The ACT Government should commit to expanding on-demand and flexible bus services to better support those who have difficulty accessing public transport – such as the elderly or people with disability, the Greens said today.
Flexible bus services are regular bus service that runs limited routes on a limited timetable for eligible people who cannot access regular route services. The current Flexible Bus Service has been expanded over recent years, including through the Greens/ALP Parliamentary Agreement.
However, the service must be booked 48 hours ahead, operating hours are limited to 9:30 am - 1:30pm on weekdays and it does not have enough capacity to meet demand.
The Greens today said that expanding the operating hours of the scheme, and reducing the ‘early booking’ time, would make this service far more accessible.
“The flexible bus service is a great initiative and it makes good use of some buses used for transporting children with disabilities to school. It is clearly an add-on to an existing essential service and thus is not optimal for the other users. The limited hours and a two-day booking delay mean it’s not especially convenient for unexpected trips – like medical appointments – or trying to get around during regular business hours. However the biggest issue is sheer lack of capacity,” Greens Transport spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur said today.
An on-demand service, alongside an expanded flexible bus service, could complement and improve public transport mobility options for those people who cannot walk to public transport stops. With our new bus network there has been an increase in rapid routes where the Government standard is up to 750 metres from the home. Many people cannot easily walk that distance to access a route bus.
An on-demand bus service would be similar to a ‘rideshare’ service like Uber, allowing you to book a vehicle in real time to pick you up from home or a nearby convenient location and take you to a local transport hub, shopping centre, business park or hospital.
Currently, no-on demand service exists in the ACT, but if brought in, could complement the existing flexi-bus service. An on-demand bus service is currently being trialled in NSW.
“I regularly hear from older people who rely on public transport to get around but can’t even walk two or three blocks to get to a regular bus stop. An on-demand service that turns up at the door will make all the difference in improving their lives, for the better,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“The way we think about transport has changed dramatically in recent years. We know that Uber and other rideshare options are setting a new standard for on-demand transport solutions. The ACT Government could learn from this and adopt something like MAAS – Mobility As A Service as a solution to support better on-demand services for those in need. There must be alternatives to large fixed route buses that can better meet the needs of people scattered though out our suburbs. As Canberra ages we need to think more about how our transport system will work.
“We need to make sure that everyone benefits from major investments in our public transport network,” Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur said today.
“It is very positive that transport patronage has gone up as a result of the recent bus network changes. However, there are gaps for some people. The Greens want to ensure that everybody benefits from investments in our public transport network.
“An expanded flexi-bus service, coupled with on-demand services, would help get people where they want to go quickly, reliably, safely and cheaply,” Ms Le Couteur added.
The Greens have a vision for a world-class public transport system in the nation’s capital to create more liveable communities, improve our quality of life and reduce pollution and congestion.