The ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS) today released its evaluation of the 2010-11 summer trial of an extended Nightrider bus service. Nightrider has run for many years in Canberra, and provides clubbers an alternative form of transport home from the key nightspots of Civic, Kingston and Manuka.
The trial, which was first announced last August by Attorney General Simon Corbell, had a stated purpose of providing an alternative form of transport whilst examining the effects it would have on the taxi queues at peak times as well as achieving a reduction in the incidences of violence, drink-driving and anti-social behaviour in the City.
An initial proposal to send buses from nightspots to the town centres only was scuttled for fear of creating new pockets of anti-social behaviour, with the trial instead being modeled on the existing Nightrider services, with a feature of years gone by, the Club Loop, being reinstated.
With ACTION unable to cover the expanded Nightrider service due to resource constraints, an independent tender process resulted in Deanes Transit Group providing the service.
With the tender process and service designs being finalised on 3 December 2010, promotion of the service which began that same night was adversely affected. Just fifty-nine passengers were recorded during the first weekend of operations, during which 48 suburban routes operated (eight routes operated four times per night). Promotion activities were ramped up throughout the trial however these had a minimal impact on passenger numbers.
Usage peaked at 678 passengers on New Year’s Eve. Four more weeks managed just over 100 passengers, with the remaining seven recording under 100 passengers.
In the final month of the trial, services were combined, reducing the number of suburban routes from eight to four in order to reduce the number of buses being used, with the money saved being channeled into promoting the service.
The total cost of the trial was $286,452 (includes $20,000 for promotion). The total fare revenue generated was $16,325
The service did not lessen the demand on taxis in the City however there were reports of frustration between taxi and bus drivers, with both services operating from the Alinga Street portion of the City Bus Station.
Key findings of the evaluation were identified as:
- The service could not be seen as being cost effective in its current design at an average cost of $157 per passenger.
- The service carried most passengers on New Years’ Eve and nights where there were special events.
- Saturday nights typically carried twice as many passengers as on Friday nights.
- The Nightrider service to the suburbs carried the most passengers. The Club Loop did not attract significant patronage ($950 in fares for the entire trial).
- An earlier procurement decision would have allowed for an earlier start on promotion.
- Relocating the Nightrider bus stop may improve traffic operations.