A community transport survey in Marton has revealed the town’s limited services do not meet its residents’ needs. Massey researchers helped design and analyse the Rangitikei Transport Steering Group’s survey, and last week presented the findings in workshop at the Rangitikei Path to Wellbeing conference.
In March, Massey Associate Professor Christine Cheyne and honours planning students collaborated with the steering group to conduct the household survey about current and future transport needs.
Two hundred and eighty-nine respondents completed the questionnaire. When asked if they would use an out of town service, 206 people said yes, 79 said no. Palmerston North (35 per cent), Whanganui (33 per cent) and Feilding (28 per cent) were the most desired travel destinations. Survey data showed a desire for a flexible and accessible transport service, which could divert from its usual route and allow pick-ups from home.
Currently the Tranzit commuter bus is the only scheduled weekday service to Palmerston North, leaving Marton at 7.05am and returning at 5.09pm, but Horizons Regional Council has recently reinstated the alternating, fortnightly bus service from Marton to Palmerston North and Whanganui.
But Megan Dever, an honours student who analysed the data, says they wanted a flexible service they could use several times a week She found current services did not meet everyone’s needs, especially the elderly, young and people on low incomes, and revealed the town’s “transport disadvantage”.
Dr Cheyne agrees Marton’s public transport services are limited and tailored towards workers, while other residents felt isolated – and says the results are reflective of the transport challenges many small towns face. “What our research shows is we need to be innovative, and we need to find creative solutions. We need to be aware community transport is a growing need, because of the issues around fuel prices, an ageing population and recent changes to driver licensing.”
She says alternatives such as vanpooling need to be explored for Marton, a town of more than 4000 residents, as it was difficult to make a scheduled large bus service pay, and people wanted flexibility. A “demand-response” community transport service is a logical next step – and is currently used in North and South Canterbury, and being piloted in Pahiatua.
Dr Cheyne says the collaborative approach, combining university expertise and the enthusiasm of the community group was beneficial and there is potential to do more. “We would like to see a rural community transport forum set up, so we have all stakeholders from community transport providers, community groups and local government working together, looking at our findings and discussing how they can be implemented.”