A single accessible minibus, reserved for day-centre use for four hours per day, and then used as a dial-a-ride service for public users. The dial-a-ride serves different areas on different days of the week.
The scheme serves the municipality of Siilinjärvi in eastern Finland, an area of over 500 km2, with a population density of 38 per km2.
A key feature is the provision of transport for two day centres: a work centre for disabled people and a day centre for elderly people. The only fixed stop during the dial-a-ride operation is the bus station which is visited once an hour. Bookings are made by telephoning the Travel Dispatch Centre (TDC), operated by the city of Kuopio. Telephone bookings are entered by TDC staff into a special Finnish software program which schedules the trips and organises routes and informs the vehicle’s driver via a vehicle data terminal, provided by a mobile phone connected to a small computer terminal. Requests for taxis are first faxed to the taxi centre, which transmits them to local taxi drivers via taxi data terminals.
The bus is owned by a private bus company which provides the drivers. The vehicle has sixteen seats plus accommodation for two wheelchair users. There is also one extra wheelchair in the bus e.g. for moving elderly or physically disabled people who have difficulty walking, for example on icy ground. The taxis used have four to eight seats. The scheme has been publicised in local newspapers, and by leaflets distributed to households. Agencies working with disabled people have sent letters to their clients.
Any licensed operator may bid for work, with contracts awarded for one year.
The greatest users of the scheme are elderly people and disabled people: 75% are over 70 and 22% use some kind of mobility aid.
Research shows the following reasons for using the service: shopping (57%); banks, pharmacy and offices (29%); medical (7%); recreation (4%) and day care centres (3%).
All normal bus tickets are valid, with some additional concessions (e.g. ½ price for passengers over 65 years, wheelchair users free, etc. The normal national smart card system and regional card systems are valid.
The total gross operating cost is €77,366 p.a.. Fare revenue covers about 30% of costs. Central government contributes to the TDC's costs. The remaining costs are met in equal share by the municipality and the provincial government.
About half of the passengers say that their mobility has increased since the scheme’s introduction. The bus is often full and this is why there is pressure to increase the number of vehicles deployed. It is highly probable that a second bus will be taken on in forthcoming years. This would enable better integration of school trips into the main scheduled bus service.