A pilot program of autonomous shuttle buses could be headed to our region as part of a new push to boost public transport usage in some of the Central West's busiest cities.
The issue was raised last week as Bathurst Regional Council discussed the region's inclusion in the state government's 16 Cities Plan, which Orange is also part of, aimed at dramatically increasing the use of buses.
Cr Jess Jennings, who has previously spruiked the benefits of driverless vehicles, asked whether they might be included in the current program.
He said he could see real potential for an autonomous shuttle service around the CBD and down Keppel Street to the railway station.
"Does this program have scope for autonomous shuttles and the technology that is already available on the market, or is that just for the city people?" he asked.
In response, envrionmental, planning and building services director Neil Southorn confirmed the vehicles were "being talked about".
"Some people believe that it's imminent that these sorts of technologies will be available in regional areas; other people believe we will be late adopters," he said.
"But certainly we should be able to accommodate those new technologies when they do become commercially available.
"And, prior to that, there's conversations occasionally about whether Bathurst could pilot some of those before they become commercially available."
Meanwhile, Cr Jacqui Rudge said the 16 Cities Program would particularly benefit older residents who didn't drive.
... it dovetails in with the work under way with the Town Centre Master Plan to make [the CBD] more pedestrian-friendly.Bathurst's deputy mayor Ian North
"I know that in our plans for the future we're looking at possibly less vehicular access and movement within the CBD and this is really a great step forward," she said.
"We're looking at improving Bathurst [bus usage] from three per cent to 17 per cent and that's within an anticipated period of 12 months so this is really a big step."
Deputy mayor Ian North asked what financial commitment the state government had made to supporting the program in the longer term and was told it was "very difficult to have the state commit to long-term funded projects in Bathurst".
"But it's a good start," Mr Southorn said.
"Indeed, it dovetails in with the work under way with the Town Centre Master Plan to make [the CBD] more pedestrian-friendly and a place where people can move around easily."
Cr North also highlighted the need for new, well-lit bus shelters around the CBD.
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