The City of Fremantle is facing backlash from the community about its decision to discontinue the iconic Fremantle CAT bus.
The latest uproar comes after the City encouraged people to take a survey on their use of the CAT bus, a free bus service operating in part of the portside city.
The survey has left many residents angry at the local government’s attempt to gather data on how the free bus fills the gaps in Fremantle’s transport services.
Fremantle Inner City Residents Association member Mary Rose Baker says they’re against the council’s decision to stop running the bus.
“We think there’s a lot of people who depend on it and it’s been a wonderful service.”Mary Rose Baker, Fremantle Inner City Residents Association
“It’s not something we think is good for Fremantle to lose it, we think there’s a lot of people who depend on it and it’s been a wonderful service,” she says.
The City of Fremantle uses general ratepayer’s funds to cover 60 per cent of its CAT bus costs.
The free bus service runs seven days a week leaving Fremantle Station every 20 minutes, operating on a loop through Fremantle towards South Beach.
The decision comes after the Public Transport Authority informed the City the cost to run the service would be increasing from $252,000 to $360,000.
The PTA runs several paid services either covering similar routes or operating parallel to the current CAT service.
Brynn Jones from the City of Fremantle Council says with the PTA replacement buses, the change shouldn’t make any difference.
“It’s being replaced by a standard bus so it really shouldn’t make any difference, and for most people they either have a Seniors Card or have just got off the train so they already have their ticket they can use,” he says.
“Also anyone with a disability, all these people won’t have to pay for transit anyway.”
Mr Jones says the frequency will be the same if not better, and the closure of the CAT bus has forced the PTA to improve their services through Fremantle.
“The standard public bus routes down South Terrace were very infrequent and poor and with the council paying for the CAT bus services for 21 years it just allowed the PTA not to invest in improving services,” he says.
“The only people that it would really affect would be tourists, and the whole transport system is not very well designed for tourists anyway when it comes to buying SmartRiders and using blank tickets, so there needs to work on that for tourists.”
Curtin University professor of sustainability Peter Newman says the whole point of Fremantle’s tourism industry is to provide as much as possible for people who don’t have cars.
“Tourists don’t have cars and Fremantle is the number one tourist destination in Perth and we don’t want to lose the CAT bus because it’s such an important link,” he says.
“Tourists like fixed route options, not these winding busses that go through the suburbs, and the CAT is such an important part of the Fremantle economy, these alternate busses will not work.”
Professor Newman, who previously worked on the Fremantle council and has been involved in transport planning in the city, says stopping the CAT bus will put more people back in cars and on the road.
“There are thousands of people using the CAT bus which means they aren’t using cars,” he says.
“The CAT bus gets people out of cars and cars are the main cause of pollution and traffic, and the bus itself is a minimal cause of pollution.”
Fremantle resident Nicola Bowyer says it’s a poor decision from a council that is meant to take sustainability into consideration.
“It’s a bad decision by a council that’s supposedly green, people using the CAT bus means less cars on the road and more parking in Freo,” she says.
The East Perth CAT bus and similar services are alternatively paid for through the Perth Parking Licensing Account which is levied from parking fees.
Dr Silvia Lozeva is running the user survey commissioned by the City of Fremantle.
She says the aim of the research was to give important and valuable data about who has used the bus and why over the years.
“Initially the research was commissioned so the findings could inform the reference group, which now no longer exists after the council’s announcement last Friday that the bus will no longer run,” she says.
“The research will now be used for historical data of how people used the bus and can be used in comparison with other data, and also is able to be presented to any other decisions made in regard to the CAT bus.”