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.
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.