Wollongong City Council and business and community groups have welcomed ongoing funding for the popular free Gong Shuttle bus until 2024.
The announcement regarding the future of the Gong Shuttle was made on Friday morning following ongoing negotiations between Transport for NSW, the University of Wollongong (UOW) and the council.
"The University of Wollongong is very pleased to see this vital bus service continuing for the benefit of students, staff and the community," UOW chief operating officer Damien Israel said.
"This positive outcome is the result of a constructive dialogue informed by an analysis of patronage data and operating costs.
"I would like to thank Transport for NSW and Wollongong City Council for their positive engagement and collaboration throughout these discussions."
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said it was great news for the community.
"The free Gong Shuttle is a valued piece of Wollongong's infrastructure puzzle and one that helps people from all walks of life get around our city and makes the city more accessible to all," he said.
"The free Gong Shuttle is also a means of bringing down the demand for parking and for those who are concerned about parking costs or inconvenience, here's a way of lessening the impact on the wallet.
"This is a frequent free service that no other CBD in the region has. It allows you to get around quickly without the worry of finding a car park."
There will be a modification to the Saturday operating hours in the new agreement. From July 3 this year the shuttle will run from 9.40am-5.20pm rather than from 8am-6pm. The route will remain with its 20-minute intervals.
The region's peak business advocacy organisation, the Illawarra Business Chamber (IBC), also welcomed the NSW government's decision to extend the operation of the free Gong Shuttle bus service.
IBC executive director Adam Zarth said the decision was a win for businesses and the community alike, with the benefits of the free Gong Shuttle far outweighing the expense.
"The Gong Shuttle is so important to the functioning of our city and we are very pleased to see agreement reached and ongoing arrangements announced today," Mr Zarth said.
"Aside from providing a ready means for students, tourists and pensioners to navigate the city, the shuttle service reduces traffic and parking congestion and allows people to access local businesses and get to their place of employment more easily and affordably."
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