The April 9 Mosman Rider debate in Council

Last night the Mosman Rider came up at Mosman Council. As interested as I am in the fate of the Mosman Rider, it was not the Rider but Cr Bendall that captured my attention. Cr Bendall had me gasping in disbelief. How could someone holding public office show so little understanding about an issue that he was passionately opposing.

Try to follow his argument. I may be doing Cr Bendall an injustice but this is how it sounded to me. A substantial number of children under 5 use the Mosman Rider. Children on STA buses are free. Therefore, according to Cr Bendall, the STA is cost shifting to Mosman Council to the tune of $7 for every child carried.

Had I been on Council this is how I would have responded to Cr Bendall’s ludicrous proposition.

1. The assumption that had the Rider not provided the service, those children would have travelled by STA, just doesn’t hold water. The Rider route duplicates STA services in tiny fragments. Most people using the rider use the service to go from home to shops or the beach. While there are many homes in Mosman that have an STA service to the shops or the beach, the ones on the Rider route by and large do not use the Rider as it takes longer and is less frequent than STA. The Rider is a service designed for those who DON’T have a good STA service or who want to travel at times when the Rider has a service but the STA does not

2. The $7 per passenger would not be saved had the children not used the Rider. The Rider costs the same no matter how many people use it. The $7 figure that was quoted in the report was derived by dividing the operating cost of the service by the current number of passengers. Every extra passenger carried equates to more benefit for the same cost. If Cr Bendall is appalled by the $7 cost why isn’t he out there encouraging all and sundry to leave their cars at home and take the Rider instead. This is what Manly has done and lo and behold they have reduced their per passenger costs to less than $2 (Cr Bendall’s figures) Even Cr Abelson was complaining that every child carried up Awaba St was costing Council $7. The valid way to make the point Cr Abelson wanted to make would be to say that children using the Rider to save their legs walking up Awaba should be discounted from the passenger count. If only ‘valid’, ie passengers for whom the service was established, were counted the cost per passenger would clearly rise above $7, but this would be to dismiss a significant benefit, albeit an incidental benefit, to Mosman’s children, as worthless.

3. The notion that somehow Mosman was carrying costs that would otherwise have been borne by STA is the biggest furphy of the all. The cost to STA of running its services are not impacted in any way by the Mosman Rider. To the extent that the Rider steals passengers from STA services ( a tiny fraction of Rider passengers as explained above) Mosman residents are getting the benefit (free travel) and STA are copping the cost(reduced fare revenue).

Having set up 0-5’s as the mechanism by which the NSW Government was cost shifting to Mosman Council, Cr Bendall was on a roll. It wasn’t just 0-5’s it was all school students who have bus passes, all seniors who can travel for $2.50.

How odd that Cr Abelson should pick up on Cr Moline’s maths when she claimed that 40,000 would be affected when of course the 40,000 was trips not individuals, but remain silent on Cr Bendall’s blunderings in a logic free zone?

What Cr Bendall and Cr Abelson don’t appear to understand is that the Rider has increased transport amenity in Mosman. It was introduced as a free service for Mosman residents, like the Library. Like all services it costs money to operate. It needs to be promoted more, so that more people use it in place of driving as this will bring down the per passenger cost. By all means optimise the timetable to, for example, minimise the need for penalty rates and multiple drivers. But there is a real risk that tinkering with the service, now that it has been established, will slow down the growth in passenger numbers, as it will make the service less convenient and less predictable and hence raise the per passenger cost. At the very least, on daylight saving weekends and in the school holidays the service should continue to run until 6pm.

I wonder how Councillors Bendall and Abelson view the London Congestion charge, where all revenue collected is invested in improving public transport in London? Isn’t using parking meter revenue to fund an alternative to driving, and thus a away of avoiding the parking charges, the same concept?

The good news is that Council resolved last night to guarantee that there would be an hourly service service seven days a week, at the very least mornings and afternoons until the current contract expires at the end of 2014. Just what the commencing and finishing times will be depends on what savings could be made, and that depends on the contractor. The decision will be made in six weeks, but thanks to Cr’s White, Moline and Menzies the community will be consulted before the final decision is made

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2 Responses to “The April 9 Mosman Rider debate in Council”

  1. Brian Wilder Says:

    Warren, you say :

    “Had I been on Council this is how I would have responded to Cr Bendall’s ludicrous proposition.”

    But you are no longer on the Council as you failed to get enough support at the last election. Doesn’t that send you a message ?

  2. SCOTTIE MCGREGOR Says:

    Warren you seem to be featuring the Deputy Mayor in over 50% of your blogs of late. I therefore assume he must be doing something right.
    In response to your comments asking “How could someone holding public office show so little understanding about an issue that he was passionately opposing.” I make the following comments and observations.
    Warren before responding to your blog I availed myself the opportunity to examine the business papers on this issue. I realise that you weren’t given access to the business papers which mapped existing STA services and then superimposed the Rider route over the top, so I will excuse your false assumptions, however If you had bothered to analysis the report that was published, you would note that the Rider does replicate existing or a combination of existing STA services .
    In fact over 50% of passengers are travelling to and from Balmoral Beach. Which is currently served by 3 full time bus services a morning bus service which takes people from Balmoral up to Spit Rd directly plus a plethora of additional school bus services. The only route that is not covered by existing services is to and from Beauty Point.
    I agree young children under 5 should not be included in calculating the per unit passenger price of the Rider as they are generally travelling with their parents. Therefore if you took those children out of the equation then you need to add 15% to the per unit price to the community.
    The other main demographic using the Rider 6-18 year old children, all have accesses to children’s tickets, which are subsidised by the State Government or school bus passes. In fact even a cursory review of the report shows that 45% of total Rider passengers are children in this demographic band.
    The other main demographic utilising the service are the elderly 30%. Once again Warren these residents can purchase all day tickets for $2.50 and travel on all public transport.
    So our community must decide if the rest of Mosman should voluntarily cost shift from the State Government to the rate payers of Mosman?
    The report also suggests that up to 10% of users of the rider are non residents, which beg the question should Mosman, be giving them a free ride?
    As you would know Warren Cr Bendall shared some interesting statistics with the community last night comparing our service to Manly. He makes a valid point that Manly is able to run 3 services during the week 12 hours a day and two services over the weekend transporting 350k passengers per year at an average cost per passenger trip of $1.40 .
    He also pointed out that Manly run their services directly, own 5, 22 seater buses and the total costs for their service is $550k which equates to around &180k per bus. Warren as you were part of the Council that approved the Rider service how can it be possible that our service is costing 50% more for only a 10 hour service?
    Look forward to your response.
    Scottie McGregor

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