Free Wodonga schoolbus pushed by Cr Anna Speedie

Wodonga Middle Years College students catch a local school bus. Picture: DAVID THORPE
Wodonga Middle Years College students catch a local school bus. Picture: DAVID THORPE

FREE council-run school buses could be on the agenda for Wodonga families.

Wodonga councillor Anna Speedie says the city needs to “be creative” in how it reduces traffic congestion, and free buses on the busy school runs could be part of that.

“We may need to offer incentives to encourage children to ride on buses,” she said.

“Perhaps a free service could be part of that, it would be one of the options but (any plan) would have to be more comprehensive than that.”

Cr Speedie spoke passionately about the idea during Monday night’s council meeting as councillors debated the draft Wodonga integrated transport strategy, which outlines the council’s direction for transport in the city between now and 2017.

She said she wanted the strategy to be a challenge for the council to come up with inventive ways to better use the city’s assets and that she would pursue free school buses during next year’s budget discussions.

Cr Speedie said the existing school bus system could be improved.

“If you’ve got a couple of kids, it could be $2.50 per day per child, times five days a week — it can add up,” she said.

“Counter to that though is, if you decide to drop off the kids instead, what does that do to congestion around the school?”

As the parent of a school-aged child, she said roads around schools could get extremely congested during peak pick-up/drop-off times, though some schools were better able to handle traffic than others.

Her idea comes as feedback from the council’s public consultation on the transport strategy revealed the majority of respondents rated cars as the least important mode of transport.

Within the 52 written submissions, cycling was ranked first, followed by walking then public transport.

There was strong support for the city’s bicycle network to be improved.

The transport strategy will now consider public feedback while finalising the document before it goes on public display again later this year.