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Wollongong Rt. 55 Commenced Service & Split into 55A/C

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Wollongong shuttle today

Postby tonyp » Sat Apr 11, 2015 5:16 pm

Did my first complete circuit as a passenger on the Gong Shuttle today. Bus was 7441 MO, MAN Volgren Optimus. A couple of observations, mainly on issues I've raised elsewhere.

It was very full and well-used, which surprised me on a Saturday afternoon, particularly with students. The university produced a big crowd. The driver was opening both doors along the route, but as usual entry was at the front - pretty dumb on a free service. At the university the crowd took ages to load through the front door, even with no tagging involved. The bus sat there with middle door invitingly open throughout, but obviously the inefficiency indoctrination of passengers is thorough.

At one stop on Princes Hwy there is actually a fence in front of the stop preventing use of any door except the front door. This resulted in a long dwell while everybody exiting queued inside the bus down to the front door, followed by the new entries coming in at the front. It bewilders me how anybody in authority or management can't see these glaringly obvious issues.

For a bus that also serves as a tourist sightseeing circuit, a nice application of AOA ensured that Wolongong's scenery was suitably grey-scaled and pixelated.

Lastly, suspension was dreadful. This now includes MAN as well as Volvo and Scania, so somebody here is not doing a good job on the specifications side. Considering these are European-origin chassis, the poor-quality suspension compared with buses in service in Europe defies logic. It's not like the roads are any different and Australia has nothing to compare with cobblestones! Somebody is being diddled on this. My wife, who hasn't been on a bus since Europe, was with me and she commented on it straight away.

Some pretty rough driving too.

Overall, an excellent and most useful service let down by some very poor elements of delivery.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby Swift » Sun Apr 12, 2015 12:04 am

Just like most of today's Hollywood productions, Australian transport services define mediocrity.
We have a tradition of lacking thought in our buses compared to even the UK.
Basic is the order of the day when it comes to specifications here and only the haves get to choose the pleasant (or less unpleasant) but costly experience of getting from A to B by over priced private transport.
Enjoyable hassle free non motor car choices are largely the domain North of the equator.
You really have to praise small blessings in a useful service outside of Sydney at all, while still rightfully having every expectation that the style of delivery should be meeting higher standards than they are.
I can imagine the heart rendering daily disapointment you go through Tonyp with the years of experiencing the right parallel universe. :|
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby burrumbus » Sun Apr 12, 2015 1:55 am

Along with Tony's comment of an AOA bus on a tourist service,noted at Civic in Canberra this week on ACTION's tourist circuit service was an AOA.Just silly !!!
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby burrumbus » Sun Apr 12, 2015 1:55 am

Along with Tony's comment of an AOA bus on a tourist service,noted at Civic in Canberra this week on ACTION's tourist circuit service was an AOA.Just silly !!!
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby 8 SPEED » Sun Apr 12, 2015 9:12 am

But alas it is still free.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby eddy » Sun Apr 12, 2015 5:23 pm

I have spoken to a few people who catch the free Wollongong bus and they love it and would not care if it was a cattle truck as long as it was free.

One young girl I used to take on the bus lived at Mt Keira and worked casual at Shellharbour square for $70 per week and her fare each way was $5.10 so she said most of what she earned went in bus fares.

The overseas university students on the university run used to watch every cent even though they had a student pass.

One expert said transport systems are designed by the elite who never use them and the poor people are stuck with paying through the nose.

It costs not much more to run a full bus than one that has few passengers and the Wollongong free bus is always packed.

People park way down the bottom of town and catch it to the hospital as parking costs heaps.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby rogf24 » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:04 pm

I rode this shuttle earlier this month and there were a group of bogans sitting all the way back on the last row talking very loudly with ciggies in their mouth waiting light up once they got off. Not only that this was in front of all the Keira High School kids. Once the bogans got off at their stop in Fairy Meadow, they whole back area started smelling really foul, god knows what they did and another (adult) passenger also sitting at the back also said that his hair was touched by one the stinky bogans. By far my least pleasant bus trip ever, I honestly felt throwing up, the kids did a good job at coping.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby Swift » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:33 pm

Yes, the ugly Australian. Unmatched anywhere in the world as the hapless countries that have had to host them would attest.
Whats worse is they relish making others out of their group feel the loathing of their presence.
Why cant we just round up the unpleasant element and ship them off to Siberia or Greenland? :roll:
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby mrobsessed » Sun Jun 21, 2015 11:26 pm

Free.... Defines the problem.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby tonyp » Mon Jun 22, 2015 6:24 am

mrobsessed wrote:Free.... Defines the problem.

Such people would turn up anywhere.

These free city circulators are one of the best ideas ever, they should remain so. They make city centres more people oriented and keep the cars away. Great for tourists too. They just need all door entry and get the advertising off the windows.

Since it's apparently such an uphill battle to get proper low floor buses here, the busier services like Sydney should at least have the 3 door Optare like the Sydney airport bus.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby boronia » Mon Jun 22, 2015 9:34 am

mrobsessed wrote:Free.... Defines the problem.

But many of these bogans don't bother paying on normal services either.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby Swift » Mon Jun 22, 2015 1:53 pm

That's it. Charging fares is hardly going to transform the class of passenger. It would only serve to discourage patronage.
Only a regular police presence has a hope of changing poor passenger behavior.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby mrobsessed » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:00 pm

That service isn't a circulator. It travels too far.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby tonyp » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:09 pm

mrobsessed wrote:That service isn't a circulator. It travels too far.

It forms a circle through the inner part of Wollongong. If that's not a circulator I don't know what is.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby Fleet Lists » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:21 pm

What is the definition of circulator?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circulator does not seem to fill the bill.

And this website seems to be about a bus company which has circulator as its name http://www.dccirculator.com/
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby tonyp » Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:41 pm

The term IRT transport comes from US:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downtown_circulator

It also applies to some of the new streetcar systems.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby mrobsessed » Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:34 pm

If what it does is the inner part of Wollongong, I'll eat my hat. It destroys the first three sections of ten bus routes!
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby jpp42 » Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:56 pm

Huh? What exactly is being "destoyed?"
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby tonyp » Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:29 am

jpp42 wrote:Huh? What exactly is being "destoyed?"

Undermines somebody's revenue base I presume, but it's all being paid for one way or the other so what's the problem?

It solves one of those urban planning disconnects common in Australian cities where key facilities like hospitals and universities are inconveniently located in relation to the main activity centres. It links the CBD and waterfront with two UOW campuses, botanical gardens and the hospital and doesn't have to go very far out to do this. I'd call it very much a city centre circulator.

It's an excellent service. All they need to do is get the AOA off the windows so tourists can look at Wollongong's beautiful scenery, allow all-door entry including double-leaf centre door and ban the Bustechs off it!
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Re: Wollongong Rt. 55 Commenced Service & Splited into 55A/C

Postby tonyp » Tue Sep 06, 2016 7:34 am

I found this thread from 2009. Well the service has been upgraded to 10 min headway all day now but the suggested weekend evening services have not materialised.

This service was obviously a rare brilliant transport planning initiative and seems to have been successful beyond all expectations. Wollongong is lucky to have that north-south rail corridor to serve its strongly linear development but the shuttle has filled that east west gap where critical activities are away from the rail: CBD (a little), harbour and beach, Innovation Campus, North Wollongong, university, hospital and of course the station.

There have been a couple of comments here that it shouldn't be free, but charging fares would probably destroy it and the important city centre functionality that it provides. I haven't seen any studies but I would imagine that it must have contributed to cutting down car congestion in the city centre because it's much easier now to park further out (if you're using the car) and hop on the bus. Charging a fare would undermine this.

Before somebody suggests that it's different now with Opal, regional cities like Wollongong have very low PT use and the majority of people would probably never use PT from one year to the next and it's likely that the take-up of Opal cards is quite low in an area like Wollongong. Making it free gets people out of cars into PT.

It's also not without precedent. The free Perth/Fremantle CAT buses are well-known. In Adelaide, paid travel accounts for only about a quarter of the tram patronage. It's willingly subsidised as a CBD circulator, including the extension to the park-and-ride at the Entertainment Centre. The benefits are macro ones in terms of helping cities to be more functional.
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Re: Wollongong shuttle today

Postby tonyp » Tue Sep 06, 2016 7:44 am

There's also this thread. Perhaps the two should be combined as if it's the busiest bus service in NSW it's probably going to be an ongoing topic.

I get the impression mrobsessed doesn't like it being free! :lol:

I've been searching the forum for photos of the current Gong shuttle fleet but not coming up with any. Anybody got some - preferably from the "business" (door) side?
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Re: Wollongong Rt. 55 Commenced Service & Splited into 55A/C

Postby Fleet Lists » Tue Sep 06, 2016 8:26 am

Combined as suggested.
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Re: Wollongong Rt. 55 Commenced Service & Splited into 55A/C

Postby tonyp » Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:58 pm

Taxi industry cops a serve from locals:

http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/3735793/gong-shuttle-is-a-hit-with-city/
Wollongong shows its support for the Gong Shuttle
18 February 2016

The people have spoken - the Gong Shuttle should be left as it is.

In Thursday’s Mercury, NSW Taxi Council CEO Roy Wakelin-King raised concerns that the free shuttle’s operating hours and frequency were making it hard for Wollongong’s taxi drivers to compete.

“We’re not advocating it be removed but we think that its operating hours and its frequency probably go a bit beyond what the genuine need is,’’ Mr Wakelin-King said.

However, on the Mercury website and on Facebook, the support was well and truly with the Gong Shuttle.

Of 123 comments left on the Mercury’s Facebook page as of Thursday morning, just one was in favour of reducing the Gong Shuttle’s hours of operation.

‘‘Yes, cut its hours back like bus hours in the country - four hours a day,’’ wrote Troy Davis.

Others wanted the Gong Shuttle to stay – and even extend its coverage.

“The shuttle needs to be extended. I'm in a wheelchair and the shuttle bus does not come to my suburb of Balgownie,” wrote Cherie DeVries.

There was little sympathy for the taxi drivers, with many saying the fares were too expensive and the service not up to scratch.

“Taxis need to lay off and accept that free buses and other forms of public transport help people better get around,” wrote Murray John.

“They need to stop charging us ridiculous prices.”

Jill Whalan said taxis were “a last resort”.

“The cabs need to get used to a new norm and do business better if they want to compete,” she wrote.


I think even the one "dissenter" was being tongue-in--cheek.

Look at that damn queue in the photo! :roll:

Also: http://23.101.218.132/prod/parlment/Han ... avID=HA8_1

It's notable too that the patronage of this service is so big despite "competition" from two free university shuttle services as well:

http://www.uow.edu.au/transport/shuttles/index.html

And then the union:

http://www.twunsw.org.au/archive/campai ... ty-at-risk
http://www.twu.com.au/home/campaigns/bu ... tra-buses/

Well if they let passengers board at both doors they wouldn't have so much trouble meeting the timetable. Shot in the foot there.

Speaks for itself:

http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/fairy-me ... 1116580334
FOR RENT: 5 Bedroom House in Fairy Meadow near Gong Shuttle Stop
Excellent location in Fairy Meadow (10 Pankhurst Ave, Fairy Meadow)

-5 minute walk to the Free Gong Shuttle (connecting to University of Wollongong Main Campus, Innovation Campus, North Beach, City Beach, CBD, Wollongong Hospital and Wollongong Train Station connecting to Sydney)


I've always considered that Wollongong/south coast has a natural disposition to public transport but the latent demand is not being met. I read once that the south coast was the fastest-growing interurban corridor and the trains are very crowded but lacking capacity. The service is slow and the line is always given the worst trains (apart from a brief idyllic V set period). I sometimes wonder if the Gong shuttle is going to be axed because there are no votes in it. The region solidly votes Labor, which means that the Liberals ignore it and Labor takes it for granted. If the locals were smart they'd make sure the south coast seats always swung to keep the bastards on their toes. This worked quite well in Kiama but nowhere else unfortunately.

That's about all I've got from a web search, but no photos of the business side of one of the MAN Volgrens (I've only got photos of the interior on my own camera but will try to rectify that on a future visit). I believe they were allocated some Mercedes previously. They seemed to be so grateful to be given two-door buses that I get the impression that TfNSW only normally gives one-door buses to outer metropolitan operators (?).
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Re: Wollongong Rt. 55 Commenced Service & Splited into 55A/C

Postby Tonymercury » Tue Sep 06, 2016 3:50 pm

tonyp wrote:Taxi industry cops a serve from locals:

I read once that the south coast was the fastest-growing interurban corridor and the trains are very crowded but lacking capacity.



Well, the new trains will help that won'y they? Hmm?
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Re: Wollongong Rt. 55 Commenced Service & Splited into 55A/C

Postby burrumbus » Tue Sep 06, 2016 4:16 pm

The Gong Shuttle ,as tonyp rightly stated is one of the rare success stories in Australian public transport.Even though it is free it has met a latent demand for service in the Gong and should not be fiddled with.
It is easily the best patronised service in the Gong,followed by the UNI-North Wollongong service and Dions route 1.
I agree with tonyp that it needs both doors entry and exit to speed things up and the removal of AOA's on the windows.But leave the Gong branding.Branding does work.
Unfortunately the bus route system in Wollongong suffers from long winding routes and low frequencies.Many routes in Wollongong are just school runs,with neglible adult patronage.Theres a strong case there to separate school and adult patronage with much more demand responsive services ,with higher levels of customer service.
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