Responsive Transport can reconnect Bass Coast – physically and socially
Transport is the second biggest carbon polluter in Victoria, responsible for 25% of greenhouse gases. Costs are also rocketing. Nationwide, we spend an average of $379.90 a week on transport, according to the AAA’s Transport Affordability Index - 15.2% of the average income. This includes over $100 on fuel. Securing alternatives to fossil-fuel powered transport is urgent.
At Bass Coast we’re also warmly welcoming back hundreds of thousands of tourists. But, while we’re highly grateful that Aussies continue to holiday at home, visitor traffic surges put further pressure on our roads and exacerbating congestion in our town centres. Our limited public transport system is unfit also – re-enforcing disadvantage, social isolation and reducing accessibility.
Yet, Council is passionately advocating for and driving change. Together with partners, the Department of Transport and Destination Phillip Island, we have undertaken a study into an innovative Demand Responsive Transport network – starting with Phillip Island and San Remo.
What is Demand Responsive Transport?
No fixed routes, no timetables. Instead on-demand public transport operates when requested. Like an Uber for mini-buses, users hail the service via a smartphone app or at bus stops, then routing algorithms calculate the most efficient pick-ups and drop-offs.
Agile, more direct, and often door-to-door, the on-demand experience improves mobility and increases tourist participation. It also speeds up decarbonisation by replacing private car journeys while linking users to existing networks.
Our plan for a three-year pilot would see responsive buses operate across Phillip Island and San Remo 7 days a week, until 11pm during peak periods and 9pm off peak. Fully integrated with existing public transport services, it will also allow longer journeys into the broader region.
All round winner
On-demand transport benefits community, commuters, visitors and business. It’s faster, more convenient, and customisable to tourism peaks. Social disadvantage will be reduced by enhancing options for those who do not drive - increasing access to employment, medical services, shopping and socialising.
The economy will also benefit. Up to 49 additional commuters and 85 additional trips would be attracted into town a day. It will unlock workforce cohorts that are disadvantaged by our current transport system, which is over-reliant on the use of private vehicles.
Towards Net Zero
It’s also non-polluting. With a fully electric fleet, our current plan avoids up to 372 tonnes of carbon emissions compared to diesel buses. Fuel will also cost 80% less. Locals also really want EV buses, to embody our strong culture of sustainability. Trialling on-demand EV buses in regional Victoria will be a first too.
The number of vehicles on the road will also be drastically reduced: up to 223 trips a day are expected during peak periods, 178 off-peak. This is just the start. If the Phillip Island and San Remo pilot is a success, we’ll seek to roll the program out Bass Coast wide.
The benefits of on-demand transport are exponential. Yet council can’t do this alone. We’re thankful to the Victorian Government for $50,000 of funding towards the pilot’s Service Design and Implementation Plan. But to viably implement this robust proposal we need much further financial assistance.
Annual operating costs are estimated at $1million. Electric buses will total $1.6 million. With an inclusive 50% operating cost contingency, the three-year trial is anticipated to cost $6.25 million. While this seems high, the positive impacts to local business, community inclusion and our environment are priceless. State investment in the service today, will be multiplied many times over.
A proven success
The concept is already working state-wide. FlexiRide currently runs in Croydon, Lilydale, Melton South, Mooroolbark, Rosebud, Rowville, Tarneit North and Woodend. The low fare, cashless service operates only when passengers book via a smartphone app or their nearest bus stop, between designated hubs in the same service area. It makes sense for Bass Coast to join this revolution.
Tourism to thrive
Tourism will be our biggest winner. With 1.2 million day-trippers and 832,000 overnight guests (who stay 3.4 nights) visiting Phillip Island in 2021 alone, on-demand public transport is a convenient, easy solution. Particularly for overnight visitors - completely unserved by current public transport – the service is an obvious opportunity. Destination Phillip Island have been a fantastic support driving this initiative, from the first study continued with further backing for the implementation plan.
“We have been excited that the project for responsive transport has continued since Destination Phillip Island sponsored the first report with Department of Transport and Bass Coast Shire Council,” said Kim Storey, General Manager, Destination Phillip Island.
“We know that the opportunity to visit a destination and not use your vehicle, or arrive on public transport, is an option that many visitors would like to have. The investment in this project would be of great benefit to our region.” Kim Storey General Manager Destination Phillip Island.”
Conservative estimates predict tourists will make almost 100 trips a day on the service. Reality will likely far exceed this, especially given the area’s vibrant night life plus Penguin Parade. Freed from the need to drive, tourists can go out and spend much more locally.
From plan to action
Now the pilot plan is done, next steps are to review then establish evaluation parameters. But firstly, and most importantly, we must secure funding. This election I urge all parties to commit to this exciting project so we can step forward – to reduce our car reliance problem and reconnect Bass Coast.