New figures show public transport usage surging in 2020

Ian Bushnell 2 March 2020 78
Light rail passengers

Rush hour: Light rail is driving a huge increase in public transport patronage, the Government says. Photo: File.

The ACT Government is touting a huge increase in public transport usage this year, revealing figures showing more than half a million boardings last week.

Transport Minister Chris Steel said that in the first three weeks of Term 1 there was a 10.26 per cent increase in the number of journeys taken across the ACT compared with the same period in 2019, before the introduction of Network 19.

Mr Steel said that the uptake of the new Rapid buses was also surging, particularly in the new suburbs in the Molonglo Valley, where the R10 has been filled to capacity in peak times, prompting Transport Canberra to put on more services from April.

He said last weekend alone saw more than 60,000 public transport boardings, with people choosing to take the bus and light rail to and from the Multicultural Festival in the city – also a record for weekend public transport travel since MyWay was introduced.

The figures show that there were 36 per cent more journeys made on public transport for the Multicultural Festival this year compared with Festival weekend in 2019, and last week more than 514,000 boardings were recorded.

“This is the largest week of public transport ever, with the exception of the free public transport period last year during April,” Mr Steel said.

The data offensive comes as the ACT Government continues to deflect attacks from the Canberra Liberals about the new bus network and the loss of school services, which they have pledged to restore.

It also comes ahead of the sweeping changes to the bus network due to come in for Term 2, after the Government has reviewed six months of data.

The changes will provide more direct connections for rapid and local services between town centres and improved timings across the network, and improved frequency on Saturdays for local buses.

They are expected to commence on 28 April and complement additional light rail frequency and expanded peak travel times commencing at the same time, in response to overcrowding on services.

Public transport journeys and boardings

Public transport journeys and boardings. Image: Transport Canberra.

Mr Steel rejected suggestions that any comparison with last year before light rail services began was not fair.

“This is exactly what we’re trying to achieve and with further improvements to come in April, we’ll see more people using public transport,” he said.

“Overall passengers have increased and that was the purpose of light rail, to increase patronage.”

Mr Steel said what is happening in Molonglo showed what was possible in the new suburbs.

“People are clearly responding to the 10 Rapid services running later and on a seven-day week network, and they’re doing so in the new suburbs. As a result, were listening to feedback and improving the frequency of this popular Rapid service,” he said.

Mr Steel also announced that from Monday (2 March) a new free minibus service will be trialled, linking residents of Ginninderry’s first suburb, Strathnairn, to the Kippax Bus Station, Kingsford Smith School and Macgregor Primary School.

“The new service (Route 903) will operate 7 days a week, running every half an hour, with an increase to 15-minute frequency during weekday peak periods,” Mr Steel said.

The service is being delivered in partnership with the Suburban Land Agency and the Ginninderry Joint Venture, using two new HINO Poncho buses purchased for this purpose, and is part of the Joint Venture’s commitment to provide public transport services for the first residents of Strathnairn as they move into their new homes.

“We’re interested to see this accessible low floor mini-bus in operation in Ginninderry, and whether it could provide benefits for our community and flexible bus services in the ACT.”

The Strathnairn service will remain free until increasing population requires Transport Canberra to use a standard bus on this route. Fares apply for people travelling onto the broader network.

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78 Responses to New figures show public transport usage surging in 2020
chewy14 chewy14 9:31 am 02 Mar 20

I also like comparing apples to oranges.

Seriously, does anyone in government actually understand statistics or are they trying to be deliberately misleading?

Sher Bee Sher Bee 1:45 am 02 Mar 20

Let’s see the stats when the hail damaged vehicles are replaced

Cath Louise Cath Louise 9:16 pm 01 Mar 20

I'm one of those people who now catch a bus because we lost a car in the hail storm.

Amy Thorncraft Amy Thorncraft 5:49 pm 29 Feb 20

Also nearly 6 weeks later and were still waiting for our hail damaged car to be assessed. What choice do we have?

David Cusack David Cusack 6:56 pm 28 Feb 20

Meanwhile Canberra business owners are paying massive rates to pay for it!

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 4:58 pm 28 Feb 20

Sure, keep at the government. We’re still a well short of our 25m annual transit rides (not boardings) of the 1980s.

But can anyone honestly say the Libs would have done better, had they won in 2016? We would have had more buses for the Christian schools. No light rail.

    JC JC 11:47 am 01 Mar 20

    And ironically in the 1980’s there were no expresses buses from the suburbs to the city/Russell/Barton and everyone had to change buses at least once if they were going anywhere beyond their own regional interchange.

    The very thing that people are now cracking the sads over.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:07 am 03 Mar 20

    There was plenty of private car-pooling and lots of free parking in them distant days, JC.

Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 3:46 pm 28 Feb 20

ACT Open Data portal shows passenger journeys per month over the last 5 years to be reasonably consistent, especially when you take population growth into account.

Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 2:22 pm 28 Feb 20

Easy to get an increase in overall passenger numbers when you change the public transport network to focus on Patronage instead of Coverage. How's bus use going in the areas of Canberra that lost so many bus stops and so many bus services? Last we officially heard those areas had declined by around 5%. Public Transport is meant to offer a reasonable service for all, it shouldn't matter if the bus users are rich or poor, or in easy to service areas or hard to service areas.

Bill Pappas Bill Pappas 10:46 am 28 Feb 20

Easy to manipulate the stats...especially when there are no other viable options but the car.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:53 pm 28 Feb 20

    Bill Pappas how many more options do you want?

    Bill Pappas Bill Pappas 9:38 pm 28 Feb 20

    Ashley Wright so the tram is the only viable, cost effective option...

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:11 am 28 Feb 20

“Mr Steel rejected suggestions that any comparison with last year before light rail services began was not fair.”

That’s somewhewre between having a pair and fantasising.

Scott Kesby Scott Kesby 8:48 am 28 Feb 20

Waiting for a bus in Kambah ....

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:41 pm 28 Feb 20

    Scott Kesby here is the timetable for the 70 and 71. It might help.

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 6:28 pm 28 Feb 20

    And then when the Bus finally comes it takes you from Kambah to Cooleman Court. Now that's a prime destination for Kambah residents NOT!

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 8:57 pm 28 Feb 20

    Jeff Smith depends where you are going. If to the city it is faster to change there than at Woden.

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 10:49 am 29 Feb 20

    Ashley Wright It's NOT faster when compared to the previous bus network when you went straight from Kambah up the Parkway direct to Woden then Civic without any stops. (even faster on Expresso to Civic). Many Kambah residents have had their waiting, walking & commuting time double from previous. That's another pretty good double somersault you have done to try and create a positive out of a bad situation. The other week you said the Light Rail holds 279 people per trip, but then we find out I was correct at 207 passengers. You shouldn't have to keep making up data and stories in defence of the Canberra Transport network changes.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:17 pm 29 Feb 20

    Jeff Smith the light rail vehicles do hold 279. As I pointed out the TC website says a minimum of 207. The reason it says minimum is because that is the maximum legal amount it can carry with all bike and wheelchair bays full of bikes and wheelchairs. If they are not there it is 279 as per CAF, the maker of the trams own blurb on the variant they have made for Canberra.

    Whilst not common in Canberra in NSW most vehicles state two sets of maximums. One with wheelchair bays used, one without.

    And yup espressos were quicker to get to civic and I am firmly on record as saying the biggest failure of the new network Canberra wide is their removal.

    Though changing for an R7 at Cooleman court is quicker than going to Woden and getting a rapid from there.

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 10:03 am 01 Mar 20

    The Light Rail vehicles hold 279 just like my elevator at work holds 18 people (when in reality it's fully cramped with just 10 people in it). I can find over 10 different web links that state the Canberra Light Rail holds a 'maximum 207' people (including Canberra Times, ACT Government, Rail Express). But Canberra Transport has mixed numbers with one page saying 'at least 207'.The only site that mentions 279 is the Train Company for the Rail Carriages itself (without seats?) is based on 6 people per square meter (which is OK for small children, but not a bunch of average sized Canberrans including the seats).

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 1:19 pm 03 Mar 20

    Ashley Wright Do they really hold 279 people? (that's 6 people per square meter) and the public transport crowding information on line says a tight squeeze like that doesn't work for light rail with seats (just like my work elevator that doesn't remotely fit the stated maximum number of passengers) 6 people per sqm is even a tight squeeze if all standing, without seats and seated people in the way. Other sites (including Transport By The Numbers Stats) keep saying 207 people per Canberra Light Rail vehicle. Also for the record. My Kambah trips to both Civic and Woden are much slower under the new bus network than the old network that went straight up the parkway, no matter which route I now take (and that time measurement doesn't include now sending me a further 800m away to the nearest bus stop after they stopped servicing the one on corner of Sulwood and Drakeford).

jcjordan jcjordan 8:45 am 28 Feb 20

Ah lies, damn lies and statistics. Sorry Mr Steel but this is a deliberate misinterpretation of the true facts in context. Given that your restructure of the the bus network in the south side of Canberra means that we now have to do multiple boardings to travel from Tuggeranong and Woden to get into Barton and the City. As a result one trip will now result in 2-3 boardings and therefore using this as a means to represent an increase in trips by users is either stupidity or a deliberate misinterpretation of the facts. My bet is on the later.

    areaman areaman 11:28 am 28 Feb 20

    Which is why they also report on journeys, which only count each trip once, no matter how many changes of vehicle. They’re also up massively.

    JC JC 11:37 am 28 Feb 20

    That is still one journey which is covered as a seperate stat in the table above and like boardings it also shows an increase.

Sonya Georgalis Sonya Georgalis 8:28 am 28 Feb 20

High probability this is to do with 1000’s of cars being written off /damaged in hail storm.

Matthew McGranahan Matthew McGranahan 8:26 am 28 Feb 20

Thought I would share this picture directly from the article, cause apparently people don't read articles.

Journeys are still up. The data in the article actually shows a 36% increase for the Multicultural Festival.

Paul Hazell Paul Hazell 7:54 am 28 Feb 20

Ha ha - nice spin! There are more “boardings” as you have to catch more buses to get anywhere!

Alexandra Hughes Alexandra Hughes 7:11 am 28 Feb 20

Because there's nowhere to park.

Lauryn Roberts Lauryn Roberts 5:18 am 28 Feb 20

Yea no thanks.

Rikki O'Brien Rikki O'Brien 11:32 pm 27 Feb 20

Hahaha. Wonder why after 30ish thous cars were written off or undriveble the rate of people using public transport would increase? Are you out there captain obvious? 🤷🏻‍♀️🤣

Avril Pounds Avril Pounds 10:38 pm 27 Feb 20

Probably because a lot of people still have damaged vehicles after the hail storm.

Andrew Kristoffersen Andrew Kristoffersen 7:34 pm 27 Feb 20

As someone who drives Northside to Civic.. there has been a huge increase in vehicles in the morning peak in the past two weeks coupled with poorly times lights and always 13mins either on the GDE or Barton according to the electric sign before the GDE.. it's fudged statistics

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 8:13 pm 27 Feb 20

    Andrew Kristoffersen I never believe those signs they rarely change. And as someone who drives either to civic (once a week) or to Southwell park (4 days a week) I can say the drive is now so much quicker due to there being less vehicles on the road compared to before light rail construction started. And not noticed anything different in the last two weeks.

    I have also noticed significantly less vehicles parked in the Canberra centre all day park, this is since they increased prices last year. At the same time places like Southwell park are filling quicker with people like me getting the tram the final stretch to the city. (Cheaper than parking in civic and not any slower)

    Andrew Kristoffersen Andrew Kristoffersen 8:25 pm 27 Feb 20

    Ashley Wright those signs were working before Christmas but greatly different compared to google maps. I often drive with maps running on my phone to indicate how the traffic is, I had "there's unusually heavy traffic on your route" on Tuesday. On Wednesday the Barton was backed up past the speed camera near the GDE and the GDE North was backed up over the bridge with cars trying to get into Mitchel. It's turning into an interesting commute often driving through suburbs to avoid the heavy congestion.

    Barton onto Northbourne has turned to garbage with the trams and extra set of lights at Swindon St, often sitting there with a green light to turn onto Northbourne but traffic backed up. Very poor planning to get smooth flowing traffic but I guess it's all part of the ploy to get more commuters on the tram 🤷🏿‍♀️

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 7:34 am 28 Feb 20

    Andrew Kristoffersen think you will find the congestion this week is due to the roadworks on the southbound carriageway of Gungahlin drive.

    As for the turn onto The Federal Highway, when light rail first opened what you described was very much the norm. But once they sorted the lights out in my experience any significant problem is very rare. I go through there between 745 and 8 every day, and as mentioned 4 days a week I park and ride at Southwell park (Swindon Street). And the other day where I do park in the city the run down Northborne is fine. Only part where it does get crap is between Barry drive and London Cct where the light phase is totally out of whack.

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