Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Belconnen ABS and Westfield New Bus Station - sneak preview

On Tuesday 9 November I joined four other members of the Belconnen Community Council for a sneak preview of the new Belconnen Bus station infrastructure. We were shown the new bus station adjacent to the A.B.S building and the new Westfield Belconnen Bus Station. The tour was provided by three reps from ACT Roads. Access was limited in some areas due to continuing construction work.

Important - This post does not represent the views of the Belconnen Community Council, this post contains only my views.
 ABS bus station looking towards Westfield end. 
 ABS bus station looking towards Labor Club end.
 Middle section, facing the remnants of the Cameron offices.
 All previous bus interchange infrastructure completely removed, road lowered. No more wheelchair access from the Labor club end. 
 New entrance, at Westfield end, just off Benjamin Way. Almost at street level, making wheelchair access and shopping trolleys easier to get to bus station. There are two other entrances, one next to the ABS office, and one onto Benjamin Way.
 New carpark off Benjamin Way, right next to ABS bus station. This space is intended to be sold off, so carpark is fairly temporary. 
Not sure if its short or long term parking. I did ask some questions about Park and Ride, and its clear that the ACT Government dont view it as a real winner. I suggested they tie Park and Ride with the Expresso services.
 Work continues at a great rate. I hope they make their weekend deadline. 
 Behind the covered bus stop on the ABS side will be a large bike locker facility, with swipe card access etc. That large fence is to stop people running across the road to get the bus they are about to miss. Its a very open area, and cover is inadequate for prospective passengers. 
 Cameras on poles to provide a sense of security. This will bring crime to a stop. 
 The clearly inadequate bus shelters are provided by Adshel. There are two adshel ad displays in each shelter, one will provide ads to entertain people waiting for a bus, the other will provide a timetable. I asked what about the real time information we were told would be provided, and was advised that it isnt ready yet. There is apparently a net link and power supplied to this adshel display so at some point in the future, a real time display could be fitted. 
 We then jumped in cars and took the bus trip up to the Westfield Bus Station. This is the view from Benjamin way, as you approach Lathlain St. Off to the right is the Bus Station. This road is shared with cars and provides access to the carparking for Westfield - I see future congestion right here. 
First look at the Westfield Belconnen Bus station. This place is going to get crowded, and when it rains, the rain will just whip in through the inadequate cover. 
 This end is also incomplete, no seats, no timetables, you can see how little has been spent on this compared to the commercial space Westfield will rent to tenants.
The end facing Immigration, another big fence that stops people crossing over from one side to another, its a very narrow exit/entry point and faces onto a road that also has cars traveling on it. No traffic light to provide priority to buses exiting/entering the bus station.
 Facing the Westfield entrance from the Immigration end.
 New Westfield building, one small shopfront will host a MyWay store, the rest is commercial space.
The exit facing up towards Lathlain St and on to the Belconnen Bus sheds.  Buses coming down from the Bus Sheds will turn LEFT onto Lathlain St travel 50 metres, stop in the middle of Lathlain St, roughly in front of the Police station carpark exit, and cross when traffic allows it into the Westfield Belconnen Bus Station. I do not know why. It is illogical. 
Inside the actual bus lounge. None of this is ready, it may be by the 13th, but the shops will not be fitted out in time, and there is no real time display. 
At the right is one of the exits to the actual shopping centre, and also to bathrooms. This bus lounge area is supposed to be open while bus services are running, but I dont know how that applies to prospective tenants in the lounge. 
This is the exit from the lounge to the traffic light/walk signal that leads to one side of the bus stops. It is not covered - you will get wet when it rains while racing for your bus. 
Westfield end facing towards Immigration. The Westfield Bus station has far more work to do than the ABS section. 

Conclusions - There is much work to be completed before the opening date, and it is very disappointing that many of the things that were promised have not been delivered.

The cover at both sites for passengers is completely inadequate. The Adshel shelters are not adequate, and the Westfield Bus station has no sides to prevent rain. The best bus shelter design I've seen is in Gungahlin Town centre, and could easily have been installed in Belconnen at both sites. There was also supposed to be cover from the bus lounge to the bus stops, and this has not eventuated.

I'm disappointed the real time displays are not installed. I think that relying on bus timetables, when the buses are notoriously unreliable time wise, is going to lead people to miss the bus once and never use the bus lounge again. It is infuriating when your bus just doesn't turn up - especially on weekends when the service is hit and miss anyway - and at least with real time displays, you could wait in comfort for the extra hour.

By separating each side with those enormous fences, people may be safer, but it negates the advantage of the old interchange design. How many times have people raced from one side of the platform to the other to catch the connecting bus? There's a reason the interchange was designed that way! Unless Action work really hard to better integrate their services (which is where real time displays would help everyone) there will continue to be frustrated passengers. Im not sure people will wait for a green walk signal either, if they face an hour wait for a bus they are about to miss.

The bus lounge may be a winner, and its clear that far more investment has been made by Westfield to the commercial space than to the actual transport infrastructure. Skimping on 40 feet of cover from the bus lounge exit to the actual platforms, is a good example of this underinvestment. Im hoping this can be rectified.

I am optimistic that this new infrastructure will attract extra passengers to the public transport system. It places better public transport connections at the supermarket and cinema end of the shopping centre than the old interchange, and the bus lounge with security and services provided by Westfield provides a safer environment for post 5 PM services. Business's in Belconnen on the Lathlain St end should also experience more passing trade due to better public transport access.

Many of my observations in this post which appear critical are minor flaws which can be corrected. Both the ABS bus station and the Westfield Bus Lounge and bus station will be with us for many years. Im hoping that investment is continued so that they are not allowed to run down like the old interchange.

I should also repeat, that these are my views and not those of the Belconnen Community Council.

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