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At the time it was "a giant leap of faith", but ever since the Adelaide O-Bahn rolled out its first guided bus from the CBD to the north-eastern suburb of Paradise, it has answered its doubters, says the University of South Australia.
First flagged in 1979 by the incoming Liberal Government - which shelved Don Dunstan’s plans for a light-rail transit line along the River Torrens corridor to service the growing north-eastern suburbs - on paper the O-Bahn stacked up. It was less costly than light rail; the track was narrower, reducing the environmental impact; it offered flexibility, allowing buses to enter and exit from the road system; and it promised a faster, quieter and more reliable ride than other transport options, it explains.
It was also the first guided busway in the southern hemisphere.
More than three decades later, a new paper co-authored by University of South Australia Adjunct Professor Derek Scrafton, a former Director-General of Transport in South Australia during the O-Bahn’s construction, provides an insight into the guided busway’s history and the lessons learned.
INCREASING POPULARITYProf Scrafton, one of Australia’s foremost urban planning experts, according to university, says around 31,000 passenger trips are made each weekday on the O-Bahn.
"The O-Bahn is far more efficient than Adelaide’s rail network, in terms of patronage per kilometre," Scrafton said.
"Its popularity is also increasing each year, with 50 per cent more people using it than in the early 1990s," he explained.
Until 2011, it was the longest full-scale operational guided busway in the world, taking passengers the 15 kilometres from Tea Tree Plaza, via Paradise and Klemzig, to the city centre in under 20 minutes, it states. The park-and-ride concept provides around 2000 car spaces in total across the three interchanges, easing traffic congestion in the burgeoning north-east corridor, says the university.
"It is nowhere near its capacity, either," added Scrafton.
"It could conceivably carry 18,000 passengers an hour in each direction with the use of articulated buses.
"The only constraint to the existing system is the availability of kerb space in the CBD for bus stops, picking up and delivering people to their destination."
This article first appeared on www.busnews.com.au
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