Why Raising the Profile of Community Transport Needs to Happen

Oct 18, 2023 | Community Transport

Community transport serves as a lifeline for people who live in areas with limited access to public transportation, or for those who are unable to use standard forms of transit due to disabilities or other restrictions. Despite its vital role, community transport often goes underappreciated and underfunded.

What is Community Transport?

Community transport encompasses a range of services provided at the local level to meet the needs of residents who don’t have suitable access to private or public transport. This includes volunteer-run services, dial-a-ride, community bus routes, and more. These services are particularly important in rural communities, where standard public transport may be infrequent or nonexistent.

Why Is It Important?

Many of us take transport for granted, especially if we have our own vehicle, can drive and don’t live in a connected city such as London.  But take our vehicles away and we would not be able to travel anywhere, we would be in a permanent lockdown.

Given that the sector is propped up by superheroes (in the form of volunteers whose efforts often go unnoticed and underappreciated), the sector gets very little attention and is often an afterthought.  What’s interesting though, is that if community transport ceased to exist, vast swathes of society would grind to a halt.

How Community Transport Services Keep Us All Connected

Social Inclusion

One of the key benefits of community transport is that it promotes social inclusion. Many people, especially the elderly and those with mobility issues, risk becoming isolated without reliable, accessible transport.

Community transport provides the means for these individuals to attend social events, medical appointments, and complete essential errands.  By raising the profile of these services, more people become aware of these options and can take advantage of them, thus promoting social inclusion.

Economic Benefits

Community transport also offers economic benefits by enabling people to access employment opportunities they might otherwise miss. This form of transport allows for a more flexible and targeted approach compared to standard public transport, directly contributing to local economic growth.

From an individual’s perspective, community transport is often more economical than owning and maintaining a car, especially when considering costs like insurance, fuel, and parking. On a societal level, increased use of community transport can lead to reduced road wear and tear, less need for parking spaces, and even lower healthcare costs due to reduced emissions.

Reducing Traffic Congestion

Increased utilization of community transport can help in reducing road congestion. Fewer cars on the road mean less traffic, quicker commutes, and a decreased likelihood of accidents. This is particularly important in densely populated areas where traffic congestion is a major issue.

Environmental Impact

By reducing the number of individual cars on the road, community transport helps to lower carbon emissions. Additionally, these services often employ smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, and some are even exploring electric options.

The Current State of Community Transport

Despite its many benefits, community transport is often overshadowed by larger, more mainstream public transport services. It faces challenges such as:

  • Lack of Funding
  • Limited Recognition
  • Regulatory Barriers
  • Limited Awareness and Stigmas
  • Reliance on Volunteer Engagement

These hurdles prevent community transport from reaching its full potential to serve those in need.

Calls to Action

Increased Funding

  • Greater investment from both government and private sectors can significantly improve community transport services. This includes grants for electric vehicles, subsidies for service providers, and other financial incentives to bridge the gaps and connect communities completely.
  • Diversifying sources of funding, including public-private partnerships, grants, and community fundraisers, can alleviate some of these constraints. Advocacy for increased governmental support is also essential.

Public Awareness and Expansion

  • In some areas, community transport might be seen as an option only for those who cannot afford private transportation, thereby creating a social stigma.  Branding and marketing can be employed to change this perception and make community transport an attractive choice for everyone, regardless of their economic status.
  • Raising public awareness about the importance of community transport can lead to increased usage and, consequently, more funding and support. Campaigns, social media, and partnerships with local businesses can all play a role in this along with incentives such as free parking for volunteer drivers.  It should also focus on the environmental benefits that community transport brings to the various areas they operate in.
  • Limited reach, especially in rural or underserved areas, restricts the effectiveness of community transport especially as transport services may not be accessible to people with disabilities.  Expanding and supporting the community transport network across the country and ensuring that vehicles and terminals are designed with accessibility in mind are crucial steps.

Policy Advocacy

  • Advocating for policies that support community transport can remove some of the regulatory barriers these services face. This includes working towards more flexible licensing and easier access to funding.
  • A streamlined and simplified regulatory framework could facilitate easier operation while still ensuring safety and quality standards are met.

Key Takeaway

Community transport is not just a ‘nice-to-have’ but a necessity for many. Recognising its importance and contributing to its growth is a collective responsibility. It’s high time that community transport receives the recognition it deserves, for the betterment of society as a whole. With adequate support, these invaluable services can thrive, creating more equitable and connected communities for all.

57 Ways Community Transport Makes a Difference in People’s Lives

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