More dedicated school bus routes will be retained in the new Bus Network after a backlash from parents and schools about the proposed changes.
The changes to school services, including the scrapping of many dedicated routes, safety at interchanges, and the removal of Xpresso services emerged as the main sticking points to Transport Canberra’s proposed new Bus Network during community consultation.
The Listening Report released today (20 September) from the public consultation conducted from June to August this year says people did not feel they had enough information about the changes to the school bus system, which was to involve the scrapping of many dedicated school routes in favour of more general routes past schools.
But Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the Government had heard people’s concerns and Transport Canberra would be restoring many of the school routes that were to be dropped.
People were also concerned about safety particularly involving more bus transfers at interchanges. Respondents said they wanted to feel safe when using public transport, and that they wanted Transport Canberra to ensure students were safe on public transport, when changing buses and when travelling between schools grounds and bus stops.
Respondents said they wanted to know more about how the new school bus system would work work.
Transport Canberra has said it will deploy more staff at interchanges to supervise bus transfers and ensure safety.
Commuters were also concerned the removal of single-seat crosstown Xpresso services will make travel times longer.
Weston Creek residents, in particular, have been upset by the proposed scrapping of the popular Xpressos that enable a fast, single service ride to the city.
Commuters face transferring at Cooleman Court, which will virtually become a new interchange, to the new Rapid services to the City and Woden.
The Listening Report says commuters are happy about getting more frequent services that run longer into the evening and on weekends, but there were many comments about changes to individual services, specific routes, journeys and stop locations.
The Listening Report was based on more than 13,000 pieces of feedback over the two-month consultation period, and after more detailed analysis Transport Canberra will next month make changes to the network and release map routes and timetable advice to commuters as well as a full post-consultation report.
Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said bus users’ concerns had been heard and there would be changes but not everybody’s wishes could be met.
“From this consultation, we heard people support more frequent buses and services that run into the evenings and on weekends. They told us they want to feel safe when using public transport and had questions about some students having to change buses on their way to school. People said they want more information on how the buses will run and an improved journey planner,” she said.
“My message to people is that we have heard your concerns and we are making changes to help ensure the network works for as many people as possible. While we can’t make changes to everything, we will do our best to balance the different views of existing users while developing a network which will attract new users.”
Ms Fitzharris said full details of the changes will be announced in October, with ongoing discussions with a number of groups.
“Once the new timetables are released later this year, Transport Canberra will embark on an education campaign to inform the community about the changes and how to plan their routes and access public transport ahead of the new network launch in early 2019,” Ms Fitzharris said.
“As the new network is introduced we will continue to monitor feedback to help Canberrans use the new network.”
The Minister said that only 4 per cent of trips around Canberra are on public transport, compared to 78 per cent in private vehicles.
“Currently only 8 per cent of people are using our buses and this needs to change. Our new bus network will be designed to encourage greater public transport use as our city grows,” she said.