Saturday, April 10, 2010

bus review, more work to do

Earlier this week, the Minister for Public Transport, Martin Pakula announced the results of the Yarra Ranges Bus Services review. The announcements are a a step in the right direction and it was good to see a some of the council’s recommendations for service improvements included, however, there is much more work to be done on further improvements to meet the needs of commuters living across the Shire.

No 695 extension to Knox City, very disappointing.

The council’s 24 page submission to the review called for much-needed improvements to peak hour frequencies, better connections with train services and more services operating until 9pm and on Sundays. Other improvements sought included the introduction of express services along the Warburton and Maroondah highway, increased coverage in rural areas and an expansion of the Telebus service.

The review has resulted in changes to five of the shire’s 26 bus routes and include:
Route 663 (Belgrave – Lilydale): Boost Weekday and Saturday service to operate till 9pm, and introduce Sunday services for the first time, meaning services will operate till 9pm, seven days a week.
Route 670 (Ringwood – Lilydale): Will be extended from Lilydale Station to Swinburne University. The frequency of services will be increased to approximately every 15 minutes at peak times.
Route 680 (Lilydale – Mooroolbark): The Lilydale to Swinburne University section of Route 680 will be replaced by Route 670
Route 688 (Croydon – Olinda): Will be extended to from Croydon to Montrose to replace and improve Route 698. This will be a combined service so passengers won’t need to change at Olinda and means additional weekday services and weekend and public holiday services for the first time.
Route 698 (Croydon – Montrose): Will be combined with Route 688, and will be known as Route 688.

It was good to see the changes to Route 688 which will see more frequent connections from Croydon and Upper Ferntree Gully railway stations to the hill top townships of Olinda, Kalorama and Sassafras, it has great potential to help boost tourism numbers to the region.

The improvements announced by the department will go some way to improving the quality of public transport in our municipality, however, if the government is serious about reducing car dependency and making it easier for people to access work, study, training, medical appointments and social and sporting activities then more extensive improvements are required.

Last year route 694 was recommended for deletion, not gone yet, but how safe is it?

The Shire of Yarra Ranges will continue to push for a range of other improvements aimed at encouraging people to use public transport – including the abolition of the country fare for commuters travelling beyond Woori Yallock. It was disappointing to see that this hasn’t been addressed by the Minister, it is a key issue raised through the review workshops and puts those community members beyond Woori Yallock at an ever greater transport disadvantage.

At the workshops in June, 2009 the consultants announced a range of recommendations covering 27 routes, including new routes, extended routes, deleted routes and more frequent and express services.

It is disappointing to see that some of the recommendations that were received as very positive by our community have not been included in the Minister’s announcements. Of particular disappointment is the consultant’s recommendation of the extension of route 695 to Knox City (currently running from Gembrook to Belgrave). Time and time again community members have spoken out about their concerns about the difficulty of getting to Knox City via our bus network, particularly parents concerned about their teenagers having to wait, sometimes for extensive periods at Upper Ferntree Gully Station. I know there will be a great deal of community dissatisfaction about this glaring omission.

While we haven’t got everything we asked for I am still pleased with the progress that has been made to date and the council will continue to advocate for more public transport improvements across the municipality.

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