According to the Commission for Integrated Transport, a United Kingdom government advisory body. There are a number of special barriers to the establishment of viable public transportation in rural areas. The population is far-flung and sparse, but people still need to be places for medical appointments, schools and jobs at particular times. Which are different for different population groups. The Commission notes the reduction of commercial bus services over the last 20 years, with operators choosing to focus on profit-making urban markets. Local authorities have been unable to (or have not prioritised) subsidizing services.
Meeting Community Transport Needs
New Zealand’s Far North is an example of a region that faces many of the challenges identified by the UK Commission. Employment, shopping for food and medical appointments may require travel as far as 120 kilometres, one-way. This is particularly an issue for low income people and the retired.
The Community Business and Environment Centre (CBEC), an innovative enterprise originally established to provide employment opportunities in environmentally nurturing activities, is about to launch a public transport service tailored to meet the needs of remote Northern communities. The project is a joint venture with Te Runanga o te Rarawa, the leadership council of the largest Maori iwi in the target area.
Busabout Kaitaia, an affordable minibus service running on waste vegetable oil, will begin operations this New Zealand winter. CBEC will be seeking sponsorship from local businesses so that over time passenger fares, at launch to be set at an affordable but cost covering level can be reduced.
Promoting A Sustainable Lifestyle
The service has been designed to meet multiple objectives, including:
- Protecting the Environment. The bus service is expected to trim the number of single occupant car journeys. In addition, it will promote the safe disposal of waste vegetable oil, which can pollute waterways when washed down sinks. About 1,000 litres of vegetable oil will be required each week, to be converted to bio-diesel to run the buses.
- Supporting Employment. People will find it more affordable to attend job interviews and to work away from their immediate communities. Where employment may be hard to find.
- Increasing Road Safety. Low income families may be less likely to drive poorly maintained vehicles. Older people who prefer not to drive will now have a choice.
- Community Building. The joint venture partners have been consulting with local people on their needs, and will ask the public to contribute waste vegetable oil to the project. In addition, local businesses will be acknowledged for their contributions.
The bio-bus service is an example of CBEC’s focus, as an Employment Service and Local Economic Development Agency, on providing services that are needed by local people, but that may be marginally profitable. The enterprise and the runanga have other shared ventures, for example in the area of waste recovery. The United Kingdom Transport Commission observes that “a reasonable level of transport access is fundamental to providing a good quality of life and mitigating poverty and social exclusion.”