The New South Wales government’s on-demand bus trial will be expanded on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Commuters have been ordering a bus, Uber style, in 11 trial areas in parts of Sydney and surrounds since it rolled out late last year.
The vehicles drop passengers off at ‘hubs’ like shopping centres within the trial areas.
The existing Manly trial will be expanded from August 20 to include Clontarf, Seaforth, North Balgowlah, Manly Vale, North Curl Curl and parts of Dee Why and Brookvale.
“We’ve seen great success across the majority of on-demand pilots with more than 80,000 customer trips already being delivered in only a matter of months and we look forward to personalising the transport experience for even more,” Transport Minister Andrew Constance said, announcing the Manly expansion on Tuesday.
The 11 trials together cost more than $7 million, according to figures obtained by Labor under freedom of information.
A spokesperson for Mr Constance said the total government commitment was $20 million over two years, including the trial period.
There were 80,000 trips from the start of the trial to the end of June. The Bankstown trial began in October and the remaining trials began in November.
Standard tickets in Manly, the eastern suburbs and the inner west cost $3.10, or $1.50 for concession. Elsewhere tickets can range between $2.60 and $5.60.
Mr Constance has previously defended the cost to taxpayers, saying the uptake was quickly growing.
There had been 19,000 passenger trips by the end of February, according to the figures released by Labor MP Hugh McDermott.
A NSW audit office report released in December estimated passenger fares cover about 24 per cent of operating costs on the wider bus network.
It means the on-demand bus trial cost taxpayers far more, but should decrease as more people pick up the service.
Geoffrey Clinton, Senior Lecturer in Transport and Logistics at Sydney University, told The New Daily trials need long-term commitment.
“We cannot expect a trial service to be an instant success. Research suggests that trial services can take up to two years to become established,” Dr Clinton said.
“This means that a good trial needs long-term commitment and agreed criteria on what success or failure will look like.”
He said on-demand services would be part of the public transport mix in the future.
Manly MP James Griffin said the uptake has been a success.
“On-demand transport has already been a great success in the Manly area. The community asked for more ways we could help deliver this type of transport and we’ve listened,” he said in a statement.
Mr Constance on Tuesday said extra vehicles would be rolled out in Manly to allow for the additional customers.
Transdev will continue to use Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vehicles carrying up to 11 people in Manly.
The eastern suburbs trial is also changing from August 20. Commuters will be able to use the service weekday mornings 6am to 9am and afternoons 3pm to 9pm. It will be available on weekends 8am to 3.30pm under the changes.
The Wetherill Park service ended on August 3.
Labor and the Rail Tram and Bus Union have railed against the “pie in the sky” scheme.
“This government is tipping taxpayers dollars into a scheme that is clearly failing and is destined to go bust,” RTBU NSW Bus Secretary Chris Preston said last month.
He said costs were higher because the vehicles often would be empty while they drive to pick up passengers, known as ‘dead running’.