For a Better Brisbane

Paratransit: A neglected transport solution

QUT PhD researcher Mamun Rahman in a green cab at South Bank. Photo:QUT Marketing and Communication/Erika Fish

Paratransit describes transport modes that lie in the area between cars and a buses, including:

  • NightLink Flat-Fare taxis
  • Taxis
  • Pedicabs
  • Vans/Vanpools
  • Minibuses, Jeepneys and Jitneys
  • Flexibuses (semi-fixed or non-fixed routes), dial-a-ride
  • Pedicabs
  • Tricycles/Trikes/Cycle Rickshaws
  • Airport transfer shuttles
  • Carpools

Paratransit generally involves a private operator, usually operating without subsidy, to supply public transport services. This mode is generally overlooked, suffers from scant research in academic circles, isn’t widely known and is rarely marketed alongside public transport options. The potential for this mode to cut congestion should however not be overlooked. Often paratransit is dismissed on “it won’t work here” arguments. However, flat-fare NightLink taxi services in Brisbane show that it can be  done successfully. So why not also during the day?

In particular the transport system provided by flat fare taxis is both innovative and very popular. NightLink FlatFare taxi services are of particular interest and uniqueness as they represent one of the few public transport services operated in Australia that does not require additional financial support through subsidy.

— “Nightlink for the party crowd” paper presented at the Thredbo ITS conference.

Cebu minivans give a no-timetable high frequency public transport service. The routes are fixed, the extremely cheap fares are the same for all vehicles and the frequency is so good that in a minute or so you can hail one from the street. Operators are private and are registered with the Land Transport Office. Taxis also exist, but are a separate service.

Indeed, many overseas cities and towns (such as in Indonesia or The Phillipines) paratransit is the main public transport mode because classical public transport is poor, or simply isn’t provided or funded. This includes small rural towns all the way up to large cities with over 2 million people (such as Cebu, Phillipines).

Brisbane also has a few (lesser-known) paratransit options. Residents in the following suburbs can take advantage of Brisbane City Council’s personalised public transport for as little as $1.00 each way.

  • Aspley
  • Bald Hills
  • Carindale Hills
  • Calamvale
  • Drewvale
  • Hemmant
  • Karana Downs
  • Wynnum

Although this mode is often neglected and is poorly known, it has the potential to extend congestion relief to areas where classical public transport isn’t practical or density is too low (such as the Moreton Bay Islands). It also has potential as shuttle services to rail, busway and ferry stops during peak hour or where classical public transport’s fixed-routes and fixed schedules are too inflexible.

Better marketing alongside public transport modes (such as on the TransLink website) and integrated ticketing (such as being able to use GoCard in taxis for payment) are a first step. Providing loading bays and zone based fares would be a second step. Further paratransit ideas for Brisbane will be the subject of future posts.

Paratransit in America: redefining mass transportation by Robert Cervero is a good read for those wanting to know more about this mode of transportation.


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May 23, 2010 at 10:44 pm

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