OPINION: Gladstone bus services need change
PETROL prices in regional Queensland have spiked to all-time highs.
People like myself are thinking of alternative ways of getting to work or around town just to save extra dollars.
Coming from Brisbane, I'm used to frequent public transport and a variety of ways to get across the city. While I did not expect Brisbane-levels of public transport for a regional town like Gladstone, it was reassuring to see a local bus service for the city.
However, studying the available routes, I realised the local bus service needs a complete redesign.
Compared to neighbouring cities such as Rockhampton and Bundaberg, Gladstone only has two bus routes going directly to the CBD. The majority of bus routes go to Stockland Gladstone.
While I understand Stockland is the major shopping centre for the region, and the inclusion of the shopping centre is vital for any bus route in the region, the CBD and other key locations across the city are just as important.
How about a bus service to East Shores? A regular service to the beautiful Tondoon Botanical Gardens? How about a service that links Calliope to the Gladstone CBD? We have many other locations in the region where a regular bus service would be beneficial.
In addition, there are no weekend services, bus routes start late in the day, services are infrequent (two-hour gaps between services), and routes finish at 5pm, which makes it inconvenient for those who work past the last service. How can anyone get around this town if the bus is hard to catch in the first place?
Boyne-Tannum services are not frequent, with most services essentially acting as school bus services between there and Gladstone. During the school holidays, Boyne-Tannum has three daily services to Gladstone, and even then, the route terminates at Stockland and goes nowhere near the CBD.
I decided to do some digging about how Gladstone's bus routes are designed and planned.
Gladstone's bus services fall under QConnect, which is the regional counterpart to TransLink, the major public transport brand for Queensland, and are the responsibility of the State Government.
According to a TransLink spokesperson, they consider factors such as passenger demand, customer feedback and population trends, when planning bus routes for the town.
"If the population in the region increases, there may be a greater need for public transport services and we will continue to work with service operators to deliver a fair distribution of services across Queensland," they said.
In terms of Calliope, a spokesperson said bus services to and from Gladstone were expensive and demand was inadequate to support a fully fledged service.
"It is not always possible to provide transport services to all areas of Queensland," they said.
TransLink said demand to travel to Stockland Gladstone was higher than demand to travel to the CBD.
Rockhampton and Bundaberg have bus routes that connect the suburbs to the CBD, something route planners need to consider when it comes to Gladstone.
Both cities also have adequate frequency between services, with some having a minimum hourly service. Why can't Gladstone? We have the population to support regular bus services.
Our state MP Glenn Butcher also shares the same concerns about Gladstone's local bus network, especially weekend services from Gladstone to Boyne-Tannum.
"I believe we would have many commuters from Gladstone who would welcome the opportunity to go to the beach on a weekend and also those from the Boyne-Tannum region coming to Gladstone for the day to the movies or other entertainment not available to them," Mr Butcher said.
"Families may also find it easier to connect, for instance grandparents or grandchildren may find the service useful to see family in either region for a day trip or overnight weekend stay."
Mr Butcher is scheduled to meet with Buslink Gladstone manager Jim O'Donnell next month.
The operations of Buslink have been taken over by Singaporean transport giant, ComfortDelGro. The company operates bus services in Sydney and Melbourne. They are very experienced operating an effective public transport network for any town, big or small.
Bus routes in Gladstone need to go to more key areas like the CBD and Boyne-Tannum, and not just the most obvious solution, which is to terminate services at Stockland.
I also think a central bus terminal at Goondoon St needs to be considered, to encourage more people to spend dollars in the CBD and not just Stockland Gladstone.
If we're going to strive to get more cars off the road, especially in this time of high petrol prices, the bus network needs to be an adequate replacement for cars.