Efficient and available accessible transport is essential to the quality of many vulnerable people. However, accessible transport in Camden, as elsewhere, was provided by a number of operators and vehicle fleets, which lead to poor vehicle utilisation, adverse environmental effects and a non-optimal service to the user in an area where the need is great. PlusBus InterActive attempted to integrate transport, land use, social and environmental objectives. Effective integration of the operations of the various players involved was aimed at reducing duplication of vehicle use, better relate transport to land use and maximise the substitution of low and zero pollution vehicles initiated by the ASTI and ZEUS projects. Sustainability can only be maintained if the whole experience for the user and the provider, and the communiy at large, is acceptable and workable. PlusBus Interactive sought to test further advances in the use of telematics within the framework of integration between trip and land uses and transport provision; overcoming exclusion for people with mobility difficulties; and encouraging community development. The project aimed to be a practical demonstration of the Citizens Network concept and accords with LIFE programme objectives.
PlusBus InterActive sought to address the transport issues identfied in the Camden borough by demonstrating a number of innovative and complementary measures, to produce a working model transferable to other areas in Europe, PlusBus InterActive (PBI) attempted to meet the present need to overcome exclusion for people with disabilities and other mobility difficulties, and support them through targeted transport provision, so enabling them to maintain their independence in the community for as long as possible. PBI also recognises that future generations rely on us to meet such needs with full regard for the environmental consequences, minimising as far as possible the adverse environmental impacts. The two principle means by which these issues were to be addressed were through operational changes to the way accessible transport is commissioned and delivered, and through the integration of land-use and transport planning.
The operational objectives of the project can be summarised as follows:
- to improve and enhance the user/provider relationship with the local accessible bus network by the creation of a 'one stop shop' for bookings and enquiries and a common database of users.
- to create and use forums and other means to involve elderly and disabled people and their carers to maximise the improvements to their quality of life through better access to transport and activities.
- to analyse the extent to which relevant UL Land Use Development Plans and disability discrimination legislation can provide a suitable framework in this field.
- to create an Accessible Transport Control Centre for Camden, using innovative GPS vehicle location and computer booking and scheduling software to integrate the operations of various fleets and services and improve environmental performance.
- to build an enhanced multi-operator local accessible bus network based on the successful PlusBus service.
In terms of environmental benefits, the aim was for a 10% improvement in vehicle efficiency for a given amount of trip making, reducing fuel use by an equivalent amount.
As the project did not reach a stage where the original objectives could be said to have been achieved, it is difficult to conclude that the ideas and methodology contained in the original project brief are worthy of replication elsewhere. This does not however, mean that some of these ideas are without merit. It seems likely that users would benefit from the use of spare capacity within the system of a door-to-door minibus service in Camden. Whether environmental benefits could similarly be achieved is less certain; catering for spontaneous demand would certainly be more difficult than simply making use of spare capacity, though the technology appeared to work well. Again, with the linking of accessible transport with land-use policies insufficient work has been carried out to draw any conclusions. However, it is worth noting that this fundamental relationship was instrumental in a change of view by an important transport commissioner, the Social Services Department of the Council, once they began to review the way that heavily transport dependant services were provided. The building of effective partnerships cannot be said to have been successful. The reason for this probably lies with the projects reliance on relationships based on a shared vision. While this is a perfectly legitimate way to proceed, insufficient recognition may have been given to more specific needs of individual partners, and different deparments within the council. Finally, the loss of Camden Commuity Transport, who pulled out of the partnership, was both unexpected and critical in concluding the project. While it could be said that such an event was not well catered for in the partnership arrangements, it would always have been difficult to replace such an important player. As a result, the work that has been carried out on the PBI project cannot be fully reported, with the loss of understanding that this implies.