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Passenger interest in new on-demand shuttles varies across Sydney By Matthew O'Sullivan

 Residents in Sydney's eastern suburbs and Manly have shown much stronger interest in new on-demand buses than those in outer parts such as Wetherill Park, new government figures show.

Demand for the shuttle services, which are under way as part of a trial, will influence whether the government decides to increase them in areas such as the eastern suburbs, or drop them in other parts of the city where interest is weak.

The figures show the number of passengers who took the minibus services each week in the eastern suburbs and Manly rose from 156 when they started in November, to as many as 527 two months later. Customers are picked up at their homes or nearby locations, and driven to train stations or ferry wharves.

In contrast, demand for the minibuses at Wetherill Park has fallen since they began in December, from 124 passengers in the first week of service to just 21 in the week to February 4.

Patronage in the Sutherland Shire in Sydney's south rose from 135 passengers in one week in November to as many as 490 late last month. But further south, passengers taking the relatively new services in the Wollongong suburb of Figtree have ranged from just three to 17 a week since the services began at the start of January.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the program was still in its early days but the data showed that there were areas of Sydney that "love on-demand" services.

"We are watching the trials with interest, and if there are areas in Sydney that want this service, we will deliver,” he said. "People want responsive turn-up-and-go services that help them with their everyday lives."

The on-demand shuttles are aimed at offering a ‘‘first and last-mile link’’ between homes and train and bus stations and stops, helping to reduce pressure on car parks near transport hubs.

While not intended to compete with taxis or ride-sharing services such as Uber, pricing for a standard on-demand bus trip of between $2.60 and $5.60 is cheaper. Customers can book the shuttle services online, by phone or via an app on their smart devices.

The operating costs of the on-demand services run by private transport companies such as Transdev, Keolis Downer and Hillsbus are subsidised by the state government.

At present, the trials are under way in 10 urban areas in Sydney and on the South Coast.

Keolis Downer will begin services from within a 15-kilometre radius of the centre of Macquarie Park in the city's north in the coming weeks. Services at Woy Woy on the Central Coast are also due to begin early this year.

Two weeks ago, shuttle services began at Edmondson Park in Sydney's sout-west, and Carlingford in the north-west.

The number of on-demand shuttle services varies by area, ranging from them running only during peak travel periods to 18 hours a day.

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