Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dude, Where did my Bus Go?

The Ministry of Transport and Holroyd Council and local residents are in fierce negotiations over keeping local bus services in the recent Bus Network Reviews in Contract Region 3. These reviews, a recommendation of the Unsworth Review (2004) have been changing bus routes over Western Sydney. Some bus routes will be axed, some will remain the same and have most will have increased frequency, although people will have to walk further to their bus stop. Some members of the community are outraged that their only means of getting to their destination will be changed and not replaced, leaving them no alternative.

The Mayor of Holroyd Council, Cr Cummings believes that "The proposed changes aren't in the best interests of our community and will leave Holroyd residents stranded, waiting for a bus".

As was reported in the local Parramatta Advertiser, on January 20 "Holroyd Residents Say No to Parramatta", residents, particularly the elderly and less mobile living in the flower streets of Greystanes will miss out on a regualr bus service. These streets include Alpha Street, Dahlia Street and Gardenia St in Greystanes. Other areas affected are Hampden, Irrigation, Chelmsford, Centenary and Richmond Rd's in South Wentworthville nd Bristol and Paton Streets in Merrylands.

Jessica Lines, Community Liasion Officer at the NSW Ministry of Transport Bus Consultation, said at several public forums around Western Sydney stated "this review is increasing the effectiveness and viability of the bus network and more people are catching the bus than previously, most people are better off."

Western Sydney Community Forum supports the work of the Bus Network Review but believes that the process could be improved by increasing the time available to consult with the community. Letter box drops need to be monitored as many people did not received the proposed network map in their mail - it gets mixed up with the junk mail. There seems to be two main problems with the Network Review process; firstly the consultation process and secondly the effects of route changes on people living with mobility problems, like older people, parents with little children and people with disabilities.

Paul Falzon, WSCF Transport Development Worker, believes that "the network review is an opportunity to review a community's bus transport needs, but there needs to be a principle that if a route is taken away or modified, that marginalised people who rely on the service will not be worse off. This is not the case at present. Care must be taken that older and less mobile people are not made transport disadvantaged by the review, due to lack of ability to walk the 400 metres or due to difficult geography such as steep hills or natural barriers, such as road overpasses."

Hugh Worrall, Transport Development Worker at Western Sydney Community Forum, believes that "it is people who have mobility problems who seem to be most ill-effected by the changing of the bus routes. The planning guidelines ask transport providers to make sure that a bus route comes within 400 metres of most addresses in suburban Sydney. Community Transport are funded to support people who qualify for the Home and Community Care program - and these folks can usually only walk about 50 metres. This means that the people who can walk more than 50 metres but less than 400 metres find themselves in a gap - and that's a surprising number of active older people. If these people have set themselves up knowing they are close to a bus route, and that bus route is moved, they can be stranded and feel abandoned".

The final consultation was extended from the 18th of January to February 6th, at the request of local Member and Minister for Housing David Borger.

The next Bus Consultation Forum will be at Holroyd Centre on 4th February at 7pm RSVP to Di Tulloch at Holroyd Council on 9840 9840.