Area Connect is a new concept in flexible transportation to serve smaller and more remote communities in Tasmania where mainstream public transport is not readily available. The service has been created and developed by Community Transport Services Tasmania Inc (CTST) in consultation with the Department of State Growth and other government instrumentalities and several community service providers. Its main purpose is to get people to where they need to go – either by connecting them to an existing public transport service, or taking them to their destination where no public transport exists. While it can also connect with funded community transport, and with mainstream public transport, it is different and separate from either of these, created to fill a different need.
Area Connect has begun as a pilot program in two regional areas of Tasmania, where particular needs have been identified as urgent. We will develop and refine the operation of these two services during the year 2018, in expectation of then expanding to take in other remote and/or regional communities in other parts of Tasmania as and when appropriate.
The service has been established partly in response to reports and recommendations from this state’s peak body of social service providers, TASCOSS, as well as in reference to the Tasmanian Government’s review of public transport services for the future: “Project 2018: Public Transport Bus Services Procurement.”
Area Connect is intended to enhance the effectiveness of public transport, not to compete with it, and to facilitate people’s access to employment, to education and training, to medical and personal care, and their connection to their community. It does not duplicate any other existing service; rather it adds a new service that expands the effectiveness of existing services by connecting with them.
As a key part of developing and expanding Area Connect from its current “pilot” phase, CTST is keen to engage with other communities around Tasmania, to identify transport gaps, understand individual and community transport needs, and work towards building a co-ordinated Area Connect service that is flexible and nimble in addressing those needs.
To be truly effective, Area Connect will rely on functional partnerships in the communities it serves – partnerships between the operator, CTST, and a variety of other service providers. We will aim to co-ordinate resources already available in the community, rather than duplicating them; for example, hiring larger buses from existing operators when they are needed, rather than adding larger buses to our own fleet.