IN an effort to save Fremantle’s CAT bus, local author and academic Christian Mauri has embarked on a heartwarming mission to compile a book filled with patrons’ stories.
Fremantle council’s decision to halt funding for the CATs at the end of September has spurred Mr Mauri into action, and he’s hoping the book will convince WA transport minister Rita Saffioti to intervene and find a funding solution.
With time running out to sway the minister’s decision, Mr Mauri said he found inspiration in the renowned Humans of New York project.
“When you don’t have cold data, the best thing you can have is warm feelings.”
He set out to gather personal accounts of people who have relied on the CAT bus, hoping to humanise the impact it’s closure would have on the community.
His project, aptly named Dear Minister, aims to create a visually appealing book that will resonate with Ms Saffioti on a personal level; something she might take home from work to share with her family.
Mr Mauri says the book idea builds on the work of South Freo residents Gina Blakemore and Ian Kerr, who had made “remarkable contributions” in raising awareness and garnering support for the cause.
He said Ms Blakemore was doing public presentations, and Mr Kerr preparing strategic plans, and he realised that as a bookmaker he had a unique skill to offer.
“So I asked a photographer friend of mine to jump onto the CAT bus with me, and we did many, many routes, just taking people’s photos, getting their stories, getting their email addresses, and asking if they’d like to be in the book.”
Mr Mauri said people were “mostly jumping at the chance to be in the book”.
He was surprised by how many tourists riding the CATs had heard about it before arriving, which indicated the service had effective branding that extended far beyond the city’s boundaries.
“Those numbers will increase if a CAT is successfully integrated into the tourism plans that Fremantle has, no worry about that whatsoever,” he said.
“As more people come here the CAT bus will be used more, which may mean that we even need more CAT buses considering how they’re pitching this stuff past us at the moment.“
Mr Mauri’s collection of stories showcases the CAT bus as a vital part of the community.
Families have shared how they use the CATs for children’s activities, enjoying treasure hunts that allow them to explore Fremantle’s landmarks and attractions.
He said the CAT Bus held a special place for people with intellectual impairments, providing them with a safe and comfortable environment to traverse the city. The friendly and familiar bus drivers, who are often known by name, add to the sense of community and belonging on the CAT Bus.
“The bus is perfect for that. You’re not just getting onto public transport, you’re getting onto a community bus.”
Mr Mauri hopes to complete the book by the beginning of September, the last month the CAT is scheduled to run.
He called on his illustrator partner Kaylene Harris to help design the book cover, hoping for something a bit more creative than a photo of a bus. The design was so eye-catching they’ve had them printed on cotton t-shirts which they’re now selling to fund the book.
He’s also still keen to get a few more stories or photographs to complete the book, having collected about 30 already.
Submissions and orders for t-shirts can be sent to email@example.com
by STEVE GRANT