State Transit recorded a 28% increase in the number of trips taken on the 891 service between Central and UNSW as students concerns mounted over increasing wait times and inadequate services.
The increase from 59,550 to 76,371 rides in the quarter ending March mirrored an increase of student numbers by approximately 20% to 53,000 following the Federal Government’s uncapping of student places at tertiary institutions earlier this year.
Despite the increase in travellers, the Manager for External Communications at Transport NSW, Ashley Jarquin, told Tharunka that “there are currently no crowding issues of concern on the Central to UNSW 891 bus route”.
Christina Theirs, a student in the faculty School of Arts & Media, disagrees. “Buses are especially bad from 8am to 8:40am and have been getting worse every year,” she said.
State Transit told Tharunka that new, high-capacity buses, including “articulated and 14.5 metre vehicles have replaced older buses on the express route.
However, Vice-President of UNSW Student Services Neil Morris believes that services to Central Station aren’t satisfactory, adding that UNSW has been communicating this to Sydney Buses for years. “The loading capacity at Eddy Avenue for morning bus services has reached its peak and pressure on gate 9 and NIDA is growing” he said.
State Transit told Tharunka that there are regular meetings with the campus facilities team to discuss the University’s transport requirements. A State Transit spokesperson said that at the most recent meeting, on May 9, “the Facilities Team confirmed that the current level of service was sufficient to cater for the Universities demand.”
Facilities Management denied that this was the communication. Helen Moustacas, FM Assist, told Tharunka that she was aware of problems with the 370 Leichardt to Coogee service, and is specifically looking at the 891 bus route from Gate 9 and NIDA.
University surveys have shown that as many as 6 scheduled services on that route fail to arrive per day. According to Moustacas, these surveys have found gaps of up to an hour in the 370 service, followed by simultaneous arrival of up to three buses.
Other students, including those who live directly on the 370 route told Tharunka they would prefer to take two other buses because the 370 was too unreliable.
Backed by statistics gathered through the trial of the green Square express bus last year, the University has recommended that State Transit increase bus services along High Street. These recommendations appear to have been ignored, with State transit instead offering only one additional 370 service, at 8.35am.
Approximately 3,000 students have already signed a petition for the implementation of light rail between the CBD and the University. Neil Morris has also voiced his agreement with the proposal. “What we need is a fast mass transit (light rail) out of Central to UNSW,” he said.
A study by Randwick Council found that a 50% increase in public transportation will be needed to cope with projected population and employment growth over the next ten years. Alongside the University, Randwick Council pointed to the 15 schools, 10 million visitors who go to Centennial and Moore Parks and the 1.3 million accessing health services every year that would benefit from the implementation of light rail.
In its response, State Transit added that the Metrobus M50 has “provided significant additional capacity from High Street”. However, this route was introduced well over a year before the rise in student numbers as a way of easing the burden on already strained services in 2010.
Another student, Caitlin Bailey, who lives on the Central Coast and commutes to university said what should be a 2 hour trip often takes close to 4 hours. “Travelling from uni back to Central is another story” she said.