Chasing the Norm

Australian academic and blogger on politics, international relations, and culture

Smart Action

Very welcome local news:

Chief Minister and Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Jon Stanhope, today announced Downer EDI Engineering Power Pty Ltd would install ACTION’s new $8 million smartcard ticketing system.
The new ticketing system, due to commence in the second half of 2010, is modelled on Perth’s successful SmartRider system, which was also implemented by Downer EDI.
“Canberrans can look forward to a new ticketing system that is fast, easy and flexible,” Mr Stanhope said. “It will offer bus users a reusable and rechargeable card for travel on all ACTION buses.
“Bus users will be able to recharge their smartcard over the internet, phone or at other card facilities across the ACT. A one-use ticket will also be available for casual users and tourists.
“Bus users will be required to tag-on and tag-off buses, which will significantly improve ACTION’s capacity to monitor passenger trends and make adjustments to meet changes in demand.

The idea of tagging off (ie swiping as you leave) could be a bit of a burden esp if there is just one on each bus, but in general this is a great idea and very welcome. I used the Oyster card’s when in London last year and found them an absolute breeze. They moved through large numbers of people quickly, and were easy to use and keep track of remaining credit. I don’t quite have that same confidence for the local system, but it’s an important step.

The ACT's ACTION Bus service

The ACT's ACTION Bus service

Despite it’s highly planned design, public transport in Canberra is still a farce. New options such as light rail appear buried for the foreseeable future, so existing Bus routes will have to do. Whilst there have been some welcome changes such as more bus lanes, and increased express routes (into and out of the city in peak times & between hubs) the service is still hardly used as you’d have hoped. Canberran’s as a whole are a very good market for public transport, being made up of significant numbers of students, a large CBD, and a general population who is well aware of the issue of climate change and generally wealthy enough to consider alternatives to driving. Yet because public transport is so bad, people often feel they have no other choice. My parents, both accutely concerned about such issues, recently faced this dilemma when their 2nd car spluttered it’s last petrol breath and had to be replaced.

Despite the fact my father no longer works full time, they felt Canberra’s public transport system was simply too much trouble to bother relying on. So a second car was bought, likely to be driven by one person alone for 90% + of it’s trips. Part of the difficulty it seemed was the concern over having the right change, knowing the fare and the general slow speed of bus trips within this laid out city. If a smart card can help encourage this city’s professionals to leave the car at home, or even re-consider a second car it will do significant benefit not just for the regular users but in helping this city do its part in addressing climate change.

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