Reduced Travel Chances and Supply Problems of Non-drivers in Rural Areas
D Meth, M Meschik, G Sammer, ITS, University for Bodenkultur, AT
Definition of the problem Changes in the social and economic structures in sparsely populated rural areas combined with growing overdevelopment on the one hand and a high density of jobs and supply infrastructure in the cities on the other hand cause the following problems in the rural areas of Austria: longer commuting distances, population drain from peripheral areas, increasing dependency on private motorised traffic, cutbacks in the public transport (PT) system, and a declining regional supply infrastructure. Besides growing mobility costs this means growing importance of private motorised traffic for the younger generation as well as supply and mobility problems for those residents without access to a private car (adolescents, senior citizens, women, people with lower income etc.) This results in social disadvantages for and the marginalisation of the people affected by this development.
The goal of the research project MOVE was to survey the available mobility supply and the mobility behaviour in five Austrian regions, to analyse the emerging supply deficiencies and social discrimination of parts of the rural population and to test measures to alleviate those problems.
Data basis and methodological approach The survey of supply and traffic behaviour of the population was carried out in two steps:
* A standardised postal household survey (sample size 2033 persons) of mobility patterns in the rural area was carried out to identify those residents with mobility problems.
* In an extended stated preference survey the supply and mobility problems of the target groups were listed, and hypothetical solutions were tested for their acceptance rate and efficiency. Focus groups were employed in a pilot study. The following options were offered:
* Demand-responsive transport service, e.g. share-a-ride taxis available on call (?Country Mobile?), ?Bus Day?, car-sharing;
* supply by a ?mobile grocery shop?, teleshopping (by phone or internet) and local basic supply (grocery shop offering additional basic services); * jobs in the vicinity in ?tele-offices? or as teleworkers from home.
Results Some conclusions drawn from the results of the research projects: (1) There is a problematic decrease of basic supply with vital goods and social life.
Due to changes in shopping behaviour and the increased use of private cars for shopping, there is a tendency to drive to supermarkets which are located outside the village centres. Local shops selling basic supply goods lose their customers and in consequence their profits. Numerous shops have been closed in the past years, and this trend continues. The same is true for post offices, bakeries, restaurants and pubs etc.
These institutions are not only vital suppliers for the residents but they are also places for communication and social interaction. While the sharp deterioration of basic supply affects especially the socially disadvantaged groups without access to a private car, the deterioration of social life affects all villagers ? the region becomes less attractive for people from all social strata. (2) There are obvious deficiencies in the public transport service.
At certain times of the day there is a basic public transport service for higher passenger volumes caused mainly by students and commuters. In the morning and afternoon, at weekends or during school holidays there is no adequate PT supply. During the school holidays some communities have few or no acceptable PT connections to the district centre. Within some communities or villages there is simply no PT infrastructure at all. (3) Developing new strategies for basic supply and public transport is vital.
The trends regarding population growth, motorization and lifestyle, among others, indicate a deterioration of the quality of life for those who have no access to a private car. Providing themselves with basic goods, going to the doctor or taking part in the cultural life of their communities is becoming more expensive and time-consuming for them, too. These trends should be eased off by new transport and supply options. (4) Further changes and improvement of the legal framework are necessary.
Social discrimination can be alleviated by offering new forms of mobility and supply structures. Changes in the legal framework are necessary to allow implementation of these new services and as a consequence to guarantee vital supply and mobility in the future.
The acceptance and elasticity of the solutions presented in the research project and the respective motives for approval and disapproval have been analysed. It became clear that many social disadvantages can be avoided by implementing certain frameworks. A good example is the approval rate of the ?Tele-Office?. Teleworking employees of several companies meet in a tele-office in their community, where a computer-network links them to their respective companies. On the one hand these employees need not commute long-distance but work from their own village, on the other hand they are not isolated teleworkers in their private homes. Their workplace is a motivating social environment at the same time. The acceptance rate among employees is about thirty per cent, even if tele-office work means a pay cut for them. Among those who do not have a job because commuting would be too time-consuming (mainly women) the approval rate of the tele-office is about 60 %.
Based on the results of this research paper, the demand-responsive transport service ?Country Mobile? is scheduled for practical trial in one of the regions surveyed by MOVE.
Association for European Transport