24 October 2017

Government wants your say on buses as new 'rapid' network unveiled

| Ian Bushnell
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Buses at the airport. Photo: Charlotte Harper

A win for Canberra’s public transport system as the new Rapid bus network is introduced ahead of schedule.

The ACT Government has unveiled its new ‘rapid’ bus network two years ahead of schedule, with nine routes ready to connect Canberra’s commuters from 2018.

It also announced that a two-phase consultation on the broader network will start next week. In the first phase, it will be asking Canberrans how they want to connect to the new Rapid network, including looking at how local buses, park and rides, active travel routes and more connect to the Rapid network.

Consultation opens on Friday, 27 October and will run for six weeks.

Canberrans will then have their say on the details of connections, routes and timetables for local services during the second phase of consultation in early 2018.

Minister for Transport Canberra and City Services Meegan Fitzharris revealed the new network while opening the Dickson Bus Interchange last week.

“A new era of public transport in Canberra starts in 2018, making it easier than ever before for all Canberrans to get to where they need to go,” Ms Fitzharris said.

“Our upgraded network will revolutionise the way people use public transport in Canberra, taking cars off the road and increasing patronage across the city.”

She said the first stage of light rail would free up a million bus kilometres. “We are putting those to work to deliver a faster and easier public transport network that will reduce congestion and protect our liveability as our city grows,” she said.

The new integrated transport network will operate seven days a week across nine ‘rapid’ bus routes, which will be operational from mid-2018 ahead of the light rail launch in late 2018.

Rapid buses will connect town centres, suburbs and the city, forming one of the most crucial pieces of Canberra’s future integrated transport network, and run at least every 15 minutes along core transport corridors from 7 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday.

In 2018, all rapid bus routes will also operate over the weekends, with a general frequency of every 15 to 30 minutes or better, building over time. The new network can be found here.

Some of the key features of the expanded rapid network include:

  • All nine Rapid services to be up and running in 2018.
  • Tuggeranong and Belconnen commuters to receive Rapid services two years ahead of schedule.
  • For Tuggeranong, in addition to the recent extension of the blue rapid to Lanyon, a new rapid will operate from Lanyon to the City via Erindale and the inner south of Canberra.
  • For Belconnen, in addition to the new black Rapid, there will now be a Rapid to Watson via the new Dickson Interchange.
  • The existing Airport service will also be incorporated into a new Rapid, providing for more frequent connections for locals and visitors.

Transport Canberra’s new Rapid network is built around the following routes:

Rapid Route Description
R1 (Light Rail) Gungahlin to City via Dickson
R2 Fraser to Fyshwick via Kippax, Belconnen, UC, ANU, City, Barton and Kingston
R3 Spence to Canberra International Airport via Belconnen, UC, ANU, City and Russell
R4 City to Lanyon via Woden, Mawson and Tuggeranong
R5 City to Lanyon via Russell, Barton, Woden, Erindale and Calwell
R6 City to Woden via Barton, Kingston, Manuka, Griffith, Narrabundah and Canberra Hospital
R7 City to Woden via Molonglo and Cooleman Court
R8 Belconnen to Gungahlin via UC Hospital
R9 Belconnen to Watson via Bruce, Dickson and Downer

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I tried out the number 2 bus. Almost a km walk now, and some others have further than that with the cutting of the local 5 bus; some over 1.5kms.
Yesterday, to Woden, walking to the bus was not a problem (for me; not sure how those in aged care placed along the old 5 route will manage it). It was returning with shopping that was harder. I did about half of the amount of shopping I would have done in the past, because of the walk, so now a restriction on what I can bring home by bus.

Today I caught it again; a medical appointment at the hospital. I jogged some of the way because of the time it takes to walk to the bus. (Timed 15 minutes yesterday with shopping.) I don’t image this 60 plus year old non-jogger would have been an elegant sight. That bus arrived on time.

After my medical appointment I thought I would continue onto Woden. I waited half an hour and no number 2 bus turned up. In that time there were supposed to be two buses. Saw neither of them. It’s possible the earlier bus could have been running early, but that would have been by at least five minutes, as I was there before time, and perhaps the later bus was running late. After half an hour the number 3 bus (which was scheduled to come a few minutes later than the second number 2 bus) came by and I caught that.

I will likely drive from now on, because needing to carry home a load of groceries is harder now. With bus 5 my first choice was the bus; now, with in effect no local bus, not now. I am fortunate in that I have a car.

ChrisinTurner9:24 am 09 Nov 17

When will ACTION replace their often-quoted policy that buses only need to be on time at “timing points”. I caught one of the new rapid services recently with a driver who travelled so dangerously fast that we were seven minutes ahead of the sign-posted time at the bus stop where I alighted, which was one stop before a timing point. Receiving the explanation that the bus would have waited at the timing point for seven minutes to get back on schedule does not help the many people who would have already missed this bus. I am told that the NXTBUS system warns the driver immediately if they are ahead of schedule, but not all drivers take notice. How much ahead of schedule will the tram be allowed to run, remembering they will be less frequent than the existing buses?

The Green Rapid is really convenient for me – about 17 minutes to work. If I wasn’t lucky enough to have a car space at work (and that probably won’t last forever), I would definitely catch it every day.

But I do feel very sorry for the residents of Old Narrabundah, who no longer have a direct bus to Woden or Russell, and a very slow trip through Red Hill to Civic. Surely it would make more sense to have the Green Rapid 6 swing past the Narrabundah shops?

Given that Old Narrabundah (between Canberra Av and Sturt Av) has about 23 per cent public housing, including relatively new supported aged housing along the route of the dear departed 5, why can’t it have a bus that takes people to the support services they need?

How does Ms Fitzharris even have the gall to claim that a ‘Rapid bus link’ from Erindale to Civic would travel its way through Kingston and Manuka on its ‘Rapid journey’. Who would ever drive from Tuggeranong to Civic through those zones (other than someone with the defunct Apple Maps release 1 😉

She absolutely leads the pack in this Government for being able to make dodgy claims whilst maintaining a straight face.

If she was honest, her press release for these bus route changes would tell the truth to say that…. the previous weekend ‘direct bus route’ from Erindale to Civic has now been reduced from a very reliable ‘every 15 minutes’ to ‘never’.

It’s an absolute joke that they can dress up reduced services and a slower journey as an improvement for passengers.

The word “bus” has been dropped in favour of just “rapid” to accommodate the Gungahlin-City tram which is planned to start operating next year, replacing the existing rapid bus services.

This name change gives Transport Canberra scope to then tweak the initial tram service to a “rapid tram” service when they find out it is actually slower than the busses it is replacing. There will be more stops than Mitchell being eliminated.

Leon Arundell5:16 pm 26 Oct 17

Labor failed to meet its election commitment of 10.5% of journeys to work by public transport by 2016, and will need to well and truly pull its finger out if it is to come anywhere near its commitment of 16% by 2026. 8.2% of journeys to work included a public transport component – up from 7.8% in 2011. Lack of suitable incentives (such as effective transit lanes) has resulted in fewer people travelling as car passengers (down from 8.6% to 7.3%). Some of them have switched to public transport, walking and cycling, but others have switched to driving their own cars (up from 73.3% to 73.8%).

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