ACTION patronage continues to increase, prompted by the new weekday timetable and the increased cost of fuel.

Soon after the timetable change on June 2, ACTION recorded for the first time 25,000 adult passenger journeys in a day.

Late last month the daily traffic hit a new peak 26,000 adult passengers a day.

Though pleased with the response, ACTION general manager Tom Elliott said it was placing heavy demands on some peak services.

The first of 16 new buses had arrived and would be used to augment those heavily patronised services.

The company had probably enough casual drivers to operate augmented services but not enough to introduce a new weekend timetable.

”We are still struggling with driver recruitment,” he said.

Changes to the weekday timetable were being considered, on either the first day of the next school term or the first day of next year’s first school term.

Minor adjustments not requiring timetable changes will be made.

Though pleased with the increased patronage, Mr Elliott said, ”There has to be a plateau if we can’t get capacity. Given the economy and fuel prices, people will keep pushing it.”

Public transport was economically attractive but it was difficult to balance the resources to meet demand.

Despite the pressures of increasing patronage, he said, ”I would much rather be working in a growth market.”

Chief Minister Jon Stanhope indicated recently that the Government’s new transport policy would aim to encourage greater use of public transport. He said he had even been interested in making bus travel free.

Mr Elliott said he did not believe any major public transport service in the world provided free travel.

If this were to occur in Canberra, it would not only eat up the annual $20million revenue from fares, but the subsequent increased patronage would add to the cost of the service.

Free travel would also cost ACTION the ability to collect data, on which planning depended.

”Operationally, I would argue we need the data to understand travel patterns,” Mr Elliott said.

”The new ticketing system is predicated on that so we can design routes to [match] people’s current patterns.”

ACTION aims to introduce an $8million smart-card ticketing system next year.

Mr Elliott said it was a real bugbear that under its present ticketing system ACTION lacked the data to make the service more efficient.

Source: The Canberra Times

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