PTCBR recently made a submission to the ACT Government’s review into flexible transport. This currently takes the form of community transport service for older Canberrans and people with disabilities who cannot access the regular public transport service.
From our discussions with members, the main problem with the current service is that it only operates on weekday mornings, and you need to book 2 days in advance. This is a rather low level of service, and the ACT Government should invest more to make it more useful.
The review was a bit open-ended, and it’s not clear what the Government is looking to achieve. There was some talk of using taxis and ride-share to supplement the current service (such as by taking passengers to interchanges to transfer onto frequent services). We supported this, subject to it being well-designed for passengers with mobility issues.
There was also talk of using taxis and ride-share to support public transport more generally, which we’re more sceptical of. There are a lot of drawbacks with so-called “microtransit“, as they often end up being less efficient and more expensive than regular fixed line buses, even when our big night time buses seem perennially empty.
Interestingly, there was the earlier BusPlus proposal from the CSIRO to use data science to map out a hub and spokes network which combined taxis with trunk services. This proposal got some attention, and for a while the ACT Government was exploring a pilot. It ultimately went nowhere, likely because Transport Canberra focused its efforts on Network 19 instead.
If the ACT Government is looking at a hybrid taxi/bus scheme, there needs to be a lot of thought behind it to make sure it isn’t just an expensive kludge. In the meantime, we recommended the review stay focused on improving the current flexible service, and supporting Canberrans who can’t access the regular public transport network.
The review is in its final stages. If you or anyone you know has thoughts on the ACT’s flexible bus service, let us know, and we can put you in contact with the review team.