Passengers boarding a free bus at Noosa bus interchange, Noosa Parade.
Passengers boarding a free bus at Noosa bus interchange, Noosa Parade. Alan Lander

170,000 bus users ... not even counting final week

UPDATE THURSDAY 1PM:

MORE than 200,000 passengers in total used the holiday bus service across the December 15 - January 28 extended period.

Numbers for the 11-day period from December 26 to January 5 reached 64,506 - almost 20,000 more than during the same period last year.

Mayor Tony Wellington said the positive response to the service, which this time ran for six weeks instead of 11 days, was encouraging.

"We're tallying the final numbers, but it's clear that a great many people enjoyed the free bus service, and by doing so helped to reduce traffic and parking demand," he said.

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THE extended-season free bus service this festive period throughout Noosa has carried more than 170,000 passengers for journeys of all types.

The figures cover from December 15 to January 23, the full numbers including the final week of service not being available before Noosa News' deadline.

Noosa Mayor Tony Wellington said the council had been pleasantly surprised by the numbers.

"We were reasonably confident numbers would be good, but we were still surprised by the figures,” the mayor said.

"To compare like with like, when comparing the 11-day Christmas free holiday buses last year to the same 11-day period this year, the average daily patronage has increased by 41per cent (an increase of 5864). That's quite significant.”

Figures showed 64,506 passengers hopped on the bus during the 11-day Christmas-New Year's break.

Complete survey information showing passenger type and journey purpose is still to come, but when Noosa News jumped on a bus in early January we met visitors heading for Hastings St from Noosaville resorts, backpackers, locals travelling to work or just travelling from A to B, even tourist sightseers using the bus to view the tourist strip - all just on the Sunshine Beach-Tewantin route alone.

More than 1000 people downloaded the Go Noosa app, while nine out of every 10 people who used the service were satisfied or very satisfied with the trip.

Where applicable, 80per cent of survey respondents found the digital roadside information boards helpful when determining their travel and parking choices at Noosa Heads.

About 70per cent of respondents found the carparking and bus signage around Noosa Junction helpful and easy to follow.

Survey responses showed about 69per cent would have made their trip by car if the buses were not free.

Noosa Junction also proved to be the preferred park-and-ride location, given its substantial parking facilities behind both sides of Sunshine Beach Rd.

"Anecdotal feedback that I have received from Noosa Junction traders is that the junction had an excellent Christmas season with increased foot traffic in the area,” Cr Wellington said.

The cost to the council for the holiday buses on a per-passenger basis dropped as a result of the increased patronage.

"The 2017-18 free holiday buses ran for 11 days, with the five TransLink services and the additional Peregian shuttle costing $53,747,” CrWellington said.

"The 2018-19 buses ran for 43 days, with the TransLink services and Peregian shuttle costing $183,061.

"Again, it's useful to compare like-with-like bus costs, so the 11-day period last Christmas cost $1.18 per passenger, whereas the same 11-day period this Christmas cost around 73cents per passenger.

"On the basis of the uptake of free buses and the significant amount of positive feedback we have received, clearly there has been a degree of success.”

The service was funded partly by the Sustainable Transport Levy, also from a share of the revenue from Lions Park paid parking.

The mayor said the council's transport strategy included a proposal to run a high-frequency Noosa-style shuttle bus, "but public transport is currently provided by (State Government-operated) TransLink”.

"At this time, council can't provide a service that directly competes (with TransLink), so this issue needs more detailed consideration,” he said.

The mayor said the strategy's priority was about moving people and goods, not simply moving cars.

"Thus we aim to reduce traffic, not increase road capacity,” he said.

"Peak-period traffic management is not the only objective, so there is still a lot more work to be done.”