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HomeLatest NewsManly Hop Skip Jump bus saved again

Manly Hop Skip Jump bus saved again

Updated 10:30pm 23 May 2023: The Hop Skip Jump bus servicing the lower Northern Beaches has been retained following a number of impassioned speeches from councillors and a strong show of public support.

The motion was defeated and instead an amendment passed to undertake an awareness campaign to encourage donations including introducing voluntarily mobile phone payments, as well as examine ways of funding the service. Council will also examine the cost and benefits of extending the service to other areas.

Manly ward councillors Cr Sarah Grattan, Cr Georgia Ryburn and Cr Candy Bingham, gave cutting speeches in defence of the popular bus service, which we will reference in future article iterations.


The Hop, Skip and Jump community bus run by Northern Beaches Council, which performs a micro-service through six suburbs in the Manly ward, is likely to be terminated, or substantially diminished, at a vote of council tomorrow night.  

The councillors will vote at the Tuesday 23 May council meeting whether to retain it, after a Motion to Cancel was introduced by Frenchs Forest Councillor Jose Menano-Pires.

This latest and most earnest threat to the future of the community service, comes just 11 months after councillors voted to retain it, on the condition a feasibility study came back to council. 

A year on, the report found passenger numbers were severely impacted since COVID, but that they have been steadily growing again, especially on the primary line that goes to Manly via Little Manly and the Swim Centre. This has 10-12k passengers a month. The smaller routes are closer to 2k. 

In his 28 June 2022 original Motion to Cancel the Hop, Skip and Jump bus, Cr Menano-Pires proposed the small bus operate on a cost-neutral basis or be phased out by September 2022. He predicted it would save Council over $850,000 in running costs (this includes upcoming fleet replacement costs). These costs, he suggested, could be better spent on roads maintenance and the construction of new footpaths. 

Northern Beaches Councillor Jose Menano-Pires.

Cr Menano-Pires, who last week agreed council had “got it wrong” installing traffic dividers throughout Manly, said he understood this was a sensitive topic for locals. 

“The Motion we passed last June called for a report from staff regarding costs, alternatives etc., which was supposed to be ready by December. For various reasons it was only ready a few weeks ago and presented internally to councillors.

“There’s no chance of this service running in a cost-neutral mode, let alone at profit, if Council runs it.”

“There’s no chance of this service running in a cost-neutral mode, let alone at profit, if Council runs it.”

He explained the issue: “The reason is that Council is not a public transport operator and as such Council can not charge a fee.

“To do so, we would need to obtain a special licence, Public Transport Operations, and then would have to charge around $11.00 per trip to break even. Don’t think it would be viable!”

[Editor’s note: an staff memo seen by Manly Observer this evening shows this figure is signficantly less see table below]

However Manly ward councillor Cr Georgia Ryburn told Manly Observer the services’ profitability is not the full sum of its value. “Is [not] their worth as a community facility more important than it being a profit-making venture?

“This is …keeping cars off roads in the most highly dense area of the Northern Beaches. If this service is cut, we’re only going to see traffic problems and parking pressures increase.”

Manly councillor Georgia Ryburn.

She continued, “I implore all Councillors to deeply consider the evidence-based data, as well as the greater social and economic costs to our community before this vote.

“If this service is terminated, it sets a precedent for terminating other unique, ‘Ward-specific’ services across the Beaches.”

Manly Community Forum Chair Cathy Griffin said Cr Menano-Pires had neglected to realise what an integral part of Manly the Hope Skip Jump (HSJ) bus had become.

Ms Griffin said Councillors are elected to advocate for the provision of services to the communities they represent after considering many factors, including but not limited to budgetary factors. Not all ratepayers avail themselves of all the services provides by the Council, she said.

“The Hop Skip Jump (HSJ) is the glue that binds the Manly community, even if you don’t catch the bus, they are a familiar feature on our roads making the community feel connected and safe. A wave from the driver as they wend their way through the suburbs on a regular timetable is a comfort to many who watch from their windows, unable to leave their homes.

“The Hop Skip Jump (HSJ) is the glue that binds the Manly community.”

For those who do catch the HSJ it is the life blood that flows through the veins of the suburbs to the heart of Manly. The HSJ does not discriminate, anyone can ride on the predictable regular timetabled buses. The drivers are more than drivers, they are part of our community, they are kind and patient, greeting their regulars with a cheerful smile or simple hello, sometimes offering a bit of a chat or even a snippet of gossip.

Not all ratepayers and residents use every Council service all the time or indeed any time. Libraries, community centres or skate parks are not profit centres, neither are roads or footpaths.” 

Supporters launch survey

Cr Ryburn, and fellow Manly Ward councillors Sarah Grattan and Candy Bingham are campaigning  to retain the service, and have posted an online survey in the hope that bus users and supporters appeal for retaining the service.

In a combined statement sent to Manly Observer,  the trio state:

“Manly Councillors believe this is an essential service for the Manly community due to chronic parking shortages, our higher population densities, inconsistent public transport coverage, hilly terrain, lack of access to key facilities and numbers of vulnerable persons.

“We also are trying to reduce the number of cars on the road to encourage lower GHG [greenhouse] emissions. You can help us save the HSJ by letting us know your views. Please help us save this important service to our community.”

A Hop, Skip and Jump bus collecting passengers at Little Manly Beach. Photo: Alec Smart

In a June 2022 public survey, Good For Manly, Cr Bingham’s political team, found 92% of 752 respondents were “extremely satisfied” with the bus service, with the remaining 8% “somewhat satisfied”. There were no objectors.

Good for Manly also asserted, “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.”

After Cr Menano-Pires’ new Motion was put before Council, Cr Bingham told Manly Observer, “Myself and the Manly Ward Councillors are looking at other options as to what can be done in relation to the community bus. My comments previously about how important it is, remain unchanged.”

Reduced service option 

In a recent briefing to councillors, accessible here, on page 223, as the Councillor Briefing Presentation, the discussion points to the option of reducing the Hop Skip Bus to the main Manly line only, since it accounts for over half of all passengers. 

The service is currently operating annually for $776,000. Cutting the Hop, Skip and Jump back to just the Manly main clockwise route would reduce annual costs to $335,000 – which might be an alternative proposal to a complete cancellation of the service.

Hop Skip Jump Bus arrived at the Stocklands Balgowlah Interchange.

Hop, Skip, Jump history

The 30-seat small buses follow scheduled hourly timetables through three primary regions, Balgowlah Heights/Clontarf, Seaforth and Manly/Fairlight, although the latter is subdivided into three zones (known as Manly alternate and Manly main) including the town centre, Little Manly and Manly Vale.

The Hop, Skip and Jump bus routes interchange at Stockland Shopping Centre in Condamine Street, Balgowlah, because it was originally a shuttle service sponsored by Stockland to enable customers, particularly the elderly, those with mobility problems or without transport, to commute to and from their neighbourhoods, at no charge.

Stockland Balgowlah opened in June 2009, replacing the 1959-built Totem Centre (which was demolished in 2007). Manly Council then took over running the bus service from Stockland shortly after the Balgowlah mall finished construction.

Northern Beaches Council inherited the operation of the Hop, Skip and Jump on 12 May 2016 when Manly Council was amalgamated with Pittwater and Warringah Councils to form the new super-council administrating the entire Northern Beaches region.

Jim O’Rourke from Manly Daily is also covering this important issue, and he cites Balgowlah retiree Neda Zeravic, who uses the service almost every day. “I catch it to get to the shops. How will I carry all my shopping home?”

Northern Beaches Advocate also spoke extensively to Cr Jose Menano-Pires on this issue.

Last week, Manly Observer spoke to one of the Hop, Skip and Jump drivers facing redundancy if the bus is terminated.

“Obviously, I’ll be sad if councillors vote to stop the service,” he lamented. “However, my main concern is for the regular passengers, many of whom are elderly,” he remarked before continuing his rounds not wanting to be late; he had many people depending on him. 

Bus users survey (ends close of business, 22 May)

Have your say on the bus here:


Written by Alec Smart with Kim Smee 

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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