CO-OPERATE

The CO-OPERATE (Co-ordinating individual action programmes in rural transport Management) project sought to: (a) Explore ways to help communities overcome obstacles to accessibility. (b) Identify how to build capacity amongst individuals and communities to solve their needs. (c) Identify travel awareness/marketing techniques including using new technology to develop communication networks on rural accessibility. (d) Develop a toolkit from best practice which can be applied in future action programmes to promote rural accessibility.

The outcomes of the project is described here (PDF, 67KB).

The contents of this page is retained solely as an archive. Much of the information here may be out of date.

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Rural Transport Challenges:

  • Need for improved choice and quality at affordable cost;
  • Increased car-dependence;
  • Declining commercial bus miles serving rural areas;
  • Spiralling public subsidy costs;
  • Growing isolation and social exclusion amongst rural dwellers.

…which lead to…

Community-led solutions:

  • Sustainable;
  • Empowering;
  • Cost-effective;
  • Meeting local needs with local resources;
  • Promoting social inclusion.

…which lead to…

Knowledge Gaps and Priorities:

  • Improving co-ordination and efficiency of transport;
  • Closer dialogue between users and operators;
  • Understanding individual motivations;
  • “Mainstreaming” community transport.

…which lead to…

CO-OPERATE:

Aims to identify the mechanisms to enable wider public ownership of rural transport solutions. Its primary aim is to bridge the gap between “top down” and “bottom up” approaches to solving rural transport and accessibility.

Summary

1.1 The challenge of offering improved transport choice and quality at affordable cost is growing rapidly rural areas. Non-drivers have underpinned the viability of many rural transport services but their number is declining. Although there are many commercial bus services in rural areas their viability usually depends on revenue from urban passengers drawn from the urban sections of the routes.Commercial bus miles serving rural areas are falling – current trends in the bus market therefore emphasise that radically new approaches are needed. Without new approaches there will be growing problems with spiralling public subsidy costs, declining public transport services, and growing isolation and social exclusion amongst rural dwellers. The future of public transport in rural areas is therefore likely to be increasingly dependent on public and community sectors than on private transport operators.

1.2 Recent research has suggested that a major change in approach is needed in the way rural transport is viewed. New approaches are needed towards transport in rural areas to develop sustainable community-led solutions. However there are significant gaps in our knowledge about the factors that motivate community action, changes in behaviour and how to co-ordinate these behavioural changes with practical public investment.

1.3 Rural transport research has focused on improving co-ordination and efficiency in the provision of services within the existing community capacity.However to build the capacity of individuals and communities to deliver change beyond that which can be achieved top down there is a parallel stream of activity.This addresses more fundamental issues about the balances between private and public responsibility for improving accessibility and how to solve problems bottom up. Research programmes have focused on individual action and have found that approaches to public participation in transport are both underdeveloped and sometimes frustrated by current organisational cultures which see community empowerment as a threat.

1.4 Future integrated transport in rural areas needs to be built on a much closer dialogue between users and operators of public transport, but there are significant gaps in our knowledge of how to achieve the major changes in social attitudes and behaviour to achieve this. Recent research showed that this new approach was particularly important for overcoming transport derived social exclusion in rural areas.

CO-OPERATE aims to identify the mechanisms to enable wider public ownership of the development of solutions. Its primary aim is to bridge the gap between top down and bottom up approaches to solving rural transport and accessibility.

Aims and Tasks

Aims:

  • Identify and develop appropriate marketing approaches for rural transport services by understanding the deep-seated needs of current and potential users.
  • Identify rural transport market opportunities to improve accessibility and reduce social exclusion.
  • Improve understanding of how community transport solutions can be brought into the mainstream and the perception changes that may be required by users to do this.

Tasks:

  1. Review state of the art in rural transport co-ordination and individualised marketing approaches.
  2. Develop idealised theoretical model of co-ordinated rural transport systems.
  3. Establish survey methodology using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) and related approaches as appropriate. Verify survey approach and understanding of state of the art at expert seminar.
  4. Undertake survey to establish individual constructs around use of rural transport alternatives. Discuss results at workshop.
  5. Develop recommendations on information and management systems for efficient rural transport co-ordination that is focused on overcoming barriers to use of current and potential travellers. Verify and further develop recommendations in practical setting, in collaboration with operators / local authority.
  6. Establish, for each societal group, the optimum techniques and information requirements for engagement by transport providers, operators and co-ordinators.
  7. Prepare final report and disseminate through seminar and other routes.

Project

1. Background

The challenge of offering improved transport choice and quality at affordable cost is growing rapidly rural areas. Non-drivers have underpinned the viability of many rural transport services but their number is declining. Amongst drivers many face real financial hardship to allow them to own and run a car[1]. The first generation of people who have experienced mass car ownership are reaching an age at which it is no longer appropriate for them to drive, but they are not finding current rural transport solutions which meet their aspirations[2].

Although there are many commercial bus services in rural areas their viability usually depends on revenue from urban passengers drawn from the urban sections of the routes. As profit margins tighten in bus companies, commercial bus miles serving rural areas are falling. Current trends in the bus market therefore emphasise that radically new approaches are needed. Without new approaches there will be growing problems with increasing public subsidy costs, declining public transport services, and growing isolation and social exclusion amongst rural dwellers. The future of public transport in rural areas is therefore likely to be increasingly dependent on public and community sectors than on private transport operators.

Recent research has suggested that a major change in approach is needed in the way rural transport is viewed. In the same way that the housing association movement revolutionised rented housing provision over the last 20 years through community action, new approaches are needed towards transport in rural areas to develop sustainable solutions. However there are significant gaps in our knowledge about the factors that motivate community action, changes in behaviour and how to co-ordinate these behavioural changes with practical public investment. This research gap is defined by the limits of the recent and current research programmes and is the focus of this project.

Rural transport research has focused on improving co-ordination and efficiency in the provision of services within the existing community capacity. Of particular note is the recent EC VIRGIL project which reviewed experience and good practice throughout Europe on rural transport including over 20 case studies in the UK. Other ongoing work includes:

  • Management and co-ordination of rural transport ARTS project in Wales and Scotland (TAS Partnership)
  • Demonstration of the use of telematics in rural transport management (University of Newcastle)
  • Rural Settlements, Services and Access (Aberdeen University)[3]

However to build the capacity of individuals and communities to deliver change beyond that which can be achieved top down there is a parallel stream of activity supported by research. This addresses more fundamental issues about the balances between private and public responsibility for improving accessibility and how to solve problems bottom up. Research programmes have focused on individual action and have found that approaches to public participation in transport are both underdeveloped and sometimes frustrated by current organisational cultures which see community empowerment as a threat[4], [5] . Projects include:

  • An international review of good practice on travel awareness and individual action programmes – Booz Allen and Hamilton.
  • Research on the social inclusion partnership approaches[6] where case workers have sought to overcome transport and non transport problems of individuals in project areas.
  • Collaborative private and public investment in individual action programmes particularly in Australia[7].

For an industry that relies upon appropriate choices by individual travellers for its success, it is perhaps surprising that there has not been a stronger dialogue between users and providers of transport in both rural and urban areas. Future integrated transport in rural areas needs to be built on a much closer dialogue between users and operators of public transport, but there are significant gaps in our knowledge of how to achieve the major changes in social attitudes and behaviour to achieve this. Recent research[8] showed that this new approach was particularly important for overcoming transport derived social exclusion in rural areas.

This project aims to identify the mechanisms to enable wider public ownership of the development of solutions. Its primary focus is to bridge the gap between top down and bottom up approaches to solving rural transport and accessibility problems. Three particular gaps in knowledge need to be overcome to allow providers to engage with rural residents more effectively:

  1. Marketing which reflects peoples’ needs – Most rural dwellers see integrated transport as a threat rather than an opportunity. Some focus groups suggest that travel awareness and travel information promotions may often have had a negative effect on promoting new approaches, by giving rural dwellers the impression that transport planners do not understand their needs. Better understanding is therefore needed of how to help build practical marketing approaches for integrated rural transport.
  2. Empowering individuals and communities to deliver – Optimal approaches to transport supply management are being identified through research and practice, but this does not yet address the challenges faced by residents and businesses who want to help but who face real or perceived obstacles. Research is needed to define what needs to be changed to meet emerging needs and new markets in addition to existing markets. This can build on current research on accessibility options for unemployed people[9].
  3. Mainstreaming community transport – Community transport solutions have the potential to play a much greater role in rural areas. Unfortunately community transport is currently perceived by most rural residents to serve only unusual transport needs, such as transport for minority groups e.g. disabled people; and with services run by transport enthusiasts who like driving buses. The recent Scottish research identified that many people avoided community transport because they wanted to be seen as normal, and even some very effective community car schemes did not want to be considered as community transport. Research is needed to understand how to alter perceptions so that a managed approach to offering and taking lifts in cars and minibuses can become mainstream practice.

To fill these gaps, this research proposal defines focused survey work and psychological analysis, together with the identification of workable management and information solutions which meet peoples’ aspirations. In addition to the social and economic benefits from this approach there will be commercial benefits for the products and services to support these major changes in rural transport. People logistics planning is a fast expanding market building from best practice in freight logistics[10]. However its history in vehicle and goods rather than people management means that much more needs to be done to reflect the aspirations of potential users. The project therefore builds from previous research on rural accessibility by DHC and Aberdeen University and complements other ongoing UK and EC projects on rural transport management and co-ordination being undertaken by TAS Partnership, the University of Newcastle, and UCL.

2. Contribution to the FIT Programme

The project seeks new techniques to integrate transport and other policies, integrate transport modes, and overcome obstacles faced by different groups in society, particularly socially excluded groups. The project also contributes to general FIT programme objectives involving collaboration between consultancy, university, and local authority and involves multi-disciplinary skills in transport planning, community planning, transport management, and behavioural psychology.

In seeking to integrate private and public transport systems it aims to adopt state of the art telematics and communication technology providing users and potential users with the information they need to make efficient and sustainable travel choices.

The focus on people’s needs within the project allows different impacts on separate groups to be assessed such as on elderly people, disabled people, and unemployed people. It also addresses users perceptions of safety, health, and personal security to be addressed in the planning and management of transport solutions.

3. Methodology

The research will comprise two stages: Stage 1 – stakeholder requirements and best practice; Stage 2 – information and management system development.

Stage 1

Based on previous research, an idealised model will be developed for efficient rural transport. This model will categorise travel demand and access needs of people and organisations by trip purpose and link these to practical transport options for demand responsive and scheduled transport to meet each need. This will build on the state of the art research as set out in recent literature reviews on the subject undertaken by the research team.

The EC VIRGIL research project defined the dimensions of rural transport provision and the effectiveness of various transport solutions to problems. Recent research by DHC and Aberdeen University looked at the ways that co-ordinated action by government could improve rural accessibility by trip purpose and people group. These projects will provide a strong foundation on which to build, but the managers of other ongoing research projects will also be contacted to ensure that any emerging findings from parallel work is captured at an early stage.

In planning the survey work it will be important to recognise the issues relevant to each stakeholder in rural transport. Many interventions to encourage more efficient travel are less effective than they could be since they do not work with market mechanisms and with people in ways that people and businesses find practical. Previous survey work amongst rural residents has shown that rural accessibility is traded against other quality of life benefits. Most people want to build on these trade-offs and share responsibility with transport providers to improve accessibility and ensure an inclusive approach which reflects the needs of all sectors in society. Once the range of issues, trip purposes and people groups to be investigated in detail during the survey work has been defined, the draft survey approach will be discussed at a seminar in Aberdeen to which Councils, community groups and transport providers will be invited. Based on the outcome of the seminar the survey approach will be finalised.
Personal construct psychology (PCP) is widely used in behaviour change therapy since it involves people defining problems and solutions in their own terms. The survey approach will be based on that carried out amongst bus users in Dublin to establish the reasons for use and non use of buses. This involves a two stage approach comprising interviews with individuals to define constructs associated with travel and accessibility in rural areas and group discussion of Repertory Grids to rank issues of importance by people group. This “diagnostic research” method using Repertory Grids has the following benefits:

  1. Repertory Grids are an ideograph methodology, so they can be designed specifically to address the relevant issues in the particular circumstances of the project, rather than being based on the experience of what has taken place in other contexts, which will often be significantly different.
  2. They are highly unusual in they combine both qualitative and quantitative data.
  3. Because of the ideograph nature of a survey using Repertory Grids the data gathered is, after analysis and interpretation, far more likely to give the information needed to enable specific courses of action to be planned, in order that stakeholders have the best chance of achieving their objectives. For example, the Repertory Grids could be used to find out how different groups of people construe things like “the rural bus service”, “car sharing”, “community transport schemes”, “the ideal rural transport system” etc, on a range of relevant dimensions or constructs, which will be identified in the one to one interviews in the first stage of the survey work. The differences in the construing of the groups can be statistically analysed and compared. The matrix design of a Repertory Grid makes is easy to ask a large number of questions without incurring “interviewee fatigue” or confusion, so a great deal of targeted and detailed information can be acquired with relative ease.
  4. The reasons why particular issues are important and the relative importance of those issues to each other, can also be obtained and statistically analysed. This can help to identify how difficult it is likely to be to get people to change their transport using preferences.
  5. The precise meaning of abstract issues (e.g. “comfort”, “reliability”, “safety”) to the target groups can also be identified in the interviews.

The variety, quantity and quality of questions that can be asked and analysed using Repertory Grids, enables the research to assemble data which gets to the root of problems and which is usable in very practical ways to help find solutions. Repertory Grids are an excellent way of getting “actionable data” to address specific issues with a far smaller survey programme than would be necessary to obtain statistically significant results with conventional survey approaches amongst such a wide variety of people groups. The statistical analysis will follow the Flexigrid approach which has been developed to streamline analysis of PCP data[11] to establish the relationships in the data.

The research will include detailed interviews of about 50 people using these techniques followed by two group discussions. A balanced sample based on age, sex, and socio-economic group will be selected from an existing database of over 700 rural dwellers from a previous project in Scotland who have said that they would be prepared to participate in further research. It may be that this database can be augmented by additional people from England and Wales, by selecting people from the “Settlements Services and Access” project survey sample described above.

PCP views behaviour as an experiment. People are constantly validating behavioural constructs and seek patterns of behaviour which reduce conflicts with their constructs. Core constructs are very hard to change but usually relate to fairly high level aims such as “to be happy”. Based on personal experience, associations are developed between constructs. Transport applications to date have been limited but lessons from practice in North Yorkshire[12] where it is being considered in changing attitudes to cycling, and from the Dublin bus research will be built upon. Public transport experiences are currently associated with too many negative high level constructs and changing travel behaviour will rely upon techniques which help people to associate new and efficient practice with positive high level constructs. For example someone who has had a bad experience of public transport might state “buses are uncomfortable”. This might lead a public transport operator to make buses more comfortable, when in fact the construct “buses are uncomfortable” was based on a higher level construct such as “I feel insecure when using public transport” which in turn is based on higher level constructs about the factors affecting personal confidence.

The analysis will therefore seek to identify the potential levers to encourage community based solutions and public transport solutions to be associated with positive core constructs by more people. A report will be prepared at this stage and discussed at a workshop with an invited group of experts from the rural transport field.
Success in Stage 1 will be measured by the extent to which there are clear lessons emerging from defined people groups on what needs to be done and by whom to help develop a shared commitment amongst individuals and communities to improving rural transport and accessibility.

Stage 2

The information and management systems will be developed to help stakeholders make the necessary links to participate in co-ordinated action. For any system to work it must enable a dialogue, for users and providers of transport, which gives both the confidence to participate in the system. The categories of knowledge and information needed by each stakeholder to build this confidence will be central to the design of the system.

It will recognise that many stakeholders (e.g. from major health authorities to individual travellers) will wish to increase their level of participation incrementally over time. A trip that is successful, or a service that is well utilised will encourage usage to build. The architecture of the system must therefore maximise choice and control for each stakeholder to allow this incremental progress.

To ensure practical system development, it will be conceptualised in the context of a local authority that is developing transport co-ordination networks including community car clubs, community bus services, commercial and supported public bus services, social work transport, education transport, hospital transport services, and rail options.

Where appropriate, the Council’s demand responsive transport management system will be developed to ensure that the optimum use is made of IT solutions. This will allow the research to assess the practical obstacles to developing the type of enhanced IT systems recommended in the idealised management and information systems. The aim will be to identify the practical steps needed to set up communication and information links so that existing and potential future users such as community transport groups, major employers, and public agencies can easily fit the system within their local IT and management networks.

At the end of the project, the research will therefore be able to define for each people group the optimum mechanisms for transport providers to engage better with them, and to recommend how each stakeholder can act to develop a more integrated approach to the planning and management of rural transport. For example a lower proportion of elderly people might be expected to use electronic communications so the community marketing mechanisms for this group will differ from the mechanisms for younger people.

Incentives for socially excluded young people to work to overcome their access problems will be a particular priority. Identifying the reasons for and approaches to overcome transport derived social exclusion was a key part of the recent research on rural accessibility for the Scottish Executive. The findings have been discussed with the ODPM Social Inclusion Unit as part of their review of transport and social inclusion. The proposed research will seek to build on these recommendations and discussions to build community capacity and support individual and community action.

A recommended information and management model will then be finalised identifying:

  • The management requirements for co-ordinated action.
  • The information needed by each stakeholder to encourage participation in the provision and/or use of transport services.
  • Information technology capabilities and limitations.

Success in Stage 2 will be measured by the extent to which community groups and ordinary members of the public consider that the information and support systems, including telematics solutions, being offered genuinely encourage, or have the potential to encourage, changes in travel patterns which meet both individual and community needs. The project would conclude with the presentation of a final report at a dissemination seminar.

4. Intended Outcomes

Accessibility concerns are at the heart of rural development issues. Many rural areas are declining because people seek a better quality of life in more accessible locations. The environment of other rural areas is suffering from growing traffic as more people try to achieve the benefits of rural life by increasing the amount of time they travel. This project aims to deliver a framework within which individuals and communities can assess the trade offs in rural life with more options to deliver positive progress than simply more car ownership and use.

At present an individual wanting to improve their accessibility will need to rely on greater car use and this can cause hardship or be impossible for many socially excluded groups. This project should help to show the way to enable more people to develop more different solutions with increasing frequency. Cars have an important role within community transport but minibuses, buses and non motorised modes can also play an increasing role. The project will therefore have a particularly beneficial impact on socially excluded groups.

The project contributes to a developing strand of research to address policies issues that cut across several policy areas. It will not therefore answer all the questions but it will point the way to answering a wide range of issues on rural development, community ownership of problems, and transport solutions which meet people’s needs. The project therefore supports sustainable development aims to plan and develop a strong economy, an inclusive society, and a clean environment.

5. Dissemination and Exploitation

The regular seminars and workshops throughout the project will help to ensure that emerging findings are disseminated as soon as possible. A web site will be created for the project to allow interim findings to be reported and to allow a wider research community to input to the work.

Exploitation of the findings will be through consultancy, advice and support to local authorities, transport operators and community groups. It is anticipated that the survey findings will be of interest to a wide range of universities, consultants and software houses who can build from the project findings in a variety of ways.
Success breeds success, so if the lessons from the project work in practice then beneficiaries will in turn disseminate the lessons they have learned to others.

References

  1. Farrington, J. et al. (1998) Car dependence in Rural Areas. Scottish Office: Development Department.
  2. Halden, D, Farrington, J, and Copus, A (2001) Rural Accessibility. Scottish Executive Research Findings.
  3. This project uses an approach based on the macro-modelling and micro-modelling of policies. It scopes existing accessibility-related policies (including social exclusion, transport and rural policies) andpotential new policies and assesses these by quantitative and qualitative methods. Local area policy-testing is based on empirical household and personal data from six study areas representing a range of rural types in Britain. The inclusion of transport elements in accessibility planning and policies is a key aspect of the project.
  4. Tyler 2000. Public Participation and Travel Decisions. Report of APEX project.
  5. Halden, D McGuigan, D. & Toy, J (2001). Evaluation of the Scottish Cycle Challenge Initiative. Scottish Executive Research Findings.
  6. e.g. Harkins (2001). Impacts of Social Inclusion Partnerships and Policies. Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum
  7. Ampt, E.S; 1997, ‘Reducing car travel through travel blending’, Proceedings, Seminar C (Policy, planning and sustainability), 25th European Transport Forum Annual Meeting, PTRC, London, September 1997, pp277-289.
  8. Halden, D, Farrington, J, and Copus, A (2001) Rural Accessibility. Scottish Executive Research Findings.
  9. TRANTEL. Rural accessibility for young unemployed people.
  10. NELSON, J.D., SMITH, F., MORGAN, L.E. and PICKUP, L. (1997) Evaluation of Telematics-Based Demand-Responsive Transport Services. Proc. 4th World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, Berlin, October.
  11. Fransella F. & Bannister, D. (1977). A manual for repertory grid technique. London: Academic Press
  12. Gardner G 2001. North Yorkshire Cycling Development Project. Pers. Comm.

Contact

If you would like further information or to discuss any aspect of the project or related topics, please contact:

  • Prof. John Farrington, School of Resources, Environment & Society, Aberdeen University, Email: j.farrington @ abdn.ac.uk, Telephone: 01224 272350.
  • Derek Halden, DHC.

Workshop April 2003 – WORKSHOP on Rural Transport Management & Individualised Marketing Approaches, Edinburgh, 30 April 2003

Presentations

Attendees

  • Paul Davison – DHC/Aberdeen University
  • Derek Halden – DHC
  • John Farrington – Aberdeen University
  • David Banister – UCL
  • Brian Masson – Angus Transport Forum
  • Peter Mogridge – Tynedale Rural Transport Partnership
  • Howard Wyborn – DfT
  • John Nelson – TORG
  • Jenny Mageean – TORG
  • John Reid – University of Sheffield
  • Jane Childey – WYPTE
  • Jeremy Brooksbank – WYPTE

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