalised crossings of major roads such as the Gold Coast Highway.

PedShed involved several tasks:

  • Determining total theoretical walkable catchment within the catchment radius
  • Estimating delays caused by traffic signals, roundabouts and other route impediments
  • Determining the actual walkable catchment adjusted to include pedestrian delays

A total walkable catchment includes all areas that pedestrians are able to access by foot on their way to a station and which are perceived to be safe. Such areas include residential, commercial, and industrial areas as well as special land uses such as malls, hospital and school grounds and parks. In cases where there is a perceived low sense of casual surveillance such as in parklands or pedestrian access pathways at night, routes are not included in the analysis.

The analysis identified that the majority of stations had significantly reduced walkable catchments when compared to their theoretical catchments, potentially impacting on GCRT patronage.

A comparison for population catchments accessing the stations, corrected for network delays, was analysed. It could be seen that along Surfers Paradise Boulevard (Precinct C) the 10-minute walking catchment is reduced by 50 per cent or more. This is due, in part, to delays encountered as a pedestrian when crossing the Gold Coast Highway.

Using knowledge of patronage levels and type of user to inform station typology

A key step in the CAMS was to analyse the function of each station, accounting for population growth, land use changes for the Gold Coast, and likely peak pedestrian footfall at each station/ desired space to maintain the desired level of service.

Table 4
Table 4: GCRT station hierarchy

Observations were undertaken of pedestrian footfall on streets which will service the stations. There was a mix of commuters and ‘ambient’ pedestrians, including tourists, event visitors, local business owners and retirees using the footpaths at any one time. This meant that in centres such as Surfers Paradise, there was little prevailing directional flow, making open space critical at intersections and decision points.

This provided a basis for high-level estimates of the future minimum footpath widths required under everyday peak conditions and likely GCRT passenger exchange/ dispersion of flow.

This analysis -- when combined with the PERS, CERS and Pedshed -- painted a picture of:

  • Where space would be required for walking to and from the GCRT
  • Where delays and safety needed to be addressed on the network within the walking and cycling catchments

Addressing problems with solutions

Some of the interventions to improve walking access arising from the study included:

  • High radius left turn lanes reduced or eliminated with the left turn signalised to provide more footpath space for shade and walking
  • Scramble crossings (all red traffic phase) at high demand areas instead of conventional crossings

Many fully controllable, geometric design elements emerged as important for station access. Some less tangible factors also emerged such as a sense of personal safety brought about by street activation and passive surveillance opportunities. From the CAMS work key recurring engineered or non-engineered hallmarks are summarised below.

Table 5
Table 5: Hallmarks of accessible stations

Stations, while largely defined by the GCRT corridor, have been located to take full advantage of bus interchanges and feeder services at Gold Coast University Hospital/ Griffith University, Southport and Broadbeach South. Patronage and passenger exchange will be triple the level at these stations than the levels at remaining stations. The CAMS has prioritised walking and cycling routes connecting GCRT stations to bus interchanges.

1 Department of Transport and Main Roads, Concept Design and Impact Management Plan (2006 – 08), GoldLinq

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