How Canberrans travel through their city will be transformed on Monday as the second half of the ACT government's new public transport network comes online.
Fresh from celebrating its first week of light rail, Transport Canberra will now press go on the capital's new bus routes - rebuilt from the ground up for the first time in 20 years.
Together, the two fleets will form a network officials hope will lure even the most devoted car drivers on board, boasting faster, more frequent services running later into the evening and weekend.
Over the next month of free travel, an army of customer service officers and volunteers will be on hand to guide passengers, who will now have to walk farther and make more bus changes as they are ferried into town centres and along the light rail corridor.
It's a fundamental step-change for the city, Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said.
While Canberra's population is tipped to swell to half a million by 2030, just eight per cent catch public transport to work.
"We're making these changes now so that we don't end up gridlocked like other cities," Ms Fitzharris said.
Transport Canberra boss Duncan Edghill acknowledged there had been backlash against the changes as existing services - including many school buses - were cut.
"One of the challenges is finding a balance," he said. "Every time you're putting a bus in one place, it means you're moving it away from another. But we're very confident of the path we're heading down."
The capital's existing tangle of bus routes had been wiped from the map in favour of a streamlined service making better use of its fleet, he said. More buses will hit the road and coverage across the ACT will only dip slightly from 99 to 98 per cent under the change, though about 12 per cent of bus stops will vanish from Monday.
"If it we just keep doing what we've been doing for the last 20 years, nothing will change," Mr Edghill said.
The team had spent the past eight months frantically ironing out kinks in the proposed network after a "mammoth" community consultation period, he said.
More than half of proposed routes had been altered as a result, and some services including two Xpresso buses and some dedicated school services restored.
About half of schools will still lose all their dedicated buses when term two starts on Monday, sparking safety concerns. Mr Edghill stressed more public routes will run past campuses more often, leaving less chance of students being stranded at 'school only' stops.
But Brendan Halloran, a geospatial expert formerly with the Commonwealth government, said his own early analysis suggested a significant number of commuters were still worse off under the revision, including those travelling from Kambah and West Belconnen.
"Anyone near light rail or a rapid stop will benefit of course," he said. "But it's surprising to see how many people are affected."
For some, particularly those in the north travelling south, jumping on a bike is now faster than catching a bus or the tram, according to Transport Canberra's journey planner.
Mr Edghill admitted there were still "teething problems" with the planner to work through. "We get that not everyone can just hop on a bike," he said.
Footpaths, bike lanes and crossings, particularly near schools, were also getting an upgrade, along with the ACT's flexible bus service, which offers home pick-ups for those with mobility issues who are eligible.
But while officials will be looking to make tweaks to the network, Mr Edghill ruled out any more major changes until next year.
Bernard Avery, one of many locals to voice concerns about axed services, said his closest bus stop will vanish from Monday and his total commute to work from Casey to Belconnen would now drag out from 50 minutes to more than two hours.
"I don't mind the walk but that's a huge amount of time out of my day," he said. "I've always preferred to use public transport, I'll give it a go but I'm really considering buying a second-hand car."
Others, including school principals who have seen full buses axed, have questioned the MyWay data used to determine routes, but Mr Edghill said he stood by the decisions and the methodology.
On Friday, Klaus Pinkas at the Transport Workers Union said it was still unclear if enough drivers would volunteer to work the extended weekend hours.
"The week should be right, but we'll have to wait and see for Saturday," he said.
Officials said they were not expecting any cancellations.
While the whole network was running a few months behind schedule, Mr Edghill was confident services on the ground would run to time.
Ms Fitzharris said Transport Canberra would be keeping a close eye on operations from day one but the real test - patronage - would be difficult to assess until its first 12 months of operation were in the rear-view mirror.
On Friday, watching trams and buses roll down Northbourne Avenue from his office window, Mr Edghill confessed the team were exhausted and excited in almost equal measure.
"Every time I hear the tram go past I get a buzz. I'll be hopping on light rail now to head down to meetings in the city...I think Canberra will give it a go too."
What you need to know:
- Bus timetables will switch over to the new network from today
- All public transport will be free for one month
- Light rail vehicles have four bike racks and buses can stow two bikes. There are also bike racks near stops along light rail.
- A guide to transport for each school is available here.
Find more information on the Transport Canberra website or call Access Canberra 13 17 10.