18 June 2018

Winners and losers: Canberra's new public transport network unveiled 

| Ian Bushnell
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Transport Canberra is promising more frequent, faster services with its proposed new network. Photo: file image

Transport Canberra is promising more frequent, faster services with its proposed new network.

The ACT Government has unveiled a new public transport network incorporating light rail that includes 10 Rapid routes spread across the city, replacing the current Xpresso services and involving trade-offs such as more bus changes, shorter routes, fewer bus stops and dedicated school services.

The Government says the proposed new network, now open to public consultation, will deliver more frequent, faster services seven days a week from 2019, with fares unchanged and passengers needing only a single ticket to travel on buses and light rail.

It includes an extra Rapid route (R10) to service the growing Molonglo Valley, travelling from Denman Prospect, through Wright and Coombs and the Inner South to the City.

The new Rapid 5 will connect the Tuggeranong Valley from Lanyon, Calwell, and Erindale to Woden and the City via Barton every 10 minutes or better during peak times. Rapid 4, which travels between Lanyon, Woden and the City, will run as frequently as light rail – every six minutes or better – during peak time.

The Government says that under the new network, over 55 per cent of Canberrans will live within walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop.

But it will mean more passengers will have to change buses to take advantage of the Rapid routes.

Deputy Director General of Transport Canberra Duncan Edgehill said that even with an interchange, more frequent buses meant overall a faster and more direct journey for customers.

“What we know looking at the data from our network is that there are many more people, commuters and schoolkids who are interchanging as it is so we don’t think it is something that is entirely new for customers. It is something that is a key feature of other bus networks in Australia and indeed the rest of the world,” he said.

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

More school children will travel on regular buses with more frequent services past schools rather than dedicated school services that Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris said were inefficient and could take a long time to get to their destination. There will also not be any ‘school bus only’ stops.

“We want to make walking, or catching the bus to school the norm here in Canberra, so the new network seeks to make getting to school by bus easy and quick,” she said.

“The new network significantly increases trips past schools, and students will now be able to get to school via the regular network, and if not, dedicated bus services will operate.”

Source: Transport Canberra.

Source: Transport Canberra.

Transport Canberra will also boost staff at interchanges to make them safer, particularly for schoolchildren.

The new network will introduce services into new areas of northern Gungahlin including Moncrieff, Throsby, Jacka and Taylor; and Rapid services will be extended to Kippax to cater for growth in West Belconnen.

Changes to suburban routes include longer and slower routes shortened and ‘straightened out’, with some bus services no longer travelling down the same streets, fewer stops and some bus stops removed. Transport Canberra says tough choices were involved but this will enable faster route travel while maintaining service coverage.

It says local service numbers will be easier to understand and be the same every day of the week.

For passengers who won’t be able to access a service, Transport Canberra is planning new delivery models that may be similar to the existing Flexible Bus Service.

It is also planning new flexible services to provide public transport connections to the Alexander Maconochie Centre, Calvary Hospital and the University of Canberra Public Hospital, and Lawson, until the local road network is completed.

“The new network, open for consultation today, will integrate our buses with the light rail network and take advantage of Transport Canberra’s ongoing investment in bus network design, fleet and infrastructure, to ensure Canberra remains one of the most liveable cities in the world,” Ms Fitzharris said.

“Over the last few months, we have been asking Canberrans what they want from public transport. People told us they wanted more frequent, faster, reliable services that operate seven days a week.

“The proposed network released today delivers a city-wide integrated public transport network that can move people around our city quickly and efficiently, providing a real alternative to the car. This network will prepare us for growth and ensure we remain one of the most liveable cities in the world.”

Ms Fitzharris said the network had been designed to deliver shorter, straighter, more regular and reliable local services to connect people with local destinations as well as Rapid routes to travel between districts.

“Overall the new planned network provides greater service coverage and frequency, seven days a week,” she said.

“The new network is all about attracting more people onto public transport over time, ensuring traffic congestion does not increase as the city grows.”

Mr Edgehill said the changes to the public transport network were also meant to complement the growth of the light rail network over time.

To have your say on the new network go to www.yoursay.act.gov.au

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Caitlin McCoull6:16 pm 23 Jul 18

Make sure you complete your survey and write to local members if you’re not happy with the changes. Meet other concerned commuters and find out how to participate in the community consultation by visiting https://www.facebook.com/CanberraBusChanges

Queanbeyanite6:13 pm 17 Jul 18

When you’re blowing $6 billion on a tram it’s not a good look if no one actually rides on it. They are many ways of making you catch the tram.

michael quirk1:53 pm 22 Jun 18

The inadequate funding for expansion of the bus fleet could be a result of the light rail extravagance. Diverting funds to increase the frequency, coverage and comfort of the bus fleet would do far more to reduce car dependence than the limited and unnecessary light rail.

I’ve lived here for over thirty years. EVERY time they change the timetable and routes it means longer travel times overall.

And EVERY time they have tried to sell the changes as being better in some way.

The city grows and to provide the same level of service we need more buses and more drivers. We have 434 buses now serving a population of 400 000, and in 1991 we had 453 and 300 000.

Simple arithmetic indicates we should have about 600 buses for population growth alone. Let alone the increased distances. Gungahlin, Molonglo, and some of the far bits of Tuggers and Belco didn’t exist back in the mid-80s.

I’d say the timetable hasn’t been released because its just as bad.

Otherwise they’d be saying how many buses they are buying this year!

Andrew Barr. How many buses are you going to buy to support the changes?

I’d say the timetable hasn’t been released because this is consultation about the routes and the network. Once consultation is done they will then work on a final timetable for release.

Changing the school bus system is seriously messed up. My daughters bus is always full and it drops her near home now. Under the proposed change it could take her an hour to get home when it might otherwise take 15 minutes currently. Our area will no longer be serviced at all. Mornings aren’t the issue as we can drop off on the way to work but afternoons we’re busy earning money so they can go to school! She’s indicated she’s concerned about her safety having to walk huge distances particularly given recent cases of threatening behaviour like the woman being grabbed at a bus stop and other recent events. This change is just a way to cut costs to fund the light rail

wildturkeycanoe12:24 pm 20 Jun 18

So school services are being replaced by local services connecting to rapid routes at interchanges. That means the rapid services will not be so rapid as they pick up and drop off kids throughout the route. Why burden a system by forcing more people onto less buses? It defies logic. My kids already complain of full buses in the afternoons, so making them change to a local route that won’t run as frequently, onto a rapid route that puts them in contention with shoppers and workers, is insanity.

Has Action provided any details on route timetables?

I can see that the school bus from Molonglo to Mt Stromlo (the High School that services Molonglo) will be axed and would like to know if the new services (two buses, changing at Cooleman Court) will make the trip faster or slower.

I notice that it will be possible to take a bus directly from Oxley to Mt Stromlo High School, yet not possible to take one directly to the school from Molonglo. I’m sure that makes sense somehow, but Action really likes to add insult to injury!

Just been talking to sister about the new bus network. My niece has no dedicated school Bus for Namadgi Super School at Kambah.

Not only can Andrew Barr close 3 Primary Schools in Kambah. He also doesn’t provide a school bus for the inadequate replacement school that he shunted in.

Also for Primary School students of Kambahs Taylor Primary, they only have minimal Bus coverage for a part section of the suburb.

As some other posters have noted, Kambah is the biggest loser for the Bus network changes.

wildturkeycanoe4:04 pm 19 Jun 18

Without details on which school services are being axed, in favor of the public network, how can I make an informed response?

house_husband5:33 pm 19 Jun 18


As I suspected my kids are definitely a lot worse off.

Think you will find it is all dedicated school services.

wildturkeycanoe6:15 am 20 Jun 18

Thanks for the link, but it is still useless. No timetable means I have no idea how long they will be stuck at the interchange waiting for the next bus opposed to the present situation where they go directly home. Will they arrive later or earlier? Do they have to catch the bus at a different stop or the existing school bus stop? What if the rapid is full of shoppers, will they have to wait for 20 minutes for the next one?
Dedicated services already struggle to meet demand with full buses, so putting more strain on the rapid network with hundreds of students is asking for carnage.

Belconandonandon12:57 pm 19 Jun 18

I like the idea of creating direct, frequent routes rather than meandering, infrequent routes, but I think there’s room for improvement.

They should add an additional route running from Tuggeranong town centre to Belconnen town centre (i.e. the way the 300 goes now). It would significantly reduce the need for interchanging while still being a very direct route. There’s plenty of demand, I think we actually need more frequent services along that route – the 300s are often overcrowded, especially between Belconnen and the City.

Surely if you want to connect tuggers to Belconnen you would want a direct route not one that follows the 300. Whilst it means changing the old 300 route is well catered for by other rapids.

Belconandonandon10:49 am 20 Jun 18

It’s not just Belconnen town centre that’s the destination I was thinking of but also UC and ANU – a lot of people get on/off there. I get that the government is aiming for a public transport network based on interchanging between short frequent services, I just think the 300 route actually works quite well and it’s often overcrowded (especially during peak hour), so there’s enough demand for an extra service.

Good point Belconnenonon. Every day you will see commuters who got on in Tuggers who get off at the Barry Drive ANU stop and certainly Uni Canberra.

I think the proposed Rapid concept for Tuggeranong and parts of Belconnen is ill-conceived. Sending Tuggers commuters on journeys all around Canberra is not a recipe for successful Public Transport design.

The core issue is that ACT Government is not doing enough to make Tuggeranong an Employment and Education hub for local residents.

Andrew Barr has implemented policy and investment strategies that have moved Tuggeranong workers to the Airport and Civic and students to Bruce and Reid. But even active and vocal Narrabundah residents were able to restore bus services despite clear logic and media support.

I thought we were trying to entice people out of their cars? If this is correct, the Kambah/Weston/Molonglo proposition needs a bit more thought. For example, Heysen Street that connects Weston to Devonport St in Lyons loses all services just as the area is being subject to some new development. Also, why all the bus services from Weston to Woden follow the same route to is a mystery to the workforce at the Northern end of Phillip – maybe the Southern Cross Club is a more important destination. Why there is no service connecting Tuggeranong/Weston/Molonglo/Belconnen at all I cannot comprehend – doesn’t need to be every 30 minutes. We are trying to grow Stromlo Forest Park as a tourist destination, yet haven’t provided a handy bus stop. And not sure how labelling Cooleman Court’s two exposed bus stops as a bus station passes the fact test – I predict bus congestion will be the outcome. I give them a 6/10 for this effort and ask them to resubmit when they have had a good rethink.

That map is useless. I want to see the actually roads the bus goes down, not some doodle. Is there a useful map? When I did a quick search I only found the same map as above. I want to see if Narrabundah will be even worse off. I shouldn’t be so pessimistic, but after Narrabundah lost their bus, I suspect we are not important enough to matter. It wouldn’t surprise me if we will need to walk even further.

Thank you. No change from present. If that’s the future plan, lower Narrabundah still has no bus route to Woden, the local large shopping centre. That’s what I suspected it would be.

No direct service to Woden (the nearest town centre) from Molonglo makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The R10 rapid service will “initially run less frequently”, only goes to the City, and it winds through suburbs, thanks for giving us the shaft. How is Molonglo not squarely under the Losers category?

Some Kambah homes are 2km from a bus. Imagine having to walk 2km for a bus to travel to a friend who is also 4km from a bus.
4km walk plus several changes.

This bus network will kill people.
Elderly will struggle and likely have early passing on.

The 12km light rail costs 2 billion that’s 20 years of funding for the rest of the network.

We seem to find the odd 20 million for DV or roads. Funding the network properly would result in most people using it.

In the last 20 years Canberra’s population has doubled but the bus numbers are down. Not on percentage but actual trip numbers.

Belconandonandon1:29 pm 19 Jun 18

Yeah that doesn’t seem like a great service, particularly for the new growth area of Canberra. Perhaps they could temporarily extend the R6 to Denman prospect, and then eventually replace the extension with an additional route from Woden to Cooleman to Molonglo to Belconnen (once Molonglo is a bit more built-up).

You may notice they are concentrating more on connections to group centres than traditional interchange points like town centres.

And can I ask if the choice was for more frequent suburban services connecting to frequent express buses to more major destinations or less frequent suburban services connecting to town centres which would you choose? With this plan they are trying the first option more frequent suburban services.

Looking at the Molongolo map you are better connected to the City (catering for city/Russell workers) and in the future better connected to Belconnen and the UC/CIT (that’s what FRC is on the map). Woden is a single change. Maybe not ideal but what is the practical alternative?

What kind of inept transport design would route Kambah commuters to Belconnen or Canberra Uni via Woden then via Barton then via Civic?

Express busses are meant to take Express routes! But Canberra transport designers seem to struggle with public transport design 101.

The problem is you cannot run express buses between each and every set of destinations people may want to go without changing.

Whilst I think there is room for improvement I think the way the expresses have been done is not so bad. It does mean changing but if the change is from one rapid to another it should be fine.

There are of course issues with the feeder services as raised above, but hopefully people will comment and there may be changes as a result.

I know you’ve strongly supported the ACT Government’s transport policies over the years, but surely even you can see that this proposed route goes beyond crazy.

I never said I expected a direct and perfect route between all destinations as you claim, but going in the opposite direction of your destination and/or via Tuggeranong, Weston Creek, Woden and Civic Bus Stations (visiting Barton and Russell On the journey as well) is beyond the pale.

I don’t think you would support a route to go from Gunghalin to Civic via Belconnen and Weston Creek.

There’s more than a handful of the 15,000 Kambah residents who travel to University Canberra and Belconnen Town Centre each day. I’ve never experienced an out of the way Bus journey like this before in Canberra or any other city I have ever visited.

I’ve just had a good look at the full map and I’m not sure you are looking at the same thing.

Kambah to Belconnen isn’t via Woden or Barton.

It is via Weston Creek and then an express to the city and then an express to Belconnen. And frankly I think the to Weston onto Civic will be faster than the current services today.

Now sure I will agree 3 buses is a bit much to get to UC but at least two of them are expresses.

Though tend to agree a bus is needed from Tuggers to Belconnen. Maybe the rapid that goes from the Belconnen suburbs to the airport should go to tuggers instead. And one of the other expresses that end in the city should go to the airport instead.

This is a consultation, so here is your chance to suggest alternatives and point out real problems.

But overall if you forget about how buses have always been done in Canberra which is centred on the 5 interchanges and start looking at group centres as interchange points the concept at least of this change starts to make a bit of sense. There is a lot more cross connecting of secondary points with express buses.

To me the one thing I really don’t like is the lack of direct peak hour express buses. Changing a couple of times off peak is fine (and bit like how it was done in the good old days of Action buses in the 80’s/early 90’s) but peak having those expresses makes the world of difference to the time to get to work.

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