Today, Rod Barton MP the Member for Eastern Metropolitan and the Leader of the Transport Matters Party, presented a motion into the Victorian Upper House for inquiry to explore how school buses can be utilised to improve public transport networks in regional Victoria.
It is vital that we address the transport disadvantage experienced throughout regional and rural Victoria. Rod Barton MP believes that regional Victoria deserves to be better connected and have more frequent and reliable public transport networks. To do this, we must create a solution that can be cost-effective, flexible and place-based to best meet the needs of local communities. The school bus could be this solution.
The regional Victorian School Bus Program consists of 1450 contracted school buses. When these buses are not driving 65,000 or so students to school, they often sit idle. Moreover, on many buses, there also exist spare seats that could be used to help the wider public get from rural areas to larger towns and regional centres. The School Bus Program is a state-funded resource that is largely under-utilised. The irony is that these spare assets exist alongside severe transport disadvantage.
With a lack of alternative transport options, there is a dependency on cars to get around. This disadvantages youth who are dependent on lifts, low-income earners that struggle with the financial burden of running a car and senior citizens who require flexible transport arrangements.
The School Bus Program could alleviate this disadvantage by allowing members of the wider public to access spare seats on the bus and by using school buses throughout the day to provide bus services to shopping precincts, healthcare centres, educational institutions and train stations.
Improving the transport options in rural and regional Victoria could improve education and employment opportunities for youths, create more connected communities, mitigate transport disadvantage and create a more equitable society.
Rod Barton believes that we have an obligation to explore how existing state-funded assets can be more efficiently utilised and, in this case, improve the mobility of regional Victorians.
As noted by Member for Eastern Metropolitan and the Leader of the Transport Matters Party Rod Barton MP:
“We need to listen to regional communities, understand their priorities and create innovative transport solutions that can be adapted to them. This inquiry is intended to do just that.”