The future of Manly’s popular community Hop, Skip & Jump Bus is at risk, due to the $750,000 cost of running the service every year. While Manly Ward councillors point to the community value of the bus service, Frenchs Forest Cr Jose Menano-Pires says it only benefits a small part of the council area.
Deputy Mayor Candy Bingham, along with fellow Manly Ward Councillors, Sarah Grattan and Georgia Ryburn, have leapt to the defence of the service, with State MP James Griffin also joining the campaign. At the next Council meeting, the councillors will call for a cost-benefit analysis to be undertaken to determine how the bus service can be retained.
“This service must be kept, too many people rely on it. Rather than scrapping it, let’s look at ways to make it more cost-effective”, said Cr Bingham.
“What makes Manly different from other Wards within the Northern Beaches Council area, is its density. Ninety percent of people live in apartments, many of which have no garage, there is a large elderly population as well as 400 people who live in social housing. This service keeps cars off the road and provides a means of transport for those who are unable to drive”, she said.
However Cr Menano-Pires will call for the Council to phase out the bus service by September, unless it can be run on a cost neutral basis. He said the savings should be reinvested into roads and footpaths instead.
The Hop Skip and Jump service started in 2006 at the same time the Stockland Shopping Centre at Balgowlah was being redeveloped, and all routes still lead to Stocklands. From there, buses go to Clontarf, Manly Vale, Balgowlah Heights and Little Manly. Passengers are encouraged to make a gold coin donation when they travel, however since COVID fewer people carry coins, so passengers usually ride for free.
When the service was taken over by Manly Council, the Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton Aquatic Centre redevelopment, which provided limited parking on site, was contingent on the bus service being available.
At its peak in 2019, the service moved about 400,000 passengers per annum. Since COVID the numbers have dropped to around 200,000 pa but this is expected to increase again, particularly with the recent publicity about the service.
In the meantime, residents are encouraged to email all Councillors with their views of the Hop, Skip and Jump bus service. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor & Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.