Who’ ll feed the CAT?

SHOULD Fremantle Council continue to financially support the free CAT bus to South Fremantle, and how important is that in the context that council has been trying for more than a decade to minimise cars in the city centre?

I have been wondering how our council and the Freo community can have a proper discussion about the free CAT bus service, that council wants to scrap, without knowing facts and figures. There are a lot of assertions and assumptions, but no one seems to know how many people use the CAT daily and who they are.

People claim that the CAT is popular with Notre Dame University students, but is it? Others claim it is popular with tourists and backpackers, but is it? 

Some argue it is a free service for those who find free parking in South Fremantle, and hop on the CAT to commute by train to work in Perth, but is it?

I asked the City of Fremantle for statistics about the CAT bus, assuming they have got them at hand, but have not received them yet, so what is Fremantle Council spending some $ 335,000 on yearly? Is it for the Freo community, or is it for day trippers, backpackers and students, and is that a good use of ratepayers’ money?

The CAT is public transport, so the responsibility of the state government. 

Public Transport is not profitable to run, so is always subsidised. 

If the PTA ran a normal bus service along the CAT route those with concession cards would still get a free service from 9am to 4pm daily and all weekend, so is Fremantle subsidising those who can afford to pay for public transport? 

The PTA has told Fremantle council that costs to run the CAT service will go up by 30 per cent next financial year, and so would the City’s contribution.

The CAT debate needs pragmatism. 

We are not living the dream, and those who think we are need to wake up from their heavy slumber. 

The suggestions that Twiggy Forrest might want to pay for the CAT is quite silly. Why should he? 

The idea that a private operator could replace the CAT ignores the reality that most people who are using it do so because it is a free service. 

A paid hop on-hop off service is not going to help the elderly and pensioners who have concession cards. 

Would a hop on-hop off be financially viable? I doubt it. It is a numbers game and I don’t believe the numbers stack up. 

The Fremantle Tram tourist bus stopped during Covid and has not returned, so could that be reinstated? It won’t be a substitute for the CAT though.

Bringing irrelevant arguments, and a blame game to the debate is also not useful. 

The claim by the Fremantle Society that the CAT bus considerations at Council have got something to do with an alleged bad Kings Square Business Plan, from more than 10 years ago, or with a new lease for the Fremantle Markets, are plain silly, and not helpful. 

That Notre Dame University, like all educational institutions, does not have to pay Council rates, is also missing the point, so let us insist on getting statistics from the Public Transport Authority and Fremantle council about how many people use the CAT service and who they are. 

That would be helpful to have a factual debate about the reality of a small council subsidising public transport. Is it good use of ratepayers’ money? Who knows?!

Roel Loopers

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