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New Study reveals growing transport disadvantage for communities with age & disability-related needs

Updated: Apr 8, 2022

Many Australians still struggle to get where they need to go, and a new multi-state study highlights the opportunities to get transport access right for our communities. Can technology help?

Access to transport is a basic human need that fundamentally impacts everyone’s well-being. Community transport is a critical element of our wider transport network that ensures suitable transport options exist for everybody, especially those with specific or more complex needs.

A new study reveals how emerging technologies can improve community transport by increasing access for clients, allowing better allocation of resources by providers, and increasing client choice with improved customer experience.

The study offers a foundational understanding of community transport operations across Australia, their critical role, and the challenges they and their customers face. It has clarified hesitations around technology, highlighting the advantages and the importance of reciprocal partnerships for technology adoptions.

The study was led by ITS Australia, the peak body in Australia for advanced transport technology, with the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Public Policy and Governance leading the research effort. It includes input from departments of transport TfNSW, DOT VIC, DOT WA and TMR, and is supported by iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre, The National Centre for Transport and Mobility R&D.

The findings provide the clearest picture yet of the Australian community transport landscape and where there are opportunities to deliver services that meet everyone’s needs at both a system and service level.

This new research highlights how needs are still not being met in many places. It explores the options for improving the situation by having the right discussions and action, including integration and innovation in the community transport sector.

Investment in community transport reduces transport disadvantage, defined as ‘the inability to travel when and where one needs to without difficulty’. This seemingly simple objective is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve, especially for older people, those with a disability and people in rural and regional areas. Our ageing population (estimated to double by 2057) is just one reason why the number of people at risk of transport disadvantage will grow significantly over time.

The wider transport sector is currently undergoing a sustained period of change arising from technology, digitalisation, automation and access to data. New capability is creating ways of planning and delivering services that have the potential to meet everyone’s needs, including our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. There needs to be consensus and action to ensure that we minimise transport disadvantage and maximise opportunities for our communities.

Quote from Lee-Ann Breger, Programs Director, iMOVE: “The ability to get around is key to any individual’s wellbeing as it enables them to access health services, to work and participate in leisure activities. In Australia, we have an increasingly ageing population, where 5% of the population has a severe disability of some kind, many of whom need support to get from A to B. We need to make sure that our CT networks deliver this.”

Quote from Susan Harris, Chief Executive Officer, ITS Australia

“This work offers excellent insights into how technology can support community transport and make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. As we advance this pathway, technology providers must be sensitive to the nuances of community transport, and partnerships are vital to getting this right. ITS Australia will continue working in this space to realise some of the benefits through a collaborative approach.”

Quote from Peter Lee, Senior Manager, Institute for Public Policy and Governance, University of Technology Sydney

“In taking a strategic look at community transport and its context, our research really shines a light on a poorly understood area of transport to evidence the complexities experienced by service providers and their customers. In drawing attention to existing and emerging challenges and opportunities for community transport, we hope the research can act as a catalyst for action in policy, engagement, innovation and partnerships.”

Upcoming webinar on this research on the 6th April, 2022:

Key points from the research

  • Community Transport is more about the ‘Community’ than just transport – it provides the glue connecting users to vital services and social networks

  • Community Transport (CT) users are a growing and complex stakeholder group with challenging needs and expectations – by 2057 it’s projected that Australians over 65 will make up 22% of the population.

  • In 2020, the Commissioner for Senior Victorians published a report which found that 92% of seniors rated personal mobility as critical to health, social well-being and independence

  • This is a complex and challenging ecosystem and technology has the potential to improve CT by increasing access for clients, better allocation of resources by providers, and increased client choice with improved customer experience.

  • CT providers see many opportunities to work with transport technology providers, to partner on solutions that work for their customers and to utilise technology platforms that have the potential to scale to a wider user base.

  • Opportunities exist for reciprocal partnering (with the risks shared by technology platform/provider and CT operators) to build adaptive fit-for-purpose products that work for CT clients and operators.

  • CT’s complex funding structures play a significant role in how services are delivered.

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