Public transport is important for people experiencing disadvantage because it allows people to access valuable life opportunities, including employment, education, health and community services and opportunities to participate in family and community life. VCOSS members report that many of the people they work with find it difficult to access their services, as well as healthcare, work and social activities, because of the lack of transport options in rural and regional Victoria.
The Victorian Government has released its ‘Conversation Report’ on consultations towards developing a Victoria’s first regional network development plan for transport. VCOSS welcomes the extensive consultation undertaken to reflect the needs and views of local communities in the plan’s development. The report finds regional Victorians identify multiple transport problems that can be prioritised in the plan, including:
- better connections between small towns and regional centres, so people can access major service centres
- improvements to facilities, infrastructure and on-board services
- inconsistent ticketing systems across regional Victoria are causing frustration
- communication is an area that could be improved, including need for up-to-date information, connecting routes, and better promotion of public transport
- its not all about getting to Melbourne, there needs to be transport options for regional centres to connect to each other
- support universal access that encourages independence, particularly for older people, people with disability and those facing disadvantage.
VCOSS provided a submission to the regional transport consultation. We advocated that the regional transport development plan supports disadvantaged Victorians to participate more fully in community life by recognising and reflecting a number of priorities.
Regional and rural communities are diverse, with different needs and transport drivers, including different demographics and economic activities, and need local participation in designing transport systems that meet local requirements.
Public transport must be accessible for a wide diversity of people, including people with disabilities, older people, people with prams or strollers and people with luggage. This requires a system wide commitment to accessibility, from one end of a journey to the other.
An equitable approach is needed to address the cost of public transport services for people in rural and regional areas, who can be required to pay more for a service that provides fewer opportunities for access than services in other areas.
Improved integration and coordination of services and planning, and accessible information about transport options is important for users of public transport. This includes more ‘orbital services’ that provide links between regions, such as north-south journeys in Gippsland, or east-west connections in northern Victoria.
Alternative transport models, including community transport, health transport services and taxis can form part of a joined up and holistic approach to transport planning and service delivery