Geelong Branch- Letters to the Editor 2007


It’s quite understandable that the Mayor is frustrated about the poor use made of Geelong’s bus system and the lack of clear plans for major improvements (GA 13/12).

His support for the idea of running our buses like trams as far as route structure and frequency are concerned is constructive. It is essential that the City follows the Mayor’s lead and becomes a much more active advocate for sensible and achievable improvements in our public transport.

Given current concerns about greenhouse gases, rising petrol prices and car dependency, it’s certainly disturbing that, according to the 2006 census, only 1.3% of Geelong’s workforce use a bus to get to work.

If this pitiful figure is to be improved, the State Government must be urged to provide a network of simple, frequent and direct bus routes which provide a genuine alternative to driving.

However, it’s worth noting that the census only measures trips to work, and even our poor quality bus system is a vital service for many Geelong residents. A survey conducted by the City early this year in Market Square shopping centre showed that 16% of shoppers had used public transport to get there.

We must build on this base with a clear plan for improving our bus services. While the State Government has the lion’s share of responsibility for public transport in Geelong, the scattering of central bus stops around the fringes of the CBD two years ago must be undone, and the City has a central role to play in making that happen.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


In his article discussing Geelong’s traffic problems (GA 24/10), Neil McGuinness correctly notes that motor vehicle exhaust emissions are a significant contributor to the degradation of our environment.

Unfortunately his main solution to the problem, to undertake major road works, will only make the problem worse. A comprehensive international review by Western Australian transport researchers Professors Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy, found that people living in cities with the fastest traffic used the most petrol and spent the most time in their cars.

The same is observed even within cities. More fuel is used in the relatively uncongested suburbs than in congested inner-city areas. And the pollution levels follow the fuel use trends. Emissions per person are lower in the cities with slower traffic (and in the slower-moving parts of cities) than in those with faster traffic!

The best way of achieving permanent reductions in air pollution is to shift more car trips to public transport, which creates less pollution, and to walking and cycling, which create none at all.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


It’s good to see the agreement at Tuesday’s Council meeting that better public transport is the key to overcoming the City’s parking problems (GA 30/8).

However expensive new projects mentioned at the meeting, such as light rail, are not needed.  Improvements based on our existing bus and train networks will be far cheaper and more quickly achieved.

A survey recently conducted for the Council revealed that 16 percent of city shoppers had got to the city by public transport, even though they had to put up with infrequent services and scattered city bus stops.

If our buses ran every ten to fifteen minutes, on simple and direct routes, and with proper connections to other buses and the station, there would be far fewer cars clogging the city, and a significant boost to our ailing city centre.

But we need a plan to bring our public transport up to scratch. It should now be obvious to Council that G21’s ‘partnership’ with the Department of Infrastructure is not providing the plan we need.

Any new plan should be made through a process where goals and decisions are clearly justified and open to public discussion. Council has to start making this happen.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


Peter Farrago (Independent 10/8) is pessimistic about people using alternative forms of transport into the city because he says Geelong people overwhelmingly love their cars.   But how much car use arises from love and how much from necessity?

Having claimed that cars are convenient, Farrago immediately notes some of the obvious inconveniences caused by Geelong’s car dependence, traffic congestion and parking ‘squeezes’.  Of course the environmental and social costs of a car-bound population are far greater than those problems.

Using bikes is one solution.  And if Geelong’s buses ran frequently, on direct and easily-understood routes, not only would it help overcome our perceived ‘parking crisis’, but our car-dominated city centre would be revived.

It’s instructive that recent service increases and fare cuts have seen allegedly ‘car loving’ Geelong residents flock to the Melbourne rail service, even leading to over-crowding on some trains.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


Whether Geelong really is ‘hip’ or ‘cool’ (GA 9/8) is a matter for debate.  What can’t be disputed is your editorial comment that our public transport system is sub-standard.

Geelong’s public transport rarely provides an alternative to driving. Our buses are infrequent, slow, and stop running well before people have gone to bed. There’s nothing very hip about that.

Young people may well make a city vibrant and innovative, but many are being excluded from our city by the lack of transport, and expensive, compulsory car ownership.

The young inner-urban professionals from Melbourne, who marketers say are now willing to think of Geelong as cool, choose to live in areas of Melbourne with reasonable public transport.

If they leave our waterfront and look past the palm trees on Moorabool Street, they’ll be less than impressed by the shopping strip, which once depended on public transport access but is now suffering a decline.

Bringing our public transport up to standard will also solve the city’s parking crisis. People will use alternatives if they’re good enough.  Despite our poor bus system, a recent city council survey of people in the Market Square Shopping Centre revealed that 16% got there by public transport.

If we’re serious about improving the situation, the City Council must put high-quality public transport for Geelong on the State Government’s agenda.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


The Geelong Advertiser reports (9/7/07) that the City of Greater Geelong is going to spend almost $10 million, including $3 million from ratepayers, to build a multi-storey car park in Central Geelong. This sort of expenditure could be avoided if the Council promoted improvements to our public transport system as an alternative to increasing car travel.

Last year the City officially committed itself to achieving a 20 per cent increase by 2010 in the use of transport modes other than the car. Yet, although the Council plan for the new car park notes that public transport, walking and cycling can significantly reduce the demand for parking, it ignores all these sustainable transport options.

If Geelong’s buses ran at least every fifteen minutes, on direct and easily-understood routes, the city would not be as car-dominated, congested, and beset by parking ‘squeezes’. Geelong’s scattered central bus stops must also be brought back together. There is no sign of this being done, despite promises made two years ago.

Rather than increasing Geelong’s car dependency with another multi-storey car park, developer parking contributions should be used to upgrade public transport, as allowed by State Government rules. The City could start by filling the 20 minute gap between buses in peak hour past its proposed Belmont park and ride site.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


Your editorial (8/5) about the ‘parking woes’ in the city is right about the causes of the problem, but wrong about the solution.

No-one would disagree that there is a lack of adequate public transport around Geelong.  Buses on most routes only run every half hour or less, even at supposedly peak times.  On the Highton route for example, a bus leaves the city at 5.05 in the afternoon.  The next bus on that route leaves at 5:51, a 46 minutes gap in peak hour!  In Melbourne, trams would be running every few minutes.

It’s hardly surprising that Geelong is one of the most car-dependent cities in Australia. This inevitably causes traffic congestion and parking problems, not only in the city, but at all our major railway stations as well.

The solution is clearly better public transport, but your suggestion of using shuttle buses from car parks around the CBD is short-sighted.  This still involves people driving to car parks.  Cars will continue to clog the roads.  Car parks are very expensive to build, as much as $15,000 per space.  They also consume a lot of land and lock up valuable real estate.

The best answer is in fact the simplest one. That is for our existing buses services to run much more frequently.  This means that expensive new parking infrastructure wont be needed, and it allows people to get out of their cars altogether.  This in turn provides clear economic, social and environmental benefits.

It is important that the Geelong Advertiser puts its voice behind a campaign to increase the frequency of bus services in Geelong, and to return a proper bus interchange to the central City.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


The story (Geelong Independent 16/3) on the “disappearance” of the G21 Integrated Public Transport Strategy, after costing $80,000 to develop, was accurate and fair.  So it was very disappointing to read the response by the Transport Minister’s mouthpiece.  Clearly deciding that attack is the best form of defence, the point of the article was deliberately not dealt with.

“Lobbyists” were condemned for calling for more buses, whereas the actual question is what has happened to the government’s promised response to the Public Transport Strategy in the fifteen months since it was completed.  The Strategy process should have been a model of public participation in making decisions about transport. But it now seems that the document is being re-written within the Department of Infrastructure.

The people of Geelong deserve a better explanation of what is happening than an obviously contrived smokescreen.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


Next week the fare on Geelong buses will rise by ten cents to $1.80, although the concession fare remains at 90 cents.  Despite this rise, Geelong’s public transport remains a potential travel bargain.  From Marshall to Lara, from Highton to Moolap, you get two hours or more of travel for less than two dollars.

Unfortunately that’s where the good news ends. This ‘bargain’ doesn’t live up to its promise because of poor service quality.  Geelong’s buses don’t run frequently enough, and bus routes are often confusing, indirect and slow, meandering through back streets rather than following direct routes as one would do by car.

Bus stops in the city centre are still scattered and invisible, despite the long-standing promise that bus zones would be returned to the city centre when Moorabool Street road works were finished.  All this means that traffic congestion, parking pressure and pollution becomes progressively worse.

The Victorian government spends significant amounts of money to provide these infrequent, substandard services.  If we are going to have a public transport system that can provide a sustainable transport alternative to the car, we need to start real transport planning. This means reviewing our current bus network and services to spend current funds more sensibly, and to seek new funding for our highest-priority improvements.

In an age of global warming and rising petrol prices, Geelong is still following failed, small-town traffic strategies of more car parking and wider roads. It’s time to go for the sustainable solution.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


Readers might have been a little concerned by the article (Geelong Advertiser 22/2) about changes to be made to the V/Line timetable on March 4th.  A number of Geelong-Melbourne train services will be slower under the revised timetable, although none of the changes involve more than a few minutes.  The biggest alteration is that the 6:56 pm weekday train from Melbourne to Marshall will take eight minutes longer.

Passengers are still owed a better explanation of why particular services have been slowed, and a really accountable operator would be more forthcoming than V/Line has been so far.  However if trains keep to their schedules more reliably under the new timetable, most passengers will be relieved.  V/Line passengers mainly complain to the PTUA about the poor timekeeping of trains, and also a lack of sufficient information, particularly when problems occur.

The other big concern is with overcrowding on certain services.  It’s very regrettable that this difficulty wont be effectively tackled until next year, when fourteen new intermediate carriages for the V/Locity trains will be delivered.

To help ease overcrowding, and to make the rail service a real alternative to driving outside peak times, the State Government must undertake to run Melbourne trains every half hour.

It’s good that the new timetable has two more services a day originating and terminating at Marshall.  However, as many trains as possible should run through to Marshall, and that isn’t happening.  On weekdays, Marshall will be served by fewer than half of Geelong line trains, and on weekends, by barely over half.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


When the new Leopold Shopping Centre at Melaluka Road was proposed in 2005, assurances were sought and given that proper access would be provided for public transport.

However the final plans, revealed at the end of last year, show that only bus travellers going towards Leopold will have a bus stop within the shopping centre. Travellers going towards Geelong face a long walk in the open from a bus stop at the intersection of Melaluka Road and the Bellarine Highway, across the dual-lane highway, and through the shopping centre car park.

Clearly the undertakings given in 2005 haven’t been fully met. The PTUA and Leopold residents were led to believe that all buses would be able drop off passengers within the centre. The current plan will only serve to enhance the region’s car-dependency, and certainly doesn’t promote sustainable means of transport.

The Geelong PTUA Branch maintains that, at the very least, the inward bus stop on the highway should be directly opposite the southern (highway) entrance to the car park at the centre, with a fully-signalled pedestrian crossing, linked to a suitable walkway though the car park, taking pedestrians to the southern concourse of the shops. This would at least mean a much shorter walk than from a bus stop at the Melaluka Road intersection.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


The idea of Geelong commuters using buses instead of cars to get to the city is only one of a number of options proposed (Geelong News 31/1) for the city’s apparent parking ‘squeeze’.  But if people made the whole journey by public transport, then inferior alternatives, such as a shuttle bus from presently non-existent car parks on the city fringes, would be largely unnecessary.

However, Geelong’s buses need to run at least every fifteen minutes, on direct and easily-understood routes, or the city will continue to be car-dominated, congested, and beset by parking ‘squeezes’.

As well, it is a couple of months since the road works in Moorabool Street were finished.  Nothing has been done since then to bring Geelong’s scattered central bus stops back together, despite promises made before the works began.  So we still lack convenient public transport to and from the city centre, and do not have proper connections between the various bus routes.

Last year the City of Greater Geelong committed itself to achieving a 20 per cent increase by 2010 in the use of transport modes other than the car for people travelling to work.  Can anyone point to any evidence that the City is actually pursuing this aim?  Building more car parks will ensure the opposite result.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association