2023 timetable is promising, but frequent services will be the key

HomeNewsBlog2023 timetable is promising, but frequent services will be the key

Transport Minister Chris Steel has announced a new bus timetable will come into operation from Term 1, 2023. This is a combination of moving away from the interim COVID-19 timetable, and getting ready for the major construction works in the City and Woden over the coming years.

It’s good to see the ACT Government listening to the community and making changes, but we’re still waiting for more details on what we really need to improve our transport services: more buses, more often.

What’s changing?

Construction work at Woden CIT and the new Woden Transport Interchange is well underway. We now have a few more details about what the temporary Woden interchange will look like, including:

  • Temporary bus shelters and platforms
  • Secure CCTV monitoring equipment and Public Announcement speakers
  • Parking for Transport Canberra Operations vehicles
  • Storage space for Transport Canberra Operations emergency traffic management equipment

We’re expecting this will be similar to the temporary stops in Belconnen during the replacement of the old interchange there in 2010. We’ll be asking the Government to make sure it’s easy for everyone to get around, and that there is decent passenger information, maps and directions to make it easy to use.

For those outside Woden, there will also be a whole raft of timetable and minor network tweaks beginning when school starts in 2023:

  • Adjustments to Belconnen routes to allow Fraser West terminus to be downgraded as per our community commitment.
  • Adjustments to Gungahlin routes to service schools and provide better access to Amaroo shops.
  • Relocate pick up and set down from Brierly Street Cooleman Court to the main stops on Parkinson Street.
  • School service refinements based on school and community feedback.
  • Reduce bus layovers at Denman Prospect as per our community commitment.
  • Route 31 will be extended into Lawson and U-turn at the roundabout until the Stockman Ave extension is completed.
  • Adjustments to account for use of Turner bus layover.
  • Adjustments to the routing of all peak services that travel over Commonwealth Ave bridge to utilise the new Vernon Circle signals and Constitution Avenue.
  • Relocation of bus services to new platforms in the temporary Woden Interchange.
  • Adjustments to routes coming into the Woden Interchange to accommodate new platforms.

What does it mean for passengers?

In short, slightly delays (up to 4 minutes) on the stretch between the City and Commonwealth Ave, to account for the construction works and temporary diversions. Buses to the City will go around Vernon Circle (see right) while they’re raising London Circuit.

PTCBR supports these diversions and timetable adjustments. They’re the most sensible way of ensuring we have reliable services during construction, and we know we’re going to get a better transport service at the end of it. There will also be a temporary bus lane at the Vernon Circle traffic lights to help buses run on time.

But, as we said when it was first proposed, Transport Canberra should continue to monitor journey times, and, if necessary put in place more priority measures (including temporary bus lanes on Commonwealth Avenue) to help move as many people in and out of the City in the shortest amount of time.

Finally getting services to Lawson is also a big win. The dogleg and u-turn will be a little frustrating in the short term, but there have been people living there for over 10 years now: it’s about time they could catch the bus.

But when are we getting more frequent services?

If you’ve been paying attention to anything PTCBR has been saying for the past year, it’s that we need more frequent bus services. There’s a lot of chat about how we get people back on public transport post-COVID, talking about apps, ticketing, integration with scooters. You can read the ACT Government’s Transport Recovery Plan, which has various thoughts on the topic. But PTCBR’s position is simple: the best thing to get people on buses is to have frequent and reliable services. If people have to wait too long for their next bus, or it doesn’t show, then they’re less likely to catch the bus again.

Since the interim COVID-19 timetable began in August 2021, most of us only have a bus every 30 minutes in peak, and every 2 hours on weekends. Our growing city of 450,000 deserves better, and we know it can be done, because it’s been better in the past.

The Minister’s media release said the new timetable would use the full bus fleet and all available staff, indicating we’ll see more services. As to where those services might be, the Minister was a little more cautious:

“We will still be delivering a high level of frequency, particularly on those Rapid routes, but it will mean that we’re taking into account some congestion on the traffic network, which will add some time delays to buses running through the system,” he said.

“That means we need more buses to deliver the services that people expect. So we’ll be delivering high levels of frequency because we know that public transport will be a great way to move around the city during construction.”

This is likely to mean more rapid services (always welcome), but we’re not holding our breath that we’ll see peak services completely restored on all local routes, and we’ve heard nothing at all about weekends. But we look forward to seeing what the timetable actually looks like, as we push for a bus service that a city of our size deserves.