IN TERMS of bums on seats, the Venus Bay Summer Beach Bus service introduced last summer was hardly a roaring success.
As the manager of the Venus Bay Community Centre, Alyson Skinner, outlined to South Gippsland Shire Council in a public presentation last Wednesday, the service averaged just over one passenger per run. At a cost of over $10,000, it was an expensive exercise.
The bus service was a joint project between South Gippsland Shire Council, the Gardiner Foundation’s Lower Tarwin Valley Project, Parks Victoria and the Men’s Shed, Venus Bay.
It was introduced in an attempt to address the problem of the huge number of people flocking to Venus Bay’s beaches. When the recreational pipi harvesters turn up, there can be several thousand people all jostling for beach access during the summer. This creates traffic snarls and parking difficulties and jeopardises emergency vehicle access to what can be a very dangerous beach.
Harleys Bus Lines of Korumburra won the tender for a service to operate for 15 days in total – between Christmas and New Year and then through weekends in January. Funding of $8000 from the Gardiner Foundation/Lower Tarwin Valley Project, $1000 from Parks Victoria, $1000 from Cr Kieran Kennedy’s discretionary funds and $1000 from the Beach and Riverside Business Association was provided.
According to the mission statement, the project had several aims: to provide a means for those without transport to access the beach and local shops; to encourage the use of Beach 1, which is patrolled by surf life savers; to foster community spirit; and to strengthen the bond between the Venus Bay and Tarwin Lower townships.
By the end of the season, the 25-seater bus had carried just 220 passengers on 180 runs, averaging 14.6 passengers per day.
Ms Skinner, however, insisted that there were mitigating circumstances, such as few people knowing about the bus at first. “It can be difficult to break the habit of driving,” she added.
She said that the overall public reaction to the project was positive and there was encouragement to run the project next summer.
There have been suggestions that the bus should operate as a ‘true’ shuttle service, operating continuously throughout the day. Perhaps a smaller bus manned by volunteer drivers should be used, and the service could operate every day for a minimum of two weeks from Boxing Day. Another recommendation is that a reduced route and a more easily remembered timetable would improve patronage.
“I feel certain we should try it again,” she said, and the mayor, Cr Kennedy, a long-time resident of Venus Bay, agreed.
Cr Mohya Davies pointed out that in Wilsons Promontory National Park the shuttle bus up Mt Oberon, introduced to take the place of private cars during the peak summer season, had taken some getting used to but was now a recognised means of accessing the mountain.