Noosa Council is considering winding back its free bus service over the Christmas break.
Noosa Council is considering winding back its free bus service over the Christmas break.

Noosa could go cold turkey on free holiday buses

A congestion-busting traffic strategy may have to be renamed No Go Noosa if councillors follow the advice of their traffic experts and start charging on five of the seven normally free bus routes over the Christmas holidays.

Noosa Council’s Go Noosa program, which has a scrub turkey as its symbol, may be set to have its feathers plucked by COVID-19.

The special council-funded Peregian Beach shuttle over the six-week Christmas break could also be cancelled.

The council’s peak traffic innovation officers Adam Britton and Joanna Ferris are recommending just the route 065 loop bus servicing Weyba Rd, Noosa Pde, Hastings St and Noosa Dr be the only free option.

They are anticipating a 75 to 80 per cent drop off in the usual free bus surge due to people’s fears of using public transport during the pandemic.

The existing TransLink bus service would still operate, but would be a user pays service starting from $2.70 with children travelling with a Child Go Card riding free on weekends.

The changes would improve the Go Noosa budget by more than $310,000, with only $274,000 to be used from the council’s sustainable transport levy.

Go Noosa, but possibly not so free as can be at Christmas.
Go Noosa, but possibly not so free as can be at Christmas.

Councillors in the October rounds of meetings will be asked to approve the promotion of the private Noosa Ferry in Go Noosa marketing as an alternative mode of travel and the trial installation of a two-minute drop and go area.

The report said the free buses handled 245,096 passenger trips across five routes including the Peregian shuttle bus during last year’s Christmas break.

That equated to a daily average of 5835 passengers and handled about 30 per cent of visitors to the Hastings St area.

The passenger numbers had built by 20 per cent on the Christmas before and was a 40 per cent increase from 2017/2018.

Noosa's famed Loop bus may be the only free wheels.
Noosa's famed Loop bus may be the only free wheels.

“Free Noosa buses were seen as the key success of all initiatives,” the report said.

“However, due to increasing public anxiety regarding public transport with reports of cases being spread on public buses and confusion regarding the use of face masks, it is anticipated that there may be a significant change in willingness to use the free buses.

“In addition to public concerns, the application of safe social distancing requirements on buses suggests bus capacity may reduce by 75-80 per cent.”