Alternatives to Special Transport Services in the Netherlands: The perspective of mobility-impaired people

Special Transport Services (STS) fulfil a need among the mobility-impaired in the Dutch population. In absence of these services, a majority of STS users state they would stay at home. Only 12% would use public transport public transport instead. These people are generally still relatively fit. Yet the most frequent STS users do not use public transport and an overwhelming majority considers public transport to be unsuitable given their impairment. Many STS users indicate they are also being chauffeured by relatives of friends, but it seems like STS allow them to keep their independence. In most cases STS are the travel alternative, when other options are limited or non-existent.

Access to STS is available in the Netherlands for people with a mobility impairment, i.e. an incapacity to travel independently outside their home. Prognoses foresee an increase of STS demand in the Netherlands in the coming years. Partly because of the considerable subsidies by governments, complaints from users and the alleged inefficiency of these services – a supposed lack of integration of travel demand – it is often said that STS should be better organised. A shift towards traditional public transport is frequently mentioned as a potential solution. However, the lack of knowledge on the profile of STS users makes it difficult to devise meaningful policies on the topic. In this study, we aimed at understanding the characteristics of people who use Special Transport Services, the types of impairments they have, the way they use STS and the alternatives they might be able to use. To reach this purpose we held a survey among more frequent users of Valys and WMO travel services.