The importance of having good public transport for all areas of Canberra
Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am delighted that Mr Parton brought this matter of public importance before the Assembly this afternoon, and I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to it for a few moments.
Recently I spoke with a 13-year-old girl who is a student at one of our ACT public schools in the Belconnen area. She explained to me that since the latest changes to the Transport Canberra timetables, she now has to walk to school every morning. Previously she was able to take the bus, but now her only choices are an early bus that gets her to the school before the doors even open, meaning she has to wait around outside regardless of the weather, or a late bus that arrives after her first class starts.
Madam Speaker, I share with the Assembly the difficulty that this young public school student now faces getting to school each day in order to highlight how essential it really is to have good public transport for all areas of Canberra. I worry sometimes that those of us in this chamber who make the decisions sometimes forget what it’s like to be completely reliant on public transportation. For very many Canberrans, this subject is indeed a ‘matter of public importance’.
To further highlight this point, I wish to share a few more public transportation concerns that constituents have shared with me.
A number of residents in Latham have raised with me the difficulty they have accessing Transport Canberra buses on the weekends. On weekdays, the bus route includes Macrossan Crescent, but the weekend service completely skips over this loop. This means that the nearest bus stop to residents who live in or near this crescent is located more than one kilometre away in Onslow Street.
For an older child or younger adult, this is an estimated 16-to-20-minute walk. But a number of older Canberrans also live in this area of Latham, Madam Speaker, and they have told me that the hike to Onslow Street is just too far for someone using a walking stick or a walking frame … or even just for someone whose gait is unsteady or whose joints are a bit stiff. Lack of a good public transportation option leaves these seniors socially isolated each weekend.
Worries about confusing and often reduced weekend bus service is, in fact, one of the more common concerns that I hear from constituents in my electorate of Ginninderra. Others have shared with me, for example, their frustration with the fact that the Blue Rapid 300 bus travels from Tuggeranong to Kippax on weekdays, but on weekends this exact same route terminates at Belconnen, requiring passengers to transfer to another route, including the waiting that entails.
I realise that many of those who work in this building do so reliably Monday through Friday, but many Canberrans do not. Nurses, shop assistants, servers, aged care workers, cooks, disability workers, and so many others work across the entire seven-day week, often with rosters that are constantly changing. Many of them have shared that the weekday and weekend bus routes and timetables are so different that they have to master basically two different bus networks, and sometimes getting to or from work on a weekend simply isn’t possible. One West Belconnen resident said that he had to give up his much-needed weekend shifts because the only way home afterward was in a taxi, which took nearly all of the money he earnt by working that shift.
Just this morning, Madam Speaker, I heard from another Canberra resident who has given up on public transportation entirely. She previously used a Transport Canberra bus to get to and from work, a distance of not quite eight kilometres. The trip used to take her a maximum of 20 minutes. Now with the latest network changes, her travel time comes in at just under an hour. This woman, thankfully, has the option of using private transportation and so can continue working, but for a number of reasons she would prefer not to be adding to the congestion on Canberra’s roads or the pollution in our air.
For this woman who wishes to do the right thing; for all the shift workers and those who work on weekends; for the elderly who find a one-kilometre hike to a bus stop just too far; for the young students who face long walks to their schools on cold, dark winter mornings; and for so many other Canberrans, including the most vulnerable amongst us, it is truly important that we have good public transportation for all areas of Canberra.
I call upon those who make the decisions to remember these people.