By VERONICA ANASSIS
Glebe commuters will now have direct travel to Barangaroo and back with a new on-demand ferry service launched this month called Me-Mel. A 60-capacity mini-cat will carry people from Blackwattle Bay, with demand-based stopovers to Fish Markets and Pyrmont’s Pirrama Park.
The NSW Government initiative was launched on October 14 to cater to wharves not currently serviced by regular ferries. As part of a series of state-wide On-Demand trials, its continuation will be assessed after six months by Sydney transport operator Transdev.
On-call from 7am, the public ferry is ordered and tracked by app and at self-service kiosks located at the wharves.
“When assessing the On-Demand ferry trial we’ll look at feedback from customers and our own experience as the operator, as well as looking at how many customers are using the service on a daily basis,” said John McClymont, spokesperson for Transdev.
Water good idea
The brand-new shuttle has been welcomed with open arms by the locals due to fast travel times. Louise Moody, who works on Clarence Street in the CBD, told City Hub it shaves time off her daily commute.
“The ferry has been fantastic. The service has been fantastic. I’ve been using it every day so far… We have the light rail [from Glebe], but it’s slow, it has to sort of meander around all the stops. This [ferry] goes straight there. The travel time is 11 minutes.”
Transdev deckhands confirmed the ferry gets to Pyrmont in just under a few minutes, even on weekends, which are its peak times.
Users recommend adding more shuttles and more regular pick-ups, which they believe is likely because feedback so far has been positive.
“It will be so great to head out there [Barangaroo] for drinks,” said dogwalker and student Felicity Dalkie, who lives near the Glebe wharf, calling it a “great idea.”
“Now that the fish markets are being done up too, it comes at a good time.”
Greens MP Jamie Parker, who has been campaigning for the Me-Mel cruiser since 2015, says it will provide much needed environmentally-sustainable city access for the Balmain precinct. But he fears fares will need to be cheaper than competing services to prove popular enough to extend the trial date.
“Over 4,149 people signed my petition calling for this new service, because people here want public transport solutions that actually take cars off our congested roads.
“If it’s going to work, this service needs to be considerably cheaper than an Uber into Pyrmont,” said Mr Parker. “While this is great news for our community, I believe our new Glebe ferry should be permanent, Opal-compatible and service a wider network.”
Currently a single trip by ferry is $7.60 for adults, with an Uber trip to Barangaroo costing $18, and $14 to Pyrmont.
Spokesperson for Transdev, John McClymont, told City Hub that Me-Mel is off to a “solid start,” attracting over 600 users in its first week. He said the purpose of the trial is to test demand, but also streamline any hiccups for a potential permanent service.
“We are grateful for the positive passenger feedback, which has provided valuable insights into the app, which is being tweaked to make it easier for customers to book and track their journey times. The wharf kiosk, which is the alternative booking method, is working well… Transdev Sydney Ferries has already received great feedback from passengers.
“The overarching objective of this trial… is to improve our understanding of how different models could improve a customer’s experience.”
“On-Demand trials allow us to test creative new ways to ensure people can use public transport to travel to their desired destination easily and efficiently at a time that suits them,” said a spokesperson for Transport for NSW.
If successful, there are plans for the NSW Government to consider expanding the route to include wharfs in Potts Point and Kings Cross.
Glebe is still considered to be one of the least-accessible areas in inner-western Sydney. The Inner West Light Rail, which linked Glebe, Lilyfield and Dulwich Hill to Pyrmont and Capitol Square in 2014, transformed the area considerably, but there are many hard-to-reach nooks of the city. For example, to travel by bus to Town Hall, most Transport NSW routes from Glebe and Balmain require two to three bus changes.
With the Barangaroo railway station still under development and not scheduled for completion until 2024, the ferry system provides immediate accessibility to the city.
Me-Mel is available to order between 7am and 10pm on weekdays, and 8.30am and 7.30pm on weekends. Bookings can be made on the Tranzer smartphone app or at the kiosks located at the wharf pontoons.