2 May 2019

Commuters climb on board petitions to vent against new bus network

| Ian Bushnell
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The new bus network is generating a lot of angst, particularly in the south. Photo: George Tsotsos.

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’.

“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.

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I live in between 2 local routes so I can walk 350 metres in one direction and around 500 metres in the other and catch a service that will connect with a rapid service at Woden, Coolamen Court, Duffy, Coombs or Denman Prospect. I think I have won big time here. I still see a need for some fine tuning, but can also see that the extra volume generated by the Fred travel has distorted things a bit.

Capital Retro8:58 am 05 May 19

At least you have choices which is something this government is trying to eliminate.

Canberra Transport said we had 90,000 boardings in one day, and then clarified that those numbers related to 65,000 passenger trips.

Does that mean that approximately half the passengers that day had to transfer vehicles to get to their destination?

If that’s the case, I’m guessing that means a worse experience for commuters who used to only have to take one bus to get to their destination.

I’m still not convinced the government have designed a suitably designed network for people who don’t live near a Rapid route or created a network that fits the Canberra Spatial layout.

Bronwyn Rebecca Parsons10:56 am 03 May 19

The statistics are higher because the system has been structured to boost them. Similarly, removing school buses to funnel a change over (for some) to increase light rail frequency also boosts statistics to justify expenditure.

Your spot on Bronwyn great post. The design of the new Transport system is to give a third of Canberrans a fast and effective transport system, that will definitely boost transport numbers for those lucky enough to be within a quick walk of a reliable R Rapid service.

The issue is that Minister Fitzharris and Canberra Transport have ripped the Bus network out of the hard to service pockets of Canberra, which are often on the fringes of the city and lower socioeconomically.

It’s like the Canberra hospital only targeting people who are easy to heal, but leaving the difficult and very sick patients to sort themselves out. Whoops I better not give Health Minister Fitzharris any ideas.

The ACT public transport system is now so dysfunctional we’ll soon see people clinging to the back of busses.

HiddenDragon6:14 pm 02 May 19

Given the fondness of the ACT Government for using social media to bypass the “biased, right-wing” (blah blah) “traditional media”, perhaps we could have clips of each Minister’s daily commute – just to show how wonderful the new system is (for other people….).

Well, in fairness, I have seen Carolyn Le Couter regularly take the old 300 series to the assembly in the mornings.
But, I haven’t yet seen her among the sardines on the new R4 routes.

Doesn’t sound like she’s helped Jeff from Kambah with his problems. Maybe she’s stuck on the bus and can’t address her constituents concerns to the Transport Minister.

To use buses now I have to leave home 110 minutes before I have to be at work. Walking would take me 120 minutes. The car takes 20 minutes.

Of course there were record boardings – I now have 3 boardings each way up from 2 – an increase of 50%.

Yes Meegan, passengers will be voting with their feet…at the next election. Treating the public like idiots and endangering children will not be rewarded.

TC Route Planner shows that you can use the Queanbeyan bus from Woden to Fyshwick (which is a direct service taking about 25 minutes compared to the 2 bus trip by TC) and the Yass bus from Dickson to city. This is not true – you cannot use these buses if you are travelling wholly within the ACT!! What kind of city do we have where an interstate company is able to do a better job?
As has already been said – of course the number of ‘boardings’ have increased. Many trips now include an extra bus ride so that’s 2 extra ‘boardings’ daily for many, not 2 extra passengers.
Madness!

The interstate company is offering a different type of service. Their role is to take passengers from two towns to Canberra. Not hey people all around to the variety of places Canberra people want to go.

Though you have hit in something which I think is distorting the issue a bit. The planner and also google do not accurately reflect the timetable or reality.

Today went from Barton to the city. Google was saying it was a 26 minute trip leaving at 430 arriving at 456. In reality my myway card shows me getting on at 431 and off at 442 which is a closer reflection of the timetable.

The trip planner is also putting up weird trips like you mention, plus walking and bike trips when there are buses. I think half the problem is the planner and other apps that take their data off that.

Record numbers on the 30th!!! When you have to catch 2 or 3 buses where once you caught one, of course they are going to have “record numbers”. Congratulations to the Government/Action for stuffing up a perfectly good bus service.

I’m presuming the people who are saying they have improved Bus services and faster travel times don’t live near one of the 730 Bus stops that the government removed from the new Bus Network.

How long will it take people to understand the simple equation of the new Bus network design.

1. If you live within walking distance of a new Rapid stop you will have seen much improved Public Transport services across peak hour, weekday and weekend services.

2. If you live more than a reasonable walking distance from a Rapid service, you are likely to experience a worse Bus service than before.

That’s the problem in a nutshell.

“high-frequency rapid buses”, that’s a laugh.

The only thing helping the R4 from Tuggeranong to Civic be “rapid” is the fact that it’s full by Beasly Street. This morning most people at Southlands and Woden Interchange were not let on and all the other stops were bypassed because the bus was chockers.

I’m quite certain that the “R” in “R4” stands for “Rooted”.

As noted elsewhere, I too have noticed a significant change in the demeanor of the bus drivers. Not for one moment do I blame them.

What have they done to Burgmann College kids at Gungahalin? There is a three fold amount of traffic at the intersection and around the school, a lot more buses and it has become more congested and dangerous than it was before. I also noticed a large group of their kids waiting at a bus stop outside the school (?presumably to now get a bus from Gungahalin to Forde campus; poor kids when its minus-5 shortly or raining). That would explain why there are a lot more cars in the area; parents dropping off at the school (and also see a lot more cars going to interchange to drop kids off-including me). Does anybody know whats going on at Burgmann? As a nearby resident I want to complain to Minister Harris (not about Burgmann but about the changes that have led to the traffic chaos in that area). Almost no parking at Gungahalin for commuters either (permit or not). No drop off zone at interchange. Kids catching the 1022 at Palmerston are doing so abt. 45 mins earlier than before, arriving at school abt 8 am. The new transport network has redefined the words “plan” and “planning”; planning should lead to improvement not worsening of a situation. Buses not picking up because their full; the train is full; waited 15 mins in middle of day on Northbourn when it was supposed to be 10 mins. Didn’t vote for it; don’t blame me. I’ve lived this experience before so I knew what was coming.

Capital Retro8:25 am 02 May 19

Well, now that the full extent of this debacle is apparent, where are the champions of the new tram service – the same ones that derided me for re-quoting what Duncan Edghill had said namely: “for Canberra, light rail is not about public transport; it’s about urban regeneration”.

Craig Emerton7:41 am 02 May 19

Transport Canberra and Minister Fitzharris are either deluded or are lying. Here is my example I live in Dunlop. I drove this morning took 20 mins. Caught the rapid 2 on Monday and Tuesday, these trips took 1hr 20 mins and 1 hr 10 respectively and the same on the return trip. The old 743 expresso service would take 40 mins both ways. I was happy to catch that everyday. I was happy to catch that instead of the 343 which is now the Rapid 2. It is rapid in name only because it stops at every stop on the way through Belconnen. The decision to denude the Belconnen region of the expresso services is dumb. Still have you supposed Rapid network but at least keep the Expresso services for the peak so workers like myself don’t have to drive.

Rob Chalmers5:27 pm 01 May 19

Transport Canberra needs to recognise there are problems and do something rather than claim record numbers used MyWay cards. Light rail has obviously added a lot of capacity but it’s focused in one area. Glad I drive.

And users need to give the new network time to bed down.

I laughed my head off at the person who said buses were either late or early. Assuming the wrote that last night that is based on a whole sum of umm 2 days.

And the 70yo who has to walk 3km to Chisholm shops. Looking at the map of buses in Chisholm that makes no sense what so ever. Draw a 3km circle around Chisholm and there are about 5 different routes. In fact it looks pretty well covered.

‘Boardings’ have increased because we are now having to catch 2 of more buses when we used to catch one!!! I cannot believe they are using this metric to justify the new timetable. It is misleading and insulting to the large number of people having to spend longer on their commutes.

Here here! It’s been a disaster in the making since the first design proposal. Experts warned against the design when it was first released and then 13,000 public complaints seem to have been ignored by Minister Fitzharris and Canberra Transport.

They kept kicking the can down the road and unfortunately the can is now faster than many peoples new Bus routes.

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