New Woden Interchange – the good, the bad and the interesting

The Development Application for the new Woden Interchange is now up. It’s a big project, with 18 bus stops, two bus layovers and a big reconfiguration of Callam Street.

Overall, it’s a big improvement on the current interchange, but as always, the devil is in the detail in the planning documents. 

Is there anything you think we’ve missed? What’s important to you? Let us know on the PTCBR Facebook group or email chair@ptcbr.org

Layout

The design is pretty much what was proposed in Transport Canberra’s earlier consultation. That is, four big bus platforms either side of Callam Street, with two additional platforms for light rail (and initially the R4 and R5 bus routes) running down the middle. This is the same style as all the other interchanges in recent years (Belconnen, Gungahlin, Dickson), with big platforms facing directly onto the street, rather than off-street platforms. Reportedly, this more open design makes passengers feel safer, which was one of the bigger complaints about the old Belconnen and Woden interchanges.

Good interchanges should make it easy for passengers to move between services, and avoid crossing traffic. The Woden Interchange doesn’t adopt PTCBR’s suggestion of cross-platform transfers, but in most cases, passengers will only need to cross a single lane of bus traffic, at raised, signalised crossings. This is an improvement on Northbourne (6 lanes!), Dickson (3) and Gungahlin (bus stops are around the corner from light rail).

It’s also unclear if the interchange is big enough to accommodate better timed transfers, which would provide local buses with have the time and room to wait until a connecting rapid or light rail services arrives. 

Shelters

The shelters are similar to the light rail and Gungahlin shelters: long, deep roofs should give shade and keep the rain away, but they’re still relatively exposed to wintery winds at the front and sides.

While it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a return to the enclosed COVID-pits at the current Woden Interchange, it would be good if Transport Canberra thought more about how Canberrans might need shelter from the cold and wind, as it’s one of the most common complaints we see. Hopefully there will be a decent waiting area in the adjacent CIT Woden building. 

Interestingly, there are also plans to put solar panels on the shelter roofs, and we’ll see a big net increase in the number of trees in the area. Trees planted in the Callam Street median will be planted in bags to enable their relocation once light rail construction commences.

Proposed network changes

Supporting documents also show Transport Canberra’s plans for the transport network once the interchange and light rail is ready. They’re not set in stone, but are a good indication of what they’re thinking.

A new route for Weston Creek services

Currently Weston Creek services go straight down Hindmarsh Drive, and then turn into Callam Street from the south. But the documentation reveals that planners are concerned about the number of services utilising the eastern platforms of the new Woden Interchange.

Instead, they propose to run Weston Creek services along Melrose Drive, Launceston Street and down Callam Street from the north. This is a mixed bag. On the one hand, some passengers could get off at Launceston Street, much closer to the offices at that end of Woden. On the other, it’s now a lot longer walk for those who want to access the Phillip Trades Area to the south. And this could lead to longer journey times for some Weston Creek passengers, or they would at least *feel* like they’re taking a roundabout way. 

But more concerning is Transport Canberra’s reasoning. Rather than designing the interchange to best accommodate the best services for passengers, they are redesigning services to accommodate the interchange! PTCBR will be pressing Transport Canberra for more details about this, including what it means for travel times for Weston Creek passengers.

Tuggeranong services will go straight to Woden

Under Network 19, the 72 (Oxley and Wanniassa), 76 (Richardson, Chisholm, Macarthur and Gowrie) and 77 (Isabella Plains and Gowrie) all go to Woden via Yamba Drive. Once the new Woden Interchange is built, these services will instead go up the upgraded Athlon Drive, past Mawson shops. This should be a quicker trip, but again, it would be good to know Transport Canberra’s estimates on this. 

Once light rail reaches Woden, the 74, 75 and 78 will be given the same treatment (and the 79 rolled into 76 and 78), so most Tuggeranong passengers wanting to get to the city will only need to change once at Woden. It’s unclear what this means for South Tuggeranong passengers in Gordon, Conder and Banks, who might either need to take a peak express to the city, or change buses twice.

A shorter R4 and R5

Following the completion of Light Rail Stage 2B, the plan is for the R4 and R5 to terminate at Woden. This will free up a lot of buses for local services, but it does mean Tuggeranong passengers will need to change at Woden to get to the City (and possibly twice to get to Belconnen prior to the extension of light rail to the Belconnen Town Centre). Transferring buses isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you don’t have to wait too long between services. On that front, there appears to be good news!

More services everywhere else!

The planning documents assume there will be 3 buses per hour on local routes by the time the interchange is open, and 4 buses per hour once light rail opens. There are also plans for new local services from Woden to Molonglo, Fyshwick and South Canberra.

This is not a firm commitment from the ACT Government, and requires Transport Canberra to acquire more buses and drivers. But with the Woden depot being built and lots of buses being freed up by light rail and the truncation of the R4 and R5, it bodes well for more frequent local services. 15 minute frequencies would be a game changer for public transport in Canberra.

Conclusion 

This is a big investment in southside public transport services, and should result in an improved experience compared to the current tired interchange. But, as always, there are some little things which could make it even better, and a lot will depend on what happens with the bus network once light rail is extended from Commonwealth Park to the new Woden Interchange.

PTCBR will be making a submission to this development application. If you’ve got any views, we’d love to hear from you!


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