Monday, August 30, 2010

Privatising ACTION buses

Last Friday the Canberra Times published an article on the Auditor Generals report into ACTIONs inefficient and money wasting management practices. This sparked a flurry of angry letters to the editor - several suggesting that privatisation of ACTION, or spending public transport money on MORE ROADS would 'solve' these problems. Today, I emailed the following:

Dear Editor,

Readers suggesting that improving public transport by privatising ACTION or even better – spending money on more roads, completely miss the point. The aim of public transport is to deliver people from where they live to where they work.  ACTIONs main problem is that it is a local bus service and a mass transit service, taking passengers across Canberra on increasingly congested roads - a not insignificant distance of some 50 kilometres. Your own reporter discovered this can take over three hours.

To improve public transport and travelling times, a modal shift is required – to light rail. Rapid transit between town centres on grade-separated routes will slash travelling time. Park and ride nodes would act as hubs for local bus services. The ACT Governments own consultants recommend light rail, point out its economic benefits and suggest that it would attract patronage. The issue is funding – Mr Stanhope refuses to consider funding this infrastructure unless someone else pays for it.

Continued reliance on buses for public transport in Canberra is counter productive. It drives passengers off public transport and into cars, often carrying one person and then sitting idle in a car park for nine hours a day. Provide a reliable, frequent and attractive alternative – light rail, and this trend will be reversed. Privatising ACTION or building more roads as a solution to Canberra’s public transport problems makes as much sense as putting a saddle on a fish and riding it to work.

Damien Haas

Chair, ACT Light Rail

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