Network 19, light rail, buses and the winners and losers

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An edited version of this article was published in the Canberra Times here.

In its first week light rail from Gungahlin carried over 100,000 passengers and proved to be the success that its supporters knew it would be. It was a long time coming, and although it received overwhelming support from the public at the 2016 election, much political blood was shed in the decades leading to this endorsement including the toppling of Canberra Liberal Trevor Kaine, ALP Chief Minister Rosemary Follet and her Transport Minister David Lamont.

Chief Minister Barr and Transport Minister Fitzharris deserve much credit for the resolve they had to see the benefits of this city changing project through, since it was first announced by former Chief Minister Katie Gallagher in 2012. Essential political support from the Greens ensured that light rail survived the Legislative Assembly. Former Transport Minister Simon Corbell may one day be able to catch light rail from Civic to Kingston for a coffee, as he once famously predicted. Light rail will be a legacy for generations to come.

On Monday, the ACT received its second major public transport shakeup with Network 19, a fundamental reset of the system. Integrating light rail, a record nine rapid bus routes, and more frequent local buses, the aim is to increase local connections to rapid routes, and increase the frequency. Passengers have long complained about the magical mystery local bus tours, and this has been addressed.

Weekend passengers also benefit with light rail until 1AM and rapid buses operating until at least 10 PM on Sunday. Over time, it would be good to see local buses offer this same service, but as long as the TWU believes working weekends is voluntary and not something that the public expects that may be some time off. Passengers fortunate enough to live adjacent to light rail will be able to travel until 1AM on Saturdays and 11.30 PM on Sundays. This is the sort of weekend public transport service that Canberra has needed for many years.

Although the radical Network 19 changes will prove beneficial, there will be many short term issues as passengers start using it, and locating the new bus stops they may have to walk further to use. Not everyone benefits, and indeed some people lose out. Many long used local bus stops are disappearing, requiring people to walk to unfamiliar streets in their neighbourhood. Some people will have to transfer between services.

With 140 suburbs and 530 buses, not every suburb in Canberra can have a direct service to Civic. Expresso services received cuts, as patronage figures saw most removed, others changed to become part of the new rapid routes, and a few, mainly in Tuggeranong, retained in a different form.

Fairbairn, Hume, ANU and other locations lose a bus service. Although ANU has its own coaster bus, it may not have enough capacity for the students that relied on the former service. Transport Canberra have indicated that on-demand and flexible buses will replace some services, but there is no extra funding to expand this fleet and the software for the small fleet of on-demand buses is not yet available. In some instances the services are more likely to be used by the fridge magnet generation, than the app generation.

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Schools on regular local bus route in Nicholls

The loudest voices against Network 19 are the parents of children who use school buses to travel from north to south Canberra. These services have slightly decreased from 246 school bus services to 221 services, and there are now reportable metrics in place. Some services carry a handful of students a day. Clearly a bus carrying a hundred people is better used on a local bus or rapid service decreasing peak hour bus frequency. While there is no separate school bus fleet in Canberra, this balance of resources will continue to be played out.

Many schools now have regular bus stops next to them, or nearby. The majority of students travelling to school by bus do so on a regular bus, and it is better for their independence and to stop bullying that they do so into the future. Many former students and bus drivers have advised that a student is less likely to be bullied on a regular bus, when an adult passenger will speak up, than on a school bus with no adult present except the driver occupied navigating our roads.

 

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Excellent wayfinding signage in Civic

Passenger wayfinding between rapid and local bus services outside the interchanges also needs some work. Savvy passengers may know they can step off a rapid bus, walk 100 metres and step on a local bus, other passengers may not know this. People won’t mind transferring if the frequency of services leads to shorter waiting times for the next bus or light rail. Better signage at local bus stops, or software notifications could help here.

Overall the benefits of more frequent local services connecting to a mass transit spine will make public transport more efficient and better for passengers. Network 19 has been subjected to exhaustive community consultation, with changes made to school bus services, Expressos and some local loops modified. In large transport networks, people often transfer to complete their trip. It is a new paradigm this city needs to adopt as it goes from a country town to a city.

Our city has grown and now our transport network has changed to accommodate that growth. In 1992 Gungahlin had 389 residents, today it has 80 thousand – 50 thousand who have arrived in the last five years. Light rail was delivered by  the Barr government under budget, before the major duplicated roads in Gungahlin being constructed at the same time. A startling reminder that under the Stanhope administration, public transport and road infrastructure was very far down the funding priority list, while single dwelling housing blocks were allowed to sprawl across Canberra. We have to stop building in car dependency.

Gungahlin residents deserve much credit for getting Canberra to an integrated bus and light rail transport network today.  They called for better public transport in the early 1990’s when it was apparent that buses alone would not carry the amount of passengers the popup suburbs were attracting. The Gungahlin Community Council, the Light Rail Coalition, and then ACT Light Rail were community groups energised by the idea of better public transport and planning outcomes that light rail could deliver. Sustained community activism can lead to political outcomes.

The Public Transport Association of Canberra has supported the current Governments public transport policies, and worked with transport planners and operators to bring about better public transport outcomes. Community consultation is vital, as direct engagement with the decision makers has led to better passenger experiences. Sometimes transport planners don’t get it right, and users can provide advice on a better passenger experience and provide user insights.

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Light rail vehicles in Gungahlins new station – it carried 100,00 people in its first week

We must get public transport right. At 420 thousand residents now, and half a million soon, Canberra must keep building transport infrastructure that matches our growth, and corrects past mistakes. More buses are being ordered, more articulated buses with greater passenger capacity are in the fleet than ever before, zero emission vehicles may form the core of a bus fleet (light rail is powered by renewable energy). Public transport is a visible sign of the health and livability of a city and its people. This government understands this, will future governments? The 2020 Assembly elections will be telling, as the Canberra Liberals are yet to share any thoughts on future public transport infrastructure.

This week Network 19 has arrived, building on the success of light rail stage one opening last week. There will be passengers with problems in the next week or two, as people have to establish new routines and make changes to long used commuting patterns. Despite teething issues, in a few months the true value of this radical change will be realised.

As only about ten percent of Canberrans use public transport now, the aim of Network 19, light rail stage one (and stage two when it is built) is to attract new passengers, encourage greater residential and business growth around transport corridors, and to provide incentives to people to park their car at home. A month of free public transport accompanying the new network and the introduction of light rail will attract new passengers, Canberra needs to keep them using public transport. The results of Network 19 may take some time to be realised but they must work if we want to enjoy the bush capital and not live in our cars.

Damien Haas is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the regions peak public transport user lobby group.

Canberra light rail starts carrying the public on a preview and launch day

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Golden Ticket for the first public light rail passengers

On 18 April 2019 light rail began carrying members of the Canberra public along light rail stage one from Gungahlin to Civic. The ACT Government combined the official launch and letting the public ride and experience the light rail by holding a community ballot, where several hundred people won Golden Tickets, letting them on the first service. This ‘soft launch’ was also to be a test ahead of the official opening on Saturday 20 April.

The launch came the day after the national rail safety regulator accredited the network for operation, and on the day that the ACT Government announced that the light rail project came in at $707 million dollars, $76 million dollars under budget.

It was a fairly simple day with Golden Ticket winners advised to arrive at a specific stop (Gungahlin, Dickson or Civic), have their name checked off, and then wait for their vehicle to leave. It would then travel to Civic (or for the lucky passengers that left from Gungahlin, they did a complete return journey) where people could either travel back to Dickson or Gungahlin, or wait for the plaque to be unveiled. After the unveiling (and press conference) there was a light lunch for invited guests where a cake was cut and consumed (see photo further down…)!

Leaving simultaneously from Gungahlin, Dickson and Civic, these first light rail services left around midday carrying Golden Ticket winners from the public, invited guests, many members of the media, Canberra Metro staff, Transport Canberra and ACT public service executives and ACT Government MLA’s.

The excited passengers waited at each of the three major stops, boarded and set out for the first trip! Some stayed to observe the political events, but most went excitedly about the rest of their day, after being lucky enough to be on the very first trip on Canberra’s brand new light rail. Several PTCBR members attended and were fortunate to be invited to the launch and the lunch.

For people that have been campaigning for light rail in Canberra, and better public transport for many years it was a truly momentous experience. Riding in a brand new light rail vehicle, from Gungahlin to Civic, was very satisfying. It has already started to change Canberra for the better, and will for the next century.All the people associated with ACT Light Rail Coalition, ACT Light Rail and the PTCBR should be proud of the hard work they have put in over the last two decades.

The ACT Government deserve the credit for this, it has been a long hard slog with much political skin shed to get from an idea floated by former Transport Minister Simon Corbell, to a plaque being unveiled at the official opening by Chief Minister Andrew Barr and the Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris. Administration of the project by Transport Canberra has been exemplary – with the project coming in $76 million under budget. Although the construction by Canberra Metro took a few months longer than anticipated, it is still a tremendous achievement. Light rail will be a lasting legacy, and something that the ALP and Greens can be rightly proud of.

This post has lots of photos of the days events, and a few links to local media coverage.

TV Coverage

WIN TV plaque 18 Apr
WIN TV Canberra coverage here

Nine News CM LR 18 aprNine Canberra TV News coverage here

abc tv newsABC Canberra TV News coverage here

Win tv newsWIN TV Canberra covered it again on 19 April here

Online Media

Video taken by PTCBR members on 19 April

Photos from the official opening day

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IMG_20190418_103255IMG_20190418_103248IMG_20190418_111854Golden Ticket winning passengers waiting for the first LRV IMG_20190418_114616IMG_20190418_113709Politicians on hand to witness the very first light rail trip for passengers!

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After arriving, the doors opened, and people raced onboard. That old guy with the walking stick is faster than you think!

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Moments later the LRV was full

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After years of campaigning for light rail – it was amazing to be on the first trip out of Gungahlin

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This LRV exiting the EPIC stop, is the first LRV from Civic carrying passengers to Gungahlin
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The view down Northbourne Avenue is very different than the view we have seen as car passengers/drivers – when the trees grow back it will be beautiful
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Lots of people made the trip to the light rail stations just to take photos of the first LRV’s
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ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA unveiled a plaque and then answered questions from the media for some time

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PTCBR Chair Damien Haas, Former Transport Minister Simon Corbell, Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris at the official opening of Canberra’s light rail
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PTCBR Chair Damien Haas and Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury
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Transport Canberra and City Services Director (and former Capital Metro CEO) Emma Thomas and PTCBR Chair Damien Haas
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PTCBR Chair Damien Haas and Transport Canberra Director Duncan Edghill

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Canberra Metro CEO Glenn Stockton

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Cutting of the light rail cake

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Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Caroline Le Couteur MLA talk to PTCBR Public Officer (and long time light rail campaigner) Ian Ruecroft and GCC Chair Peter Elford
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PTCBR Chair Damien Haas, PTCBR Deputy Chair Ryan Hemsley and PTCBR Public Officer Ian Ruecroft at the light rail launch lunch

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra,join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

Network 19 timetables for integrated bus and light rail released

The Public Transport Association of Canberra looks forward to Canberras first integrated public transport timetable
Transport Canberra today released the first integrated light rail and bus timetable for Canberra, which will commence in late April when light rail is also operational. The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) are looking forward to its introduction, and its potential to increase access to public transport by more Canberrans than the current network.

PTCBR Chair Damien Haas said that “The benefits of the new network are in its greater reach, its complete redesign to take in newer suburbs, later running, much earlier starts, and extended Sunday evening services. The extended Sunday services will also benefit major events in Canberra held on public holidays, where many bus services finished at around 7PM.”

“The negatives include cuts to some areas such as to the Belconnen CIT, the ANU, the free City Loop.”

“There is also a continuing lack of integration with Queanbeyan where a simple extension of a rapid service into Queanbeyans main street could help both cities.” Mr Haas said.

Some areas are no longer served by buses as the stop distance has been increased from 400 metres to in some instances 800 metres. The PTCBR hope to see a rapid rollout of new bus stops with improved facilities such as covered shelters, realtime information displays and the ability for passengers to depart from the front and rear bus doors.

The PTCBR would also like to see future public transport links into Queanbeyan and nearby regional towns in NSW such as Googong, Jerrabomberra, Yass, Goulburn and Murrumbateman.

Mr Haas said that “Overall, the benefits far outweigh the negatives and as future stages of light rail are delivered, more bus kilometers will be released to increase local bus frequency. Passengers like the rapid bus network and frequency, and patronage in this area has driven the further development of rapid routes.”

The increased passenger capacity and frequency of light rail will be welcome on the Gungahlin rapid route, where rapid buses were no longer able to cope with passenger numbers experienced during peak hours.

Mr Haas also said that “The new network is a radical departure from decades old bus routes that Canberrans have become used to, and this will cause some disruption in peoples routines as they adjust to the new network. The benefits of more frequent rapid buses and light rail will become obvious as passengers get used to the new network”.

“The PTCBR were pleased to see Transport Canberra respond to feedback from the community and restore services to Hume and Campbell Park, and woudl like to see a similar limited service restored to Fairbairn, the ANU and the Bruce CIT.”
On the need to change buses to complete journeys, Mr Haas said that “While some passengers will need to change buses to get onto a rapid bus or light rail, to complete a journey, the increased frequency will mean that their overall journey times may be shorter than present.”

We encourage all passengers to look at the new timetable and routes, take advantage of the free month of bus and light rail use, and let Transport Canberra know how the new network works for them, and how it can be improved in the future.
The PTCBR expect that Transport Canberra will fine tune some parts of the network, in response to passenger feedback. Mr Haas said that he looked forward to stepping off a local bus and onto light rail at the end of April.

Damien Haas is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the Canberra regions peak public transport users lobby group.

PTCBR welcomes Labors 200 million dollar commitment to light rail stage two

MEDIA RELEASE from the PUBLIC TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION OF CANBERRA – AUTHORISED FOR PUBLICATION by D.C. Haas

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) welcomes Labors 200 million dollar commitment to light rail

The Federal Labor party today committed 200 million dollars to the Woden to Civic light rail project, if it is elected in the May federal election. Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten MP made the funding committment at a media function at the Alinga St light rail terminal on March 12 with the Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris and ALP Candidate Alicia Payne in attendance.

The PTCBR are pleased at this announcement, and welcome the support by the federal Labor party for a territory public transport project, especially as the light rail will serve the building that the federal Parliament sits in, and the 12 thousand workers in the Parliamentary zone.

 

(Transcript of the media event is here)

“Considering the minimal support to date from the Australian Government to a public transport project that would benefit them, it is incredibly pleasing to see a different attitude towards Canberra and its public transport needs, from a party vying for government”. Damien Haas, Chair of the PTCBR said today. “It’s also great to see a funding announcement for public transport, instead of another road project”.

 

“Just as important as the funding announcement, is the political support for the light rail project, that may require parliamentary approval if the Barton deviation is chosen instead of the State Circle option. The Barton deviation would require endorsement by the NCA and both houses of parliament.”

“A change of government may also make the National Capital Authority (NCA) easier to negotiate with if it knew the federal parliament was amenable to either route.”

Mr Haas went on to say that “When the Woden to Civic light rail project is completed, the road congestion and parking conflict that the area experiences whenever a major event such as Enlighten is held, will be radically improved. Light rail will provide fast, safe and comfortable access to not just the workplaces in Parkes and Barton, but the national attractions that locals and all Australians visit that area for.

Mr Haas said that the PTCBR look forward to other candidates for the federal election announcing their policies on public transport as soon as possible, so that voters could make an informed decision.

 

Damien Haas is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the Canberra regions peak public transport users lobby group.

Moving Canberra – transport strategy from 2019 to 2045

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA today released the ‘Moving Canberra 2019-2045 Integrated Transport Strategy‘ policy paper. This is open for consultation into the New Year. The PTCBR will host a public meeting in early 2019 devoted to this.

You can download the full Integrated Transport Strategy from here or an executive summary from here.

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Integrated Transport Strategy 2019 – 2045

The media release accompanying the release of the strategy is here:

 

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Autonomous vehicle trials, better walking and cycling infrastructure and faster rail to Sydney are all part of an updated ACT transport strategy, released for public comment today.

The Moving Canberra 2019-2045 Integrated Transport Strategy considers how to deliver a vision for Canberra’sfuture transport experience that is modern, sustainable, integrated and provides real alternatives to driving.

“We need to keep improving and innovating our transport network to ensure Canberra continues to be one of the world’s most liveable cities,” Minister for Transport Meegan Fitzharris said.

We’re getting ready for a city which will be home to 500,000 people by 2030, so to protect our liveability we need transport networks that provide genuine alternatives to the car.

“This updated transport strategy builds on recent achievements including commencing construction on the first stage of light rail and building a bigger and better bus network, and it outlines the strategic policies that will underpin our future transport needs.”

The Strategy complements the recently released ACT Planning Strategy and outlines a number of possible actions over the short, medium and long term. It is also underpinned by an ACT Movement and Place Framework, which will ensure we deliver transport solutions for all road users and communities.

Some of the actions the Strategy looks at include:

  • setting aside land for high speed rail to Sydney;
  • reducing pollution from cars, buses and trucks;
  • separating walking and cycling paths;
  • undertaking further autonomous vehicle trials;
  • moving to a cashless public transport system;
  • conducting a review of bike share; and
  • undertaking a pre-feasibility study of proposed future light rail alignments.

“The Strategy includes some bold actions for us to consider into the future, and also reaffirms a number of commitments the Government has already made to ensure our city is better connected.

“It’s important to recognise that a number of the action items within the Strategy fall across several different Government portfolios and will also depend on cooperation with the community, industry and other stakeholders to deliver the best outcome.

“That’s why we have now opened the Strategy up for a period of consultation, so people can provide input and we can ensure the Strategy reflects a shared commitment to better transport for Canberra,” Minister Fitzharris added.

The Strategy is now open for consultation. Following consultation an implementation plan will be developed.

To help shape the priorities in the Strategy go to: https://yoursay.act.gov.au/moving-canberra

Consultation will close on 8 February 2019.

Statement ends 

 

Our wishlist for better public transport in Canberra – the 2019 Budget submission from the PTCBR to the ACT Government

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Dickson bus interchange  with light rail construction on Northbourne Ave

Every year the ACT Government invites the public and community groups to tell them what they would like to see the Government allocate funds to over the next year. It’s an excellent opportunity for our association, representing the users of public transport in Canberra, to let the Government know what we expect. Over the last month or so, the Committee of the PTCBR have prepared our submission, and it has also helped shape our organisations priorities for the next year.

Our 2019 Budget Submission can be found here.

In our budget submission this year we have asked for a split between making the passenger experience better, and strategic transport planning for the future. We have also asked that the iconic Canberra bunker bus shelter receive heritage listing!

Our recommendations are summarised below, and you can read them in full at the link to the full submission.  We will be following up our submission with lobbying of our elected representatives, and speaking to Transport Canberra and ACT Government planners. Much has been achieved in several years, but there is much more to do as we convince Canberrans to use public transport, and make the passenger experience better for those that do now.

Recommendations for ACT Government transport spending by the PTCBR

  • PTCBR ask for a rebalancing of the transport component of the ACT Budget with a 50 percent split between new road construction and new public transport infrastructure, until all light rail routes identified in the 2016 Light Rail Network Plan have been completed.
  • Extending the peak hour for weekday bus services until at least 6.30 PM.
  • Park and Ride expansion with Smart Parking technology and real time bus passenger information screens.
  • Passenger Counter Barometer used to generate a near real-time light rail and bus passenger barometer at the Civic Interchange.
  • Improved use of data and analytics to plan future services. PTCBR recommend that this be expanded and include data related to commercial and residential land use.
  • All data used for transport planning be anonymised and made available for the public to analyse and offer solutions.
  • New ticketing technology implemented as soon as possible. The ‘ticket’ used need not be a plastic card at all and could perhaps be linked to an account for micro transactions taken directly from an account holders credit or debit card using RFID technology.
  • A MyWay chip that could be used in a bracelet, implanted into the body or placed into a reaching wand (used by people with a disability) .
  • A coordinated ACT and NSW Government approach to cross-border public transport
  • A nationally unified electronic public transport ticketing with a single balance be explored.
  • A unified ticketing and fare model applied to bus companies in regional NSW towns with the potential to access Canberra.
  • Updating the Light Rail Network Plan to account for significant changes to Canberra’s urban form.
  • Consultation and reference groups for the Territory and Canberra Transport Plan
  • Workplace cultural reform within the ACTION workforce that can provide best practice workplace training on customer relations and passenger interactions.
  • A multi-year benchmarking exercise involving the use of private sector operators to determine the cost and effectiveness of Transport Canberra bus operation relative to the performance of operators in other Australian jurisdictions. The future rapid corridor between Weston Creek, Molonglo and Belconnen would appear ideal for such an exercise, while also addressing known gaps in coverage.
  • Toll roads for new parkways, including roads into and out of the ACT.
  • Congestion based charging for private vehicle use in areas with significant transport and parking challenges.
  • Replacing registration fees with distance based charges
  • Commence construction as soon as practicable on light rail to Woden and Belconnen
  • Preparatory work for future light rail network extensions
  • Planning for National Capital Plan variations with amendments reflecting the adoption of light rail technology for intertown mass transit.
  • Establishing a skills base for future light rail construction so a construction program can be forecast a decade out.
  • On-demand and flexible bus service expansion to satisfy and grow demand.
  • A common software booking platform for all providers of community buses in use around Canberra
  • Planning for a new railway station in Central or North Canberra
  • Restoring the City Loop bus services
  • A city free fare zone on light rail and bus services for MyWay Card Holders.
  • Restoring the National Institution Tourist oriented bus services
  • Merging of Rapid Routes 6 and 7 to create a South Canberra/Weston Creek Loop
  • Coordinated on-demand and last mile transport services for out of hours or rarely used suburban routes.
  • Active Travel only streets around town and significant group centres
  • All future retail/commercial centres have shared zones planned as a priority, to avoid retrofitting a decade or more later.
  • Installing more real time information displays at bus interchanges and Park and Ride sites.
  • Conduct a study of school holiday bus services to Stromlo Forest Park
  • Improve public transport in the Molonglo Valley by extending the northbound bus “jump” lanes along the length of the Cotter Road between John Gorton Drive and Kirkpatrick Street, and fast-track the construction of the proposed high-level bridge across the Molonglo River.
  • All bus stops covered and have bicycle storage or loops for securing bicycles.
  • Heritage listing for Canberra’s iconic Clem Cummings designed ‘bunker’ shelters
  • Locating local and rapid bus stops closer together where they intersect, or to provide clear signage for passengers willing to walk between closely located local and rapid bus stops.

The PTCBR are committed to lobbying the ACT, NSW and Federal Government for better public transport services for passengers that use the service now, and encourage all Canberrans to sample the improved services being delivered.

Light rail will commence service in early 2019 and will provide a huge impetus in encouraging the shift away from car dependence in Canberra. The radical Network 19 changes to the bus network, creating a system of shorter local loops and more rapid bus and light rail services, is a major step in encouraging more people to use public transport.

The ACT Government are revisiting the ‘Transport for Canberra’ plan in 2019 and the PTCBR will be ensuring that the users of public transport have a strong say in how our future public transport needs will be addressed.  The submission we have made to this years ACT Budget provides a strong indication of our lobbying priorities.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra,join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

 

 

 

Public Transport Association of Canberra pleased that light rail stage two can now proceed through the Parliamentary Zone, after the JSCNCET issues its report on Commonwealth approvals for ACT light rail

IMG_20180625_121449366.jpgThe Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) has welcomed today’s release of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories’ (JSCNET) report on Commonwealth and Parliamentary approvals for the proposed stage 2 of the ACT light rail project, arguing that the report provides much-needed certainty around the second stage of Canberra’s most important infrastructure project.

Download the full JSCNCET report on ‘Commonwealth approvals for ACT light rail’ here

Read the PTCBR submission to the JSCNCET Inquiry here

The PTCBR made a submission to this inquiry and gave evidence at a public hearing earlier in the year, addressing the heritage and approvals process.

“We are happy see the committee make a number of common-sense recommendations around the design and approvals processes for light rail stage 2” Mr Damien Haas, Chair of the PTCBR said.

“The timely release of the committee’s report means that the ACT Government can get on with the job of delivering the crucial next stage of Canberra’s city-shaping light rail network”.

The six recommendations made in the JSCNET report cover a range of issues, including heritage, urban design and approvals processes. Recommendation 2 of the report outlines a two-stage Commonwealth approval process for light rail stage 2, involving:

  1. An amendment to the National Capital Plan; and
  2. NCA Works Approval and other Commonwealth approval processes, including Parliamentary Approval.

The PTCBR agrees with the committee that this is the most appropriate way forward, and will continue to strongly advocate for light rail stage 2 throughout the remainder of the public consultation processes.

Mr Haas said “Importantly the Committees report means that the NCA and the ACT Government can resume working on a light rail route through the Parliamentary Zone that can serve the people of Canberra, service national institutions and satisfy heritage concerns.”

“When people visiting Canberra in future years travel by light rail to visit the nations treasured institutions, they will be more able to appreciate how beautiful our capital is, than focusing on the road and looking for a carparking space.”

The PTCBR look forward to the next steps for light rail stage two:

  • the Governments response to the report
  • a route through the Parliamentary Zone being identified by the NCA and ACT Government,
  • a National Capital Plan amendment prepared, and
  • the business case for Woden to Civic light rail finalised,
  • followed by work commencing on extending our light rail network.

Damien Haas is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the regions peak public transport lobby group representing Canberra’s public transport users.

Final route design for Network 19, Canberras first integrated public transport network released following extensive consultation

Network 19 Media Event
Minister Fitzharris just before local journalists asked her questions about Network 19

In 2019 Canberra will have its first integrated public transport network with light rail and rapid buses forming a mass transit backbone with more frequent local services linking to the rapid bus/light rail. It is a significant and radical change to Canberras public transport experience and has been subject to extensive route design, and community consultation (see details here).

Transport Minster Meegan Fitzharris MLA today released the final route design for Network 19, following an extensive community consultation program. This updated route design is based on extensive community consultation, and incorporates additional local and rapid routes that were not in the earlier version. Work is continuing on the timetable that will be used in this network, and is expected to be complete in December, now that the network has been finalised.

See our previous coverage of Network 19 here and here

Read the PTCBR Network 19 submission here

 Network 19 Final Oct 18

What changes have been made?

The updated Rapid Route map is here. Here are the changes in each region of Canberra:

Local media reactions

Media coverage of the announcement has largely been based on detail from the media release (below), A local newspaper reported the announcement with a focus on the changed school services (here). City News had a short article mentioning that timetables were yet to be released  “Commuters wait to see full timetable” (here).

PTCBR assessment of the finalised Network 19

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) are pleased that Transport Canberra have reacted to community consultation and made sensible changes in local services and rapid bus routes.

  • Restoring the Tuggeranong/Woden/Civic/Belconnen rapid bus is sensible, especially give strong patronage by University of Canberra students.
  • The addition of new local loops in Belconnen, extra stops in Gungahlin and extra Molonglo services are sensible.
  • Addressing Woden, Weston Creek and Molonglo patronage demands and responding to feedback to finetune the local routes in each area (see more from transport Canberra here).
  • Extra peak services from south Tuggeranong will replace Xpresso services, and better serve all commuters.
  • A seven day network with consistent weekday and weekend numbering is welcome, and long overdue.
  • Extended Sunday services running to 10 PM are very welcome.
  • Installing new bus stops and expanding local service near schools has removed the need for some dedicated school bus services (and over time more school children will have the advantage of using the regular bus network).

Further work needed

  • Further work needs to be done on establishing better connections between the rapid routes and local services where they overlap or run adjacent to each other.
  • A rapid bus connection into Queanbeyan should be made a priority of the ACT and NSW Governments.
  • Dropping service to places like Hume, Alexander Maconochie Centre, Fairbairn and Campbell Park need to supported with a proper expansion of on-demand and flexible bus services.

Overall, the new integrated public transport network is a massive change and will take some getting used to by passengers used to the local bus services meandering around their suburbs. It may take some time before the changes are fully appreciated. By not releasing timetable information during consultation, people have looked at the changes and used their current experience and frequency and applied it to the new routes (even though local services are expected to increase in frequency).

This network is going to be a strong builder of public transport patronage based around light rail and more frequent buses. It is the modal shift Canberra has needed.

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After extensive community consultation, Canberra’s updated public transport network was released today to give Canberrans more buses, more often, seven days a week.

Minister for Transport Meegan Fitzharris said a number of changes have been made to the new network, which will be complemented by a range of services to support commuters thanks to the community’s suggestions.

“The new network of buses and light rail will make it easier for Canberrans to get where they want to go, offering a genuine alternative to driving, seven days a week,” Minister Fitzharris said.

“This is all about making Canberra better connected and getting more people on public transport so we can secure Canberra’s status as one of the world’s most liveable cities as our population continues to grow.

“The ACT Government has already committed $43 million for the addition of 80 new buses to our network. In addition, we will be investing in new infrastructure and more customer service officers to make our public transport network even more convenient for Canberrans.”

“And to get more people using public transport, I’m excited to say we will be providing a month of free travel on the new network for MyWay card users.”

Minister Fitzharris thanked the community for getting involved in the consultation, which saw more than 13,000 pieces of feedback received.

“This was genuine consultation, and as a result we have made changes to a number of routes. I acknowledge the new network will involve changes for some users, but we need to strike a balance which makes public transport as attractive as possible to all people, including both new and existing passengers.”

Changes following consultation

Through the feedback, people told us they wanted changes to some of the proposed routes and we’ve made 37 changes across the 58 routes in the regular network and added an additional 78 school services following consultation on network.

“For example, we have extended a proposed Rapid service from Tuggeranong to Belconnen, instead of just the City to ensure people travelling from Tuggeranong to Belconnen don’t need to change buses,” said Minister Fitzharris.

“We’ll also add direct local connections to Woden from Weston Creek, provide better coverage in south-west Belconnen, and add new peak bus routes from the south of Tuggeranong.”

The community told us they supported a high frequency, seven-day network of turn up-and-go rapid buses – and under the updated network almost six out of 10 Canberrans will live in walking distance of a rapid bus stop.

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

Simpler access to information was also a theme in the consultation, which is why we’ll have a new electronic journey planning system to help people plan their public transport trips.

Changes to school services following consultation

Parents and other bus users asked for more help and supervision at interchanges to make changing buses easier and feel safer. As a result, new Customer Service Officers will help school children and adults alike become familiar with using interchanges and improve signage.

In addition to improving the regular bus network, which school students are currently most likely to use, the updated network also includes 78 more dedicated school services than in the initial consultation to help students get to school.

“We’ve heard what parents, teachers and students have said and we will also recruit a specialist schools liaison to ensure buses continue to meet schools’ needs,” Minister Fitzharris said.

“Currently the overwhelming majority of students don’t use the bus at all to get to school, so we hope this combination of the improved regular network and school-only services will encourage more young people to start using the bus and continue to be bus users after they graduate.

“Parents, students and schools asked us for more comprehensive information about the new services to schools, so today we’ve published school-by-school information detailing services that will get kids to school before the bell and take them home again.”

Further improvements still to come

Following the consultation, the ACT Government has committed to provide free travel for one month on the new network, as well as deliver more customer service officers, more school crossing supervisors, improved infrastructure around schools and better information to help people navigate the new network.

“As part of the consultation the community asked us to improve infrastructure and customer service,” said Minister Fitzharris.

“We will invest in more customer service officers, and soon start installing new electronic ticket machines at interchanges. We will also improve footpaths around schools as part of the Active Streets for Schools program.

“The ACT Government has also committed to increasing and renewing the Transport Canberra bus fleet, with our new blue buses increasingly visible on our roads. The growth of the fleet will be possible through the recommissioning of the Woden Bus Depot, adding to the current Belconnen and Tuggeranong sites.

“With the network now settled, the team at Transport Canberra will finalise the bus timetable before the end of the year to give Canberrans a clear idea of how they’ll get around in 2019,” Minister Fitzharris said.

A full timetable will be published later in the year before the network starts in early 2019.

Canberrans will be encouraged to provide ongoing feedback to Transport Canberra through the Transport Canberra website to help continuously improve the timetable and network more broadly.

Statement ends

 

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra,join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

Provision for a future light rail route in Molonglo welcomed by the PTCBR

 

ACT Planning map showing John Gorton Drive light rail in the suburb of Whitlam
ACT Planning map showing John Gorton Drive light rail in the suburb of Whitlam

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) are pleased that provision for a future light rail route has been included in the plans for two of the Molonglo Valley’s key arterial roads.

The recently released design documents for John Gorton Drive Stage 3B show a planned light rail route running in the median of John Gorton Drive north of the Molonglo River. The route then heads east along a planned extension of Bindubi Street, with a stop near the intersection servicing the planned residential estate of Whitlam.

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Molonglo Light Rail

This is the first instance of light rail being a key influence in the design of infrastructure in the Molonglo Valley.

“The Molonglo Valley has been designed around an ‘urban boulevard’ concept and is therefore ideally suited to a future light rail route,” PTCBR Committee Member Ryan Hemsley said.

“As a long-time resident of Weston Creek and a current resident of Molonglo, I look forward to seeing how the future stages of John Gorton Drive and Bindubi Street incorporate provisions for a light rail route to service our growing district”.

The draft concept plan shows three stops servicing the future suburbs of Molonglo Valley Stage 3
The draft concept plan shows three stops servicing the future suburbs of Molonglo Valley Stage 3

A draft concept plan included in the documentation shows three stops servicing the future suburbs of Molonglo Valley Stage 3. The route shown is largely consistent with the planned Woden to City via Weston Creek and Molonglo route outlined in the 2016 Light Rail Network Plan.

Civic - Molonglo - Weston Creek - Woden route shown in the ACT Governments Light Rail Master Plan from 2016
Civic – Molonglo – Weston Creek – Woden route shown in the ACT Governments Light Rail Master Plan from 2016

Both the PTCBR and its predecessor, ACT Light Rail, have long argued for light rail in the Molonglo Valley.

ACT Government population estimates have the Molonglo Valley growing by over 500% between 2016 and 2020. In this year alone, nine development applications for multi-unit sites in Denman Prospect have been lodged with the planning directorate.

The PTCBR believes that light rail will be a critical part of Molonglo’s infrastructure mix if it is to avoid many of the road congestion problems that have plagued Gungahlin.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

PTCBR Network 19 submission – A new integrated public transport network using light rail and buses to grow Canberra’s public transport patronage

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) have made a submission on Network 19, the first integrated bus and light rail public transport network in the territories history, to the ACT Government. The PTCBR support the ACT Governments active transport and public transport programs, including the introduction of light rail and integrated public transport services. The continued budget focus placed by the Territory government on these important areas will improve Canberrans lives immediately, and for decades to come.

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Download the submission by clicking here

In our submission we are providing suggestions on Network 19 and possible future improvements to the planned integrated network and supporting infrastructure (including regional cooperation) that can be implemented.

We recommend:

  • a focus on connections between rapid and local bus services,
  • prioritising buses on our roads,
  • expanding Park and Ride,
  • resourcing on-demand travel properly,
  • extending the rapid bus network into Queanbeyan,
  • bringing regional NSW buses into the Canberra public transport and ticketing network; and
  • exploring a stand alone school bus fleet.

The PTCBR understand that any bus network consultation is going to be greeted with concern from existing passengers who are seeing their daily routines disrupted. We appreciate that for some people the complete redesign of the bus network to accommodate a more in-depth commitment to making rapid light rail and bus services the backbone of the territories public transport network, supported by more frequent and shorter local services connecting to that rapid backbone, may not initially seem to be a better overall network. Change can sometimes be difficult, but the PTCBR have looked at the proposed Network and believe it is the improvement that we need for the 21st century.

With some modifications, the proposed Network will resolve long standing complaints about the local bus network, and build on the success of the rapid bus network, while establishing light rail as the backbone future more frequent local services can connect to. It will enable Canberra to become a compact livable city, that can free itself of car dependence.

We thank the Government for the extensive consultation process they have undertaken, with many appearances at community groups, street stalls and also at a public meeting convened by the PTCBR for our members to ask questions. We are aware that some of the proposed local routes may need some finessing to work as intended, and understand that the purpose of a consultation process is to locate these issues and resolve them when a final Network plan is delivered in 2019.

We have encouraged our members to make individual submissions on specific local issues that they can provide detailed feedback on. Subsequently, this submission makes very few locally focused recommendations and looks at longer term recommendations and observations that Network 19 and the commencement of light rail stage one can bring about.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

 

The rapid bus and light rail network as proposed under Network 19, with a Queanbeyan link added
The rapid bus and light rail network as proposed under Network 19, with a Queanbeyan link added