Two petitions against the new bus network have sprung up only days after launching on Monday, with main complaints related to the loss of routes, longer commutes and axing of some dedicated school buses.
But Transport Canberra says record numbers took public transport on Tuesday 30 April as Canberrans threw their support behind the new network, with MyWay data showing 90,854 boardings across bus and light rail, the first time boardings have exceeded 90,000 on a single day since the system was introduced.
It says the number of school student boardings has also increased since the corresponding time last year and the number using high-frequency rapid buses has almost doubled.
While one petition , not surprisingly, has been started by a Liberal MLA, the main one originated with an angry 18-year-old Imchan Raman from Tuggeranong who says bus routes near her home, her friends’ homes and near schools have been scrapped, and ‘I cannot help to feel a surge of rage and injustice for those who live on the southside’.
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“It makes commuting indescribable – simple commutes become complex and I fear my grandmother who likes to catch a bus to go shopping may become lost trying to do so with this new complex system,” she says, calling on the Government to go back to the previous timetable.
The change.org petition has garnered more than 1700 signatures and counting already with many comments posted about the inadequacies of the new network.
Imchan says the new system is structured around light rail too much, resulting in inconvenient commutes taking up to more than half an hour longer and involving many more transfers.
She says the scrapping of some school bus services has made commutes for children increasingly precarious as they must cross busy roads during peak traffic, and longer walks to stops are a problem for the elderly and those with mobility issues.
Comments range from the scrapping of services to concerns about child safety.
“Removing the Expresso services from West Belconnen has added considerably to my commute time (now over 2 hours each day) and I am sure for many others. No gain, only pain, for West Belconnen! We still only have 1 bus every hour on the weekends on the new network and have lost the Expressos, so what use is the new network?” says Anya.
Connor says: “Why move the express stops to/from Belconnen to the other side of Northbourne? Doesn’t make any sense. All the buses are full at peak times now and forced to leave people at stops because of this whereas before this would be rare.”
The loss of the No 3 route has also upset some petitioners.
“The number three bus route has gone completely. I live in O’Connor and spend weeks at a time in Calvary Private Hospital Bruce and used the number three bus regularly while on day leave to travel between my home and the hospital,” says Caroline.
For some, it’s the longer commuting times and comes with a message the Government, bent on driving up usage, would not want to hear.
“My commute time doubled – I am now back to driving to work as it takes half the time,” says Rebecca.
And Grace: “Not happy with the new timetable as it takes me an additional hour to travel to and from work. Like many others, I’ve been driving instead since [the 29th of April] which results in more cars on the roads and more pollution in the air.”
“Disgraceful. Can’t get from Nicholls to Belconnen without going backwards to Gungahlin, and adding 30 mins to a trip which now takes 50,” says Lisa.
The changes to dedicated school services are also hitting hard.
“My young children now have to get three buses to get to school each day. A 15-minute journey by car takes over an hour and three buses. Buses also arrive late or leave early meaning they miss connecting buses. It’s just not good enough!” says Rebecca.
“Child safety matters. You are putting children at risk by cancelling dedicated school bus services, it is unacceptable.”
Older commuters are also upset.
“I live in Theodore and for 35 years could take a bus straight to where I needed to go. Now I retire and you take away my bus. Shame on you,” says Elizabeth.
Alicia says: “As a 70-year-old I find it almost impossible to have to walk almost 3 km to the Chisholm shops to catch a bus to take me 6 kms!!!! Just because there is a light rail in the city doesn’t mean that Tuggeranong should lose its public transport. Go back to the drawing board city planners.”
Liberal MLA Elizabeth Kikkert’s petition calls on the Government to restore Belconnen Xpresso services and dedicated services to a number of non-Government schools.
Minister for Transport Meegan Fitzharris said passengers were voting with their feet and using the new network in record numbers, and it was being closely monitored.
“Transport Canberra is keeping a close eye on the network, recognising that this has been a change for a number of existing users. There may be isolated issues, and if so, Transport Canberra is working with customers to resolve those. Transport Canberra will look at putting on larger buses and increasing light rail frequency to cater for demand,” she said.
“Transport Canberra also has additional transport officers, customer service assistants and Transport Canberra representatives at major bus interchanges to help customers with the changes and provide timetable information. Our TC staff, drivers and customer service officers are also actively looking out for students and offering assistance as they navigate the new network.”
Public transport is free for passengers using a MyWay card until 26 May.