ACT public transport unprofitable

GnT 26 July 2007 49

According to the ABC, the ACT’s public transport system is the least profitable in the country and relies on taxpayers for three quarters of its revenue.

I reckon it’s due to Canberra’s ‘wonderful’ design – all those lovely open spaces which make bus journeys too long and driving a car a far more attractive option. That, and a cultural attitude.

So, any ideas on how ACTION can turn a profit?

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49 Responses to ACT public transport unprofitable
sepi sepi 10:19 pm 30 Jul 07

Yep – a bus from Russel at 4.30 is brilliant.

Defence knocks off early, and it is after the school run peak hour.

Action claims they can’t run more busses at peak times, but their idea of peak time is 5.00 only.

I’d say run from Russell at 4.30, and from some of the other departments at about 6.00.

Once you get people using the busses they may use them at other times too. Action has cut costs and routes back to the bone to save money and that didn’t work – they need to work on building up their customer base now.

Civic interchage is a long way from where most of the people are in civic these days. Take the busses to the people.

VicePope VicePope 5:20 pm 30 Jul 07

Just a vague recollection of a city in Sth America (??Brasilia) where public transport works because the companies providing it get money and more routes and such based on patronage. Hence better operators attract more people and make more money out of it.

Compare ACTION. A monopoly more interested in appeasing the TWU than providing a service.

Ralph Ralph 4:25 pm 30 Jul 07

any ideas on how ACTION can turn a profit?

Raise the price.

The biggest problem facing ACTION is that the cost of substitute transport, private cars and bikes, walking, is that it is relatively cheap to travel around Canberra privately.

Unlike Sydney and Melbourne where there are tolls, congestion, and hideous parking fees, you don’t get that here, so ACTION are constrained as to how much they can actually charge for bus travel.

Peak train fares in Sydney and Melbourne aren’t that cheap, but considering the dire state of the trains one way they can improve the service is to increase revenue by jacking up the price big time. An extra $5-$10 each way on some routes and they still won’t be getting close to the cost of driving a car into the city. Political economy issues though.

Maelinar Maelinar 3:55 pm 30 Jul 07

ACTION can turn a profit.

A full bus all day long will turn a profit for ACTION, provided combined passenger fare is greater than bus on road costs.

ACTION need to work out where to service profitable routes, and market accordingly. If that means putting a bus on the road from Jerrabombera to Russell (Rocket Science moment: Defence Housing owns 1/2 of Jerra, that means about circa 3,000 people want to go to Russell every morning from Jerra, who all have to be at work by 0800, and they all knock off at 1630), that bus route alone will probably pay for 2 extra buses doing crap routes.

All it takes is smart thinking, unfortunately somewhat missing in the current Government environs.

Thumper Thumper 3:33 pm 30 Jul 07

Just getting back to GnTs most excellent question, ie, any ideas on how ACTION can turn a profit?

ACTION is not there as a profit making enterprise. It was never supposed to be and never should be.

It is a public service and for all its shortfalls, and there are many, I’m still happy for my tax dollars to go towards the service as long as it is to actually improve it, rather magical time travelling busways.

caf caf 2:33 pm 30 Jul 07

ChrisInTurner: I offer these constructive criticisms with the aim of assisting you to sharpen your argument:

* Order your arguments by strength. The more easily quantifiable and verifiable arguments should be up first (like your point 1); the more debatable or harder to quantify points should be left to the end (like your point 2).
* Include more references and verifiable figures to bolster your arguments – for example are there white papers / reports on the Geneva , Sydney Olympics and Melbourne Commonwealth Games free public transport projects?
* I think it would enhance your argument to separate out the direct benefits from the flow-on benefits (ie. the benefits that are a result of reduced road congestion).
* Point 3. Is robbery of bus drivers currently a motive for violence on ACTION drivers? Can you obtain any figures on this?
* Point 6. This seems to argue that the total cost of collecting fares is currently equal or greater than the revenue gained from them. If this is really the case then this argument alone should carry the day – and it seems like it would be easy enough to do the sums, but I don’t see anything other than supposition on this point in your paper.
* Points 7 & 8. The “at least 10 years” and “about 10 years” figures seem very rubbery without any supporting evidence.
* Point 10. To be blunt, this seems like a stretch. Even the teenagers who work at maccas are trained to handle cash. Sometimes it’s better to leave out a weak argument entirely, lest it appear to weaken your whole case.
* Point 11. You should explain what jargon like “turn short” means. Also, it is unlikely that you could avoid timetabling of services, because even if the services are frequent enough that the patrons don’t need to know the timetable (that’s already the case with the intertown routes in peak times), a schedule still needs to be created for internal use.
* Points 13 & 14. Combine these into one point. Separating them makes it feel like you’re padding your argument out – which again can give the appearance of weakness.
* Point 15. Isn’t “social capital” the buzzword of the moment for this?
* Another class of potential public-transport user is tourists – if you can argue that free public transport would be attractive to tourists then you may get the tourism lobby on side.

Hope this helps.

bonfire bonfire 1:53 pm 30 Jul 07

light rail.

if light rail carried the high capacity peak loads, serviced by buses on suburban routes, the whole network would be more efficient.

and at 3$ a ride – the same as a cup of coffee – its pretty cheap. unless youre going 1km or something ridiculous like that.

avail yourself of a ten-ride ticket, or a monthly if youre a freq user.

i agree civic needs a central transport hub. id put it between melb and sydney bldgs.

people have to stop expecting public transport will make a ‘profit’. if that was the case we’d do away with concessions and charge a rate akin to that which supermarkets charge – we all pay the same for a loaf of bread regardless of our earning capacity.

true costs such as less cars using roads and all associated benefits can never be tied to a bottom line.

bd84 bd84 5:30 pm 28 Jul 07

too true sepi.. I have one express bus home if I catch it.. it leaves at 5.08pm other than that I only have 1 other bus that I can get home with without changing, which goes around the longest way possible.. via russell and barton. I’m thinking that these areas should have their own express services to woden and the city anyway.

As for the ticket system, something in the range of $8 million was provided to ACTION for its replacement in this year’s budget.. the period of time needed for developing and implementing it will probably take a while, if the government acted with these funds about 7 years ago when it was first investigated, ACTION would probably be in a better position.. they amount they lose in free rides resulting from the machines breaking down is not even measurable.

ACTION lose most of their money during the day time.. the average price of a ticket is about $1.30 for the elderly people with the concession fares.

and tom-tom is correct, ACTION is ultimately a not-for-profit entity like all other government agencies, they’re there to provide a service not make a profit.

sepi sepi 10:44 pm 27 Jul 07

I think the busses should extend their ‘peak’ times. They seem to think everyone want to be at work at 9.00, and leave at 5.00. Most people stay at work later than that these days. I’d like to see busses running directly from public service offices from 6.00 onwards.

Aeek Aeek 10:36 pm 27 Jul 07

I don’t think the open spaces are as much the problem as the idea that major roads bypass the suburbs. Makes it hard for buses.

tom-tom tom-tom 8:39 pm 27 Jul 07

asp- firstly i’m sure some one who relies on action to get to work or school would regard a bus system as essential, not just a convienience. Secondly i’m pretty sure the ACT govt. produced a surplus in its last budget and still found funds for a pointless statue, hardly suggestive of a situation where govt. funds a stretched.
By its very nature action is a service which exists for those whom other forms of transport is not an option, namely school kids and those at the margins. Any cuts to action would be disproportionatly born by those who could least afford it.
It doesn’t matter that action fails to run at a profit, it provides an essential service. I’m happy for my rates to go towards it.

gooterz gooterz 7:07 pm 27 Jul 07

Firstly a new ticket system…
RF ID maybe… Some kind of ultra fast.. get people on get people off. Something like pay after you ride.. where the cost is based on
* When you catch the bus..
* If your a student
* How often you catch the bus
Then either have Bus credit or something..
Have students ticket also be photo ID.. that way students dont have to have both ticket and ID.
Get a decent ticket system that doesnt block up.. then giving everyone after it gets blocked a free ride.
( Most likely have to be pay after you ride as its hard to get realtime credit amounts etc.)

During peak time have flexable buses.. no point in waiting and craming a bus full if the next one is going to be half empty.. or because the first is late they both leave at the SAME TIME…

They should have free tickets in the morning.. during peak.. cos then the people will either car pool, or will pay more on the way home.. and people are more in a rush during the morning.

Oh and instead of decreasing the frequency of buses.. why not combine multiple buses during offpeak. say late at night. and have smaller buses to reduce fuel costs..

And we really need to have some way to go from Tuggeranong to Belconnen with only passing though as few traffic lights as possible.. for the 300 series.. How many is it now..
Need to have more stuff like that bus taxi slip lane on Yarra Glenn

asp asp 6:14 pm 27 Jul 07

tom-tom: Good Point. ACTION is a public service just like the health and public safety areas of government services. However, one could view ACTION as a convienience where as health and publis safety are essentials. And in a time when government funds are stretched and health card in need of more funding, the essentials should get more while money loosing extras like ACTION get cuts.

tom-tom tom-tom 5:12 pm 27 Jul 07

why does it matter that action makes no money? Nobody thinks that the police or ambulance services should run at a profit, why should a public bus service be any different?

Absent Diane Absent Diane 4:38 pm 27 Jul 07

thats not a bad idea… action could also install flat screen monitors like they have in a lot public piss troughs in sydney and then charge for advertising…

ChrisInTurner1 ChrisInTurner1 4:29 pm 27 Jul 07

One answer is fare-free public transport see Insert your text here

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt 12:16 pm 27 Jul 07

What about selling more advertising space on buses. Sucks for those riding them, but having advertising dollars contributing to the subsidy amount would surely help.

I took a bus yesterday (rare for me), and it was all going well until the driver drover off from a stop before people had checked their ticket cards, and a pregnant woman with two small children had been unable to get off. Perhaps some decent service standards in terms of entry and egress would help also. (Oh, and the driver got cranky at the pregnant lady for “not being quick enough” when the reason she couldn’t get through was because of all the people milling around to check their ticket. Nice.)

p1 p1 11:06 am 27 Jul 07

Free beer during every bus ride ought to do it.

poptop poptop 8:51 am 27 Jul 07

The only way for ACTION to run at a profit is for it to stop servicing the rush hours. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but having to purchase and maintain the infrastructure for people wanting to get to and from work is what makes ACTION unviable.

The Government needs to decide whether they want a commercial public transportation system or a transportation system that supports other outcomes (less parking lots, fewer cars on the road, better environmental outcomes) and stop trying to make ACTION achieve both.

It can’t do it in a city this size.

captainwhorebags captainwhorebags 8:42 am 27 Jul 07

There is an Expresso service that runs from pretty much outside my house direct into Civic/Russell. Unfortunately the there are only two pickups in the morning (arriving at work at 8:00 and 8:30) and two in the evening (leaving work at 17:00 and 17:30). My work hours are highly variable between 7:30 and 19:00. If I don’t catch the Expresso, the alternative is a 20minute neighbourhood walk to the regular service and then two bus rides. I’d be very tempted to convert if Expresso was more flexible.

Sepi – a free bus from the major work centres (Russell, Parliamentary triangle, even Brindabella Park and Fairbairn) into the interchanges would no doubt encourage more people onto busses. Particularly as the parking situation becomes more desperate/expensive.

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