A PACKED room of about 120 people has urged Fremantle council to continue funding the city’s CAT bus service for the time being.
Tuesday’s Keep the Cat meeting at The Local Hotel followed a decision last week by the council’s finance and policy committee to pull funding at the end of June, subject to a vote at full council this coming Wednesday.
South Fremantle resident and meeting organiser Gina Blakemore said that hadn’t given the community adequate time to engage or consider solutions, meaning they could end up with an extended public transport gap.
“One of my people contacted the [Public Transport Authority] about altering their routes and they said it would take up to 12 months, so we want that extra time,” Ms Blakemore said.
“A lot of people hadn’t known about it; a lot of people don’t have social media and found out through their neighbours.”
Ms Blakemore said over the 23 years the CAT buses have circled between the CBD and South Fremantle, people had built their lives around them, and they were particularly important for elderly people who used them to access amenities such as the pool or library.
“The Freo CAT was introduced in 2000 and extended to South Fremantle in 2005,” she told the meeting.
“It is part of what makes Fremantle unique.
“The CAT bus was originally funded by paid parking being introduced on Sundays.
“The bus route gives tourists a feel for the layout of our city, to be able to hop on and off, and makes it easy to get to all the historic sites and areas, parks, museums, the markets, the hospital, the train station, venues, hotels, Air BnBs, beaches and shops.
“This brings money to our city.”
Ms Blakemore said she wasn’t going to point fingers about why the CAT had to be cut, but wanted a “positive” campaign to identify solutions.
“I am encouraging people to speak at the council in a calm and respectful manner,” she said of next Wednesday’s public question time before the CAT’s future is decided, adding that she wanted people to let councillors know how it would affect their daily lives if it was axed.
Fellow meeting organiser and planner Ian Ker said he’d originally proposed a motion that council fund the CAT until an alternative was found.
“The mood of the meeting was such, however, that there was no appetitie for alternative models of service provision, given the inability of City of Fremantle to make progress on this to date,” Mr Ker said.
“In my 45 years as a transport planner and 14 years as a local government councillor, I don’t think I have ever seen a meeting so overwhelmingly fired up and unanimous about an issue.
“This was no doubt fuelled as much by the fact that City of Fremantle has presented
its version of events as a fait accompli so late in the piece and without any community engagement…”
Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said the council had to make the decision as part of its budget processes early in the year, and was also waiting on the costs from the PTA to run the service after the current agreement runs out in June.
But she had an olive branch for the community, saying at next week’s council meeting should would move an additional motion calling for a CEO working group to look into the public transport needs of South Fremantle and the CBD.
It would have community representatives to tap into their willingness to contribute to keeping the service going (a sentiment expressed several times during Tuesday’s meeting) and one of its key actions would be to lobby the state government to step up its public transport commitments in Fremantle.