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Will the City Loop bus be a hit or miss?

By Charlotte Harper - 4 July 2016 16

City loop bus side view

Will the new free City Loop bus, which commenced operations today, attract sufficient users to make it worth running?

The smart-looking loop bus will be whizzing around town till October at least, reminding us all of the benefits of convenient public transport (like trams) ahead of the ACT Legislative Assembly election that month. But will it be around beyond that? The Liberals have made no commitment to keep it and there is plenty of scepticism around town about whether it will get enough use to make it worthwhile.

When we published the news article announcing the City Loop bus, which will complete its circuit around the CBD once every 15 minutes, readers expressed doubts about its viability. Couldn’t Canberrans walk across town just as quickly, or more so if they’ve just missed a loop service?

City Loop bus

Running every 15 minutes in a single direction, the loop starts at the bus interchange and continues past the Canberra Theatre, City Walk, and Canberra Centre, up Lonsdale Street, back down Northbourne Avenue, to the ANU bus station, along Marcus Clarke Street, to NewAction, around London Circuit back to the interchange.

So, if you’re at New Acton and find the film you wanted to see or restaurant you wanted to eat in is booked out, it won’t take long to get to the Dendy or up to Braddon for dinner. On a rainy day, ANU students living on the city side of campus would be likely to use the free bus to get to Coles at the Canberra Centre. But surely most of the time, given the 15 minute gap between buses, those of us who are able to would all be better off walking?

RiotACT joined a busload of politicians, advisers, journalists and bureaucrats who took a ride on the new City Loop service this morning. We were too busy talking election sausage sizzles and hung parliaments to pay much attention to the journey itself, but it was a quick and easy ride.

City Loop bus cake

The trip was part of the launch of the ACT Government’s new public transport agency, Transport Canberra, marked with a series of speeches beside a branded paraphernalia stall. The most lively of these was from deputy vice chancellor (academic) of the ANU Marnie Hughes-Warrington, who turned out to be a bit of a cheerleader for the service.

“Just around us we have 2000 students that live in this accommodation,” Professor Hughes-Warrington said.

“Another two and a half thousand students just live up the road. And of course we have a community of over 30,000 people that work and study at ANU. So the introduction of a free bus loop, I’m telling you now, this is going to be renamed the ANU bus very quickly, because our students and our staff are going to love this service.

She said that while students were often to be seen cycling and walking around town, in winter months in particular, they would appreciate being able to get around the city really seamlessly. She also said that sustainable, affordable public transport would make the ANU more attractive to potential students.

The City Loop bus features the new Transport Canberra logo on its with ACTION branding almost missing in action, and the interchange information office is also rebranded. The rest of ACTION’s buses and terminals will retain current branding for now, but the TC branding may be an indication of what our trams will look like if light rail goes ahead.

They won’t be called Capital Metro, as the Government has rolled its former Capital Metro agency into Transport Canberra, relieving former Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell of responsibility for the tram project as Minister for Transport and Municipal Services Meegan Fitzharris takes over. The Capital Metro website now diverts to which is branded as Transport Canberra and covers buses, light rail and active travel.

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris

The agency is part of the larger Transport Canberra and City Services directorate, which replaces the former Territory and Municipal Services directorate. The website for the renamed directorate is at

Confused much?

The TC v ACTION branding has the potential to confuse visitors, too, but Canberra residents will get their heads around it quickly enough. They may need to adjust to yet another brand, though, if the Government decides to replace or rebrand the current MyWay ticketing system. It has allocated $3 million this financial year to looking at options for a new integrated ticketing system for buses and light rail.

What’s Your opinion?

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16 Responses to
Will the City Loop bus be a hit or miss? - 14 are blacklisted
bj_ACT 2:22 pm
19 Sep 16

Anyone got any news on the patronage for the Free City Bus. I have often seen the Bus while having a coffee at Manhattan near Glebe Park and it has been empty or with no more than three people using it. I have also seen it completely empty a number of times at Rimmer St near the ANU. (and that has been at lunch times)

What concerns me about Canberran’s is that it is not the cost saving element of Public Transport that’s a driving factor in use. We have high incomes on average and that means cost is not an issue. Our office locations in Civic mean that people work and study spread across a relatively wide area. Many cities have more than ten thousand workers in a 200m by 200m block. We just don’t have these numbers and spread maybe 500-1000 workers a building all over the City.

I wonder if our Public Transport options and planning need to focus on the societal issues for Canberra as well as the technical and commuter requirements. I have some very strong Green supporters and advocates at work who promote public transport (but all of them without exception actually drive to work from various Canberra suburbs and park their car in Civic)

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