9 May 2019

Government tweaks bus services as complaints roll in

| Ian Bushnell
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Transport Canberra is making adjustments to the new network as it goes. Photos: George Tsotsos.

The ACT Government has made changes to its new bus network not even two weeks since its introduction, after a torrent of complaints from disgruntled passengers.

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris acknowledged that there had been a lot of community feedback, and Transport Canberra was continuing to monitor the new network.

She said Transport Canberra was now putting on bigger buses for certain services, adding extra services past schools where there was high demand and adjusting bus stops near schools.

It was also adding more light rail services, particularly where it had proven to be more popular than anticipated.

A spokesperson said Transport Canberra was continuing to monitor how services were working for schools and making adjustments as required.

So far additional buses had been added for Burgmann Anglican School to cater for demand past its school in the afternoons and a larger articulated bus added to meet demand at St Francis Xavier College.

Transport Canberra was also about to adjust the time of a service out of Gungahlin to make journeys more convenient for students travelling to Dickson.

Changes to where buses drop off and pick up students near St Edmund’s College and St Clare’s College were made before the start of the network to ensure there was enough room at bus stops for all buses.

Larger buses were being used on some trips to meet demand, including on the Rapid 5 and Route 32.

The frequency of light rail services had been increased between 6 pm and 6:30 pm to cater for the extra demand.

The frequency of light rail services is being increased to meet demand.

Transport Canberra had to cut 4 per cent of services last weekend (4-5 May) due to not enough drivers volunteering for shifts – 148 out of the scheduled 3721. There were 36 driver duties not covered as a result.

The volunteer system has been a feature of the ACT bus system for decades and the Transport Workers Union rebuffed a new push from the Government to move to a compulsory seven-day roster.

Ms Fitzharris said the TWU had committed under the terms of the recently agreed Enterprise Agreement to ensure that all weekend duties were covered at all times.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the TWU and their members to help ensure they deliver on their commitment and help us deliver a seven-day network for Canberrans,” she said.

“Overall reliability was good, and whilst it was just short of the total service level, we were able to respond proactively to spread cancelled services across high frequency services to reduce the impact on passengers. We expect more certainty in delivering scheduled weekend services as we bed down the new network.”

She said more drivers for both buses and light rail were being recruited and ‘we hope that over time we can meet the community’s expectations with our weekend services’.

Ms Fitzharris said that there were more than half a million passenger boardings on the new public transport network, although the Government has been criticised for aggregating MyWay card touches across services.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr clarified this number when he addressed the Canberra Business Chamber on Thursday, saying more than 77,000 trips were taken on light rail during the first week of operation, adding to the 290,000 journeys taken on the new bus network over the same period.

“This shows there is a strong appetite in this community for faster, cleaner and better connected public transport that provides a real alternative to the car,” he said.

Ms Fitzharris said the feedback also included new and existing users who were saying how the new network had given them added options, and that they were now using public transport more, and in some cases using public transport for the first time.

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Let the poorer areas and schools be the last. Very Antoinette, Barr.

wildturkeycanoe6:18 am 13 May 19

Nice to see how much influence the private schools have on the government, how about the public school buses? I finally received a call from TC about my feedback, simply stating it would be referred for review by the network planners. I read that to mean “sorry, but you’ll just have to suck it up princess”. It means I will need to continually knock off work early some days to pick up my kids so they have time to get home, eat and get changed for sports training. TC would say it’s inconvenient, but for me it means working late to make up for their incompetence and less time with my family. Thanks for nothing.

I just looked at a map and found that there is no tram stop outside of the entrance to EPIC. I was so looking forward to using the tram to attend events there, but it’s about a 400 metre walk either side to the entrance. It seems that the entrance to EPIC is the very logical place that a tram stop to be, so why was EPIC bypassed?

800m is now the acceptable walking distance for buses according to Canberra Transport. I’m not sure I agree with them on this occasion.

Capital Retro12:33 pm 12 May 19

There will be when EPIC morphs into high-density units.

Remember, light rail isn’t about public transport, its about urban regeneration

My travel time has increased greatly. I used to have several bus options to Gungahlin in the mornings, but now they are every 30 minutes or so. I went from 16 minutes to 40 minutes to work. I have discovered though that if I run 1 km, I can get 1 of 3 busses every 20 minutes from another stop. Light rail is a definate win for residents of Gungahlin town centre, but a big bus loss for Gungahlin. I now drive 3 days per week as it is the only way to be on time on critical days.

This has been another reminder of how useless the ACT Liberal Opposition is. We have almost 10 thousand Canberrans sign a petition to revert the Bus services and two weeks of complaints across radio, print and social media. But nothing from Coe.

ACT Labor has introduced a new Bus network that runs counter to their own Labor charter around fairness, equality and access and the ACT Liberals aren’t actively doing anything about the issue.

It’s no wonder they’ve been in opposition so long. They can’t even mount an argument against an ACT Government decision that negatively impacts a huge proportion of the city.

Capital Retro5:36 pm 10 May 19

Great comment. They are eternally missing in action.

Capital Retro12:35 pm 12 May 19

Actually, “missing” is sufficient as including “action” dignifies their uselessness.

Of course everybody wants their own tailored personal bus for themselves and maybe one or two others. Share a taxi. The new network is about mass public transport and very effective. Haters gonna hate.

The key objective of ACT Labor according to their current manifesto is to create a fairer society through: Equity; Equality; Participation; and Access.

Obviously these objectives can be ignored if you happen to be a bus commuter in an outer suburb.

These recent Bus network changes are a dagger to the heart of Labor’s guiding principles around fairness for all. No wonder John Stanhope questions this current Labor Government.

So Minister Fitzharris is still ignoring the issues and impacts on commuters who don’t live within walking distance of the Rapid Routes.

This re-design was always about getting more bums on seats by providing faster and more regular public transport for a third of the Canberra population and simply ignoring the rest.

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