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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thinking long term about local transport

DCSCA Committee members were among the local people who met Shadow Minister for Public Transport David Hodgett on 10 May at SpringDale Neighbourhood Centre.

Mr. Hodgett was interested in local opinion on a Bellarine Light Rail service; attendees favoured increased bus services, as they would be more flexible.

DCSCA Treasurer Doug Carson has suggested that a light rail service between Geelong and Drysdale would require huge amounts of infrastructure, including stations (with associated parking), rolling stock, drivers, auxiliary staff and perhaps a new tunnel between Kilgour Street and the Geelong Station.

At first sight, then, improving and extending the current bus network would be a simpler, cheaper and quicker way forward. However, before a final decision is taken, there needs to be research to discover:
·      potential routes for:
a) a Bellarine Light Rail system
b) an extended and improved bus network
·      likely patronage of the likely routes in 5, 20 and 50 years time
·      costs of establishing and running:
a) a Bellarine Light Rail system – probably in stages
b) an extended and improved bus network
·      potential funding sources for the construction and maintenance of:
a) a Bellarine Light Rail system
b) an extended and improved bus network.

Population drives policy
Population levels will determine the area’s transport needs, so any decisions about the area’s transport services must be set against the likely population of the Bellarine Peninsula and, indeed, Geelong as a whole in 5, 20 and 50 years time. Therefore, any plan for transport just on the Bellarine needs to be set in the context of a long-term plan for transport in the area as a whole.

DCSCA Committee member Neil McGuinness has suggested that such a long term transport plan should nor just expand the present transport network but also innovate, including such ideas as:
·      extending the Geelong Ring Road to the Bellarine
·      creating road, rail and ferry connections to Avalon Airport (should these be provided publicly, privately or in some combination?)
·      ferry services in Corio Bay and Port Phillip Bay
·      cycle paths - recreational and commuting
·      a road and rail connection between Queenscliff and Point Nepean.

Better transport for commuters or jobs closer to home?
Whatever the content of a long term transport plan for the area, its major aim shouldn’t be to improve commuting. Instead, it should aim to prevent ever-more people commuting out of the area by creating business and jobs for the expanding population of Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula.

The City of Greater Geelong has actively encouraged the creation of ever more housing estates, home to many thousands of residents, without ensuring that there are jobs to support them. The result is the creation of 'dormitory towns' as an increasing number of people on the Bellarine joining commuters from Geelong on the hours-long commuter trek to and from central Melbourne on roads that were never expected to carry the current levels of traffic.

CoGG's drive to expand the population of the Bellarine must be accompanied by plans to expand and diversify employment. As a rule of thumb, a new job should be created for each house built. That would at least start to match economic growth with population growth; and transport needs would be for easy, fast connections within the Geelong and Bellarine area, as well as between this area and Melbourne.

Earlier articles on this blog have discussed a Bellarine Light Rail service. Search for these dates:
8 October 2011; 13 December 2011; 10 May 2013.

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