By Kath Gannaway
The lack of footpath links and poor bus frequency may be contributing to Yarra Ranges residents not making the most of existing bus services.
These factors, along with the need for improved bus services linking the shire’s urban areas with the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges townships, have been earmarked as crucial for the municipality to thrive socially and economically.
Yarra Ranges Council and The Eastern Transport Coalition are pushing for better public transport services, and with Victorian State Elections 18 months away, Cr Jim Child told the Mail it’s time for residents to think about what public transport services they need.
Footpaths are an issue, he said, with the RACV identifying Yarra Ranges as having the highest number of low-use bus stops with no footpaths -325 in 2016- out of 14 outer metropolitan municipalities.
Yarra Ranges also has one of the largest amounts of high use bus stops with no footpaths -19 in 2016.
An investment of $2.8m would be required to complete the missing links.
Cr Child pointed to Woori Yallock and Launching Place primary schools where footpath links have been put in and greatly increased the ability of children and parents to walk to those schools.
“We should be able to do that with bus stops as well,” he said.
Yarra Ranges Deputy Mayor Len Cox said investment was needed to meet the shortfall when it came to bus services, particularly access, frequency and hours of operation.
“Bus services should have regular frequencies that are easy for our community to understand and easy to access in terms of infrastructure,” he said.
Chandler Ward Cr Tony Stevenson said Yarra Ranges needed more buses to connect with Lilydale railway station and buses to connect people with key employment areas like Kilsyth.
The council is supporting specific bus service improvements as part of The Eastern Transport Coalition’s (ETC) Commuters Count campaign:
* Provision of additional evening services on weekdays and additional services on Sunday for Route 685 (Healesville – Chirnside Park)
* Realign routes 671 and 672 away from Billanook Way and Yarra Ridge Drive along Black Springs Road, Chirnside Park, due to restrictions associated with existing road widths that will prevent access by new larger standard buses.
* Provide bus services to the Kilsyth Industrial area;
* Realign route 676 to remove sections along Summit Road and Alexandra Road at Lilydale;
* Provision of early morning services and additional evening services on weekdays and extension of services on Sunday to East Warburton for Route 683 (Warburton – Chirnside Park);
* Provide direct/express services from Healesville, Yarra Glen and Warburton to Lilydale;
* Upgrade of all bus route services to meet Minimum Service Levels in terms of frequency and hours of operation. This can include aligning services to have a regular frequency of every 30 minutes to make it easier for the public to understand and
* New route between Seville/Wandin via Mount Evelyn via Clegg Road to service local residents and the Evelyn Ridge Retirement Village.
The council is advocating the State Government on infrastructure gaps, identifying the following areas:
* A lack of service coverage to and from connecting urban with outer non-urban areas;
* Insufficient frequency of services, particularly in the outer, non-urban areas and during off-peak periods;
* Lack of weekend and evening services;
* Poor bus to bus and bus to rail connectivity;
* Lack of cross municipality bus routes and
* Lack of pedestrian access to bus stops.
Making bus stops compliant with the Disability and Discrimination Act (DDA) is also an issue with more than half of the 800-plus bus stops for public bus routes in Yarra Ranges well below acceptable standards.
What can residents do to improve transport?
“When it comes to election time, people need to ask the question of the candidates … “What can you do for us in regards to public transport?”