29 August 2004
The recent brouhaha about the Ryrie Street bus stops (Geelong Advertiser 28/8/04) should be a call to action for our councillors and state government politicians.
By all means, move one of the bus stops back to the other side of the intersection if it’s workable. And provide some public seating for waiting bus travellers. But it won’t change the fact that bus stops are seen as a “cross to bear” by local traders. The City’s strategy of “dispersing” the bus stops around the city centre (to the detriment of bus travellers) is just masking the problem.
The traders may well be prejudiced against bus users, but there’s at least some truth in their concerns. Traders should and would be welcoming bus stops if they brought large numbers of cashed-up people past their shops.
But the fact is bus services are so poor that they’re little more than a last resort for people who can’t drive. For example, the average punter just won’t wait an hour between buses to go shopping on busy Saturday mornings. As a result, most people using the buses are pensioners or students, who generally don’t have the spending power needed to sustain many businesses.
So why isn’t the City out there lobbying the state government for better bus services, if only as a key plank in its CAA revitalisation strategy? Or has its strident lobbying for the western ring road worn it out?
Geelong Branch Convenor
It is certainly sad to see the present neglected state of the former
Bright’s building in Moorabool Street. A coat of paint will brighten it,
but it will also be symbolic of treating the symptoms rather than the
disease. The city centre is languishing because trade is being drawn away
by developments on the outskirts.
In the last fortnight we have seen the unveiling of plans for another
large retail complex on the fringes of Geelong, opposite Beckley Park.
Recently Bunnings opened a huge development at Waurn Ponds. Similar
complexes are slated for Leopold and at Fords in North Geelong.
What has happened to planning? Rather than promoting existing retail
centres, such as the City Centre or Corio Village, the city council seems
to be happily approving a plethora of scattered “big box” developments.
Shops needing some access by car are nothing new. Electrical goods,
furniture and home appliances have been sold out of Moorabool Street for
years without acres of car parking at the front door. However, the new big
box developments are designed on the assumption that customers will only
come by car, even if they are buying items that are small enough to carry,
or so big that they must be home-delivered. The resulting highway strips
are far from existing public transport hubs at retail centres, and are no
places for pedestrians or cyclists.
If we want to do more than paint over the city centre’s problems, we must
redirect new development into our existing centres, and support this
policy by improving public transport services. Cities with high rates of
walking, cycling and public transport use also have flourishing city
centres. But if Geelong takes for granted an almost total reliance on
cars, it is certain that our central city will continue to deteriorate.
Geelong Branch Secretary