by Cam Lucadou-Wells
Mulgrave by-election candidates have been hitching themselves onto a pro-commuter campaign for seven-day bus services.
The Public Transport Users Association – along with a Fix 800 Bus website – has been calling for candidates to pledge to upgrade timetables on bus routes 800, 802, 804, 814 and 885.
With no upgrade for 30 years, services that link Chadstone, Monash University, Dandenong, Glen Waverley and Waverley Gardens are too infrequent, with no services on Sundays, the PTUA argues.
“Limited bus services increase the cost of living, lessens access to jobs and cements car reliance at a time when many Mulgrave people are struggling with the cost of living,” says PTUA president Tony Morton.
As of 10 November, Courtney Mann (Liberal), Rhonda Garad (Greens), Ian Cook (independent), Celeste Ackerly (Sustainable Australia Victoria), Ethelyn King (Libertarian) and Bronwyn Currie (Animal Justice Party) had backed the campaign.
“The problems with the bus schedule currently means some people are relying on Ubers because the bus service doesn’t run early or late enough, or often enough on weekends,” Currie posted on social media.
“Cost of living pressures are high enough without folks like casual workers or those needing access to services spending money on share rides due to inefficient public transport.”
Garad from the Greens argued that public transport reduced living costs, and that the current timetables didn’t meet demand.
Liberal candidate Mann said Labor had “neglected” public transport across Mulgrave.
“Because of Labor’s neglect, thousands of Mulgrave residents don’t have a nearby public transport option when they need it.
“We deserve an acceptable basic standard of public transport in Mulgrave.”
According to the PTUA, timetables weren’t keeping pace with changing travel patterns, with more commuters working late shifts and seeking off-peak trips.
Some of the routes were blighted by up to two-hour wait times and finishing at 3.30pm on Saturdays.
Dr Morton said seven-day services could be provided by “merely work(ing) the existing bus fleet harder”.
“Buses should be on the roads seven days getting people where they need to be, not locked up in depots”, he said.
Meanwhile, the Fix 800 Bus website says the route 800 bus route linking Dandenong and Chadstone via Princes Highway is Melbourne’s busiest without a seven-day service.
Under a six-point plan to improve six Mulgrave routes, it calls for services every 20 minutes up to at least 9pm.
Route 800 hasn’t had a timetable upgrade in 30 years and could be boosted for less than $2 million with the existing bus fleet, the website claims.