New technology is improving community transport by enabling providers to offer on-demand services and track vehicles.
Door-to-door community transport is crucial for providing options for people who have difficulty accessing public transport and giving them an opportunity to participate in their communities, and demand for services is increasing says Brett Andrews, General Manager of Connect: Inner West.
The group provides transport for elderly and disabled people who live Sydney’s Inner West area, specifically north and south of Parramatta Road in the former Marrickville and Leichhardt Local Government Areas.
When Connect: Inner West began operating in 1983, it only had a few hundred clients and one bus. Today, it has a client base of about 2,000, with 12 vehicles and 24 staff.
Mr Andrews says the use of technology has been one of the biggest changes to the sector.
He says Connect: Inner West is now using technology that enables route maps to be connected remotely to the dispatch system and that communicates with Cabcharge.
It will soon be introducing a Cabcharge card to its clients to be used at night and on the weekend when their services aren’t in operation.
“If we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t be able to offer services in the evenings or weekends,” Mr Andrews told Community Care Review.
The route map system used by Connect: Inner West is GPS tracked, which enables staff to track their vehicles and ensure that they are operating.
The use of informatics has provided a rich data mine for transport planners, and is now providing Connect: Inner West with information about their clients and others across the state.
There are many services provided by Connect: Inner West, however, its most popular service is its medical transport, which takes clients to their medical appointments.
“We go in and out of RPA over in Camperdown about, sometimes it feels like it’s about 50 times a day,” Mr Andrews says.
Transport for shopping and social outings is also in heavy demand.
As well getting people to their destinations, Connect: Inner West also helps provide a crucial connection to the community.
“We know that as you get older, and if you have children and your children have grown up and moved away, friends become more important, and that sense of being connected to someone who’s not a family member becomes more important, and that’s what our services provide,” Mr Andrews says.
People transition in and out of community transport over time depending on need.
“They might use us for three or four months while they’re going to rehab, and once they get better they’ll stop using us but they’re still in our books and may come back to us later on,” Mr Andrews said.
He says community transport is an important service for the aged care sector because it enables people to stay at home longer, giving them the independence to still get out and about.
“Giving up your (drivers) licence for a lot of people is a significant ageing milestone, and that’s a loss of independence,” Mr Andrews says.
“But if you replace it with on-demand transport … you can still do things, and you’ve got control over that too, you’re still independent.”