“…This letter is to summarise and reiterate our views on the City’s Belmont park-and-ride proposal, and the location of inner city bus stops.
Regarding any park-and-ride scheme, we restate our strong view that the City must primarily be lobbying for improved public transport service quality closer to people’s homes, so that people have the option of leaving their cars at home altogether.
This would result in a far better outcome for the city centre, the wider environment and for social equity. Park-and-ride schemes require that people have a car and drive it to a car park. Driving to the car park adds to the volume of traffic on Geelong’s roads (albeit further from the city centre) and still results in almost the same amount of pollution from cold starts and only a slightly shorter drive in.
It must be recognised that park-and-ride schemes such as the one proposed by the City, are in fact ways of supplementing inner city car parking, not a means of improving public transport or achieving genuine mode shift. So park-and-ride must not be supported by funds originally earmarked for normal public transport.
Before implementation, both the desirability and viability of any park-and-ride scheme has to be assessed. At the very least, a survey of existing park and ride users in Eastern Park is required. It could ask passengers:
- Where they drove from to get to the park-and-ride facility;
- Whether they could have taken a bus all the way; and if so, the reason why they did not;
- Whether they are going to the city for work, shopping and/or another activity;
- What time they are likely to start and finish their activity, and whether they do it regularly;
Whether they are casual, part-, or full-time workers, pensioners or students;
- Whether they would be prepared to pay around $3.60 (or 1.80 concession- the equivalent of two bus fares) for all-day parking and all-day bus travel to use a facility.
Park-and-ride users must pay full fares on scheduled buses (at least beyond a short introductory free period), so that:
- there is less incentive for people to drive to the car park, rather than take the bus all the way; and that
- park-and-ride passengers pay their way, in fairness to other bus passengers who must pay to use the buses involved.
If the City does decide to implement a Belmont park-and-ride scheme, passengers could be allowed to buy tickets that allow them all-day car parking and bus travel, for the same price as a daily bus ticket.
The PTUA will not support any proposal which inconveniences existing passengers by diverting bus routes from High Street to Barwon Heads Road. This is because any public transport route should run as directly as possible; and the proposal would:
- Add an additional detour and extra time to the journey;
- Remove a well-used stop on the western side of High Street; and
- Drop passengers at an inferior location to access the K-Mart/Coles complex.
In summary, any worthwhile park-and-ride scheme should:
- Have its viability and desirability confirmed by a survey of existing park and ride users;
- Be introduced in the context of strategies and actions by the City to improve service quality throughout the urban area;
- Not be supported by funds earmarked for normal public transport, but recognised as the subsidy to car parking that it is;
- Replace rather than add to the total supply of car parking in the city;
- Be implemented along with upgrades to service frequency on the routes serving it (to reduce gaps for existing bus users, as well as park and ride users);
- Not divert buses from existing routes where this leads to detrimental outcomes;
- Not provide an incentive for people to drive, who could use public transport closer to their home (thus supporting the city’s other environmental goals);
- Make catching the bus simple for all bus users (including park and ride users), by having all services depart from regularly-spaced, conveniently-located stops in the city centre that are shared, or close to each other. “
Some time after this letter was sent to the relevant council officer, a park-and-ride scheme was recommended to Geelong council and approved. It included only a few of the suggestions made. This article (pdf) appeared later that week in the “Geelong Advertiser”.
Note: The scheme has been a conspicuous failure. The basic reason is that the regular bus services past the car park site under the James Harrison Bridge are not numerous or regular enough. As well, the two separate city bus stops from where drivers have to catch buses back to the car park are over a block apart.
This situation reaffirms the fact that Geelong’s bus system needs to be fundamentally improved along the lines recommended by the PTUA, and if that was done, there would be little or no need for supplementary park-and-ride schemes.