We have talked about the backbone of our public transport network, rail, but haven’t touched on what happens at a local level. As we covered last month, Warragul and Drouin have recently had complete overhauls of their bus networks.
New routes, stops, and timetables mean catching the bus to work is now possible for many more people than before, but getting back might be a little difficult – all town bus routes leaving the town CBDs well before 5pm.
The Baw Baw Citizen asked Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan if there were plans to extend the services later into the day, but a statement only said the state would continue to monitor and review bus patronage in the area.
You can find out more about the changes by clicking here.
So how important are the new town services, and how do they compare to those in other regions?
“It’s a vital link,” Public Transport Users Association regional spokesperson Paul Westcott told the Baw Baw Citizen.
“Public transport rises and falls by its network. It has to be a good network with smooth transitions, and it’s not just a question of smooth transitions physically, but you don’t want to be waiting too long for a bus to turn up.
“Well connected services are vital, and more of them.”
While the buses cost money to run, Mr Westcott said there were huge savings to be made in encouraging people to catch a bus to a train.
“To continue to get most people to the train by car, you will never have enough car parking to cater for it,” he said.
“It will just be endless tar and cement surrounding stations.
“It’s an expensive proposition to provide car parking – it’s about $16,000 for a single spot if you kerb, channel, and seal on railway land.
“And it also doesn’t help other people much with one person per car, whereas a good bus service connecting to the train not only helps people get to and from the station, but also helps people along the route get into the town the station is situated in.
“You look at the triple bottom line – you don’t just look at the economic balance sheet, you look at the beneficial effects of the presence of public transport.”
“Patronage is the key” when measuring the effectiveness of the services.
“If people are using it then it’s effective,” Mr Westcott said.
“It’s often considered that 20 minute services (the new town services are hourly) is the kind of limit in urban areas for buses, anything less than that and you’re not going to attract people out of their cars, and anything more than that is good until you get to the stage where you don’t even need a timetable.
“If more people are using it than before you made the improvements then the improvements have obviously had some beneficial effect.
“Buses are the poor relation I think in public transport – people tend to see that if it hasn’t got [big]steel wheels then it’s not public transport.
“But obviously buses have a vital role to play, an unfortunately sometimes forgotten role, in filling in the gapes in rail routes.”
First published in the 2 June 2017 print edition of the Baw Baw Citizen.
Get free email updates from the Baw Baw Citizen
Read more Baw Baw News