A national review of annual commuter costs has found Canberrans could save up to $9000 by selling their car and travelling on ACTION buses, with the introduction light rail expected to further increase savings.
The report, which was published on Tuesday by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), analysed the costs of using ACTION buses between Belconnen or Tuggeranong and Civic with the cost of driving a car the same distance.
ARA chief executive Bryan Nye said Canberra was one of Australia's most car-dependent cities and a lot of people were unaware how much they could save by switching to public transport, selling their car, or not purchasing a second vehicle.
"Around 197,000 people work in Canberra with the vast majority commuting to the inner city for work," he said.
"This causes road congestion that not only increases carbon emissions and accidents, but also costs the commuter and ultimately the economy a heck of a lot of money."
Mr Nye said the introduction of light rail between Civic and Gungahlin was likely to increase savings by providing more public transport alternatives.
"The Capital Metro light rail project will see Canberrans provided with a second public transport alternative that will integrate into the ACTION bus network and provide greater mobility and accessibility to residents," he said.
"Shifting from private vehicle use to public transport is made more feasible when the public transport services provided are efficient, cost effective, safe and comfortable."
ACT Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell welcomed the report and said it supported the government's decision to invest in the development of light rail.
"However, the ACT Government's investment is not just about light rail; it's about providing a rapid public transport service that is integrated with bus services," he said.
Mr Nye said the report used conservative calculations to identify the costs driving a car each year, with non-compulsory car insurance not included and $1000 allocated for parking fees.
According to ARA calculations, a 18.2 kilometre round trip from Belconnen to Civic in a family car would cost $10,802.52 each year including parking and running costs, or $6311.26 in a small car.
Mr Nye said a Belconnen driver of a Holden Commodore could save $9439 each year by choosing to sell their car and use public transport, while drivers of a smaller Mazda 2 could save $4948.
"Even Canberra commuters who choose to own a car but leave it at home and take public transport can still save," he said.
The report found a person travelling from Belconnen to Civic on public transport and leaving their car at home could save around $370 a year, while still paying fixed costs for their vehicle.
"An added benefit of commuting by public transport is the productive use of time that public transport offers, allowing commuters to spend time on their laptop, mobile, iPod and so on whilst in transit," Mr Nye said.
ACT deputy opposition leader Alistair Coe said "it's clear residents can save money using public transport and in Canberra the most efficient mode of delivery is buses".
But Mr Corbell said buses alone would not fix the congestion problems along the Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road corridors "as we approach an average peak-hour commute between the two centres of nearly an hour by 2030".
"As we grow towards a projected population of 600,000 people by 2050, light rail will provide the increased transport capacity that our city needs," he said.
The ARA savings projections for Canberra were slightly lower than the national average with Australians reportedly saving $9973 a year by not owning a car and using public transport.
While using ACTION buses may result in savings the experience is not without frustrations for many Canberrans.
Information released under the Freedom of Information ACT in late December revealed more than a quarter of bus services failed to arrive on time between August and November 12.
Over those four months, 73.4 per cent of services were delivered on time, a 2.4 per cent improvement on the previous year's results, but shy of government-set targets.
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