CANDIDATES standing in this month’s Greater Bendigo council elections have highlighted the struggle the city’s rapid growth will have on its roads and public transport system.
At a Bendigo IPTv candidate’s forum this week, councillors spoke of the significant challenge in sorting out Bendigo’s traffic woes.
Council was forced to abandon a VicRoads plan for a ring road through the city’s south western fringe earlier this year after a string community campaign.
On top of this, the Bendigo Weekly revealed in May a Public Transport Victoria survey had found more than half the city’s bus users did not have, or couldn’t afford to run, a car.
That meant only half of the bus users were making a choice to use public transport, and almost no passengers took the bus to work.
Lockwood Ward candidate Karel Zegers said it was impossible to end Australians’ love affair with driving their cars.
“I don’t think we will ever get a commercially viable public transport system,” he said.
“(There is) no hope in foreseeable future to make it viable in the Bendigo area.”
Councillor Bruce Phillips said public transport in Bendigo was not affordable or useable.
“It is going to be a long time before we can convince people to leave their cars at home,”
Councillor Peter Cox agreed.
“At the moment we have a public transport system for people on social service,” he said.
“We need to have a public transport system for everybody.”
Lockwood Ward candidate Elise Chapman said she did not know how to fix the problem, and councillor Barry Lyons said traffic in the south of the city was already at congestion point.
“The public transport system isn’t too bad but it is not being used,” he said.
“I don’t know how you change the culture of the people.”
However, Lockwood Ward candidate Karen Corr said the issue presented Bendigo with an opportunity.
She said Bendigo was in a position to be able to build a sustainable transport strategy from scratch.
“It is the most exciting opportunity we have as a city,” she said.
“We need better bus service ... (and) we also need the biggest engagement strategy we have ever seen in this city.”