AN Australia-first initiative in Warrnambool will seek to “fill the gaps” in the public transport system for the disadvantaged by using the spare transport capacity of community organisations.
ConnectU, which was launched last week, will use vehicles from community organisations such as Warrnambool City Council, Aspire, Mpower and Brophy Family and Youth Services to provide pre-arranged transport for individuals.
The two-year pilot program will use drivers from the city council’s Volunteering Warrnambool pool.
Warrnambool City’s inclusion and active ageing services manager Richard Stone said ConnectU aimed to fill the gaps in the present public transport system.
“It will be able to respond to situations where people cannot access transport,” Mr Stone said.
ConnectU operations manager Brenda Hampson said it would set up a database between supporting organisations that would indicate when vehicles, or space in those vehicles, were available.
“They might be taking a client to Geelong and are willing to share space in the car,” she said.
Ms Hampson said it was hoped to eventually expand the service to people in areas surrounding Warrnambool such as Port Fairy and Koroit.
The pilot program is being funded by BusVic and the Bus Industry Confederation and will be based at offices in the HomeSeeka complex at 40 Kepler Street, Warrnambool.
Its launch follows research that found many people “were missing out” because they did not have transport.
Monash University Sustainability Institute’s Dr Janet Stanley, who did some of the research, said the service aimed to meet the transport needs of potentially marginalised people such as the aged, single parents and youth.
A small fee would be charged and the proceeds used to help fund the service.