Designing your service
When deciding when to operate your service, key aspects to consider include:
- Which needs are you trying to fulfil? Shopping, medical appointments, leisure, farmers’ market etc? Will you need to provide a service on particular days and times, or to co-ordinate with specific activities, such as morning surgery times?
- Who is your service for? Is it only for older people? Or do you want to encourage parents or carers to use your service? What specific timing preferences do these groups have? For example, do services need to operate within school hours, to enable parents to be back in time to collect their children?
- Consider local circumstances: operating a service on market day may be an advantage, but clashing with your community’s weekly coffee morning, mobile library call or lunch club may reduce potential usage. Consult with individuals in the community who have a good knowledge of local activities and services. Your local District or Borough Council may be able to offer advice and support (see below). Use their expert knowledge to help you choose the best days and times to provide a service.
- If operating on a Monday or a Friday, will your service operate on Bank Holidays? Will the activity you are taking your passengers to be open? Or could your service run on the day before or day after, so that people still have a weekly trip out for shopping etc?
For timetabled services, such as a Community Bus or Taxishare you will need to consider:
- That it will take longer for a minibus to make the same trip than an equivalent journey by car.
- The time it takes to pick up and drop off passengers. The time needed can increase significantly for older people with mobility difficulties.
- Whether there is a need to connect with other services, such as buses or trains to other destinations?
- How long people want to stay in town for? Generally, many older people don’t want to be out for too long but young people going into town on Saturdays may want much longer.
- That you may have to allow extra time for heavy traffic at certain times of day.
Once you have created a draft timetable:
- Check that you can actually drive the journey within the timings you have allocated, to see if they are realistic. Remember to allow time to pick up and drop off passengers at stops along the way.
- Show it to other local people and see what they think of it – will it meet their needs? You still have time to fine tune your plans before the service is introduced.
- Where are you going to drop off and pick up passengers at your destination? Are you allowed to park there? Are parking spaces always available?
Any service that you design will need to be a compromise between different people’s needs, wishes and expectations. The more thought you put into the design, and the more opinions you canvas at the planning stage, the more likely it is that your service will be a good fit with the needs of the local community, and the more likely that your service will be successful when launched.
Fares and budgeting
Preparing a thorough budget with income and expenditure will allow you to identify the financial stability of the scheme. This will allow you to establish;
- If you will require ‘pump-priming’ funding to start the service.
- Whether you need some capital funding to get started – buying a minibus, answering machine or other items.
- What your operating costs will be.
- How many people you need to use your services in order to be able to cover your operating costs. (Realistically, consider whether you are likely to achieve those passenger numbers.)
- Whether you need to have a long term funding strategy to subsidise the service, if it is unlikely to break even.
If you prepare a provisional budget, this can help you identify any additional funding that is required and obtain funding from external funding sources.
Things to consider include:
- How much are you going to charge?
- What are people happy to pay?
- Will you be able to offer concessionary travel on your service? This will be a question to raise with Hampshire County Council, which administers the concessionary travel scheme.
- How many passengers do you expect to carry? Most people over-estimate their likely use, so be realistic about whether people who say they would use the service will actually do so.
- What are the on-going costs of operating the service? Further information on how to calculate your operating cost for a minibus can be found in the Hire Charges leaflet produced by CTA (see below).
- Are other sources of income available? (Hiring your vehicle to other organisations, reclaiming travel vouchers or concessionary fares, Bus Service Operator’s Grant for minibus schemes)
It is important to manage your transport schemes finances effectively, planning ahead, budgeting and reporting in a timely manor. A bank account and a book-keeping system are a must. For further advice visit the KnowHow NonProfit website (see below).
Documents and Web Links
- Hire Charges leaflet produced by CTA, the National Community Transport Association: Advice Leaflets These leaflets are free but you need to register your details on the website before you can access them.
- KnowHow NonProfit is a free online resource for not-for-profit organisations.
- Contact your local District or Borough Council for advice and support when setting up a local transport scheme.