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Go Local

blog: Community transport, but not as you know it!

Author: Stephanie Norris

“Community transport…that’s just for older people, right?” Well, actually, no! 

There’s a common misconception that only older and disabled people are eligible to use community transport services.  Whilst this might be true for a small proportion of operators, more often than not community transport can be used by anyone who has a transport “need”.

North Yorkshire County Council share this view and decided to apply it practically to the way community transport is promoted across the county; that’s where ITP came in. We worked with the County Council and 30+ community transport operators to help re-position community transport and develop a strategy to encourage more people to use the service.  

Rurality as a barrier to mobility

North Yorkshire is the UK’s largest county, with 54% of its 600,000 inhabitants residing in rural areas. Combined with recent bus subsidy reductions, this has presented a challenging scenario for public transport provision and community transport is seen as one of the ways to bridge the service gap for people in rural areas.  

To turn this vision into a reality, the County Council introduced a new project to bring together community transport operators and re-think how the service is presented to residents. 

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Collaborative branding

Our role was to work with the community transport oprators and the County Council, to:

  • Unite community transport operators
  • Increase service awareness and usage
  • Change public perceptions
  • Reposition a ‘go to’ mode of transport

To do this we held stakeholder workshops with community transport operators to understand their views, opinions and concerns about expanding their user base.  We also conducted surveys with community transport users and non-users to understand the range of perceptions and opinions relating to these services.

Based on the insights from these tasks we developed an overarching brand for community transport to enable consistent county-wide marketing. The brand, which is called Go Local, was developed by the operators, for the operators, to bring them together as a ‘family’ of service providers.  

Going forward, the brand will be used strategically by North Yorkshire County Council to promote sustainable travel of all forms, while community transport operators will use it locally alongside their own existing branding. 

Process

It's not what you say, it's how you say it

Changing public perceptions of community transport won't happen overnight. However, with a clear understanding of both the perceived and real barriers people face to using the service, we developed a series of carefully curated marketing messages to overcome negative stereotypes. 

Working with our partners at Create Studios, we developed a modern, fast paced advert to show that everyone with a “need” can use community transport. We moved away from the typical shots of minibuses driving through the countryside and focused on how community transport is ‘connecting people and places’. 

Take a look at the video below to see the outcome of our work. 

The future of Go Local

Uniting community transport operators was one of the key aims of the project and it’s fair to say that relationships between community transport operators and the County Council have strengthened as a result. 

Their support is encapsulated in the start-up of a Go Local steering group, made up of community transport operators and the Council, to manage the implementation of the marketing plan with targeted media campaigns planned for the next 12 months. 

Go Local Bus 3 Copy Copy

The project has also made great strides towards re-positioning community transport as a ‘go to’ mode of transport for rural communities.  This is certainly an approach that other local authorities could explore to re-invigorate how their community transport services are marketed to the public - helping to drive-up utilisation. 

For more information on this project, and to learn about how we worked in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council, please contact Stephanie Norris on norris@itpworld.

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