Thursday, December 8, 2016

Our Letter to the Transport Minister's Media Person

We're less than 4 weeks from the big zone and fare changes that were implemented within days of the issue of a report from the Fare Review Taskforce back in June. At this stage we have a low resolution regional zone map, a fare structure for the new zone arrangements, and a Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report. It seems this government made zero effort to share the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report with the community it apparently engaged with. 

In frustration at the constant obfuscation at every level of the Translink machine, and with serious concerns about what will happen come January 1st, 2017 we have approached the media person for transport minister Stirling Hinchcliffe. Since we are expecting that Stirling Hinchcliffe's media person will make every effort to not give us satisfactory answers to our questions we've decided to post our communication here. 

Sent to: Darren Roberts - Media Person for Queensland Transport Minister, Stirling Hinchcliffe, 09/12/16

Hello Darren,

I'm following up from our phone call of today at 1.30pm. I'm glad you have given me your personal undertaking that you will respond to my questions in writing in a timely fashion. I would urge that you make the responses fulsome and as detailed as possible. I would also urge that you adhere to the time frame that I will provide in this email.

Time frame: By close of business Monday December 12, 2016 I would like answers to each of my 7 questions provided in written form, most preferably in an email.

Here are my 7 questions.

1. What date did the Translink Division/Queensland government/Queensland Department of Transport or any other relevant entity publish the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report to the web page at this URL:

2. What was the communications strategy around the release of the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report? (I would ask that the minister answer this question while being mindful that the social media record shows little to no evidence of any attempt to disseminate or share the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report. Further I would remind the minister that the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report has not been assigned a URL and does not exist on it's own web page, but rather it is a download only document.)

3. Why does the PDF version of the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report (the only version available to the public) contain extremely limited metadata other than a creation date of 02/09/2016 making the document virtually invisible to internet searches?

4. Why has the transport minister Stirling Hinchcliffe made no formal or informal statements regarding the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report? (Please be mindful of previous commitments have been made in writing by Stirling Hinchcliffe wherein he committed to an "extensive community consultation")

5. When will Translink/Stirling Hinchcliffe be providing information to the South East Queensland public about the changes initiated through the fare review including but not limited to: concession fare arrangements for low income healthcare card holders, detailed zone boundary information (the current map titled 'Proposed 8 zone map' lacks appropriate detail), and any relevant changes/circumstances/consideration arising from from implementation of actions initiated as a response to the SEQ Review Taskforce Recommendations Report?

6. Is the transport minister prepared to make a detailed statement in writing explaining how his government made every attempt to satisfy the Terms of Reference for the Fare Review Taskforce? I would ask that the minister, in formulating his response, be mindful of this statement in the Terms of Reference document outlining the process for community consultation:

"The taskforce will develop a detailed options paper for public consultation.
Following on from public consultation recommendations will be submitted to government."

7. Why was the September 2016 performance snapshot only published yesterday 08/12/16 and why is the October snapshot still unpublished? (it has been customary to publish each snapshot a month after the relevant service period). If indeed the minister has an explanation for not publishing performance data in a timely manner, would the minister provide that explanation to me?


Michael Swifte
Page Manager - The Translink Ripoff

EDIT: On December 14 after Darren Roberts refused to answer my questions taking issue with my publication of his name in this blog post. I presented these 7 questions to the TransLink External Affairs team. Today, 10/01/17, after apologies for failing to respond to my questions in a timely fashion I received a phone call and email from Jesse at the TransLink Call Centre/Customer Relations. I was able to confirm from Kristen from the TransLink External Affairs team that my requests for information from TransLink Call Centre/Customer Relations  08/12/16, Darren Roberts 09/12/1, and TransLink External Affairs 14/12/16 were amalgamated. 

Text of email from Jesse at TransLink Customer Relations, 10/01/17,

Dear Michael

I am writing in follow up to your telephone call to TransLink on 8 December 2016 and email on 9 December 2016, requesting information on the recent fair review.

In consulting with the relevant department we were provided with the information below:

Thank you for your enquiries in relation to the Queensland Government’s Fairer Fares for South East Queensland package.

As you would be aware, on Sunday 12 June 2016 the Queensland Government announced the Fairer Fares reform package in response to the recommendations of the SEQ Fare Review Taskforce. The package delivers more affordable fares for the vast majority of public transport users in SEQ.

Following the announcement, TransLink Division within the Department of Transport and Main Roads commenced a five week community awareness program to inform the community about the Fairer Fares package and gather feedback to inform future approaches to public transport fares.
Information about Fairer Fares was made available on the Fare Review website ( including the Fare Review Taskforce Report, the Government’s Fairer Fares for SEQ document, a fare comparison calculator, FAQs, case studies, fare schedules and zone maps.
Community members were encouraged to provide input into the future direction of fares in SEQ through an online survey which was open until midnight, Sunday 17 July 2016. There were 3,555 survey responses from across SEQ. The focus of the survey was gathering community feedback to guide the longer term approach to fares.
On Wednesday 31 August 2016, the Hon Stirling Hinchliffe, Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games, made a statement to the Queensland Parliament on the outcomes of the feedback process. A summary of the feedback from the community was provided in the Fairer Fares Community Engagement Report, which was released to the public via the Fare Review website on Monday 5 September 2016. A copy of the report is attached for your reference.
Previously, implementation of the Fairer Fares package was scheduled to occur in early 2017, however following the completion of all system updates and testing, the changes were implemented successfully on Monday 19 December 2016.
The following changes now apply across South East Queensland:
·         zones reduced from 23 to 8, with cheaper fares across all zones
·         the off-peak period extended through to 6am (currently 3am) with the off-peak discount retained at 20%
·         children aged five to 14 years inclusive travel free at the weekend on an orange child go card
·         50% per cent off journeys after eight journeys in a week with a go card (replacing the existing 'Nine and FREE' incentive)
·         free travel for seniors and pensioners after two journeys in a day (existing incentive retained).
As part of the Fairer Fares package, the Queensland Government also committed to introducing concession fares to people on the Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance (job seekers) and Asylum Seekers. TransLink is working with the relevant Federal agencies to develop the frameworks and systems to support these new concession products, with implementation planned for 2017.
TransLink has commenced an awareness campaign across South East Queensland to inform existing customers about the fare and zone changes. If you have further questions about the changes, please contact TransLink on 13 12 30 or visit the TransLink website at, where detailed zone maps and fare tables can be viewed.

I trust this has been of assistance.

Kind regards

TransLink Customer Relations

Sunday, May 15, 2016

BCC Committee Meetings: An embarrassment of democracy and why you should attend

By Michael Swifte

Why should ordinary Brisbane residents attend the Brisbane City Council standing committees held at Brisbane City Hall each Tuesday when council is in session?

The short answer is: 

To witness the embarrassment of democracy that is on offer at this little piece of local government process.

The long answer is:

The BCC standing committees are chaired by the councilor responsible for particular areas of council operations. Standing committee chairs form Brisbane's 'Civic Cabinet'. Standing committee meetings are not minuted, but you can attend along with bureaucrats and local media.

I began attending the BCC Public and Active Transport committee just over 2 years ago. The first time I went along the BCC attendant told me I wasn't allowed to go to committee meetings, but I referred her to the council's own website, I was perhaps the first member of the public to attend. Since that time I have witnessed the occasional member of the public attend along with Translink Ripoff fans. The BCC have instituted new procedures, started a sign in book for visitors, provided numbered lanyards, and redefined a "banner" as any teeshirt that may bear a political slogan.

Cr Matic didn't like me wearing this teeshirt so he organised to have it banned.
I count myself lucky that I attended these committee meetings when I did because I got to witness a proper politician at work. Councilor Nicole Johnston used the few minutes left at each Public and Active Transport committee meeting after the unnecessarily long presentation to hold the chair Councilor Matic to account. Cr Johnston was highly effective, exposed Cr Matic's evasiveness and stonewalling, and was prepared to engage with the public. Cr Johnston, to her immense credit, was prepared to pitch questions that I would tweet to her, and made no secret of this fact. Now, in the first meetings of the Public and Active Transport committee attended only by LNP and ALP councilors, I see only a rubber stamping process.

Each week Cr Nicole Johnston would take the fight to Cr Matic.
I have made my presence at BCC committees as disruptive as possible without breaching behaviour guidelines. Just my presence has an impact on councilors who will use the stairs rather than be confronted by me in the elevator, and they will hush their voices when I enter the waiting room.

Cr Adrian Schrinner has taken over from Cr Matic

Any member of the public who has concerns about the way the BCC operates should try to attend the relevant committee. There are opportunities to speak with and tweet to jounalists and councilors, and to show that their embarrassing, rubber stamping process is being scrutinised.

Check here for details of BCC standing committees:

Check here for behaviour standards:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fare and Zone Comparison Table: April 2016

Following from the increase in transfers on Sydney's Opal Card system which was being exploited by Opal Runners doing something very similar to the 'notching up' we were seeing here a few years back. Opal Card  transfers have increased from 3 to 7. A few more transfers would give some SEQ commuters blessed relief, but Translink (under LNP and ALP) wont hear of any changes to number of transfers or transfer window length.

Here is our updated fare and zone comparison table.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Qld Local Elections: The BCC Public Transport Policy Mosh Pit

By Tony Corbett

Its hard to know where to start with the public transport (PT) policy mosh-pit that has characterised the BCC election campaign.  There isn’t much point getting into the nitty gritty, we’ll leave that to Brizcommuter who provides a good assessment HERE. At a broader level the PT promise frenzy the mayoral candidates have engaged in tell us that the toxic relationship and blurred lines of responsibility between the BCC and the state government continues to cripple our PT system and stymie any improvement.

The two main candidates, the LNPs Graham Quirk and Labor’s Rod Harding have promised half baked, expensive metro and light rail systems with zero discussions with the state via Translink, who is allegedly responsible for PT.  Harding has also promised ‘free fare Fridays’ when the BCC actually, nominally, has no control over fares.  The ludicrousness of this proposal prompted Rail Back on Track’s Bob Dow to publicly call for legislation stripping the BCC of any control over public transport.  Both of the major parties were silent on cross river rail, the number 1 priority to get the city moving. The Greens candidate Ben Pennings has made some cheaper bus-based proposals, which are OK if taken in isolation, but that is what we believe is the critical point.  All of the promises and proposals have been rushed and developed in isolation, with little or no thought of system integration.

Meanwhile we have a new transport minister at state level, SH, who on early indications seems as useless and hamstrung as his predecessor Jackie Trad.  The vaunted fare review has supposedly been completed (?), but with no public consultation, no release date, ad hoc releases of more special fare products, and if the BCC election campaign promises are anything to go by, lukewarm or zero political support.

Brisbane’s public transport system remains woefully inadequate, with no indications of reform or improvement in the future.  None of the players at state or BCC levels seem to understand or care that political and institutional reform is the only way forward.  While they don’t seem to understand, they actually do understand.  What seem to us like a murky, opaque web of backroom deals between politicians and unions, and between state and BCC politicians combines to maintain the status quo of an unintegrated system that is expensive to use and run and stuck in time somewhere around Expo 88.

The state leaving PT to the BCC has had disasterous results.  The BCC only has control over buses, and inevitably they have delivered us to ‘peak bus’.  A single, state government controlled metro controlling all aspects of the system, with a focus on rail is the only way forward.  If the BCC genuinely cared about delivering good public transport it would recognise the need for integrating rail and bus modes.  For that to happen the BCC needs to stop acting unilaterally on major infrastructure and the state needs to prioritise PT and get on the front foot politically.  In other words, the BCC needs to step aside, and the state needs to step up.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Correspondence: The Absurdity of Translink's New Ticketing Products

Below is an email exchange with Erin from the Translink Stakeholder Relations Team regarding the new Business Go Cards. We're stunned at the absurdity of the response which took a few days for Erin to draft. We feel the response is not only inadequate but deluded. If an organisation like Translink produces such deluded correspondence in defence of it's actions, this speaks volumes about the health of it's organisational culture. The below response is evidence that Translink is a truly sick organisation and that the supposed integrated ticketing they are responsible for is an utter failure.  
The 2 new specialist Go Cards that are apparently part of a "pilot program". 

I'm seeking information about the costs to business and event organisers to provide the new Go Access Go Card to employees and event attendees.

I note that the Transport Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe has made no statements regarding the new Go Access Go Card and has offered no reasons for the development of these new ticketing products.

If the costs to businesses and event organisers is minimal then is it not the public purse that bears the burden of journeys made with Go Access Go Cards? It is irresponsible and fundamentally untransparent to launch this product without thorough disclosure of costs and evidence that equity issues have been given full consideration.

Right now the public have very little information to inform them of any justifications/rational for this product.

We could see a large portion of CBD commuters provided this product creating 2 tiers of commuter. Is a sandwich hand or sales assistant likely to receive a Go Access Go Card? Does the existence of yet another specialist Go Card product indicate fundamental problems with network design and failure of integrated ticketing?

An unemployed person will spend $6.70 minimum to attend a job interview or appointment with an employment provider on the Translink SEQ network.

Please provide a prompt response.


Michael Swifte
Page Manager
The Translink Ripoff

Good afternoon Michael,
In response to your enquiry regarding our go Access Corporate Events Card, I hope the following information is of assistance.
TransLink works hard to make sure public transport is encouraged and easily accessible to all Queenslanders and our visitors.

The go access Corporate Events Card is currently being piloted in south-east Queensland with the aim of attracting conference organisers to hold their event in Queensland. The pilot also aims to encourage event attendees to get out and about and spend locally while they are in this part of the State.

This product, details of which have been on the TransLink website since mid last year, are only available to eligible event-associated organisations through direct order from TransLink. These organisations pay in advance for this bulk purchase as part of their conference or event offering. Event organisers will often add on margins above the card price to cover their event expenses. The card is self-sufficient and does not require public money to sustain it.
A minimum bulk order of 50 cards (adult cards only) must be purchased at $12 each for use over three days. Additional days can be added at a cost of $4 per day and limited to a maximum of eight days. The product can only be used for the number of days purchased and expires at the end of the event. The price of the product has been set to cover costs, based on the average value of travel taken by event delegates. 

The government has been praised by the tourism and events industry for introducing this product due to the revenue and awareness it brings for our state and the easy public transport access it offers visitors. The card has also received praise from international and national delegates who have been keen to explore similar initiatives due to its success. This product elevates our credentials on an international scale as a competitive event location as organisers are easily able to organise cost-effective travel for attendees.

Not only does this product help reduce road congestion by encouraging public transport use but it also helps support our state through the extra revenue generated by national and international attendees as they explore and spend locally. 

The corporate event card will be rolled out more broadly as the ongoing success of the pilot continues. TransLink will continue to develop ticketing options that respond to customer needs.
Many thanks, Erin.
Government and Stakeholder Relations Team
Office of the Deputy Director-General
TransLink Division
| Department of Transport and Main Roads

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why have we not posted here for 11 months?

We never got our second promised meeting with Jackie Trad. In fact her staff were not prepared to provide us with any response let alone a formal refusal.

While Jackie Trad was transport minister she managed to create an even more muddied situation than when she arrived in office. She launched the current fare review that we know almost nothing about, and has included no consultation with the people. The terms of reference were not presented for discussion in any way, not via the media, not through a Translink run consultation. The fare review is essentially a 'black box' exercise ably assisted by our local media who seem to have zero interest in asking tough questions which is extremely disappointing. After former transport minister Scott Emerson's recent fare review taskforce leaks which are clearly timed to send messages during the Brisbane City Council and regional council elections the fare review outcomes are being used as a political football. New transport minister Stirling Hinchcliffe has shifted the language around the fare review emphasising the release of it's recommendations and skipping over the first phase when the taskforce will present a "detailed options paper" for community engagement. We are right to be very concerned about this situation.

While Jackie Trad might have gained a tiny bit of mileage from cancelling planned fare increases the situation remains as dire as ever. The new transport minister refuses to engage in any communication with us. This is especially saddening because Translink have embarked on some disturbing and completely uncommunicated, non-integrated ticketing options, and new, adhoc bus route reforms that have been "funded" by the BCC. Translink continues to allow council to operate outside of it's role as planning stakeholder and bus service provider.

We've included here the most recent fare table and we swear we'll be more active with content here as soon as we shake off the mud and confusion.

You can look forward to our review of Brisbane City Council election policies (profoundly disappointing) and we will be following up with Translink on their suite of new and bizarre "ticket-types" being piloted and rolled out while the fare review continues it's deliberations.