FIGURES released in November show that 29,217 people used the park-and-ride service from Broadmeadow to the city in its first year of operation. That figure was short of Revitalising Newcastle forecasts that the service would take 300 cars off the road daily, but it was a start.
The service, which proved popular enough that its hours were extended last July, is under a cloud. It was always billed as a trial, and neither Transport for NSW and City of Newcastle has committed to it surviving into next month.
Transport for NSW says it provided the service with temporary funding during light rail construction, and commuters have more options than ever now the Wickham to Newcastle East trams are integrating with buses and trains.
The agency notes it is in discussions with the council about future park-and-ride opportunities, but on Wednesday the council was unequivocal that "public transport is the responsibility of the NSW government."
Discussions are ongoing, and City of Newcastle will doubtlessly be making what it calls the "undeniable case" for the service to continue until light rail extends to Broadmeadow.
With parking missing from the city, options for those for whom public transport is not a nearby convenience are necessary.
The Broadmeadow park and ride may live on only as a test case for services of its kind, but parking to access the city will remain necessary until buses and trains snake past many more Hunter homes with the reliability and consistency required to accommodate even those who do not work typical office hours.
This newspaper has documented the drop in available parking in the city. Last November, City of Newcastle chief executive Jeremy Bath said a review was underway and its future operation would be communicated "well before" its funding ended in March. Perhaps park and ride is a first step towards full-fledged patronage of public transport for some, and perhaps for some it is as close as the tyranny of distance allows them to come.
Mr Bath said at the time the park and ride was a "fast and affordable way of convincing Novocastrians that public transport is often a smarter option than the car".
If the brakes are to be hit on the service, those who have been using need to know: what happens now?