FREMANTLE mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge has flagged dropping the city’s Red CAT bus service completely.
“I think we need to have a good look at it,” Ms Fitzhardinge said following Freo council’s finance and operations committee meeting where the future of the service was up for discussion.
The Red CAT was suspended in 2020 during the first Covid shutdown, and while it was flagged as a temporary measure, the mayor says there might be better places to spend the money.
“We did a review in January 2021 … which looks at the patronage and the boarding, and there were 600,000 on the Blue CAT and 200,000 on the Red, so it’s a significant difference,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.
“Is that the best use of money to get people around, recognising it is a service people enjoy.”
Ms Fitzhardinge said another option would be to start charging a fare on the CAT bus, which isn’t unprecedented, or imposing a differential rate on residents living near the route. Surveys have shown 56 per cent of patrons are locals.
Ms Fitzhardinge said often visitors were parking along Ord Street or Marine Terrace before catching the CAT to the train station; their travel would still
be within the two zones covered by their ticket, so there’d be no additional cost to them.
But councillor Rachel Pemberton says any permanent axing of the Red CAT would be a “failure”.
Cr Pemberton says at Arts Centre Precinct meetings, it was clear that residents were missing the public transport option, while she’d spoken to the chair of Fremantle Ports who was also keen to see the Red CAT back.
“At the Maritime Museum – and I’m on the front desk – people are finding it hard to find a parking space, particularly now with Gage Roads open,” Cr Pemberton said.
She said with WA’s borders opening, it would be important to give people the opportunity to visit tourism destinations on the red route like the Fremantle Arts Centre and Vic Quay.
But she does agree the current funding model isn’t working, and if the Public Transport Authority couldn’t be budged from its current one-third contribution, she’s up for a special area charge.
by STEVE GRANT