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.”
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.
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.