Is there a social need for the #CowickPBus in the evening and on Sunday?

Exeter City Council have analysed the 2011 Census on a ward-by-ward basis across Exeter.

The data for Cowick gives some interesting points to consider when feeding into Devon County Council’s Public Transport Review:
Persons of retirement age                                          = 22.6% 2nd highest ward of 18
Persons stating general health ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ =  5.9% 3rd highest ward of 18
Households with no cars / vans                                = 21.3% 12th highest ward of 18

Just the sort of people who need and use the P bus – the only route that serves the majority of the ward; the one that doesn’t go anywhere the GP surgery that serves the ward; and who would become isolated if DCC withdraws the subsidy for evening and Sunday services.

As part of of it’s Public Sector Equality Duty,  DCC have published an Impact Assessment and a Needs Assessment as part of the consultation.

The Needs Assessment in particular talks about the the value of bus services in Devon and acknowledges
Withdrawing public transport is much more than just a withdrawal of a service – likely to profoundly affecting people’s lives adversely in a way that many other service withdrawals do not, by denying access to many services, jobs and independence

And the same paper quotes from a 2014 survey :
73.7% of all passengers on DCC funded bus services could not travel long-term if a bus service ceased
58% had no alternative way to make the journey if the service was cut.
46% are totally dependent on the bus
and a further 37% are “quite dependent” of which 38% did not think the alternative would be sustainable

And it links to to study by PTEG who represent the strategic transport bodies serving the six largest city regions outside London and declare themselves “the voice of urban transport”.

The Case for the Urban Bus – the economic and social value of bus networks in the metropolitan areas (March 2013) has a section devoted to bus travel for older people:

4.60. Despite the fact that people increasingly enjoy a sociable, healthy and active older age, it is
estimated that overall, around 10% of people aged over 65 in the UK are lonely all or most of
the time. Some 12% of older people feel trapped in their own homes and 17% are in
contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week.

4.61. These problems can be exacerbated if the bus services that older people rely on are cut
back, curtailing their ability to access key local services and to socialise and maintain vital
links with friends and family.

So some strong evidence on the important of a decent bus service in combating social isolation.

Yet none of this seems to feed into DCC’s Public Transport Review which is focussed entirely on costs.

The section on the P service suggests that the withdrawal of evening and Sunday services on the route would mean 17,541 passenger journeys per year would be lost to give an annual saving of £24,119.

Gong back to the 2014 survey which said 58% had no alternative way to make the journey if the service was cut, that 10,000 passengers unable to make a journey – 30 passengers a day facing possible social isolation

So I question if the strict application is the only criteria that needs to be considered?

There are no parallel routes available to Cowick (and Pennsylvania) residents. It’s a long haul up the hill from Buddle Lane for elderly residents. There must be someway of quantifying the social needs of potential passengers as well as the financial implications.

I’m writing this in Hexham (where I’m currently working for a few days)

Northumberland County Council are also carrying out a consultation on future funding of subsidised bus services.

In the past NCC has, like DCC,  used  has used a simple cost per passenger criteria to assess value for money for subsidised bus services.

In there current consultation, NCC is applying a sustainability test by combining  Cost per passenger and Passenger need/benefit

Screen shot 2015-02-22 at 16.38.18

I wonder if this would show that the evening and Sunday services on the P route are sustainable?

Further reading:  Sustrans: Locked Out, Transport Poverty in England (Sept. 2012).
(Transport Poverty and the contribution of public transport to reduce it)

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