13 February 2010

ACTION Northside Bus Service... or lack of

| Malteser
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Lately I’ve noticed that the bus services for Dickson, Watson, Hackett and Ainslie haven’t been running on time (or showing up at all) and are always overcrowded. I catch the number 2 and 39 and the last few days the number 2 has driven past half the stops on the route unable to pick up passengers because the bus is too full. This is also a regular occurance on the 39 route . I’ve written a letter of complaint regarding the 39 service and pretty much the next week it was back to its worse.

But basically this is just a post to encourage people who catch these buses, to write to ACTION or TAMS complaing of this crappy service. I’m kind of sick of paying $100 a month for a service that doesn’t work.

A couple of suggestions for ACTION might be to re-evaluate a number of services and take a survery of how many people are using public transport and at what times, more frequent services during peek hours, or running school buses for Northside kids …. if you feel inclined to provide a solution rather than just abuse.

From the action website

ACTION’s Mission:

To provide the ACT Community with a safe, efficient, effective and accessible passenger transport service.

ACTION’s Commitment:

We are committed to:

  • excellence in customer service
  • delivering value for money
  • transparency and accountability
  • innovation
  • sustainable outcomes
  • a performance and achievement orientation

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While I would like to see trams or light rail, I am not sure this is going to happen, at least with the current Government in power. The plus side to light rail is that routes and services cannot be removed as easily as bus services are. But it is my understanding we already have a shortage of bus drivers on some routes…..

It doesn’t mean that we should rule it (light rail) out though. Canberra was “invented” from holding a public competition to design it, so why doesn’t the ACT Government hold another one inviting all of the world’s transport companies to design a light rail system etc for us? make it public, allow the Canberra population 6 months to view and comment upon the plans, and then open it to tender based upon the best idea? Maybe the winning corporation could be allowed to buy the land next to the rail routes to build housing and/or retail upon? (This is why Japanese cities have rail lines everywhere!)

The other half of this situation is (once again) housing. We continue to expand outwards like a pancake rather than up because most of our pollies, developers and indeed citizens are allergic to higher density. We are unlikely to get better public transport until there are enough people living along the routes (regardless of whether it is buses or trams running) to make it financially viable. At present only the airport run, and the Redex route from Kingston through Civicc and Dickson to Gunghalin come anywhere close to this.

Woden and Belconnen are dominated by retail vampires known as shopping centres – where cars are king and no real street life can exist after hours because massive car parks separate housing from businesses.

Malteser I feel your pain – I used to catch the #39 (in its current and pre-2008 incarnations) and the #2. I would catch the bus through to the southside where I worked and when I could get on the bus found it much quicker to get to work rather than transferring across in Civic, where I would have to battle for a seat with school kids (a little irritating considering how much one spends on tickets and then rates). I too wrote letters to and called Action, obviously to little effect. From memory though, this problem also existed on pretty much any bus route passing through the inner north, particularly Nortbourne Ave.

Its disappointing to see that Action continues to miss the ball on servicing the inner north adequately, as it would help to eleviate some of the parking issues we are forever subjected to hearing about in Canberra. I used to watch my neighbours head off to work in Civic in the morning in their car – I’m pretty certain that if the commute on the bus was a little easier from this area then it might persuade some of our fellow Canberrans to leave their car at home.

I don’t think this is a more buses issue, more a prioritisation of services to those areas of Canberra which are more likely to have people with a real need or want to catch the bus. Will be really interested to see how bus services in the inner north will cope with the ACT Govt’s plans to increase the population in Civic (and presumably surrounding suburbs)….

As has been mentioned in several different threads, Light Rail (the technology) is not necessarily the answer. A light rail concept (separate reservations, traffic priority, limited stops) can work just as well with buses – Brisbane’s busways is one example of such a system. There is some passenger aversion to transferring (as can be found by some contributions in RiotACT) but as a Canberra Light Rail system would involve just that – changing from buses to light rail – it may not deliver as many passengers as expected. What would be better is to find ways to speed up current bus travel, through the use of bus lanes and busways, not to mention increased capacity where needed (and decreased capacity where it’s not needed).

TP 3000 said :

Maybe the ACT Government should invest in a Park & Ride car park that actually requires you to display your pass in near Dickson.

TP3000, I’m sure you are already aware that the ACT Government has commissioned a consultant to report on options for Park and Ride in Mitchell. Not quite Dickson though, but it’s close.

pt is already subsidised – several million dollars a week – and do you think Action are delivering value for money ?

since ive lived here ive seen plan after plan to make ACTION work better. guess what – it doesnt. public transport needs a paradigm shift – to light rail. let light rail shift volumes of passengers between major employment and population centres and retask action buses to offer greater feeder services. that would work.

the act government have already identified the mass transit routes.

the more buses mantra is really quite tedious – ive been hearing it for years. action still doesnt work any better.

Maybe the ACT Government should invest in a Park & Ride car park that actually requires you to display your pass in near Dickson.

That way residents could drop whoever needed dropping off & then park the car at the Park & Ride & then catch a bus to either City Interchange or further. With even the possibility of a high capacity bus starting from Dickson & heading down Northbourne(only if the patronage was high enough). But then again I am talking about the ACT Government & ACTION, so that is too clever for them to implement.

I seem to have been roundly and unfairly criticised above for suggesting cycling as a viable alternative to buses in the inner north. I could have pre-empted that I suppose, by adding a disclaimer, longer than the point I was actually making, along the lines of “of course I realise that some ACTION passangers travel further than Civic, and that cycling is not practical or desirable for everyone in all circumstances” etc etc.

But that shouldn’t have been neccessary. Sensible people, I am sure, understood that I was already well aware of that, and the post was directed to the considerable number of people for whom local cycling as an alternative to bus travel is actually a serious and viable option. Thereby reducing crowding on buses for people for whom it isn’t.

Light rail will never be anything but a drain on ACT Government finances through continual subsidies imo. You could only ever operate it on the major routes (i.e. Gunghalin to the City, Belconnen to the City, Woden to the City and maybe City to Fyshwick/Airport), and its would require having either high fares or a long time just to claw back the massive capital investment. You would need the buses to feed people into the systems at the major terminus as well, and rather than relieve the problems faced by ACTION it might make them worse imo. Thats just my thoughts on it really.

Bus only mass transit systems can work very effectively. I spent a lot of time in Europe last year, and the best transit system of the lot I saw was in Salzburg which had only buses. Granted its only a city about the size of Canberra, but there were heaps of buses regularly, lots of routes and you could get everywhere you wanted. I know Salzburg has a massive tourist industry to help with the $$$ to maintain it, but it worked brilliantly imo.

I do catch the 39 and generally its not really overcrowded, however there is a couple of drivers in particular that just come along when they want with no regard to the timetable- whether that is because the previous run always makes them late I don’t know, but its very annoying. Often in the morning 2 buses will come within about a minute of each other, then you are left with a 20 minute break for the next one. Thus there are 2 absolutely packed buses in there, and 1 that is all but empty. Not so bad if you can manage to catch the all but empty one!

Could you not get some of the same flexibility by having more variety in bus sizes? In Hong Kong recently I saw them running buses in three different sizes: public light buses (16 seats, no standing), some like ours, and double-deckers on the most popular routes.

I think canberra has passed the point where the bus service can continue to deliver proper mass-transit service. This is due to the distance and volume that ACTION buses are expected to carry. The sooner a proper mass-transit system like light rail is installed – the better for everybody.

Lightrail can take the form of tram like vehicles as used in Melbourne or more train like vehicles as used in Denver. The key thing is that they can be more flexible than buses, as they can have extra carriages added when capacity is being exceeded. this doe not require hiring another driver or scheduling another driver for the service.

More public transport options, more PT patronage, less cars on road, less parking spaces required.

Lobby your elected representatives and tell them you want light rail or better public transport options.

The act Govt is bringing out its Sustainable Transport Action Plan (STAP) this year. Despite earnest pronouncements to transport technology agnosticism, i know for a fact that the policy unit working on it is factoring in buses only. I asked one of them directly.

The people who make these decisions for you, never use public transport, but that doesnt stop them telling you whats good for you.

And to forestall the hand-wringers and nay-sayers, yes light rail is expensive, but you dont hear the same whining about road spending. Changing the public transport paradigm is a political decision, not a financial decision.

Damien Haas

Chair, ACT Light Rail

The busses re getting steadily worse. Four years ago the Hackett bus was fine for peak hour communiting. Two years ago it was ok. I’ve given it up now – too annoying since the timetable ‘improvements / cut-backs’. In teh cutbacks they got rid of one Watson bus route altogether – that has probably led to all the extra people.

Actualy – the stanhope civic parking reduction fiasco, which he said was intended to get people onto the busses seems to be working. Pity they didn’t actually increase the buses to deal with increased demand that they intentionally created.

“I like cycling myself, but I am generally not in the mood to fight the morning traffic scrum on Northbourne Ave.”

Can’t like cycling too much. If you did you’d know we have a thing in Canberra called bike paths, which obviate the ‘scrum’ (which also shows how little you know about scrums).

Horrid #1

Not everyone can ride a bike, I can’t, and why would a woman ride a push bike with heels and wearing a dress, skirt, also age could be a factor, as far as I’m concerned bikes are dangerous on the roads with traffic.

Horrid, not everyone in the world wants to or is capable of cycling. Nor possesses a bike. I like cycling myself, but I am generally not in the mood to fight the morning traffic scrum on Northbourne Ave. Nor am I that interested in riding if I’ve done a 10-12 hour day and I am returning home after 8pm. And I’m in perfect physical health.

Getting back to some actual input on the post, I agree about the buses. I really think that Northbourne Ave should have the inner lane as a bus-only lane between 7:30 to 8am. And another thing that annoys me is that both buses that go from Dickson to the city via Lyneham go within 5 minutes of each other. Why not stagger their departure by 15 minutes apart?

The worst thing about these services for me is when they are reduced to 1/hour on the weekends or late at night which are the only times I catch a bus. The hacket/watson busses leave within 5 mins of each other from the city. I wouldn’t mind catching the Hacket bus and walking to my place in Watson but there is no point when there is a 5 min difference. If I end up lucking out on timing with the busses I have to hang around 50 mins for the next one. If I’m not dead tired or its not raining I’ve walked a couple of times which gets me back to my place in about the same amount of time as waiting for the bus twiddling my thumbs.

Are all the comments going to question why one would want to catch a bus when they live in riding or walking distance to Civic, like in a recent previous post?

Please think about this……the number 2 bus goes to WODEN! And why is it such a problem for some rioters that some other rioters want to use the bus or want good public transport options? Do you all sell cars or have a vested interest in bicycle stores?

Not everyone is in a position to ride their bike or walk to work, for many reasons, fitness, age, travelling with small children or just wanting to get to work using a bus. Lots of cities have commuters that travel short distances on buses/trains/monorails/ tuk tuks.

Shock, horror! An absolute surprise that an ACTION bus runs late and is overcrowded!

Didn’t we have another poor soul whinging incessantly last week that their bus was exactly the same? If you haven’t figured that the majority of ACTION buses are exactly the same in peek hour and have been for many years, then you are an idiot. The government have done very little over the past 10+ years to ensure that services are up to scratch by supplying enough buses and ridding us of a network full of routes that go everywhere indirectly, taking the longest possible time. I wouldn’t be holding your breath.

Dickson, Watson, Hackett and Ainslie

All suburbs within an easy 20 minute cycle ride of Civic. And thats for a person of ordinary fitness on an ordinary bike in thier work clothes. No bus hassles, no traffic jams or parking problems. Bike is better.

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