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Empirical evidence on On-Demand Mobility Services

Interview Gregoire_Lisa

On-Demand (or Demand-Responsive) Transport has been trending worldwide. But what does it mean exactly? It’s a mode of transport where instead of having fixed lines and fixed timetables, the itineraries are actually optimised based on the demand or bookings. In order to understand a bit more the impact of on-demand mobility on sustainability, Grégoire Bonnat, CEO of Padam Mobility, interviewed Lisa Dang, Research Associate at Lucerne University about the conclusions she had following the publication of her recent study on the subject.

Lisa, you are with the University of Lucerne and you recently published your study on the impacts of on-demand mobility on sustainability. Could you start by describing briefly what your study is about?

In our study, we examined the effects of On-Demand Mobility Services on sustainability in terms of emissions and traffic volume. For the analysis, we created four service options designed to be as realistic as possible, depending on the level of On-Demand Mobility integration into public transport :

  • On-Demand Line Operation, a service that operates like a “conventional” bus line, but is enhanced by an additional on-demand component;
  • On-Demand Public Transport Supplement, a service that provides an extension of public transport and is used, for example, only during off-peak hours when public transport services are infrequent;
  • On-Demand Public Transport Replacement, a service that replaces public transport through virtual stops, e.g. door-to-door rides;
  • Commercial On-Demand, a service that directly competes with public transport and aims to poach users.

The main focus of the study is the comparison of a rural area that is Glarus South with an urban region that is Basel St. Johann, both located in Switzerland. The calculations of the study are based on a sustainability simulation model created on Excel. The input data for the simulations are taken from the literature, as well as empirical data from pilot projects.

So according to your simulation, which of the service options is the most efficient?

In the service options that are the extension, the replacement and the competition, a significant increase in CO2 emissions can be expected, as a considerable share of users of these services come from the more environmentally friendly modes of transport, that is public transportation or non-motorized transportation.

However, implementing the supplement service option is recommendable. There are positive effects in terms of CO2 emissions because in this case, many passengers change from a taxi or a private car to this eco-friendly collective transport service.

And what would be your findings regarding traffic volume?

In all service options and in both spatial contexts, additional road traffic is a consequence of the on-demand collective transport services. There is additional traffic because according to the model assumptions, a considerable proportion of users in all service options switch from public or non-motorized transport to the on-demand collective transport services. And moreover, this effect is due to the low occupancy rate of on-demand collective services caused by a low degree of ride pooling and a high proportion of empty kilometres.

Have you found any interesting differences between the urban and the rural areas?

Yes, the results of the simulation regarding the influence of the area on the advantages of on-demand collective transport services show that the extension, replacement and competition service options generate higher additional CO2 emissions in the rural than in the urban area. The supplement service option, which is the favourable one, leads to a reduction of CO2 emissions in both areas with a higher reduction of CO2 emissions in the urban area. However, in urban areas, there’s a negative impact on the traffic volume in terms of additional vehicle kilometres since the pooled public transport demand is replaced by less pooled on demand vehicles.

So, in the end, which factors influence the ecological balance of on-demand shared mobility?

By calculating sensitivities, the present study shows which factors influenced the ecological balance and how strong the effects are. The model shift as well as the propulsion system technology have a strong influence on ecology and traffic volume. Regarding the traffic volume, we can say that the model shift, the average usage and the pooling rate have a particularly high influence on the generated traffic. 

If the majority of trips could be shifted from motorized private transport to the new On-Demand Mobility Services and at the same time an average capacity higher than that of a private car could be achieved, there would be positive effects on space and environment, and these aspects are particularly important in densely populated areas with high traffic volumes.And regarding the ecological effects, we find that the introduction of on-demand collective transport services leads to less traffic and fast to lower CO2 emissions when making optimistic assumptions regarding the pooling of ride requests, the empty rate and the shift from private cars. Also, the electrification of the vehicle fleet has a major effect, while the average distance per passenger has only a small effect.

 

This article might interest you: DRT optimisation: without the guarantee of advanced booking, no efficient route optimisation

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Mobility in rural areas: how our DRT solutions help to reconnect territories

rural mobility

Mobility in rural areas is a major issue. Transport provision for rural areas in the UK has shrunk over the past half century. From the Beeching cuts to the decline in bus services over more recent history – which is particularly acute in rural areas – there is now a crisis in provision for rural communities. 

The challenges of rural mobility are those of smaller populations, distributed unevenly over greater areas (along with jobs and services) and generally connected by lower capacity and less reliable networks. According to the Countryside Climate Network, 2020:

  • 43% of people living in rural England live more than 1hour away from a hospital by public transport, compared to just 7% of people in urban areas
  • 47% of people living in rural England live more than 30 minutes away from a town centre by public transport, compared to just 5% of people in urban areas
  • People in rural areas travel more kilometres per year than people living in urban areas

Since its creation, Padam Mobility aims to make smart mobility more efficient, and therefore more accessible, to sparsely populated areas. Taking care of the mobility of the inhabitants of peri-urban and rural areas by offering sustainable shared mobility solutions is a mission to which the company responds on a daily basis by implementing on-demand transport services  (DRT and Paratransit). To improve travel for all and facilitate access to services and jobs.

Our solutions have proved their worth in rural areas because they are easily adaptable to local issues and provide relevant answers to the problems encountered by mobility stakeholders in this scale of territory. Because they make it possible to reduce the cost per trip, by increasing the attractiveness of services and therefore ridership, while at the same time reducing operating costs by minimising empty rides as much as possible. Also because they can be adapted and integrated into a mobility offer by focusing on the most difficult part: providing a comprehensive service to users who are furthest away from the main routes. They particularly respond to the challenges of:

Relevance of the mobility offer

  • Consideration of local constraints and adapting to the different use cases
  • Complementarity with the conventional public transport offer

Quality of service

  • Lower operating costs and significant improvement in the performance of DRT and Paratransit services 
  • Simplification of the tasks of the call centres: faster booking and processing, automatic ride dispatch

User experience and digital transition 

  • Reduction of booking times
  • User empowerment through the introduction of new booking channels (website and mobile app) 
  • Improved passenger experience: real-time, multi-dates or recurring bookings, reminder notifications, ergonomic interfaces, etc.

Accessibility and sustainability 

  • Reduction of the carbon footprint and fine particles thanks to itinerary optimisation and ride pooling
  • Adaptation to all types of vehicle fleets
  • Pooling of DRT and Paratransit services for a universal and 100% accessible offer

In Châlons-en-Champagne, Saint-Omer, in the Brittany or Pays de la Loire region in France, in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, in Germany, Padam Mobility DRT and Paratransit solutions have been able to adapt to the local constraints and challenges of both the territories and their inhabitants in order to improve the mobility of rural populations, reduce their dependency on private cars and increase their autonomy in their travels.

In these territories, transport operators and public authorities have jointly decided to encourage a smart and flexible alternative mobility, based for the most part on innovative management platforms. Thanks to on-demand transport services (DRT and Paratransit), new ways of managing and guaranteeing access to a more inclusive and sustainable mobility have been put in place. These means allow a gradual transition towards carbon-free travels, reduce the impact of private cars and improve access to employment and service areas. 

The implementation of dynamic DRT and Paratransit smart solutions guarantees operators and local authorities immediate benefits:

  • Increased ridership and lower operating costs per trip thanks to a better user experience and the introduction of new booking channels that address wider user groups (young people, seniors, commuters, occasional users). As an example, DRT services triple their ridership on average once equipped with Padam Mobility technology.
  • Optimisation of resources by grouping services on a single platform to maximise service use. These platforms can also be adapted to any type of vehicle and user group while ensuring optimal allocation of resources and optimised service management.

The potential and new use cases that these on-demand transport services make it possible to apprehend open up new perspectives:

Rethinking the mobility offer as a whole

  • While regular public transport is viable with a minimum of demand density, smart DRT and Paratansit services can be set up to connect to regular public transport networks, thereby increasing ridership rather than competing with them. 
  • In the light of the development of Mobility as a Service solutions (MaaS), DRT and Paratransit represent one of the rural mobility options that help to improve the overall coverage of a territory and seamless travels.

Adapting quickly and at no extra cost to the new use cases that have emerged as a result of the health crisis.

  • The dynamic DRT and Paratransit services make it possible to set up smart health transport services in rural areas dedicated to the most vulnerable to serve health care or vaccination centres, to relieve congestion or to supplement regular lines in compliance with health measures.
  • At a time when the health crisis is highlighting all the limits of living in an urban environment, the inhabitants of metropolises are migrating to rural areas where the living environment is more pleasant. These newcomers, who very often do not have a car (or even a driving licence), bring with them new expectations and requirements in terms of access to a reactive mobility that adapts to their lifestyles.

 

Find out more about Padam Mobility

This article might interest you: How Padam Mobility is revolutionising the way people move in all territories

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