WYNBUS: Need of the hour for Melb’s Point Cook residents

A community-based initiative that provided peak-hour service to residents in Melbourne’s west has been hugely successful and now seeks government support as a permanent service.

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Inspired by the ‘share autos’ of Chennai India, which connect the unserved areas of the city, residents of Point Cook Melbourne have launched a minibus shuttle service named WYNBUS to overcome the challenges of bus coverage in the new estates, and also to ease traffic congestion.

Senthill Sundaram with Kaishaliya Vaghela MLC for Western Metropolitan Region, Victoria
Senthill Sundaram with Kaishaliya Vaghela MLC for Western Metropolitan Region, Victoria

Local community members worked as a team and trialled a six-week minibus service called Wynbus, which was funded by a Victorian government initiative, Pick My Project. Four shuttles (8-10 seaters), bookable by a mobile app at an affordable fare, operated during morning and evening peak hours from 26 Aug to 4 Oct, ferrying commuters to the Hoppers Crossing station.

It was so successful that residents are now hoping for permanent service.
Senthill Sundaram of the Point Cook Action group, a community group that has been actively working to enable better facilities in the Point Cook area, told Indian Link, “PTV (Public Transport Victoria) has been revising bus services on a regular basis, but we still have shortages, considering the fast-growing population in this suburb.

So, the residents have to depend on their cars just to reach the train station, causing enormous traffic congestion during peak hours. We spend much time in the car during the morning hours as the major route to the train station is usually bumper to bumper.

To tackle the situation, the community came up with this concept of minibus shuttle service to travel to/from the train station. During the trial run, we believe that the residents had a hassle-free morning as Wynbus took many cars off the road and also reduced the parking woes at the train station. Many appreciated the new route to Hoppers Crossing station that we had chosen for the service.”

The outcomes will now be submitted to the state government for evaluation: hope is that a permanent service will be sanctioned.

Community-based projects such as Wynbus which see high levels of public engagement are more likely to be accepted by the public than large-scale schemes. Such projects can create effective community infrastructure, but to become widespread, larger institutional support is required.

The core team at WYNBUS
The core team at WYNBUS

Apart from the peak-hour service, Wynbus operated additional services like a mobility-aid minibus and school shuttles during off-peak hours. “Our school shuttles were on high demand,” Senthill revealed. “Mobility-aid enabled minibus helped many elderly people to move around the suburb independently. Insights from the trial run will help us to advocate more such on-demand shuttle services across Wyndham.”

The Point Cook Action volunteers reached out to their community through the Pick My Project campaign and received funding for the Wynbus project after being voted by their community as one of the popular projects in Western Melbourne. Pick My Project is a $30 million community initiative motivating Victorians to design new project ideas that will enhance the livelihood of the local community. In this scheme, Victorians vote for their favourite project ideas to be funded by the government.

The initiative turned out to be a boon to the Point Cook residents to avail of the minibus services. “Launching a minibus trial services in and around Point Cook wouldn’t have been possible without the Pick My Project scheme. Our group of volunteers worked hard for a year to shape this project. We campaigned at the bus stations about the importance of the minibus. People were not always convinced as they raised many concerns. Their questions did not demotivate us, rather they helped us we improvise our project.”

In the end, the grit and determination worked for the Point Cook Action Group (PCAG) community members, most of them working professionals who have endured an arduous journey in this project for more than a year now.

“We spent much of our weekends and after-hours working on this project. We were determined to get it done for our community!” said Senthil, an IT professional, who has been part of PCAG for four years now.  

The six-week trial service became an instant hit as the commuters were able to cut down on their usual stretched commute time. Vinodh, a resident of Point Cook told Indian Link, “I loved the Wynbus trial service as my morning commute to the station was much easier than before. They did a brilliant job by avoiding the usual route via Palmers Road, which is usually traffic-congested, and chose a different route. We used to spend 40minutes in the car just to reach the train station. Now with Wynbus’ novel service, we were able to reach the station within 15 minutes, which is a great relief to the residents of Point Cook.

The service was reliable, user-friendly and punctual, considering the ongoing traffic conditions. Wynbus is the need of the hour as we are facing transport issues, delays due to roadworks and parking problems. Most of us have to use two cars, with one to park at the station. I wish the service is integrated with Myki and if we could pull the service into PTV, that would be a dream come true for Point Cook residents.”