PROPOSAL IN BRIEF
The following proposal is an edited extract from a discussion paper entitled “An Alternative and Sustainable Transport Strategy for Geelong”, produced jointly by the Geelong Branch of the Public Transport Users’ Association and Cycling Geelong.
The discussion paper recommends, inter alia, the development, as a matter of urgency, of a Public Transport Action Plan for the Geelong region.
The Geelong Transport Strategy, which is still in draft form, refers to the need to “reduce car dependence” and increase the use of walking, cycling and public transport. However, the Strategy is unable to deliver on this important and accepted goal because it:
- fails to measure current levels of car use, or calculate the modal share of different forms of transport.
- does not set any future targets for reduced car use
- lacks a detailed and costed action plan for public transport
- sets targets for increased public transport use which are too low to make any material difference (ie. less than half the rate already achieved in Canberra, the capital city with one of the highest rates of car use in Australia);
- lacks an effective action plan for walking or cycling (containing only two pages out of a 129-page document that deal with walking and cycling);
- makes no recommendations concerning mixed used zoning or other urban planning practices (beyond suggesting slightly higher urban density in new developments) which will reduce car dependence;
- contains no recommendations which will divert public expectations, funding or planning away from road building and the provision of car parking, to alternative transport strategies.
The Geelong Region Alternative and Sustainable Transport Strategy
We propose the development and implementation of a Geelong Region Alternative and Sustainable Transport (GRAST) Strategy.
The GRAST Strategy would aim to reduce car use and dependence and increase the modal share of alternative and sustainable transport (walking, cycling and public transport.) Achieving this goal would:
- improve the liveability of the Geelong region;
- reduce air and noise pollution;
- reduce the overall cost of transport to the regional community;
- improve the health of the community by raising activity levels;
- encourage eco-friendly tourism;
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
- increase the whole community’s access to transport;
- revitalise existing city, town and suburban centres; and
- create a highly marketable “character” for Geelong which would significantly differentiate it from other cities and regional centres.
The strategy would strive to achieve this goal by:
- developing plans to improve the provision of infrastructure and services for each alternative and sustainable transport mode, to levels comparable to world’s best practice (ie those found in European cities);
- integrating alternative and sustainable transport concerns into local government decisions and processes; and
- establishing a process to measure and review progress towards increasing the modal share of alternative and sustainable transport.
The GRAST Strategy would be overseen by a taskforce, which would establish a process and a timetable for the development of three separate but integrated plans:
- Walking Action Plan
- Cycling Action Plan
- Public Transport Action Plan.
Each plan would recognise the unique needs and contribution of each mode, and the three plans would stand together as an alternative and sustainable transport strategy. The strong links between modes would be recognised.
The GRAST Taskforce would consist of the following membership:
- a local State MP (to chair the Taskforce)
- one councillor each from the City of Greater Geelong, Surfcoast Shire, Golden Plains Shire and the Borough of Queenscliffe.
- Public Transport Users Association
- Cycling Geelong
The GRAST Taskforce would consult widely with the community and other stakeholders, including:
- youth groups and agencies (eg. BAYSA)
- disability agencies
- welfare organisations
- Council on the Ageing (COTA)
- environmental groups (eg. Geelong Environment Council)
- Barwon Regional Bicycle Council
- Barwon Health
- Geelong Otway Tourism
Consultative public meetings would also be held in some outer suburban areas and major towns, as well as in central Geelong.
During the course of the Strategy, practical issues will be discussed with bus and rail operators, local government officers as well as local VicRoads and Department of Infrastructure personnel.
Objectives of the Public Transport Action Plan
Given the appalling state of public transport in Geelong, we see the development of a Public Transport Action Plan as being a clear priority, and we recommend that work commence on this immediately.
As part of the GRAST Strategy, the objectives of the Public Transport Action Plan would be:
- to develop a first-rate local public transport network, integrated with the upgraded trains resulting from the Fast Rail Projects
- to achieve a fiscally responsible outcome
- to provide better value for public subsidies.
The Public Transport Action Plan would be directed by the GRAST Taskforce, and have:
- a mandate from State and local governments
- a budget of $50,000- $100,000 and a secretariat
- a 12 month time frame.
The Public Transport Action Plan would examine all aspects of existing and possible bus and rail (or tram) services, including routes, stops or stations, fares, ticketing, service frequency, hours of operation, information and promotion of services. The Plan would also take into account the broad directions proposed for public transport in the draft Geelong Transport Strategy.
In particular, the Public Transport Action Plan would:
- develop a detailed proposal for coordinated bus, rail and ferry services, including a prototype timetable and a costing of the proposed services.
- identify and assess the cost and feasibility of up to two major projects, such as installing a light rail (or tram) service and/or reopening a rail line
- document tourism opportunities resulting from new or upgraded services
- recommend urban planning strategies which support the use of sustainable forms of transport
- measure public transport patronage, calculate public transport’s modal share and make recommendations on annual measurement and reporting of these indicators.
Simple improvements such as timetable coordination, could proceed in the meantime.
The GRAST Taskforce would develop the Public Transport Action Plan via a four-stage process:
- Stage 1: broad consultation on needs (with help from local governments and/or consultants)
- Stage 2: the preparation and costing of a “best practice” proposal by internationally recognised experts in public transport planning, based on “best practice” in other comparably-sized cities
- Stage 3: consultation on the proposal
- Stage 4: presentation of a final concept plan, with financial analysis.