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10 (viable) ways to improve ACTION

By joingler - 28 February 2014 44

Action Bus - courtesy of wikipedia

So after living in Canberra for 5 years without owning a car I have experienced the best and the worst that our public transport network – ACTION has to offer. Generally ACTION provides a good network but there are things about it that are lacking. I have come up with a list of 10 things that I think ACTION can do to improve their service. I reckon all things on this list are financially viable although perhaps not all straight away. I live and work Northside so there is a bias as I am unaware of many issues that Southsiders face. Perhaps someone from Tuggeranong could chip in a few ideas to help improve services down south. As unlikely as it is to happen, I hope someone in government reads this and some of these changes start happening.

  • Have some sort of service on Sunday nights. Currently there is no bus after 8pm on Sunday/Public Holidays. Now I understand that services on Sunday nights will be costly as drivers and security have to be paid Sunday rates. But having the route 900 run half hourly with connecting shuttles (hourly) to/from Gungahlin via Dickson, Manuka/Kingston and Weston would not cost a huge amount and provide a usable service for shift workers, people travelling home from church as well as travellers arriving back in Canberra after a weekend away

 

  • Introduce a trial Belconnen – Woden Express bus. Yes I am aware that there is route 749. But this route runs 4 times per day in each direction. My proposal would be a trial bus running half hourly directly between Belconnen and Woden (via the parkway) in each direction between 8am and 5pm. Such a trial should last 6 months to gauge its viability. If successful, this should be introduced permanently.

 

  • Buses to/from Gungahlin on weekends are pathetic. 3 buses an hour, 2 of them taking the longest possible route. Buses to/from Manuka are also pathetic. I propose a half hourly route from Gungahlin to Kingston via Dickson, City and Manuka. This route should be half hourly all day. If this is added, route 951 from Belconnen should terminate at Gungahlin as it uses the route I am proposing.

 

  • Market themselves better. Although that generally the system is good, it can be hard to get your head around the network. While the Google Maps app addresses this (slightly), I still think that having a message on their website advising people that a slightly longer walk to the main road instead of the suburban route will make a trip significantly quicker, will help people realise that the ACTION bus network is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

 

  • NXTBUS. This real time information system has so much potential but so far has left much to be desired. Before I go on, it should be noted that the system is in trial mode and that it is not expected to be fully operational until later this year. But I have still noticed so many faults with the system that means NXTBUS deserves its own sublist:a) Times on board the bus are often completely wrong. I was on a bus going past University of Canberra heading into Belconnen. This takes no more than 6 minutes. The onscreen board was saying it would be a 17 minute ride. This was because the bus was running (very) early and the system was basing its figures off the timetable, not where we actually were at that point in time. This is happening consistently. Will hopefully be fixed before the full rollout is complete.b) On board screen display – If I am on route 56 heading out of Belconnen, why do I need to know that it will arrive in civic in 58 minutes time? If I was going to civic, I wouldn’t go via Gungahlin. Similarly if I am heading on any 300 southbound out of Belconnen, why do I need to know that the bus will terminate at Lanyon in 64 minutes time? Wouldn’t an ETA for Civic, Woden or Tuggers be more helpful? A much better system would be to state the next three stops (as is currently done) and then state the next major destination (Belconnen, City, Gungahlin, Woden, Tuggeranong or End of the route if none of these are applicable)

    c) Volume – A voiceover telling me that the next bus stop is Albert Hall is fine. Having it blasted throughout the bus is not. I complained to a driver who advised me that he couldn’t control the volume. He sounded quite displeased as he was forced to have it on all day and it was sending him deaf. I have since heard rumours about ACTION trying to find a way to stop drivers turning the NXTBUS system off. Perhaps if ACTION installed a system that was WHS compliant in the first place, drivers wouldn’t turn it off?

    d) Screens at civic. The screens at civic are meant to show where the next buses are heading to and how long until they arrive at the interchange. The screens are two sided. Some routes appear on one side and other routes on the other side. While this idea is a good one, there is no logical reason behind what route is on what side. Is it really that hard to put northbound services on one side and southbound services on the other?

    e) Stop lookup – With NXTBUS, you are able to text in your stop number and you get an automatic reply with when the next buses are due. This is a fantastic service I use multiple times each day. The only catch is, you need to know your stop number. The stop number is listed at every bus stop across the city but there is no way to look up the stop number if you aren’t at your stop. An online database where you can look up your stop number or an app which tells you would make this a much more practical task. I carry around a piece of paper in my bag a list of the 10 stops I use most and their numbers. I use it as depending what bus is coming when depends where I decide to get off to transfer to my next bus. If I was able to access stop numbers from an online database and/or app, things would be much more practical

 

  • Security at Civic interchange – I never feel unsafe anywhere on public transport. But I don’t appreciate being abused by people in civic because I won’t donate to their “charity” (many of which are actually questionable) or because I won’t give them $2 “for the bus” when it is obvious they are scabbing money off people for smokes. This only ever happens in daylight. I suppose security can only patrol the interchange which means such people would just shift on over to Garema Place. But at least then they are easier to avoid. This issue may be more related to ACT Government. But given how much ACTION and ACT Government are interlinked, ACTION could help with this issue if they want.

 

  • Increase bus fares by zone ticketing. Right now public transport fares in Canberra are reasonable but those that travel across town regularly (like myself) should be made to pay more. Why should a pensioner getting bread and milk from the local store in Dickson pay the same bus fare as someone like me who travels halfway across the city for work/leisure? Some sort of zoned ticketing should be easily integrated into the fare structure – Say a Northside zone and a Southside zone. Travel within your zone is cheaper. If you cross into the opposite zone, you pay more. ANU, Barton, Russell and Civic should be a part of both zones so all people travelling to these areas (which are the main employment hubs) pay the same amount.

 

  • Queanbeyan. Now as Queanbeyan is across the NSW/ACT border, ACTION are unable to provide a service to Queanbeyan. But for some reason, ACTION do not offer a service to Oaks Estate. Placing a bus route through Oaks Estate would give residents of Oaks Estate (a poorer suburb) affordable transport to the city and everyone else cheap access to Queanbeyan. A route to Oaks Estate could be a loop service going Civic – Barton – Fyshwick – Oaks Estate – Fairbairn/Brindabella Parks – Airport – Russell – Civic. It’d create a regular service to/from the airport as well. It may well mean Deanes lose some of their power but that’s not such a bad thing.

 

  • Give the nice lady bus driver a raise and promotion. She is the best bus driver one could possibly ask for. I don’t know her name but she works as a fill in, as I only ever see her when my regular bus driver(s) are away. If anyone from ACTION is actually reading this post, she has long, dark blonde hair and is in her 50s. Here is why she deserves such a raise/promotion:- She always smiles and greets/farewells passengers
    – She goes out of her way (to the point of carrying timetables with her) to help passengers with their travelling
    – Communicates brilliantly to those passengers who struggle with English
    – Deals flawlessly with cranky passengers who abuse her for no apparent reason
    – Laughs off idiot drivers who abuse her after cutting her off
    – Will always offer comfort if she sees you having a bad day
    – Works casual shifts doing lots of different routes and different times of the day/week. No consistency in her job but she does it with a smile on her face every time.
    – Is the only person in Canberra who can drive their vehicle for 10 km without succumbing to road rage

What’s Your opinion?


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44 Responses to
10 (viable) ways to improve ACTION
1
enrique 1:57 pm
28 Feb 14
#

Hmm, so it appears not much has changed in, say, about 20 years or so since I was last a regular ACTION bus user.

Most of the things you describe above (other than NXTBUS) were the types of reasons I stopped using ACTION services back then. Mate, don’t hold your breath for an improvement anytime soon.

My solution was to buy a good bike and associated equipment for the not-so-far-away commutes and to have a car as a backup for the slightly-too-far-to-ride and above distances. Note – be sure to roughen/ugly-up the paint job on your good bike and invest in a strong lock to minimise the chances of it being nicked.

Sadly, you can’t really get the most out of living in Canberra without a car unfortunately. Without a car you really are limited in your ability to get several things done in a day.

If you’ve got kids – forget about free time if you rely on the buses. You’ll have zero time for yourself between working, grocery shopping, and getting them to/from their various schooling/sporting/social/development activities.

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2
M0les 2:47 pm
28 Feb 14
#

Thanks for the post. Here’s my 2c:

* Your route suggestions sound like they have merit – I don’t go to Belco often and never on the bus, so I can’t really comment with authority.

* Just about everything else (QBN access/marketing/IX safety/NXTBUS) I pretty much agree with more-or-less.

…but…

* Zoned ticketing. Last point first: Pensioners travel free on the buses anyway (If they have their MyWay card), so that part is a bit of a moot issue.
But for zoning proper: A billion years ago, Action used to charge you per bus ride. Then they introduced the concept of the transfer ticket and there were 3 zones (Roughly speaking, “Middle”, “Top” and “Bottom”) and a single ticket could get you between any two adjacent zones. I personally find this needlessly complicated and was relieved when they abandoned this in favour of a zone-less system.
The actual cost of carrying a body over these distances is marginal compared to running the bus empty over the same distance. However it’s true that if passengers are economically discouraged from taking the inter-zone trip, then the far-flung routes can be culled to save money.
But that’s the crux of the problem: It’s a “lose – lose” proposal doubly discouraging bus use. I think it’s much better for general urban passenger transport to be encouraged to use public transport. That’s not to say that if you have a car you love to drive to work, you should be shunned for doing so.

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3
dks00k 4:40 pm
28 Feb 14
#

I’m curious to know why ACTION are unable to provide a cross border service to Qbyn. Why is it OK for Deanes (QCity) to have services to Canberra but not the other way around??

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4
JC 5:32 pm
28 Feb 14
#

OP your headline says 10 viable ways, just curious as to how you think your suggestions are viable. Oaks estate for example, or a half hourly Belconnen-Woden express off peak or Sunday evening services.

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5
magiccar9 8:38 pm
28 Feb 14
#

I assume you live somewhere in the Gungahlin area?

Buses to/from Gungahlin on weekends are pathetic. 3 buses an hour, 2 of them taking the longest possible route.

Try taking a bus from Kambah to Woden or Tuggeranong on a weekend. They get ONE bus per HOUR. So I think if you were talking to a Kambah resident they’d envy you.

Also, what about friendly male drivers? Do they not also deserve a raise and/or promotion?

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6
gooterz 9:24 pm
28 Feb 14
#

magiccar9 said :

I assume you live somewhere in the Gungahlin area?

Buses to/from Gungahlin on weekends are pathetic. 3 buses an hour, 2 of them taking the longest possible route.

Try taking a bus from Kambah to Woden or Tuggeranong on a weekend. They get ONE bus per HOUR. So I think if you were talking to a Kambah resident they’d envy you.

Also, what about friendly male drivers? Do they not also deserve a raise and/or promotion?

Some of the stops in Kambah don’t even get a weekend service!!!

Three buses an hour!!!!

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7
gungsuperstar 9:42 pm
28 Feb 14
#

I appreciate that some thought has gone into this.

But the heading is pertinent – 10 (viable) ways to improve ACTION… you didn’t say “for Canberra”, and that’s not what you’re proposing. You’re proposing ways to improve it for you.

I recognise that you note the bias – but if everyone who lives and works in their own areas has this many ideas/complaints, how viable are they?

It’s a funny thing public transport. Everyone thinks they become an expert on it as soon as they use it. Like I can make a car cos I’ve driven one… like I can run a country because I live in one… like I know the 11 secret herbs and spices because I’ve eaten them.

I couldn’t imagine what tiny fraction of information you or most other people who comment on public transport have – but I’m tipping it’s pretty small. Like it or not, ACTION runs as sustainably as the government makes it, providing the service that it can. It’s not meant to be a rolls royce service – in a place like Canberra that is clearly designed for cars anyway (and is full of hypocrites who don’t care about climate change quite enough to not drive), it’s only really supposed to be a functional service for people who need it.

That’s the service they operate, and I guess we take it on faith that routes and times are based on research and trial.

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8
joingler 10:25 pm
28 Feb 14
#

I should have made it clearer that I think that ACTION on a whole provides a fantastic service. I just wanted to list a few things that could make the service better.

dks00k said :

I’m curious to know why ACTION are unable to provide a cross border service to Qbyn. Why is it OK for Deanes (QCity) to have services to Canberra but not the other way around??

Probably something to do with the NSW government unwilling to chip in any money. Mind you, I’m pretty sure that the ACT government doesn’t pay any money to NSW for the train service that links into Canberra.

magiccar9 said :

I assume you live somewhere in the Gungahlin area?

Buses to/from Gungahlin on weekends are pathetic. 3 buses an hour, 2 of them taking the longest possible route.

Try taking a bus from Kambah to Woden or Tuggeranong on a weekend. They get ONE bus per HOUR. So I think if you were talking to a Kambah resident they’d envy you.

Also, what about friendly male drivers? Do they not also deserve a raise and/or promotion?

I live in Kippax and regularly travel to all places northside. I did live in Gungahlin about 3 years ago.

I said initially that I only know northside issues as I rarely travel south. When I do travel south it is only to the Woden or Tuggeranong town centres which are fairly well serviced from civic. While you rightly point out that Kambah struggles for buses on a weekend, Gungahlin is significantly bigger than Kambah. Imagine having three services an hour from the Tuggeranong town centre to civic with only one of those routes going directly.

And I’m unsure what your second comment is trying to say. The bus driver I described is head and shoulders above the rest of ACTION drivers. Most do their job well – are courteous and friendly. But this woman goes completely out of her way to help passengers. Her gender is irrelevant to my argument – I was simply describing her on the off chance someone recognised who she is. I never claimed that she was more deserving because of her gender, something you seem to be trying to infer

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9
joingler 10:30 pm
28 Feb 14
#

JC said :

OP your headline says 10 viable ways, just curious as to how you think your suggestions are viable. Oaks estate for example, or a half hourly Belconnen-Woden express off peak or Sunday evening services.

I believe that all my suggestions would be able to be integrated into ACTION without blowing the budget. Obviously not all at once but I don’t see why all these suggestion can’t be implemented within the next decade (light rail may mean some of them don’t need to happen)

Apologies for double post.

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10
Totally 1:39 am
01 Mar 14
#

Clean the bus stop at Corinna St in Woden. The same vomit has been there for over 6 months.

Clean Woden Interchange.

Buses that start before 9am on weekends.

Buses after 8pm on weekends.

Make the SMS service work properly. Over the Xmas period it was giving non-Xmas period timetable information, and the other day it was telling me every bus stop number didn’t exist and I should check the spelling.

Stop playing that ridiculous announcement at Woden Interchange that runs for 5 mintues.

Have better maps and signage at Civic.

Encourage some bus drivers to smile every once in a while. Some of them are great though!

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11
Totally 1:51 am
01 Mar 14
#

Wait, there’s more…

The blue lights at night are unneccessary and only make buses look scarier than they are. Seriously, people do have better places to shoot up, and they can find a vein under a blue light anyway.

Clean the Woden Interchange toilets! Replace them! They are so disgusting!

Put timetables on all poles at bus stops. Why has our local bus stop never had a timetable, but the ones nearby do?

Services that run more than once an hour wouldn’t be too bad either.

Canberra has too many cars on the road, too many emissions, and needs to get serious about its public transport system, LIKE THE MAJOR CITY IT WANTS TO BE.

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12
Madam Cholet 7:44 am
01 Mar 14
#

joingler said :

JC said :

OP your headline says 10 viable ways, just curious as to how you think your suggestions are viable. Oaks estate for example, or a half hourly Belconnen-Woden express off peak or Sunday evening services.

I believe that all my suggestions would be able to be integrated into ACTION without blowing the budget. Obviously not all at once but I don’t see why all these suggestion can’t be implemented within the next decade (light rail may mean some of them don’t need to happen)

Apologies for double post.

I believe they regularly blow their budget with their existing services.

I’m a bus ‘rider’ (as Action like to call them), and in the last weeks have found their services to be woeful. An enormous number of cancellations due to the heat. I was an hour and a half late for work one day because a number of buses failed to show. Points to a crap fleet that needs some serious attention.

My regular bus driver is always late to my stop (bus is strangely on time when he is replaced), drives too fast, does idiotic manoeuvres, from time to time forgets his route and goes another way, has his crap commercial radio station blaring so loud you can hear it over your own earphones. His bus is not that nice to be on. I consider the fact that we have not had an accident just pure luck. And that’s just on one bus.

They have bigger problems than needing to run more buses between points.

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13
Queen_of_the_Bun 8:45 am
01 Mar 14
#

I am a recent convert to ACTION buses, thanks to a recalcitrant Polo that even CVWC Belco can’t fix. I am lucky enough to live and work in the inner south, meaning I have a 20 minute bus ride to work (or a 45 min walk). It would be a six minute drive, but parking in Barton is a nightmare after 8.10am and I enjoy the discipline that catching the bus has imposed on me.

It would suit me better if the 5 picked me up, turned left onto Jerrabomberra, went straight to Wentworth and turned up Brisbane – and if there was another bus stop between the AFP college and National Circuit, that would be great. But that would inconvenience the IT shift worker at Canberra Hospital who gets off at Kootara and Matina, and the annoying loud phone conversation woman who gets on at the Narrabundah shops, and the two St Clare’s girls who are on the bus every day.

Public transport is just that – public. It’s about getting the most value for the most people. I have yet to get on a bus and not be able to get a seat. That may change next week when I start working in Civic. But I doubt that it would be financially viable to run buses before 9am on Sunday. I caught the 938 home from work last Sunday at 10am, and it was surprisingly full – but emptied at the Old Bus Depot Markets.

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14
Queen_of_the_Bun 8:52 am
01 Mar 14
#

joingler said :

I should have made it clearer that I think that ACTION on a whole provides a fantastic service. I just wanted to list a few things that could make the service better.

dks00k said :

I’m curious to know why ACTION are unable to provide a cross border service to Qbyn. Why is it OK for Deanes (QCity) to have services to Canberra but not the other way around??

Probably something to do with the NSW government unwilling to chip in any money. Mind you, I’m pretty sure that the ACT government doesn’t pay any money to NSW for the train service that links into Canberra.

magiccar9 said :

I assume you live somewhere in the Gungahlin area?

Buses to/from Gungahlin on weekends are pathetic. 3 buses an hour, 2 of them taking the longest possible route.

Try taking a bus from Kambah to Woden or Tuggeranong on a weekend. They get ONE bus per HOUR. So I think if you were talking to a Kambah resident they’d envy you.

Also, what about friendly male drivers? Do they not also deserve a raise and/or promotion?

I live in Kippax and regularly travel to all places northside. I did live in Gungahlin about 3 years ago.

I said initially that I only know northside issues as I rarely travel south. When I do travel south it is only to the Woden or Tuggeranong town centres which are fairly well serviced from civic. While you rightly point out that Kambah struggles for buses on a weekend, Gungahlin is significantly bigger than Kambah. Imagine having three services an hour from the Tuggeranong town centre to civic with only one of those routes going directly.

Gungahlin is significantly bigger than Kambah – but that’s because Gungahlin is a district, whereas Kambah is a suburb. Kambah is probably the biggest suburb in Canberra with a population of 15,000 and a size of 1130 ha. Tuggeranong overall had a population of 86,900 in the 2011 Census; Gungahlin total was 46,971.

Should people in Kambah have to trek 1km or more to Drakeford Drive to catch a bus?

Your comparison between one suburb and an entire district is meaningless.

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15
miz 10:15 am
01 Mar 14
#

My biggest improvement suggestion is to expand Expresso routes. They are wonderful and nearly always full, because they are quick and quite direct. Unfortunately they only run for a limited peak period. They are no good for part timers, people who can’t predict when they may have to finish work a bit ‘late’ (i.e. after 530pm!), people with irregular hours, and people with school age children (who invariably are fearful of being stranded at work ‘in case something happens’). This is a quite a LOT of people who cannot use Expressos.
However if Exoressos ran a few times during the day and had a final run slightly later in the evenings, that would offer a genuine travel option. I’m sorry but the the regular routes truly suck during the day. Eg, Expresso from Chisholm to my place of work is 25 mins. Whereas, taking regular routes home during the day (as I have found out when I have had to go home sick) is a miserable 1 and a half to 2 hours via Woden interchange – sometimes also via Tugg interchange rather than wait for a connection in the cold – plus a more lengthy walk from the bus stop.
Expresso routes work particularly well for suburbs quite a distance from the interchange. Which in the case of Tuggers, is practically all suburbs because of the location of the interchange. You shouldn’t have to go ‘the wrong way’ back to an interchange before heading to your destination.

BTW Joingler, zones don’t work in Canberra. It was tried in the past and failed because it was so expensive to go anywhere at all that wasn’t your adjacent suburb, and was very confusing. The current fare system is excellent and should not be tweaked – they just need to drum up more patronage by making the service a real option for a wider proportion of the population (see above about Expressos).

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