29 April 2019

Some confusion and delays but new transport network roll-out deemed a success

| Ian Bushnell
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A Transport Canberra officer assists a passenger at the city interchange. Photos: George Tsotsos.

Despite reports of confusion and longer commutes, the ACT Government believes today’s roll-out of the new integrated public transport system has been a success, particularly with the popularity of light rail.

Boosted by the month-long free ride with a MyWay card and workers back from school holidays, the light rail reported full carriages during the peak run into the city, with strong patronage along Northbourne Avenue.

Transport Canberra staff were out in force to assist passengers, particularly to guide them to the right bus connection at interchanges.

The new bus network created the most confusion for passengers, although Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris believed, on the whole, the changes meant a quicker, more frequent, and more reliable system.

“We’re prepared for a transition and we’ll continue to work with the community as they get used to the system and it’s bedded down,” she told reporters at the city interchange.

“With 10 Rapid services that are running at high peak frequency through interchanges, it’s actually the case that there are more services, moving more people more quickly, seven days a week, and in the evening than before.”

A bus at the city interchange.

For those whose commutes were longer than before she urged them to contact Transport Canberra and take a look at the online journey planner to see if there was a more efficient route to take.

Ms Fitzharris said the Government was committed to lifting public transport usage, which was languishing at second last in the nation at 8 per cent, and urged people to give the system a go while it was free.

Transport Canberra would be monitoring the system and patronage but would only be making minor tweaks to the network ahead of a review towards the end of the year and a further one in 12 months’ time.

Ms Fitzharris said frequencies could be increased if necessary but because routes were set and the network was interlinked it would be very difficult to make major changes.

She said Transport Canberra would also be monitoring the 200 school services still operating and working with school communities to ensure a smooth transition.

Although there are fewer dedicated school services, Ms Fitzharris said that overall more buses are running past schools than before.

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris chats to a Transport Canberra officer.

Despite being called a seven-day-a-week service, the network remains reliant on the Transport Workers Union drivers volunteering for weekend shifts. It has been known for some weekend services to be dropped due to a lack of drivers.

Asked whether she could guarantee there would be enough drivers for the weekends, Ms Fitzharris said the Government was very confident that the drivers would do the right thing by the Canberra community.

Additional transport officers, customer service assistants and Transport Canberra representatives will continue to be at major bus interchanges over the coming weeks to help customers with the changes and provide timetable information.

There will be services at least every 15 minutes along rapid transport routes from 7 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday, continuing into the evening with less frequency. Weekend and public holiday service times will also be extended to 10 pm.

Safety across the network has been given a boost with CCTV cameras on every bus and at all major interchanges, school crossing supervisors at 25 school crossings, improvements to infrastructure around schools and additional customer service assistants at interchanges.

“This is a new era for public transport in Canberra. Our city is growing and that’s why we are investing in a better public transport network to keep Canberra connected,” Ms Ftizharris said.

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Yes, we have successfully grown up if by that is meant we now have people leaving home and then arriving at work two hours later, just like Sydney and Melbourne.

Success? Ha ha ha ha ha (and so on ad infinitum). Success for whom? I would like to see Ms Fitzharris and all the Labor members of the Assembly getting public transport to work and their other appointments for a whole week. If, at the end of that, they are still happy with what they’ve wrought, well and good. But they won’t do it so we’ll never know.

ABC666 pointed out today that the “most ever”stat is totally misleading, because so many more commuters are having to catch multiple buses where previously they would have boarded once. Dishonest of the minister.

Capital Retro7:35 am 03 May 19

Has that been “fact checked” by the experts at the ABC?

And the weather has been so nice for everyone walking or waiting to catch a bus or tram. Pretty soon it will be 0 degrees or wet and windy, or all of that.

THEN people will be complaining.

Adding nearly 6 hours onto my weekly commute means I’m subsidising the ACT government by about $120 per week of my time – to say nothing of having to cross Northbourne avenue in the rain/heat/cold to stand on a full tram. But, as has been said, the data will show me still using public transport as I have no choice.

Step 1 – shut down a bunch of schools
Step 2 – shut down school bus services

Is anyone else detecting a pattern?

Capital Retro9:25 am 01 May 19

I live in a loop street in Tuggers. There were 3 daily school bus services here but they are now cancelled. I don’t know what the new arrangements are nor do I care.

A couple of years ago the government spent about $100K upgrading the bus stops (seats, Braille markers etc.)

The ACT Labor government is always looking for new ways to waste money and they never fail to deliver.

Possibly successful and good for anyone who lives a 0-10 min walk from the rail line.

For the rest of the tens of thousands of commuters, a success based on what? Longer commute times (eg 45 mins); removal of some services altogether (parents now taking kids to school as no service for younger kids); increased traffic on road (three fold increase in our suburb as parents drive to Gungahalin to drop kids off at interchange, which by the way they ignored the reality this would occur and did not provide a “drop off zone” near the interchange). The train is no more full than the collective buses were in peak and lets wait for the free period to end. Minister Harris never provided the real data about the network and surveys before so she won’t now; it will be well and truly massaged to fit the message that the money was well spent and is a success, what else could they say. Its not up to Minister Harris or the government to say its a success; its up to the commuters.

Well said. A good sample of the end user feedback is the only way to judge the success.
It’s becoming pretty obvious that families are bring put under extra stress, time delays, security issues for younger students, less precious time for kids to get sleep, all avoidable with prioritising students and families better and more capable timetabling.
The new light rail is unrelated to the poor decision-making with school buses and the dubious hub and spoke route bus model for route buses for a city with under a million population.

Such a shame the new tram will be tarnished by Transport Canberra’s continual low competency in planning. The new tram makes sense but everything else I think many people are scratching their 5heads about how they have not been able to do a better job. Not learning from past mistakes is extremely disappointing and concerning.

Does anyone else feel like the ACT Governments 2018 feedback loop for the Bus changes was a sham?

They received a record 13,000 plus pieces of individual feedback, but chose to ignore huge chunks of the responses that didn’t fit the re-design they had locked in.

Surely that level of formal concern from so many Canberrans should have started the alarm bells ringing.

Yes. I went to a meeting where they just kept parroting that there would be more buses, more direct, more often. Well, I don’t consider adding 70 minutes to my daily commute AND having to cross Northbourne Ave with my work gear in the heat/cold/rain to stand up on a tram as more direct.

A Transport and demographic expert raised concerns about the switch to Rapid Routes in the Canberra Times about 6 months ago. The story analysed the added walk distance of the ACT Governments proposal and that the removal of local Bus stops would actually make the network worse for anyone who lived more than a reasonable walking distance from a Rapid Stop. Looks like the expert was correct on this occasion.

Next I’ll be agreeing with the 99% of experts who believe in human influenced climate change and that vaccination has actually improved global health 😉

Capital Retro10:00 pm 30 Apr 19

Despite all the fail, fail, fail signals I would bet that if an election was held tomorrow the same people responsible for this debacle would be voted back in.

That’s because the local Liberal opposition are so inept, not because Mr Barr is so good.

A small L Liberal party in Canberra who focus on Business, focus on council level issues, don’t change our social rights and address residents concerns would have a much better shot at winning the local elections.

Local Liberals are too far to the Right, when they should be slap bang in the centre if they want to be electable.

Capital Retro9:28 am 01 May 19

Sounds like you have the answers so why don’t you put your name forward.

My number 1 election commitment would be free Mr Frugii ice cream and Silo bread for all financially struggling Canberrans. Maybe I should run for politics:-)

Capital Retro3:20 pm 01 May 19

Sounds like the Greens would suit you best.

Don’t forget an EV in every garage.

Capital Retro5:25 pm 30 Apr 19

About it being deemed a success, Lenin said “If something is repeated long enough it will become true!”

Ella River Rose4:28 pm 30 Apr 19

I have only heard friends and colleagues describe negative experiences of the changes. If the govt claims it a success, it needs to show the evidence. I’m wondering by what measures checks and balances govt is measuring said success? Certainly not by commuter experience it would seem. I envisage people will give up buses and return to driving.

This article must have been sponsored by Transport Canberra? Inconvenient. Takes longer. Previous network was heaps better. Roll it back please.

For many years, with 2 school kids, we were managing with one car. Now thanks to ACT Govt I am forced to get a second car. There goes my sustainable transport out the window. Well done!

How to get to Fyshwick?? Catch a bus that takes over an hour and meanders through Red Hill – last week the #80 got me there in less than 25 minutes. This is not a success.

Said it before but the idea is to get a rapid as close to where you want to go and change for the local route. The 56 crosses two rapids one to the city (R2) and one to both the city and Woden (R6).

This change thing is it seems is foreign to many but so it it should speed up trips.

Capital Retro11:07 am 30 Apr 19

“Nah, the other lot are even worse”

The person who said this probably wasn’t even born when the Canberra Liberals were last in power so it is disingenuous to use them as comparison.

Success, eh? And I’m dating Elle McPherson.

My 50 minute commute from Civic to Wanniassa yesterday afternoon took 1 hour and 10 minutes. The Woden to Wanniassa portion of this trip was via taxi.

Get this, the R4 bus, from Civic, terminated at Woden even though it clearly said Tuggeranong on the front panel. We sardines on board needed to get off and try to get on another R4 bus that was actually going all the way to Tuggeranong. Of course there were way too many people to fit on the first one there, so I opted for a cab.

After a couple of years doing park and ride, I’m now back in my car until they sort this nonsensical mess out.

Capital Retro7:42 am 30 Apr 19

With all these ugly high rise unit blocks appearing, Canberra is looking more and more like the failed communist model of the soviet union.

The tram is a tool in this conversion as effectively, it is controlling movements of people along its route with the busses and private motor car no longer alternatives.

I am reminded of one of Stalin’s sayings which fits the situation, namely “the trust of the people is good – control of them is better”.

And what’s the alternative?

Can you tell us which Soviet Union era Tram networks that denied access to busses and private motor cars you are talking about ?

I must confess, I think you are conflating the Stalin saying that you want to post with an inaccurate analogy of Soviet Union era life.

Capital Retro10:59 am 30 Apr 19

If you read again what I wrote comrade, I used the tram as an example of a tool in controlling people.
Very few in the USSR had access to private motor vehicles and mass transport was provided mainly by trains however there were a lot of trams and electric trolley busses in the iron curtain countries. Limiting choices is one way that people are controlled (as we are starting to find out).
Did you ever wonder why you never met any tourists from the USSR? The reason is that their people were not allowed to travel outside the borders and indeed anyone who tried it was shot, but you knew that didn’t you.

Capital Retro11:05 am 30 Apr 19

You don’t give up do you JC.

The “alternative” was not to change anything at all. Too late for that now, of course so the London Circuit Politburo will continue to shout “success, success!” and emulate the disaster by creating the city to Woden section.

Another Stalin saying that fits was “soviet power + electricity = communism”.

house_husband6:26 am 30 Apr 19

30 minutes longer each day for me to catch a bus to work (and that’s between the same two stops!).

Change in school bus service so my kids now have to share a bus with another school, it arrives 20 minutes later and they walk an extra 900m. After school sporting and work commitments for my kids now mean they have to get picked up.

I understand that I am one sample, but please can the ACT Government release the modelling to show how more people are actually better off with this new network?

I still don’t understand how Ms Fitzharris can remove 730 bus stops across Canberra and yet claim people have a better bus service? It just seems too good to be true.

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