Looking at my Twitter feed this snowy Monday, I noticed the following:
In other words – Suffolk’s Demand Responsive Travel (DRT) was unable to supply any travel services in response to any public demand for transport in East Suffolk today.
Of course, if you live in an area where there are real live scheduled bus services, these have continued to run, snow or no. In Woodbridge for example, we had the opportunity to use the 164, 165, 63,64, 65 buses today, to name but a few. It was only those poor people in the countryside whose scheduled bus services were slashed by Suffolk County Council to make way for the ‘limousine of services’ who were left high and dry.
The phrase ‘Demand Responsive Transport‘ is as much of a euphemism as ‘Care in the Community‘ – and similarly is best when used by people who don’t really need to use it. It doesn’t operate on evenings or weekends or holidays. It doesn’t run to strict times – or indeed to time at all.
Now we see that it doesn’t operate on work days – at least if there’s the ‘wrong sort of snow.’
DRT is fine for people who want to go somewhere and are not constrained too much by time – or date: people who might book it to save the hassle of driving and parking their car for a spot of shopping. However DRT services are not useful for those who have to rely on DRT services. People in the countryside who have traditionally relied on the bus for regular transport (eg to work or college) are not supported, because DRT cannot be block-booked. (This is because our Demand Responsive transport is not designed to be responsive to the requirements of regular demand for transport . Can you think of anything more ridiculous in a rural county where 20% of households are carless? )
DRT is also poor for people needing to meet appointments (eg doctors, dentists, hospitals, lawyers, banks, CAB, hairdressers, physiotherapy – o the list is endless) because there is no guarantee the vehicle will arrive at the time required – or indeed that it can reliably take the person home again afterwards.
If the designers of Suffolk’s DRT were reliant on it for their work, their health, their social life, would it operate as it does? Indeed, would it ever have come into being?
It would be nice to wave a magic wand and find out.