About 50 Canberra schools will still lose their dedicated school bus services, despite the ACT government adding an extra 78 services to schools and expanding rapid buses, under the final bus network unveiled on Tuesday.
After a public backlash over the mooted loss of most of the city's dedicated school bus services, the government has again overhauled its plans for the new network, which apart from minor changes, will likely remain in place for the next five years.
Among the key changes made since the initial plan went out for consultation earlier this year were increasing dedicated school bus services from 144 each school day to 222 each day and expanding the rapid buses from four to 10, partly due to re-badging of some of the Xpresso services.
In all, the government has made 37 changes across 50 routes due to feedback during the latest consultation period, including changing or extended rapid and local bus routes across all town centres, in an effort to balance existing demand and prepare for increased patronage in coming years.
While the government has confirmed about 50 schools will still have no dedicated school bus service, instead relying on expanded local or nearby rapid services.
But a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris was unable on Monday to provide a list of those schools that would miss out under the new plans.
It comes despite Ms Fitzharris earlier this year promising that at least half of Canberra's schools would still have a dedicated school bus service, after the backlash.
While it appears seven or eight schools, mostly independent or private schools, have won the fight for a dedicated school bus service, the network has been reconfigured instead to provide those schools missing out more access to local and rapid services.
The main schools to benefit from the changes to dedicated school bus services will mostly be private or independent schools, with more services for Daramalan College, Emmaus Christian School, Marist College, Merici College, St Mary Mackillop in Wanniasssa and Trinity College as well as Alfred Deakin High School.
Ms Fitzharris said in a statement the changes were both a response to community feedback, and an effort to get more people travelling on public transport, in a city where more than 90 per cent do not use the services.
She also said once the new network was in place early next year, the government would offer residents a month of free travel for MyWay card users - a move that may boost early patronage numbers, though the government would not divulge how much it expects patronage will increase.
In Gungahlin, there will be more stops on rapid eight for residents in areas such as Crace and Palmerston, local changes to improve coverage in Moncrieff, Casey and Gungahlin and public transport access to Bimberi youth justice centre.
In Belconnen; rapid routes four, three and nine will all be extended, route 31 will be extended to run through Braddon and Ainslie to the city and changes will be made to provide better coverage on local services in Higgins, Hawker, Scullin, Page, Melba, Evatt, Spence and Fraser.
The changes to rapid three and route 31 will also provide more coverage to inner north residents, while changes in that area will also provide more coverage to local shops in Lyneham, O'Connor and Reid and there will be a new bus stop at Campbell Park.
In the inner south, the rapid five will be extended along National Circuit to provide more stops in Forrest and Barton, while there will be changes to local routes in Yarralumla and Deakin and a peak express service from Tuggeranong to the city will stop at Barton bus station.
In Woden, Weston Creek and Molonglo, the rapid seven will extend to Chapman to provide more services to Duffy and Holder and reduce the need to terminate services at Coolamon Court, while all local buses from Weston Creek and Molonglo will end at Woden town centre.
There will also be changes to local routes to provide more coverage to Weston, Duffy, Holder, Lyons and Denman Prospect.
Residents in Tuggeranong will also get peak express services to the city and Barton from Gordon, Conder and Banks, with stops at "park and ride" stops in Calwell and Chisholm, while the rapid four will be extended as well.
Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times