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There has been movement on our crusade to make Canberra’s Sunday timetable fairer for all citizens, with both the ACT Greens and the Libs now behind our push. Next stop, change.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the issue with Sunday buses in Canberra. The impact on those who can’t afford a car is especially pronounced, as they can’t just pay for an alternative when buses aren’t available.
The pertinent question is: “Is public transport in Canberra for the benefit of the community, or is it solely for the benefit of itself?”
We put this question directly to the office of Meegan Fitzharris, ACT Government Transport Minister, by phone, and the response was that public transport is for the benefit of the community, and that the Minister definitely believes this to be the case. While that answer from the Government is reassuring in theory, you have to wonder why this issue with the Sunday timetables had not been fixed years ago.
I believe it is time something was done about this once and for all, so I have started a campaign to lobby the ACT Government on this issue – A Fair Go for Sunday Buses. There is an ACT Government e-petition you can sign to show support, and a Twitter account and Facebook page have been set up to promote the issue. All 25 MLA’s were contacted by email two weeks ago now, and in an early win for the campaign, the ACT Greens and Canberra Liberals have been quick to pledge their support. I will note that apart from our contact with Meegan Fitzharris’ office last week, no reply to our emails has been received from any Government MLA to date.
Candice Burch as Shadow Transport Minister has pledged the Liberals’ full support on getting this issue solved, and had this to say:
I agree that we need convenient and reliable transport for all Canberrans. If the Labor-Greens Government were serious about encouraging more Canberrans to use public transport, they would make public transport more easily available and accessible. This includes not only extending the Sunday timetable, but also providing more late night services throughout the week.
An extension of bus operating times would improve convenience and accessibility, particularly for locals and visitors travelling to or from Canberra via the Jolimont Centre, as you have identified. This would also have a significant impact for shift workers, the young, elderly, and mobility impaired.
I will be supporting the e-petition. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance in your campaign.
Under the planned “seven day timetable” for the light rail, the light rail services will run until 11pm on Sundays, yet, the buses for the rest of Canberra will still conclude by 7pm.
ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur had this to say on the issue:
The Greens believe that people should not be forced to use cars. That means making sure that walking, cycling and public transport are viable options for as many trips as possible.
A decade or more ago, Canberra was dead on Sunday nights and not many people used buses on Sundays, even during the day. However, this has changed in recent years. As a regular bus user, I have seen our buses filling up, and the 5pm to 7pm period on Sunday is quite a busy time on many routes. Operating hours clearly need to be extended.
The ACT Greens have always pushed the Government to do more on public transport, and will continue to do so both in public and behind the scenes. I would encourage people to sign the petition. Sunday services were historically poor because there were not many bus users on Sundays. That meant there was not much public pressure to improve things. Signing the petition will help to show just how much that has changed.
In a modern metropolitan city like Canberra, the current system is out of step with the lifestyle of those who live within her borders. This was again illustrated on Anzac Day, as those wanting to take advantage of the public holiday were limited, due to same constructs in place at Easter. The days may peel off the calendar, but yet there is no change.
This campaign has only just begun and one way or another, we intend to bring this issue to fore of the Government’s mind, with the help of fellow Canberrans. I encourage you to contact your local MLA and tell them you want to change the direction for Sunday Buses, and to sign the petition to ask the Government to do better on this issue.