Conference paper
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Abstract: Brisbane’s CityCat ferries have become a successful fixture within the city’s public transport system. The system has grown from an initial fleet of four catamaran vessels in 1996 to 21 vessels today. It features an urban scale, a passenger focus, regular scheduling, high speed vessels, a linear route configuration with multiple stops along the river and distinct branding and marketing. Cities elsewhere have since created similar systems. This paper uses innovation theory, derived from the product development literature to help explore how this innovation in the public transport market occurred. A focus was on the development of the CityCat system during the period between 1990 and 2000, a time of significant transformation of the riverine environment in Brisbane City. Six interviews were conducted with key actors involved in the planning and early operation of the ferry system. The results suggest that previous ferry operators with grounded local knowledge and strong economic motivations were central to the preliminary genesis of the concept, but that policy entrepreneurs in local government, harnessing the ferries to a planning agenda around a ‘River City’ and urban renewal were critical to the eventual packaging of what became the CityCats. The story of how the Brisbane system was developed, what influences were present, the planning process that were involved, and how the idea spread is instructive, and helps explain how and why transport innovations occur.

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