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ACTION’s Network ’06: Heaven Forbid You Miss The Bus!

October 11th, 2006 at 01:55am

ACTION have announced that their new controversial timetables will start on December 4, it comes after a lot of bickering between them and the Transport Workers Union, and despite the new network being pretty much set in stone, I don’t think the bickering is even close to being over.

For those of you who were in Canberra in 1996, you may recall that the Carnell government tried something remarkably similar to the ’06 network…it looks like the political roundabout has come full circle.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, I’ve spent a few hours looking at the timetables and comparing them to existing and old timetables, and I have found a few good points, the highlight of which is the scrapping of Flexibus (known here as Flexichaos)…it is unfortunate that ACTION management are insisting that it is a good thing even though they are killing it off, they still insist that it is inovative and wonderful and the best thing since sliced bread for evening travellers, but reality has set in, and they have finally realised that people don’t want to ring ACTION at 8pm, wait at a bus stop for an hour or so in the weather of the night, and end up at the interchange sometime close to 10pm…they would much rather a reliable timetable service where they just stand at the stop for a few minutes before the scheduled time, and they get somewhere relatively quickly.

I’ve also noticed a few increased services in peak hours, which is good for the federal public servants who happen to work in the Civic/Parkes/Barton/Russell area and people who work in major town centres, variable for people in mini-town centres (such as Dickson or Kippax) and sporadic for others.

Shift workers might want to find another way to get to work if they work anywhere other than a major town centre, most services have been cut back to effective Sunday services between 9am and 2pm, with some (the 40 being a prime example) being cancelled for other services which go a different way for large chunks of the day.

It’s going to really be a matter of “heaven forbid that you might miss a bus”, one of the beauties of the current system is that if you miss one bus, there is a decent chance that you will find another bus which goes a different way to the same area in the next twenty minutes or so…this was made more difficult with the Network ’05 changes when ACTION decided it would be a good idea for all buses going through areas to go through them in the same five minutes and then not be seen for half an hour or more. (The main road near my house was affected severely by this…only after I made plenty of noise about other problems in ACTION which made it clear what area I live in…but of course I believe ACTION PR nuisance Barb Barrett when she says that they don’t do things to spite people…)

Unfortunately the new system seems to have no lateness tolerance…all the buses seem to go at the same time, and very few seem to go near each other during the day any more.

I never cease to be amazed by the fact that ACTION are convinced that people work in Fyshwick, but nobody ever needs to buy anything there (I don’t know what they think all the shops are for), the hourly services are still hourly, and it looks like the rest of the network is based on it.

I also find it interesting that they are moving some of the articulated (aka long/bendy) buses to peak hour intertown services…they aren’t easy access and they don’t have bike racks…”oops!” so much for that “user friendly” initiative…and what about the school runs that need those articulated services…another “oops” perhaps? Just throw two regular buses on those runs? Oh dear…

It’s even more interesting to note that weekend intertown services used to mirror weekday services, not in regularity, but in terms of routes…the whole premise of the 3xx series of buses is that they cover a suburban run in the Belconnen area, do an intertown and then cover a Tuggeranong area suburban run…very handy if you need to get to a Belconnen or Tuggeranong suburb from anywhere else in Canberra. Unfortunately the new service turns weekends into confusion, suburban runs in the Belconnen and Tuggeranong, and generic 300 runs from Belconnen through to Tuggeranong…effectively turning a one or two bus trip from one end of Canberra to the other into a three bus trip, and hope they line up…ACTION say they will, but they are good at miscalculating timetables over long distances…and you can guarantee the suburbans aren’t going to wait if the Intertown is late.

A couple more things, the current capacity verse new capacity verse current occupancy graph in the Q & A Brochure (mirrored here) shows an odd trend. Whilst capacity (according to ACTION PR at least) outweighs demand at all times, capacity seems to go down when demand goes up between 10am and 2pm, and the opposite happens at night.
ACTION Demand Vs Capacity Graph

Of course they are talking about total capacity, which means that the suburban bus over there is only 25% full, whilst the Intertown over here is overflowing, and in all likelyhood exceeding the maximum licenced passenger numbers, with passengers spilling through to the stairs and luggage compartments and almost sitting on the driver.

It’s funny how that doesn’t rate a mention in the other brochure (OK I’m just being cynical now), the New Network Flyer (Mirrored here), a rather amazing brochure for the simple fact that it is a rather cluttered and baffling brochure…sure it makes sense if you read it properly, and to ACTION’s credit they haven’t tried to hide the fact that routes and numbers have (confusingly) changed, but to ye average Joe Public this brochure just confounds the already confusing raft of changes, swaps, cancellations and “see other timetable” messages being thrown at them.

All this network change does for my mind is confirm the words of Mike Jeffreys in a conversation I had with him in June

Well this is the thing Samuel, how can the government say on the one hand that they want to increase bus patronage while they remove the service. The reason people use their cars, apart from anything else, is the convenience. If there is no convenience with the bus system, or less convenience, less people will use it, won’t they?

And of course Mike is right…and we are seeing history repeat itself, this happened ten years ago with the Carnell government, and by Network ’98 they worked it out and increased services, hopefully the current regime of mismanagement won’t take quite so long.

Over the coming days I will try and work out what the bus drivers think of this, and why they accepted the shifts (or did they?). With any luck I should have a follow up story late this week.

But for now, I will leave you with a choice quote from a heading in ACTION’s baffling New Network Brochure…”Don’t miss the bus”.

Samuel

Entry Filed under: Canberra Stories,Samuel's Editorials

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