More commuters are using Newcastle’s park-and-ride since it extended its operating hours in July, but the service is still attracting only a fraction of the passenger numbers predicted a year ago.
The NSW government and Newcastle City Council established the park-and-ride at Hunter Stadium to alleviate parking shortages in the inner-city during light rail construction.
The council announced on Monday that the service had attracted 21,389 passengers in its first 12 months, though it amended this figure upwards to 29,217 on Tuesday after questions from the Newcastle Herald.
The new figure equates to a daily tally of about 123 passengers, taking into account weekends, public holidays and other days when the shuttle buses do not run.
The council said on Tuesday that the service has taken about 95 cars off the road every day on average, a far cry from the “300 or more” Revitalising Newcastle forecast in November last year.
Council and government figures show patronage rising in the three months since the service started running return trips from 3pm in the afternoons, 90 minutes earlier than previously.
The Keolis Downer service is paid for by Revitalising Newcastle and managed by the council.
“As we said last year when it launched, a review of the service would be undertaken after 12 months,” council chief executive officer Jeremy Bath said on Tuesday. “That review has now commenced.
“The service has funding until the end of March next year and we will communicate its future operation well before then.”
About 150 cars were parked at the stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
The Herald spoke to a Thornton construction worker who has been using the shuttle for three weeks to travel to an inner-city job.
“It’s a brilliant service. I hope they keep it going,” he said. “It’s impossible to find a park in town.”
The worker was one of eight passengers on a bus which arrived at the stadium at 4.10pm. The previous bus had two people on board.
Only 3.7 per cent of Novocastrians travel to work on public transport, according to 2016 Census data.
Mr Bath said the park-and-ride was a “fast and affordable way of convincing Novocastrians that public transport is often a smarter option than the car”.
“Like it or not, our city is growing and changing. And part of making it a more liveable city is making better use of public transport,” he said.
“Both the City and state government recognise this and are working closely on how we can convince more drivers to leave their cars at home, or only drive part way to their workplaces.”
A Revitalising Newcastle spokesperson said on Tuesday that the park-and-ride “provided an important opportunity to begin changing travel behaviour in preparation for the start of light rail services in early 2019”.