14 March 2024

Symphony in the Park exit a bum note for public transport

| Ian Bushnell
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band on stage

The Hoodoo Gurus and the Canberra Symphony Orchestra drew a record crowd, and some wanted to catch a bus home but couldn’t. Photo: Facebook.

The response from Events ACT that Symphony in the Park concertgoers should have checked the timetable before choosing public transport last Sunday is cold consolation for the hundreds left stranded on Commonwealth Avenue waiting for buses that would never come.

It was a glorious last sigh of summer that drew people out in their thousands for the Enlighten Festival, including a record crowd for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and Hoodoo Gurus bash at Stage 88.

The advice from the ACT Government was that traffic was going to be nasty around Parkes, which it was, so think about taking the light rail and bus.

In fact, a shuttle bus did run between Parkes and the city.

And as Events ACT pointed out in its response to questions about the Sunday night debacle, it had, with Transport Canberra, recently laid on buses for other events.

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Therein lies the essence of how all those people came to believe that there would be a line of buses waiting to take them to the city to connect with light rail or other buses or even to their home suburb.

They believed that if the government advised people to use public transport, buses, though not necessarily free, would be available.

The episode points to a lack of coordination among various government agencies, sloppy messaging and an underestimation of how popular the overall event would be this year.

That’s implied in the fact that Events ACT will consider putting on buses for next year’s Symphony in the Park.

Canberra has grown and is growing. These heavily promoted events are drawing big crowds and there should be as many transport options available as possible.

Why couldn’t there be extra services timetabled to cater for festivals depending on their size and popularity?

At Easter, the National Folk Festival will run until late across five nights. What can festival goers expect from light rail services which stop just outside Exhibition Park?

Is there an events transport team that decides what may be required and coordinates with Transport Canberra to deliver extra services?

If not, there should be.

Canberra is getting too big for people to rely solely on their cars and for events to run without the support of public transport.

Surely, it is not beyond the capabilities of our bureaucrats to plan strategically for extra services, particularly for the summer high points of the year.

Eventually, there will be a light rail line, at least to Commonwealth Park in 2028, and then across the Lake by 2033, we are told, that will help move event crowds if services are programmed for the right times.

The blowback from Sunday night adds to the impression that Canberra’s public transport system cannot be trusted and is not up to the job.

It incurred reputational damage that it can ill afford.

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Events ACT, Transport Canberra and their ministers need to see the affair as their failure, not that of the unhappy punters who didn’t check the sparse Sunday timetable.

Lessons can be learned, communications improved and greater consistency achieved when it comes to providing public transport services to support events.

Otherwise, the car will remain the first option, more event traffic snarls will result and public transport will again be the loser.

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ACT government performs as badly as usual.

We have public transport that is far worse than it was 20 years ago, making it difficult to go out at night and on weekends, as you can’t get back home.

If they want businesses and tourism to thrive, they need to ensure people can get where they need to go in a timely fashion, without relying on a car.

Andrew Denny7:26 pm 15 Mar 24

I could not agree more. I used the bus daily to get to and from work before the launch of the ‘Rapid’ (in name only) a few years back. Now, the time it takes me to walk to bus stop for a Rapid service takes longer than driving to work. Guess which I do.

Yes Andrew. It’s sad isn’t it? They have reduced services and bus stops, made them harder to use especially for kids, older people and those with mobility problems. It takes longer to get to the stop and to the destination, often with a need to change to another service that means waiting to switch modes of transport in heat, wind, cold, rain and frost.

Many have gone back to using a car, increasing traffic, pollution and travel time for everyone. So much for serving people’s needs and caring for the environment, Bonkers! Not what you’d expect from a Labor/Greens government. They’re not living up to their professed values and we’re paying the price, all of us.

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