Community agencies further develop on-demand public transport designs

Representatives of community and social support agencies from across Timaru met at Environment Canterbury, contributing to the design and development of on-demand public transport.

Environment Canterbury’s operations manager Judith Earl-Goulet said that the purpose of the workshop was to identify opportunities to help the community transition successfully to the on-demand service next year.

“We know that the decision to introduce an on-demand public transport service in Timaru takes time to understand, and that some people are not sure yet how it will work. As part of our comprehensive community engagement work, we are working with organisations throughout Timaru, including schools, health agencies, employers, and community service groups. Regular sessions with advisory groups are important to help us understand perceived barriers, and opportunities to overcome them.”

Judith Earl-Goulet said that the advisory agencies were very engaged in developing solutions, and were excited about the flexibility and convenience to be offered by the new service.

“Many of the representatives brought with them questions from the people they represent, many of which we were able to address straight away. The workshop also generated many ideas and suggestions, which will inform our community engagement plan. We will meet again with this advisory group later this year when the technology provider and vehicle operator have been appointed,” she said.

Environment Canterbury is eager to hear from agencies, businesses and other organisations interested in learning more about the opportunities on-demand public transport can offer, particularly those who would like to be involved in the service pilot early next year.

Feedback from workshop attendees

Jane Sullivan, Health Promoter at Community and Public Health said, “I’m supportive of transport strategies that prioritise public transport, walking and cycling and reduce the reliance on private motor vehicles. The On-Demand service has the potential to reach far and wide in our community and provide improved access to jobs, education, services and recreational activities – all critical social determinants of health.”

Robyn Baldwin of the Timaru Senior Citizens Association said, “This was a very exciting and worthwhile workshop, that I found brilliant, exciting and informative. I believe that the upcoming pilot and trial will be workable if users embrace the changes, ask questions, engage the process, utilize the options around technology and help with ironing out issues to make this work for our community. Let’s be positive, as we certainly do not want it to fail.”

Julie Fosbender, Service Manager at CCS Disability Action, said that her organisation is delighted to be part of the pilot. “We are seeing this as an opportunity to create a more inclusive transport option for all people. Timetables have limited people’s choice as often they do not fit in with their support times, resulting in people not being able to access the community within support times. This service will give opportunities for impromptu outings that all New Zealanders should be able to enjoy. Well done to Environment Canterbury for this innovative initiative.”

Leonie Rasmussen, Ara’s Southern Campus Operations Manager said, “Ara supports the introduction of the on-demand public transport service and is excited about the flexibility the new service will provide our students next year.”

Katy Houstoun, Migrant Support Manager at Aoraki Migrant Centre, said “This is a very positive and needed initiative for Timaru. It will benefit both people and employers with new services to be run to Washdyke and the Timaru port. A lot of consideration and research has gone into this project to make sure it brings value and will be a much improved service for Timaru.”

Agencies and organisations at the workshop