Poor public transport on Tasmania’s east coast limits access to jobs and services

Kayla Newton loves living on Tasmania’s scenic east coast, but bringing her family over can be a daily battle.

Public transport is limited and jobs and services are spread throughout the region.

“My husband doesn’t drive and the buses that are available wouldn’t get him to work on time, so I have to drive 40km round trip to drop him off and pick him up,” she said.

“That’s on top of everything I have to do for work or as part of my volunteering. »

Ms Newton said her fortnightly fuel bill could reach $300 as she took her family to school and work and ran errands.

“Of course, you have to expect to live part of it in rural areas,” she said.

“But for many people, the cost of getting to work is more than they would earn in a short shift or more than they can afford. »

Kayla Newton says it can be difficult to bring her family to work, school and appointments.(Provided: Kayla Newton)

Elderly and unauthorized persons “dependent” on services

Providing transportation services is difficult in a region with a small and dispersed population and in a state with one of the highest car ownership rates in the country.

A recent local transport survey found that a third of respondents needed to carpool and 57% expected to use public transport.

Gary Barnes stands in the community center shop among a shelf of crisps and toiletries.
Gary Barnes says the new community store has been a resounding success.(ABC News: Lachlan Bennett)

Fingal Valley Neighborhood House manager Greg Barnes is acutely aware of how elderly and unlicensed residents can slip through the cracks.

He said his department opened its own store when the only supermarket in town closed.

“We started as a small service for the community and it has grown because people can’t come to St Marys all the time to get their basic necessities and essentials,” he said. declared.

An elderly woman stands stoically outside the neighborhood house in Fingal Valley
Keri Webb says many older residents rely on community cars.(ABC News: Lachlan Bennett)

Mr Barnes said the home and its volunteers also run several community cars so residents can access services and attend medical appointments at regional centres, Launceston and Hobart.

Resident Keri Webb said many older residents depended on community cars, which were generally used every day.

“So they rely on friends, on the house, on volunteer drivers. »

Job seekers stranded without transport

Lack of transport options can also be a major barrier for job seekers, according to Lyndon Stevenson, managing director of Community Transport Services Tasmania.

“A high percentage of people looking for work do not have a driver’s license or are unable to take public transport or there is no family or friends to provide transport “, did he declare.

One solution could be a transport service run by his organization called Area Connect, which combines the scale of public transport with the flexibility of a taxi.

A white minibus with an orange, round Area Connect logo parked on a quiet street.
The new Area Connect bus is designed to complement existing services.(ABC News: Lachlan Bennett)

Job seekers can use the Area Connect “jobs bus” to get to work, or to be connected to existing means of transport.

“It’s responsive, it’s very nimble and very flexible,” Stevenson said.

Area Connect was launched in the Derwent Valley and will be extended to areas such as the east coast this year under a $20.5 million government scheme.

Workforce Growth Minister Roger Jeansch said he hoped the service would help more than 2,000 Tasmanians find work over the next three years.

“Area Connect fills a gap where there are no other convenient transport options, or where regular transport services are not running, so people can get to where they need to be for work or learning,” did he declare.

“As each service goes live, it will be tailored to the specific needs of the community and integrated with other public transport options to make journeys as smooth as possible. »

A middle-aged man is sitting in a bright green room, smiling.
Lyndon Stevenson says transportation can be a major barrier to employment.(ABC News: Lachlan Bennett)

Locals understand you can’t live in a rural area and expect city-level services, but Mayor Mick Tucker believes these initiatives will help meet the transportation challenge.

“When you’re in a rural community, if you can get to where you need to be, whether it’s going to school or working, guess what, Shanks’ pony doesn’t always work,” he said. he declares.

“Small communities push more than their weight and we try to make sure no one is left behind. »

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