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Next year, the way Canberrans travel will change in a big way.
Transport Canberra is designing a brand new public transportation system with light rail coming soon and all-new bus routes to be introduced in early 2019.
But that’s just the beginning. In addition to ensuring connectivity with light rail, the bus network, fleet and infrastructure are all being upgraded and reimagined from the ground up to better serve Canberra as our city grows.
Judith Sturman, Executive Director for Public Transport Operations at Transport Canberra, started her career in rail in the UK and has extensive experience in timetabling and network changes. Her role oversees the delivery of the new network as well as the fleet of drivers. For Judith, it’s about the people the network provides for, and creating the best experience possible for them.
“Rail experience for customers is no different for buses,” she explains. “My experience of taking communities through that change process is that it can be daunting, so engagement is essential to understand what will work for them.”
“In total, I’ve had 25 years in the transport industry, working out what is important for customers and what they value. It’s very important to not just look at operations in isolation from customer needs, and that is why consultation is so important.”
“One of the things we’re really interested in is how the city is growing and changing,” explains Kristin Blume, Deputy Director at Transport Canberra Commercial. Kristin has been at the forefront of the network redesign and says that even the smallest details have been taken into account.
“This is the first time we’ve actually taken a look at the whole network, looked at all the data, looked at demography and how the city is changing—where people are travelling, where people are living.”
Kristin says that from this analysis came priorities for the new network, one of which was a need for frequency.
“The number of people using buses to get to work has stayed around 8% for quite a while,” she explains. “This is low compared to other capital cities. If we keep doing the same thing in public transport as the city is growing and changing, we’re probably going to end up with the same result.”
Under the new network, more than 98 per cent of Canberrans will live within walking distance of a local or rapid bus or light rail stop. However, Transport Canberra is also asking Canberrans for feedback on the new network via the YourSay website until 12 August. Kristin says that there has been significant community interest so far.
“We’re genuinely seeking feedback from people on how we can help them navigate the network. So far, it’s the largest response since YourSay was created and we’ve had a lot of really great suggestions. We’ve also engaged with more than 1000 people at road shows and another 350 at community councils that we visited.”
Kristin says that part of this feedback is going to Transport Canberra’s customer experience team, who are using many techniques, including machine learning, to pull out the themes of feedback and “drill into what we’re hearing, and that’s informing how we’re actually designing the final network”.
Transport Canberra hopes the new network will help resolve a range of customer issues, such as when people arrive at the Jolimont Centre late at night after catching an interstate bus and have to take a cab or ride-share home.
“At the moment, if you’re trying to come back from Sydney on a Sunday night, you have to get someone to pick you up,” says Kristin. “If you’re working late at night, you have to work out another way to get home. We’re going to be extending the hours of operation and have the same services seven days a week.”
Kirstin says that not only will these new timetables be more convenient, they’ll also give people the choice to be more environmentally sustainable.
“People can actually make choices to not buy that second car—to not own a car at all because the public transport is there all the time. It’s a reliable service that you can actually depend upon to live your life in the city.”
As for those worried about what negative impacts the network change might bring, Judith further adds that “the consultation process that we’re conducting at the moment is making sure that we’re understanding how we can help guide customers through the changes.”
Judith rides buses every day to ensure she’s familiar with current challenges faced by customers.
“I’m experiencing being a bus passenger and I’m also understanding how complicated the system is at the moment and that there is a need to simplify it,” she says. “I hope people understand that this is what we’re doing—we’re making Canberra’s public transport better.”
As for when the network will become available, timetables are expected to be released later in the year and will come into effect in January 2019. Fares will not be impacted and ticketing will be fully integrated across Canberra’s entire transport system, so passengers will only need a single ticket to travel on buses and light rail.
You can have your say on the current and new networks at the YourSay website until 12 August.
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