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Success as town's 'free bus trial' cut traffic. The question is will the service be extended?

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A trial to help ease traffic congestion in a busy holiday town could be extended thanks to overwhelming patronage for the program.

In February this year a 12-month trial of free busses on weekends, including long weekends, began as an extension of the Go Noosa Free Buses program that operates during the Christmas and Easter school holidays.

Based on support and customer feedback, the Free Weekend Buses trial has successfully encouraged residents, staff and visitors to use public transport to travel around the Noosa Shire.

It has been a positive congestion buster, particularly around high traffic areas of Noosa Parade and Noosa Drive, which feed into Hastings Street.

Between February and September 2022, 108,338 people used the free weekend buses.

The free buses service routes including Tewantin to Sunrise and Sunshine beaches, Parklands to Noosa Junction, Tewantin to Noosa Junction and Noosa to Cooran.

Noosa Council will now propose to fund, from the Sustainable Transport Levy, a further 12-months of free weekend buses at its next Services & Organisation Committee Agenda on December 6.

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The recommendation is that the council note a report by the Project Officer and, that, subject to Translink agreement, approve the continuation of free weekend bus services on routes 626, 627, 628, 629 and 632 between February 13, 2023 and February, 13 2024.

It will also recommend that the council continue negotiations with Translink to allow other routes that enter and depart the Noosa Shire to be included.

“Council entered into an agreement with Translink with the 12-month trial commencing on 12 February 2022 at a cost of $174,982,” the report read.

“The purpose of the trial was to encourage residents, visitors, and workers to use public transport during peak weekend periods, as well as encouraging public transport use back to pre-COVID levels.

“There has been an increase in weekend bus patronage in 2022 compared to 2021 for every month of the trial except February 2022, which was during a COVID wave in Queensland as well as an extreme flood event in Noosa Shire.”

The report also noted patronage exceeded that of pre-Covid patronage levels in five out of the eight months.

Translink services within the Noosa Shire.

Feedback on the trial – received via social media, face-to-face surveys and stakeholder engagement – was overwhelmingly positive.

“The majority of feedback was highly positive with strong support for the free weekend buses to continue,” the report read.

“Negative feedback related primarily to Council being restricted to not being able to provide a free bus service to Peregian Beach due to the existing Translink route 620 travelling outside of the Noosa Shire.”

Feedback received from Pomona and District Chamber of Commerce indicated that the trial was helping to counter social isolation with seniors accessing the Noosa Civic and the Noosa Junction.

It had also been successful for younger Pomona residents wanting to visit the coast, as well as encouraging more visitors to the hinterland for markets or hiking trails.

The estimated costs for operating the Free Weekend Buses trial for a further 12-months is $180,000.

For timetable information on routes 626, 627, 628, 629, and 632 visit Translink or call Translink on 13 12 30.

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