12 March 2023

Bus information issue 'magically resolved' but communication needs to be better: advocacy group

| Claire Fenwicke
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bus passing empty bus stop

Canberrans weren’t able to use third-party apps to access real-time data on bus movements for a number of days. Photo: Transport Canberra/Facebook.

A public transport advocacy group has slammed Transport Canberra for unclear communication around an issue impacting real-time information about its bus services.

The Government’s NXTBus system was down on Friday (3 March) evening, but the Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) claims it wasn’t until they “kicked up a fuss” that anything was done to rectify the issue.

The group issued a public statement on Tuesday (7 March), after which chair Ryan Hemsley said the issue was “magically resolved” at 9:45 pm that night – four days since the matter was first raised and hours after their public statement.

“All the third-party apps [which used the data] were down,” he said.

“Unless all the third-party apps managed to simultaneously get back online at the same time, this is really frustrating.”

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When questions about PTCBR’s statement were sent to Transport Canberra, a spokesperson said it was made aware of a connection issue which was resolved by the Saturday (4 March) morning.

“Online resources about public transport information were still available on the Transport Canberra website,” they said.

They were also aware of an issue impacting information on third-party apps, which it had been investigating with its supplier.

“Transport Canberra provides data access to third-party developers to create apps for mobile devices, offering a convenient planning option for passengers,” the spokesperson said.

“None of these apps are owned, developed or authorised by Transport Canberra.

“Transport Canberra takes no responsibility for the reliability or completeness of these, or other third-party software.

“Transport Canberra have been advised late [Tuesday, 7 March] evening by third-party app providers that they are no longer experiencing issues.”

NXTBUS outage alert

Some Canberrans were receiving this error message when trying to access real-time information about buses. Photo: PTCBR.

Mr Hemsley said no such explanation had been given to him.

“It’s frustrating, this lack of communication from Transport Canberra,” he said.

“There weren’t any publicly available notices [about the issue] … we didn’t hear this explanation about the NXTBus providers until we kicked up a fuss.

“It took public commentary for anything to happen.”

The apps were still able to display real-time information about light rail and Queanbeyan services.

Mr Hemsley said while Transport Canberra was not responsible for the operating of third-party apps, it shouldn’t have said the issue was resolved until all people could access the information again.

“They need to have more proactive communications, it was clearly not resolved on Saturday for the myriad of apps that used [the NXTBus data],” he said.

“In the future they need to be more upfront and clearer about what’s happening.”

The Transport Canberra spokesperson said people experiencing issues with real-time passenger information or through third-party apps could head online or call 13 17 10.

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This isn’t the first time Transport Canberra has been accused of not clearly communicating with the public.

The Government drew criticism when its 2023 bus timetable was quietly released at the end of last year.

At the time it was accused of dropping the changes online “without warning” or consultation.

Meanwhile the ACT Government recently announced a contract had been signed for the long-awaited new public transport system, MyWay+.

Mr Hemsley said the Government still needed to make sure the old system was operating effectively in the meantime.

“Passengers rely on this information to plan their journeys and interchanges, and to know whether their bus has been cancelled,” he said.

Mr Hemsley said it was not acceptable for the system to be “out for an extended period of time like this”.

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Yep GrumpyGrandpa I can sure as hell agree! My big gripe is the online journey planner. Like honestly, how clunky and backwards is it? I gave up using it years ago. Transport Canberra’s journey planner has not progressed since it was implemented by Action buses last century. I have found it better just to ring Transport Canberra’s help line. Has Chris Steel ever caught a bus? Has he ever used Transport Canberra’s journey planner? Does he, or Transport Canberra, have any tech wizards who can actually bring the system into the 21st century? I am optimistic and do hold out hope!

Surprise. The Transport Minister (Mr Steel) does not care about you and the Canberra public. He only cares about photo ops and his beloved red train.

My mother tried catching the bus from Tuggeranong to the Multicultural festival (as the Multicultural Minister recommended). NXTBUS didn’t tell her that the bus wasn’t coming and she waited hours at her bus stop until a neighbor kindly picked her up and drove her all the way into Civic.

You have to wonder if the Transport Minister even has an interest in how the bus service serves commuters.

GrumpyGrandpa4:28 pm 13 Mar 23

Sadly, I’m not surprised.
Our daughter lives in Melbourne. The Victorian PT App does everything, including giving a directions on how to walk to the train or bus. Instead, here in Camberra, we have a text based tracking App and a Journey Planner, that is third-world-like in comparison.

Recently, we were at Lanyon and weren’t aware that the R5 we intended to catch wasn’t running until sending a Text to “Where is my Freaking Bus” aka Nexbus. We ended up deciding to walk some distance and catch the 81. The Journey Planner only gave us Street names. It would have been easy to turn the wrong way. In 2023, you shouldn’t need to also consult Google Maps in conjunction with the transport companies “Journey Planner”. How hopeless!

The other issue I have with Journey Planner is that despite having the parameters set for “least” walking, quite often, it directs us to walk lengthy distances and many alternate routes that I know I could catch, are not shown. I then find myself resorting to timetables and manually planning my journey.

Journey Planner also assumes the world is perfect. Rather than providing “safe” options, it’ll offer up a combination of routes with – say a 2 minute window. If your initial service isn’t on time, you miss your connection.

Minister, TC’s Nexbus and Journey Planner are pathetic. Yeah, I know My Way Plus us coming. I’ll just continue manually planning my trips in the meantime!

The same public transport Journey Planner that tells my mum to walk over Mt Taylor to the physical health therapist near Pearce shops. Hey it’s still quicker than catching the bus.

Who else remembers the fanfare from the Minister and Transport Canberra around the 2019 network that this new journey planner was going to deliver for active transport in Canberra.

Active transport seems to have been code for we’re removing your nearest bus stop and your local bus service so you’ll have to get active and walk more.

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