Posted on September 01 2019
A message from our valued partner: Des's Minibus
Written by Elke Brintrup Krueger
In May this year Des’s Cabs Adelaide Hills and Murraylands initiated the Strath Community Shuttle Service between Strathalbyn and Mount Barker to support local communities and encourage weekend travels between both towns.
Despite receiving amazing feedback and encouragement from residents and local businesses, sadly, the trial had to be paused until further notice, due to very low passenger numbers. But that doesn’t mean it will never come back.
Read on to learn more about how the idea came to life and what the future may hold!
Great ideas often come to mind when they’re least expected. It may be while you’re on a run, during your lunch break or when you wake up in the middle of the night. Or in the back of a taxi, while you’re chatting away with your taxi driver after a girls’ night out.
The passenger we are talking about is no other than Hannah Arnold, recipient of the Young Citizen of the Year Awards of the Alexandrina Council this year, and the driver is Michael P. from Des’s Cabs Adelaide Hills and Murraylands (formerly Mt Barker Taxis).
“It all started with a conversation about the general situation of young people in Strathalbyn.”, Hannah says. “Anxiety and depression are on the rise; and theft, drugs and suicide are big topics too. Many people feel that way. My partner and I have lost too many close to us that way, and almost everyone we know has had a personal experience with those topics. Mt Barker is quite bad, too.”
One of the main reasons for these problems is boredom, especially amongst youngsters. “They have nothing to do in their spare time. They hang around, they don’t want to go home, and they have no money to get out of town either, because there is no public transport available on weekends”.
Michael, who shares Hannah’s thoughts, has been with Des’s Cabs for more than 10 years now. He has done many trips between Strathalbyn and Mt Barker over the years and his passengers often complain about the lack of public transport between both towns on weekends. He knows that a normal one-way taxi fare from Strathalbyn to Mt Barker starts from around $50. Too much for many locals but also a required standard rate for taxi providers.
So, what could be done about this situation? To help the community?
Could Des’s organise some kind of weekend transport between the towns?
It went quickly from there. Michael encouraged Hannah to contact Angie, manager of Des’s Cabs in this region, who jumped on board straight away. They had a good chat about the idea of a shuttle bus and soon determined details such as times, locations and costs.
“The idea is to give young people in Strath the opportunity to get to the movies or a date night in Mt Barker, or just to have a fun day out.”, Angie says, “It’s also great for elderly people who can do some of their shopping they might not be able to do in Strath, join social outings and go to their doctor’s appointments at a low cost. But the shuttle bus is not just for residents in Strathalbyn – people from Mt Barker are just as welcome and encouraged to use it, of course! It’s only $15pp return, or $10pp one way. We all wanted to set this up as quickly as possible.”
The Strathalbyn Community Shuttle Bus was born!
Hannah and Angie contacted Mt Barker District Council to discuss potential funding opportunities for the shuttle, hoping Hannah’s previous involvement through the Citizen of the Year Award would be of support in this matter. Unfortunately, it was a bit too late in the year for their enquiry to be considered for community funds, so the shuttle had to be organised privately.
“We don’t only have normal taxis, we also have wheel-chair access taxis and commuters that can take up to 10 passengers. It’s the ideal size to get started with the shuttle bus. We can always increase the size at a later time.”
Mt Barker Taxis has been around the Adelaide Hills for over 50 years and has been part of the Des’s Group since 2012, though only adopted the ‘Des’s Cabs’ brand last year. The latter was founded in Whyalla 56 years ago and over time expanded to Port Lincoln, Port Augusta and Port Pirie in the north, Victor Harbor in the south (prev. Peninsula Taxis, 2017) and, of course the Adelaide Hills and Murraylands. The Des’s Group is also home to Des’s Minibus, a group transport provider specialising in customised charters and wine tours, wedding transport, and school and corporate transport services, as well as Des’s Ezyrent (self-drive buses) and Groovy Grape Tours (multi-day adventure tours for the young and young at heart). It is a truly South Australian, family-owned business and has been run by Chairman Chris Brougham for a good 45 years now.
“All our drivers are local drivers who know their regions like the back of their hands.”, Angie says, “We are all part of the community and as such we want to be more involved and give back to the community. This shuttle is a great opportunity to do that. We have already had amazing responses from local businesses and on social media, it’s overwhelming. It’s a team effort, everyone is involved.”
“Unfortunately, only a couple of passengers have used the shuttle since its launch in early May this year. As a result, we had to stop the trial run for now, despite the great feedback, which is very sad. We are aiming to bring it back in December when everyone does their Christmas shopping and more people need to travel between both towns. We would love to bring it back for good as it is beneficial for our community, but we also need to be able to justify running it from a financial perspective. It would be fantastic to have it succeed, potentially be subsidised and even more affordable in the future!”
The shuttle service used to leave Strathalbyn every Friday at 5:30pm and Saturdays & Sundays at 10:00am and 5:30pm. It departed Mt Barker at 10:30pm on Fridays, 5:00pm and 10:30pm on Saturdays and 5:00pm and 9:00pm on Sundays.
The Citizen of the Year Awards are proudly presented by the Australia Day Council of South Australia, Support Partners On the Run and Sarah Constructions and Media Partner Channel 9, and are administered by local Councils across South Australia.
The Awards reward and recognise individuals and organisations that have made a noteworthy contribution during the current year, and/or given an outstanding service over a number of years, to a local community over and above normal employment duties.