This study describes and analyses the new form of local public transport 'Byabussen' (The village bus) in the municipality of Ystad in south of Sweden, with respect to the concept of integration. This integration of public transport in rural areas is a solution, which often accompanied by great expectations, aims at increasing efficiency and usage of passenger transport resources by looking into all forms of existing transport services and come to grips with it as a whole.
In the review, this system was built up from using resources that were used for compulsory school buses, opening those services for public use but with the demand that passengers except for school pupils had to phone ahead to order any particular service. Hence, these services were proposed as feeder services to communities with compulsory public schools. If a passenger wanted to travel to other places, i e the town of Ystad or other cities and towns such as Malmö (regional centre), Tomelilla or Simrishamn (neighbouring towns), this would be no problem since all the communities with such schools had regional bus or train services.
The 'Byabussen' started in September 2002, but not quite according to the outlines of the preceding review. As at 2004, the 'Byabussen' exists as a form of developed, extended local transport service, however parallel public transport services that were to be integrated are unchanged – school bus services, special transport service for disabled and elderly, and health care transport.
The project aimed to enhance knowledge of planners and operators in the transport and planning sector, organisations within development or rural transport and also other national, regional and local decision-makers.
The project methodology has been to:
- List experiences from the Byabuss project in Ystad, both from the planning phase and from the operative phase;
- Analyse the 'Byabussen' project regarding achieved success in how people do travel and why;
- Analyse the 'Byabussen' project regarding economics: what can be done further to reduce expenses;
- Analyse the 'Byabussen' project regarding possibilities for further integration: could special transport service for the disabled and health care transport be integrated with 'Byabussen'?
The 'Byabussen' rural local public transport service was the result of a pilot project with the purpose of improving public transport in rural areas. In many respects, this has been a success. However, much work remains to achieve a transport according to the original idea and one can ask if this is possible or even desired.
The reason for the credibility of the 'Byabussen' service being undermined is probably that it was considered a project at the start, in which a certain level of service could be provided to the public. This level could not be maintained because of the lack of integration, the problems in dividing responsibilities between the municipality and the regional transport authority and in the end, the resulting increase in public expenses. The lack of co-ordinated integration has several causes, among them the fact that no investments were made in new vehicles adapted to meet the needs of disabled people, crucial to possibility to integrate that kind of transport service into the 'Byabussen' concept.
Nevertheless, the bus service is highly appreciated by its users. There are in other words no difficulties in justifying the service as long as the level of expense can be kept low. To achieve this, some kind of integration of the services is necessary.
The service provided as 'Byabussen' in the municipality of Ystad is an increased service, leading to both an increase of expenses and an increase of passengers. The level of integration is minimal. There has been no indication of profits being made in neither other types of public transport in the area, nor in other sectors. The level of service was severely reduced in 2004 in response to demand to save expenses. This was achieved, but the number of trips made by the service declined. The total sum of passengers was small (equivalent to 350 trips a week), and most of them claim that they use public transport more now than a year ago according to a passenger survey done in June 2004. Some of the trips made at the time of the survey would not have been made at all had it not been for 'Byabussen'. Additionally, the same number of trips would have been made by car instead.
It is an obvious fact that the focus must be on creating an organisation that enables integration. This can be achieved by mutual agreements and plans of action in the regions as well as in the municipality. This must be about key figures participating in an early stage and about continuously teaching an informing each other about the areas of responsibilities. One of the key figures is the school bus planner. In short, it is all about a process integrated in the normal daily planning process, at the municipality level as well as the regional level, rather than isolated projects implemented overnight.
Related to the participation in the planning assignment in the south of Österlen, possibilities for further integration are discussed. By making school transport available for use by everyone, it should be possible to use a remaining potential for integration to enhance transport services for residents of rural areas. The results and the conclusions from the planning assignment have showed the complexity of the process and the obstacles often faced in the work with integrating kinds of services.
As of today, there is no funding of a planned 'part two' of this project, aiming to conduct a demonstration project of integrated feeder services in public transport elsewhere in southern Sweden.