A View From The Edge
Issues in Rural and Metropolitan Fringe Planning

Ian Sinclair,
Principal Consultant, Edge Land Planning
Rural and Environmental Planning Consultants

Rural Transport
Residents in rural and metropolitan fringe areas are transport disadvantaged. This lack of transport and the need to rely on private vehicles is one of the causes of a number of social problems. It is a very complex issue and I am only touching on a small part of it here.
Transport in these areas is mostly restricted to cars. Bus services are only run on a regular basis for school children and rail transport is only useful if passengers can access the intercity or interstate trains - they cannot be used for short trips. Inter-city buses are available too. Taxis are a popular form of transport but this is beyond the financial means of a large proportion of these residents. Cycling is one form that is also restricted by the road surface which is not very safe and cycleways are not available in many of the towns
A number of Councils and community service organisations run community transport schemes but these are expensive to run and are often oversubscribed and therefore cannot be accessed by many residents.
The State and Federal Governments subsidise the school bus scheme as well as some of the community transport schemes but it is a miniscule amount compared to the metropolitan areas. Passenger services are not subsidised and have to be run by the individual bus company and many are not profitable.
There is a real paradox with running any transport system. The lack of patronage means that there is limited income that can be gained from the routes. This leads to a reduction in services which leads to more loss of patronage and eventually will lead to the cessation of the service altogether. This is compounded by the necessity to have the buses available for the school runs, which are subsidised and therefore take precedence over other runs. This is a vicious cycle that is not getting any better.
In the major centres of 15,000 to 20,000 and more people, there is sometimes a regular bus passenger service but this also has problems with patronage. The lack of transport means that those people who do not have access to a car become isolated. These people include teenagers and young people, single car families as well as elderly residents of the towns and villages scattered throughout the countryside. One example is elderly people who have to travel long distances to visit a spouse in hospital in a major centre. Another relates to school-aged children who become isolated and cannot access recreation and social occasions because they do not have transport. They rely instead on community members, taxis and in the case of young people, the 'parent taxi service'. We hear people in the metropolitan areas complaining about the lack of public transport or that it is not frequent. At least there is some form of transport. It needs to be recognised that the rural areas are an important part of the State and national economy. This is where a great proportion of the food and resources are found and it should be provided with a better level of transport. NSW stands for New South Wales, not Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. Top of page...

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