Car ownership spikes, public transport blamed

Car ownership has risen considerably in Bendigo over the past five years, highlighting the need for improved public transport networks, a council manager says, arguing the municipality had “relatively poor” current provisions.

The number of households owning three or more cars has jumped 14.2 per cent since 2011, Australia Bureau of Statistics data shows, while multiple-car homes spiked 33.9 per cent over the same period. 

Single car homes rose 40 per cent, which was marginally higher than Victorian (34.2 per cent) and Australian (34.8 per cent) averages from 2011-2016. 

City of Greater Bendigo strategy manager Trevor Budge said the data highlighted the need to strengthen local public transport networks.

“We have a situation where we have relatively poor public transport. We don't have enough locations served by public transport,” he said.

“If you live out of town and have to start work at 7.30am how are you going to get to work unless you’ve got a car?”

Across Bendigo’s 14 public bus routes, just four – Kangaroo Flat, La Trobe University, La Trobe University via Strathdale and Eaglehawk via Eaglehawk road – offer half-hourly peak services into the city. 

The remainder are between 40 and 50 minute services, while routes from Golden Square and Spring Gully have hourly peak offerings.

The current bus routes across Bendigo.

The current bus routes across Bendigo.

More remote areas like Axedale and Junortoun have no designated service, despite the latter being told by the state government it would be consulted on the idea of a bus route at the start of 2016, when a number of extra routes were rolled out across Bendigo by the state government. 

Since then, Junortoun has heard nothing, according to Kevin de Vries, secretary of the Junortoun Community Action Group. 

“It is an ongoing source of frustration, residents have one choice in the morning and once choice in the evening (via the Bendigo-Heathcote service),” he said. 

“We’d like to see some action.”

Councillor Yvonne Wrigglesworth, an advocate for connectivity for the rural areas within the municipality, described current bus routes as the “chicken and egg scenario”.

“Everyone would like a service to leave every 10-15 mins but if there’s not people queuing up there’s no point. We need to find the sweet spot,” she said.

Less traditional transport models, like SMS messaging for bus services, were worth exploring in the future, according to Cr Wrigglesworth.

Ten minute peak and 20 minute off-peak services for primary routes within the city have been identified as part of the council’s Integrated Transport and Land Use Strategy (ITLUS), which also aims for 20 and 30 minute peak and off-peak respective services for other routes.

A spokesperson for the Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said: “A new bus network was introduced for Bendigo last year to deliver more frequent, coordinated and direct services to more places in Bendigo and surrounding areas.” 

“Buses run every 30-60 minutes on most routes, with a more frequent service between Bendigo and Eaglehawk town centre every 15 minutes on weekdays.” 

Public Transport Victoria reviews bus networks after they are implemented to determine whether buses meet current and future demand and what further improvements can be made to bus services to ensure buses are taking people where they want to go. 

The Bendigo bus network is currently being reviewed by PTV and it will continue to investigate options to improve services and consider local transport solutions as well as continue to work with council and the local community.