3 PART SERIES: Workforce

By: Randall Johnston

It’s easy to get lost in the detail and forget what the bus actually does for people

3 PART SERIES: Workforce
Bendigo is one of the fastest growing areas in regional Victoria

Randall Johnston explores the theme of how bus operators assist us in each stage of our lives, in the second of a two part series

The regional Victorian city of Bendigo is a place on the move.

At just an hour and a half commute from Melbourne, unlike other parts of regional Victoria the 150,000 population is growing rapidly and so are its new housing areas.

Rather than just allow it grow in whichever way it would and deal with infrastructure problems later, the Greater Bendigo City Council has adopted a bold new strategy that seeks to encourage people to live closer to the action where bus stops are within reach, and for more workers and the wider community to use public transport more often.

The Integrated Transport and Land Use Strategy (ITLUS) has seen council engage with major employers to find ways and incentives for their staff to be less reliant on private transport, since its adoption in September last year.

One possible incentive for employers to team up with local bus operators is the possibility of having existing minimum carpark provisions waived for employers who can show a real commitment to what has come to be known as the ‘One in Five’ initiative.

One in Five is a state-wide marketing initiative that aims to install long term shift from private transport to active or public transport.

Potential incentives aside, it is hoped that the healthy alternative of walking, cycling or catching the bus will be motivation enough for people who live or work in the Bendigo area – especially if their employers are encouraging them to do so.

Bus Association Victoria (BusVic) executive director Chris Lowe is pleased the Bendigo council has adopted such a pro-active approach to promoting public transport and says those attending this year’s BusVic show can look forward to a full presentation and launch of the state-wide initiative.

This involves a partnership between the Victorian Government, the bus industry, employers and schools to encourage employees and students to take active or public transport to school or work, one day a week. 

At this stage, state government partners include VicRoads and Public Transport Victoria (PTV), industry partners include BusVic, Bicycle Network Victoria, VicHealth and Victoria Walks and employers will be represented by Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI).

A dedicated website will be created that will allow employer groups to sign up to the initiative for free and include instructions on how to promote the concept and help them get their staff on-board.

Whitmores Bus Lines owner Jamie Whitmore says it’s great to see the council so activity engaged and he has faith the major local employers like Bendigo Bank will embrace the idea.

"We’ve been working with the Bendigo Bank already," he says.

"We drove their staff around the bus run last year, just to familiarise them with the services and we will be going back to them to promote it.

"They have 1700 workers at Bendigo bank, but only 250 car parks, so it makes sense for the majority to bus in."

As a key local operator, Whitmore has been instrumental in getting the initiative off the ground along Christian’s Bus Company, which operates the majority of services.

"Were a smaller newer company were able to embrace these ideas," Whitmore says.

"We believe we’ve got a real chance of accomplishing this one in five ideology."

Whitmore has met with smaller employers too, who may stand to benefit from using local bus services rather than private transport.

"We’ve had an initial meeting with a childcare centre.

"Even if we can save one family from buying a car, that will help ease the financial pressure on them.

"I just think it put down a fantastic foundation for trying to fix the issue, before we have these growth problems."

City of Greater Bendigo strategy manager Professor Trevor Budge agrees, saying he’s proud to be working for a council that is willing to promote initiatives that will benefit the community in the long term, rather than simply building more roads.

"Through ITLUS we have tapped into community attitudes by developing a strategy that encourages a compact Bendigo with most of our daily destinations within 10 minutes of where we live," he says.

"ITLUS demonstrates how a small increase in walking or cycling to work, school or using public transport is a practical way to incorporate daily healthy activity into busy lives."

The ITLUS was formally launched by the Victorian minister for transport and employment Jacinta Allan in October last year and more announcements will be made on the topic as employer engagement progresses later this year.

If successful, the One in Five initiative is also likely to be rolled out to other states.

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