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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
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canberryjam 9:58 pm 10 Mar 14

Slightly disconnected…I want the Myway card to be able to pay for my parking. The parking machines also belong to the ACT govt, if their ticket machines could utilize my Myway card to pay for my parking voucher than that would make things slightly more comfortable… Like the Octopus card. http://hong-kong-travel.org/octopus/

ljp 7:00 pm 09 Mar 14

One of the previous comments said “I’m hoping things will improve over time”. I wouldn’t count on it. When I moved to the Weston Creek area around 25 years ago, I was able to catch a bus roughly every 15 minutes (which was great) due to the fact that there were two bus routes that ran through the local area, but at different times. After an “improvement” to the network, this frequency was decreased to about every 30 minutes (which was still pretty good). Another “improvement” to the system saw the two bus routes running at more similar times, which means that they now often run about 10-15 minutes apart, but then there can be a 45 minute wait until the next bus (which is still acceptable). The next proposed network “improvement” I’ve seen plans to cancel one of the routes, which I’m not opposed to in theory, but will seem to mean a much longer walk to a bus stop for people from some parts of the area. This would reduce service to once an hour for a large part of the day during the week, which is the same as our current weekend service (which I don’t find acceptable). If they cancel one route, I would hope they would increase the frequency of the other.
My point is that bus services seem to do the opposite of improving. After a lifetime of catching buses in Canberra I’m more inclined than ever to look for any alternative. Not only do Action not seem to be attracting new customers to their service, it feels like they’re actively discouraging those customers that they now have. It’s all well and good improving services between major town centres, but don’t most people still have to get to a town centre in the first place? The wonders of NXTBUS won’t mean much to me if I only have the option of one bus an hour. (I’ve actually heard the argument used that an hourly service will be an advantage as it will make timetables easier to remember!).
One of the other comments suggested using MyWay data to help design the network. I wouldn’t like to see this overly relied on, as I worry that it reflects people’s travel movements based on when buses are available, rather than when people would actually travel if given the option. Personally I mostly try to plan trips for when more services are available (peak times), to avoid long waits between transfers. This doesn’t mean I don’t often need to, or wouldn’t prefer to, travel at other times (especially if it’s cheaper). For example, some weekend services may not be well patronised as people might find more convenient ways to travel. That doesn’t mean the services aren’t necessary, or that more people wouldn’t catch buses on the weekend if the service was improved.
I’ve long been of the view that the people who design the Action network never (or rarely) have to depend on that network themselves. At least the people on this forum have some real world experience with the network, so it would be good if Action paid some attention to what they have to say.

Antagonist 7:48 pm 08 Mar 14

gungsuperstar said :

Antagonist said :

gungsuperstar said :

Antagonist said :

gungsuperstar said :

… On top of that…

Is it safe for me to assume that you live in an apartment 5 minutes away from a town centre? The suggestion that everyone lives within a 20 minute walk of a main road in Canberra is absolutely ridiculous. I’d start identifying places. But when you consider that it’s most of Gunghalin, most of Belconnen, pockets of inner north, pretty much all of Weston Valley, a couple of pockets of Woden, and most of Tuggeranong? Well… there doesn’t seem much point in naming suburbs, because more than half of them would not be within 20 minutes of a main road.

It is very clear that you did not read and comprehend the original post. I have italicised the part that you clearly did not grasp, because it is an important qualifier.

Innovation said :

Direct buses running only on main roads (and allowing people to change at main intersections) would meet the needs of most, improve the service and reduce cost. I’m guessing (ie no source) over 70% of residents could walk to their nearest main road in 20 minutes or less and over 95% could get to their nearest main road by cycling, park and ride or kiss and ride, with obvious health benefits – especially the antioxidants from kissing.

Did you see what I did there? I highlighted the part of the post which specifically says 70% and 95% of residents respectively, and that those numbers are estimates. At no point does it say that ALL residents in all suburbs live within 20 minutes of a main road. There is even an allowance (95%) made for those people who cannot walk the longer distances such as the elderly, disabled, lazy and others.

So… you think only 5% of Canberra’s population can’t walk, ride a bike or hitch-hike 20 minutes? You ever caught a bus between 9.30 and 2.30? There’d be more people who CAN’T walk or ride for 20 minutes than people who can.

I’d strongly suggest that it is you who doesn’t know what you’re talking about.

You’re now trying to defend completely made up numbers, when simply looking at a map of Canberra would tell you that you’ve grossly overestimated those numbers.

So much self interest in this thread… how about we discuss what would improve ACTION for Canberra, rather than what would improve it for vocal, self interested individuals who don’t care about children, old people, or people with disabilities.

Nice arm waving. Getting upset because you did not read Innovations original post properly?

Those people who cannot get to the main road for whatever reason, whether they be 5% or 20%, are not going to patronise the suggested ‘main road’ express services. They would continue to use existing services. Nobody has suggested that their bus services be taken away from them.

There is help available for your lousy comprehension skills. The Reading and Writing Hotline can be contacted on 1300 655 506. With plenty of practise you might get the hang of it one day. Good luck with that 🙂

Another person with multiple accounts on RA? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is why we can’t have an unmoderated forum.

Innovations post did indicate that you would replace suburban buses with his tight-arse taxis. Which, as I already pointed out, is a ridiculous, expensive, completely unviable idea.

Given that you likely are Innovation, it’s concerning that you can’t even keep to your own argument.

I am legion: for we are many 🙂

Innovation 7:27 pm 08 Mar 14

Gungsuperstar @ #39. Hilarious! Two people have a different view than you and you think there must be a sinister reason for it. FYI – I can’t stand people on RA with multiple accounts Also, these days, I don’t waste time replying to threads when posters get personal, don’t (or can’t) process what I have typed and/or don’t answer my questions despite my answering theirs – all of which you have managed to achieve in a single thread.

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