Why don't more people take the bus in Ballarat to get around the city?
It's a chicken and egg question, a catch-22 - the network needs better services to more destinations to get more people on buses, but not enough people use the current network to justify a full review and more destinations.
The City of Ballarat and other community organisations have called for a bus network review for years, crying out that while the current network will get people to and from the Ballarat or Wendouree train station, people want to go to other places too.
If one lives in Mount Clear, for example, it's two buses to get to a popular destination like DTC, or Mars Stadium - there are no true cross-city bus routes yet.
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The last review took effect in 2017, but the city has vastly changed since then.
Other regional cities, like Sale and Horsham, have had their bus network reviewed in the past few years, but despite timetable changes to begin next month, the Department of Transport still hasn't committed to one for Ballarat.
For now, buses will still run in a hub-and-spoke system from the stations, synced up with the train timetable.
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Ellen Jackson lives in Ballarat North, and before the pandemic she would regularly take the bus to work - she still takes it now, but not as frequently.
For her, it's a convenience thing, as there are two routes that stop near her house, and they take her straight to the CBD or station, and her son Michael also takes a public bus to school.
But the system could definitely be improved, she said.
"I like the idea of fewer cars on the road, from a philosophical point of view, but it's mostly convenience" she said.
"I would do it far more regularly if we had enough services - I know not to even bother on the weekend, some lines don't even run on the weekend.
"One thing I've noticed is that we'd have a couple of buses that come together, the timetables exactly the same - you'd wait half an hour and get two in two minutes."
The Public Transport Users Association's Ballarat convenor Ben Lever, who has long called for a proper review of the network, said the new timetable update was needed, but "broadly speaking, these additional services have just been added on top of the existing ones - nothing fundamental has changed about the awkward route structures or the slow timetables," he said.
"The time is definitely ripe for a more comprehensive review of Ballarat's bus network - it's been in place nearly five years now, and the problems are clear," he told The Courier.
"We know that the route structures turn back on themselves with unnecessary zigzags, wasting driver resources and passengers' time; connecting routes on opposite sides of town could make for faster and more efficient paths through the CBD.
"We know that the timetables have excessive padding, requiring buses to sit idle at timing points waiting for the timetable to catch up; trimming these would result in faster journeys for passengers and free up resources.
"These kinds of reforms would not only be inexpensive, they could actually save the government money - while simultaneously improving the passenger experience, and attracting more people to use the buses.
"However with a growing city, there's also a real need to increase the investment in our buses.
"We know that the 30- and 60-minute frequencies of most routes are not fit for purpose, and do not line up with the 20- and 40-minute frequencies of the trains; if we want to take pressure off station car parks, as well as give people more flexibility for travel within Ballarat, upping those frequencies is essential.
"We also know that for buses to be usable for a wide range of trips, including connecting people to hospitality jobs in the evenings, our buses need to run later at night - the recent additions mean most services will finish around 8.30pm, which is better than it used to be but still much too early."
City of Ballarat mayor Daniel Moloney said changing the bus network had plenty of potential, and would ease pressures on traffic and parking in the long term.
"Our contention is that Public Transport Victoria should ideally try to keep within current budget, and use the existing resources better, maybe removing some lower-used routes and converting them into more meaningful destinations for people, on a more frequent basis," he said.
"It could even save money, but you don't know that until you spend the time doing the review.
"We're not asking for money to be thrown at the problem, we're asking for a review that involves local people, and understands travel data - there's a wealth of data that didn't exist in 2016.
"The public transport network will get more and more viable as it services more areas, because there are emerging areas that don't have any public transport yet.
"If you're time and price competitive, you'll get conversions, and that only happened in Melbourne because traffic got so horrible public transport got competitive - let's hope we don't make the same mistake."
Committee for Ballarat chief executive Michael Poulton said there is a bigger opportunity for Ballarat if one looks at the bigger picture.
"The evolution of the city has to be considered in relation to less cars, because you can't just keep growing and putting more cars on the road," he said.
"How do you grow a city that's less reliant on cars? We need to move community attitudes to adopt alternate forms of transport, and part of that is we have to have good transport options - you can't say 'take the bus' when it doesn't deliver the customer experience we know we need."
That doesn't mean getting rid of cars altogether, he added, just making sure there's an option.
"In 12 months, we can have a redesigned network that can meet the needs of the people that use it, but we also have to look at the design of our city - footpaths, bike paths, all the things that lead to more active transport and less reliance on motor cars," he said.
"The urbanised city is not just one with streets and car parks, but encourages and enhances active transport, and that's what good urban design looks like."
In the meantime, he said Ballarat representatives should make a serious planning proposal to submit to the Department of Transport.
"I think if we're in a position to conduct our own review and advise the Department, then that would be a better outcome and provide a solution we can move to in a more timely fashion that meets the needs of our community," he said.
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"The current arrangement we have for our bus network doesn't seem to serve our community as well as it could, and our community will have input into how the bus network should service it, which would give great insights to the Department."
The state government's new timetable will come into effect from December 19, when the new local bus interchange at the station officially opens.
In response to questions from The Courier, Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll said in a statement the new timetable will provide more services and extended hours, but could not confirm a full review was on the way.
"These changes will give passengers more options to get where they're going making it easier to get to school, work and other appointments," he said.
"We continually monitor our regional bus networks to ensure we're delivering the best possible service for passengers."
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