RESEARCHERS will study a unique Warrnambool-based program which uses car pool vehicles to provide assisted community transport for people unable to use public transport.
The two-year ConnectU scheme uses volunteer drivers to take clients to and from medical appointments, shopping or social commitments.
Since it started in August 2012 it has built up more than 70 regular clients from Warrnambool, Port Fairy, Nullawarre and other towns who pay a basic service fee.
It was an initiative of the bus industry.
Operations manager Brenda Hampson said the service used spare Warrnambool City Council senior staff pool cars, plus Moyne Health Service vehicles, her own car and one donated to ConnectU.
“It’s about helping people who need extra care,” she said.
“Our volunteers go with clients to appointments and wait with them or to see loved ones at hospital, for example.
“It’s not about taking business away from taxis — it’s about meeting transport needs for people who are either past using public transport or who can’t afford it.
“I’m passionate about it and what we’ve achieved so far.”
The research team includes doctors Helen Scarborough and Anne Wallis, along with academics Graeme Wines, of Deakin University, and Dr Janet Stanley of Monash University.
“This research is important as the ConnectU pilot demonstrates Warrnambool’s regional leadership in pursuing a social enterprise model for community transport,” Professor Wines said.
“It is also important as Warrnambool has a relatively high incidence of people for which community transport and other communally-based mobility options are likely to be important.”
As well as looking at how the pilot project has improved mobility opportunities and well-being, the research will also examine how community resources are used.
The research will continue until September next year.
Ms Hampson said it would help determine if government funding could be obtained to continue the project, which was solely funded by the bus industry, including Warrnambool Bus Lines.