Responding to the Travel Needs of Older People: the Current and Future Role for Flexible Transport in Greater Manchester.
S Murray, Greater Manchester Passenger Transport, UK; J Crockett, MVA Consultancy, UK
GMPTE is seeking to respond effectively to the challenges of an ageing population. A flexible mapping tool has been developed to help identify where mobility demands will arise and the form this response may take.
As Europe moves towards the position where over 40% of the population are over 50, policy and practice at a local authority level needs to be able to respond to the varied mobility demands of an increasing ageing population. Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive has identified and mapped where there are likely to be travel demands amongst older people who will be less able to travel independently and living in areas which are more difficult for conventional public transport to serve. The context for this work included experience from an Interreg IVB Project work on "first and last miles" improvements to connectivity (ICMA Project), a focus on improving service quality to customers, and a proactive approach to meeting equality duties.
A flexible mapping tool has been developed, with the support of transport consultancy MVA, based on a suite of factors deemed to affect travel behaviour amongst older people. These include population size by age band, gender and spatial distribution; levels of driver licence holding and car ownership; predicted levels of disability free life expectancy; journey frequencies, distances and purposes by area type; the incidence of single person households, and changes in the State Pension Age (SPA) coupled with increased aspirations for independence and mobility. These data sets have been modelled against varied predictions of economic growth levels and have produced a range of potential unmet transport need.
Alongside the extensive conventional public transport network in Greater Manchester, the conurbation has well developed operational responses to the provision of demand responsive transport (DRT) services. These are based on both individual mobility needs in the form of Ring and Ride services, and the bridging of geographical gaps in the network through Local Link branded DRT. Ring and Ride services provide comprehensive coverage of the whole conurbation for mobility impaired travellers, with a focus on short, local journeys providing access to key services. Local Link services typically cover neighbourhoods or rural communities where it has proved difficult to sustain conventional bus services.
Effective planning for the future requires an informed understanding of the patterns and scale of needs that may require flexible transport solutions. By developing a bespoke model of travel behaviour amongst a single market segment this was possible. The methodological approach which has informed this work on the mobility needs of older people has delivered a practical planning tool that produces spatially fine-grain forecasts of demand for flexible service solutions.
Further development work is underway to overlay and test whether the identified areas of potential demand are ones that network changes could provide solutions for. For example, some changes may be met by emerging commercial opportunities and responses from public transport providers and others, such as taxis. More accessible fleets and infrastructure and the application of new technology are removing barriers to accessible travel and promoting smarter travel choices. Driving will undoubtedly remain a mode of choice for many older people although the need for mobility may also continue past the point where people do cease using their own or a close family members' private transport.
It is assumed at this stage that there will be a continuing need for flexible transport solutions to meet accessibility objectives and so the outcomes of this work will be useful in informing policy debates and the further practical provision of targeted specialist transport solutions.
Association for European Transport