Chris Mordd Richards

The bus stops here: Taking back the Canberra timetable for all Canberrans

The limp Sunday bus timetable has long curtailed the social lives of many Canberrans, especially those who don’t own their own transport. Time for a change.

 

 

For many years, Transport Canberra buses stop at 7pm or earlier on the Sunday timetable. Even the Intertown bus service finishes its last run around this time, with local services terminating even earlier.

This Sunday timetable is also applied to all public holidays as well in Canberra, inclusive of the four day period over Easter and extended periods over Christmas and the New Year break. It is, a year round problem.

The National Folk Festival is the most contemporary example. For partygoers who wanted to save on expensive parking, wished to drink and take the bus home – or simply, to those who are too young or old to drive had no other option.

 

 

 

The timetable in its current form punishes those on the lower socio-economic spectrum in Canberra. For those who cannot afford a Taxi or Uber, it effectively restricts their ability to get around on 65 days of the year, representing a sixth of the calendar year.

 

 

Caroline Le Couteur of the ACT Greens discussed this issue The Big Smoke, stating: “It’s important for Canberra to be socially inclusive that not everyone has to own and drive their own car if they want to connect with other people. Yes there are taxis and Uber but they are too expensive for everyday use for most of us.”

Make no mistake here, what the ACT Government’s policy denies Canberrans access to their own city. Transport Canberra says itself that public transport “…brings social and community benefits to areas by increasing accessibility and encouraging better use of urban spaces“. Yet, when it comes to the Sunday and public holiday timetables, it just becomes an issue the government chooses to ignore.

One factor that may be a catalyst is the growing numbers of tourists visiting Canberra. Maybe if nothing else, the government can be persuaded by the economic argument, given how important tourism is to the ACT.

ACT Liberal Mark Parton had this to say on the issue: “This government has lost touch with the little people and this is another classic example. So much government policy seems to designed for high flying, high earning people. I’m so disappointed by the way that this so called progressive government treats the people in the margins.”

This issue with the Sunday Timetable has been one for many years. It is something that has been brought to the attention of the Government and Opposition numerous times in the past, but one that is ultimately ignored. The union is often pointed as the sole reason why nothing can be done about this.

The Big Smoke spoke to Canberra public transport advocate Bill Gemmell about the union aspect of the argument, and how the bus drivers Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) affects it: “The agreement appears to provide conditions for ACTION drivers that are out of step with the 24 hour economy, meaning ACTION is unable to respond to changes in the economy with a nimble workforce. Employment of casuals to cover short term increases in demand seems to be pretty well ruled out by the agreement.”

The above enables the cry from the government that nothing can be done, because of the unions.

From my own research, there is already colloquial demand for extending the Sunday timetable, real change needs to be enabled by the populace, just as we witnessed with the Light Rail. Build it and they will come was the oft used as a rally cry in the campaign to get that built, and the same tone should remain the same regarding the Sunday timetable.

What we can do about this, is to make our voices heard. Call and/or write to your local MLA’s, as well as the Transport Minister, Shadow Transport Minister, the Chief Minister and the Opposition Leader.

To this end, I have lodged an e-petition on this issue, sponsored by Caroline Le Couteur.

I say its time we all stopped ignoring the stationary elephant in the room. It is time we all demanded better from our city leaders, it is time they granted the less well off and the less able the same access to our city as the rest do.

We’re not asking for gold plated service, just a slight extension to the bus timetable on a Sunday – is that really too much to ask?

 

 

 

Chris Mordd Richards

Chris Mordd Richards is an independent freelance student journalist, currently enrolled at the University of Canberra studying a Bachelor of Journalism. Chris has been writing and publishing regularly since 2016 on a variety of online news sites, for the love and experience of it while he studies part time. Chris is also the Independent Australia Canberra Press Gallery Intern, and has covered a number of events from Federal Parliament in 2017. Chris has Asperger's and Bipolar disorder but seeks to live life to it's fullest extent regardless of not being neuro-typical. You can follow him on Twitter @Mordd_IndyMedia

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