Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Empire Building

City Council propose free tourist bus service to support fleeting Museum attendance. Residents' needs left wanting

City of Melbourne will today decide what appears to be a given with the proposed establishment of a free Tourist bus service. The Council is being asked to fund a 40 seat bus shuttle service between Southbank/Crown Casino and Carlton.

The City of Melbourne have already spent/allocated $500,000.00 and plans to provide a further $750,000.00 ratepayer subsidy at the average cost of $85.00 per trip. (four trips per hour 6 hours a day 365 days a year)

Problems exist in that the free-shuttle service has a limited route and directly undercuts private tour operators who already service this sector and have invested a considerable amount of money in their business. Other cities around the world provide similar services but most are subsidised by the commercial sector. Establishments such as Crown Casino stand to benefit from such a service. The Museum, which was poorly located on the outskirts of the City (An issue that was identified when Jeff Kennett ignored community and professional advice and shifted the location of the Museum from Southbank to Carlton), are hopeful the free tourist service will revive its patronage - which is well below expectations. The proposed route is already serviced by the tram network although it is not direct and not free.

Insufficient information has been provided by the City Council as to the assessment of alternative proposals and we wonder if they were given due weight and consideration.

The City administration report recommending the establishment of the free bus service lists dubious statistical information based on the number of responses they received for and against the proposed project. On what basis the Council can give weight to the numeric analysis of the number of submission and respondents is beyond me, other then it gives an impression that the service has wide support and is worthwhile and viable, but is it?. Reliance on the statistical information of submissions would be foolish and adds little to the merits of the project. Issues of economics, viability and assessment of alternatives outweigh the self interests statistics of those who made a submission.

The City Council is not a good or efficient provider of services. In most cases they are empire building, expanding the management job market within the Council.

Let's not forget the proposal, supported by former Councillor Kate Redwood, to establish mobility support/hire services for the disabled. The Redwood proposal was 3-4 times the cost of providing a similar service utilising infrastructure and services provided by existing community organisations such as Travellers Aid. Council should have considered more the submission made by former Lord Mayor Trevor Huggard. The council could have approached the Car Hire companies based in the City to asked for their support and assistance in providing this service to the public. Chances are hire companies would have offered their services free of charge as good corporate citizens, after all the provision electric wheel chairs is complementary the service they already provide. where they consulted?

The City Council should think twice before establishing a free tourist bus service.

Prediction: We expect that Council will soon find it need to put in significantly more funds and additional managerial services to oversee the provision of this service. The size of the buses will need to be reviewed with consideration given to the use of smaller buses that are better suited to manoeuvring though city traffic less city congestion. Operators will soon ask for more money. The proposed service in two to three years time will be closed down as it will be found to be economically unviable. The true cost of the project will not be disclosed as hidden costs will be allocated to other budgets and areas of expenditure. More money and limited resources wasted on ill-considered ideas designed to keep management busy.

Further consideration needs to be given, in preference to the proposed tourist shuttle, to the establishment of a mini-bus service linking East Melbourne, Carlton, Parkville and North Melbourne complementing and adding to the existing public transport connections currently available. This service could be run by private operators with a nominal fee per trip. It would significantly benefit residents of the East Melbourne, Carlton, Parkville and North Melbourne who currently have no access to cheap efficient public transport linking these areas, other then having to travel into the city centre and out again. Parkville in particular has limited public transport options available providing access to Carlton and North Melbourne shopping precincts.

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