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Merging a DRT and a paratransit service: why is it a good idea?

Image rues d'Albi

In Albi, south of France, a proactive policy in favour of People with Reduced Mobility is pursued. The municipality distributes its newspaper in Braille, and since 2021 the 84,000 inhabitants of the Grand Albigeois area have been sharing a Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) merged with a Paratransit service. Padam Mobility supported the urban area in the implementation of this merged on-demand mobility solution.

DRT? Paratransit? What are the differences?

Instead of following fixed itineraries and timetables, DRT is based on users’ bookings. Algorithms calculate rides in real time to optimise them and pool as many bookings as possible. The Paratransit is a DRT that focuses on the specific needs of the most fragile users. Often operated door-to-door, it is able to accommodate equipment such as wheelchairs and to include companions in the ride booking and management.

Why combine the two types of services?

The economic and ecological value of public transport lies in the sharing of rides. Economic, because the fuller the vehicles are, the less the rides cost the community. Ecological because sharing more rides reduces the number of kilometres travelled – particularly when empty – and emits less CO2.

While most local authorities opt for a separation of DRT and paratransit, the French region of Grand Albigeois has recognised the value of merging the services. Merging the two services means that more trips can be made. It also means that more options are offered: With a combined fleet, the local authority and users benefit from greater flexibility.
A Paratransit vehicle will no longer make an empty ride if a request from a non-Paratransit user is on its itinerary. Bringing the two offers together is also useful in fighting against the invisibility of disability. With more ride proposals and users who live alongside each other thanks to technological optimisation: the Grand Albigeois service is a success.

How do the two types of services interact?

To achieve this, the two types of service are configured simultaneously to be compatible. PRMs will be able to book their rides door-to-door, while other users will be able to book their rides stop-to-stop. This guarantees a tailor-made service for each user while maintaining the efficiency of the service. The algorithms are designed to optimise the different types of bookings, while taking into account the specific pick-up and drop-off times for PRM users who require them. To ensure a high quality of service, the local authority can choose to merge its services on a continuous basis, or over specific time slots.

In the Grand Albigeois area, the results speak for themselves: in less than 6 months, the Libé’A service has recorded 7,200 rides, 49% of which are PRM rides. The future looks even brighter for the local authority, with a 36% increase in ridership over the period of time. Many local authorities are taking a close interest in the Albi example.

Merging DRT and Paratransit: what does it mean technically?

The Padam Mobility product teams regularly look at how to merge usual public transport and Paratransit. The idea originated from many local authorities in multi-operated areas. Rather than operating two on-demand services that pool bookings separately, the aim is to obtain a merged mobility service – still adapted for Paratransit and meeting specific needs – but which is better optimised and more cost-effective, as it meets the needs of different populations simultaneously.” Samuel Bousquet, Product Manager and Javier Guimera, Transport Consultant at Padam Mobility.

The secret of the merging of DRT and Paratransit is to be found at several levels:

The algorithms

There are two types of algorithms:

  • Online algorithms: used when a user makes a booking on the website or his/her mobile application. They display the booking possibilities in less than a second, and ensure that the user request and the constraints of the service are respected. This type of algorithm optimises the user’s search results to display only the most relevant information.
  • Offline algorithms: these algorithms are launched outside of service hours; they aim to reduce ride times by pooling bookings for better service optimisation. For instance, this approach can change the order of rides or the distribution of vehicles.

In the context of a merged DRT and Paratransit services, these two types of algorithms will also take into account the specific needs of the users. Thus, the dwelling time – which can sometimes be longer to meet the specific needs of PRMs – or specific equipment are taken into account in a specific way in the calculation made by the algorithms.” Points out Matthieu Lormeau, Operational Research and Data Science Engineer at Padam Mobility.

The pick-up zones

In order to allow a perfect merging of DRT and Paratransit, the two services are configured to rely jointly on the same pick-up zones. The pick-up zones will coexist with stops (fixed or virtual) for DRT use, and polygons (service perimeters in which door-to-door rides are authorized for PRMs).

The allocation of services to the most suitable vehicles based on bookings

The notion of pooling and merging has a particularly important effect on the number of vehicles deployed and the economic rationality of the service. Indeed, the economic efficiency of a DRT is mainly based on the objectives of better dispatch of vehicles – or even their reduction – as well as on an objective of increasing the rate of user pooling.

 

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How to ensure the success of your Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) service through targeted data analysis?

booth

 – Padam Mobility insights on  service data analysis at the Smart Transport Conference 2021

The basic premise of Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT): smart vehicle routes that group as many passengers as possible, matching trips to capacity is seen as a promising solution to establish emission-free transport. It’s both efficient and reduces the need for individual cars. 

However, DRT services are by no means the same. The deployment of an on-demand service does not follow a template that can be applied equally to all regions and areas. The key to successfully establishing a DRT in a given area is based on the analysis and correct interpretation of data collected before the service is introduced and whilst it is operational. Good data will show how the service is being used, and whether there is room for improvement. For example, data can show whether the fleet size is optimal for the service and how it works with the existing transport network (for example, whether the on-demand service ensures connections with train services,  or competes with high-frequency buses at peak times).

How does targeted data analysis help in establishing a DRT service? – Presentation by David Carnero at the Smart Transport Conference 2021 in London 

The Smart Transport Conference took place in London at the end of November. Bringing together, mobility experts, innovative transport companies and top politicians, including Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Trudy Harrison, the conference addressed the most pressing mobility issues of our time: how do we achieve the climate targets we have set ourselves, how can innovative transport concepts be promoted, or how should the infrastructure change in order to encourage the use of lower-emission means of transport?

The entire UK team of Padam Mobility was represented at the event in London. David Carnero, Head of International Business Development, spoke in the breakout session “Technology and Innovation” about the important role of data in the development of on-demand services. 

david
David Carnero, Head of International Business Development at Padam Mobility, speaking at the Smart Transport Conference in London on 30 November 2021.

Using specific examples, each showing anonymised real data scenarios from customers, David highlighted the importance of the skilled eye of Padam Mobility’s mobility experts in launching and sustaining DRT services. 

Choosing the right fleet size

The choice of the fleet size is crucial to the success or failure of an on-demand service. If the fleet is too large, it is costly to maintain, vehicles are not optimally utilised, and additional staff are required. However, if there are not enough vehicles to meet the demand, other problems tend to arise that damage the overall project. Users trying to book a journey who are repeatedly unable to do so because all vehicles are already fully booked may turn away from the service. This problem is illustrated by David in his presentation (see Figure 1). The chart shows the daily average refusal rate (blue bars) and the total refusal rate (orange line) are very high at almost all times of the day. In this situation more vehicles are needed to meet demand, and this will be suggested to the operator.

fleet size
Figure 1

Service optimisation – the “right” configuration can work wonders 

A further example shared by David illustrated how skilled interpretation of data can have an impact on services. Before the realignment of the DRT offer shown in Figure 2, rather low user numbers were recorded. This could be for many reasons, however, it would be wrong to jump to the conclusion that people in the region are not open to on-demand mobility. 

The service was adjusted, and from around August 2020, the data shows passenger numbers increasing rapidly. This suggests that the service change made about two months earlier succeeded and meets the users’ actual needs much better. In this case, several stops were added and the service area was enlarged.

Enlargement
Figure 2

Service optimisation – extensive possibilities of data analysis and evaluation   

David used further examples to make clear how extensive the analyses are that Padam Mobility conducts for their customers, and that careful data evaluation can be decisive for success. 

For example, he illustrated the possible reasons why trip searches might not lead to bookings. Figure 3 shows the point at which (around November 2020), the conversion rate of searches to bookings increases significantly compared to the previous period. User analysis indicated that people may have been unable to find suitable stops in their proximity or were not satisfied with the given service area. In this case, a service enhancement resulting from the analysis has helped to accommodate more user queries and thus increase the ratio of search queries to actual bookings. 

Conversion
Figure 3

Expansion of the service area, a larger fleet size or more stops are not the only possible adjustments. Service configurations which are matched to the individual circumstances and needs of each region are essential. Padam Mobility tests and measures the most appropriate models. For some areas, a free-floating model, which does not envisage a fixed routing, may make sense, for example, in order to save vehicle kilometres and offer passengers a flexible and individualised driving experience. In other regions, however, a feeder configuration may be more appropriate, for example, if a specific transport hub, such as a train station, is the main point of contact for most on-demand users. In very large areas, it may be beneficial to define zones in which a specific on-demand service operates. This helps the operators to keep a clear overview of the performance and the resources needed for each service. 

Figure 4

What steps can public transport authorities and transport companies derive from the findings? 

If cities, municipalities, companies, etc. have decided to tackle the project “on-demand mobility” and offer their citizens or employees a convenient, flexible transport service, the diverse implementation possibilities of DRT services can seem overwhelming at first. 

Where to start? Which configuration is right for my area? – Fortunately, Padam Mobility’s team of experts can help. 

We know what data is needed to make an initial assessment of the future service model of on-demand transport. We also offer simulations and pilots designed to closely monitor the service over a period of time and collect data that will make the service design as effective as possible. Of course, we also accompany our clients in the long term, closely assisting drivers and the management team to make decisions at short notice whether meeting acute need or implementing incentive schemes rapidly.  For example, at the beginning of 2021, we set up a service for the on-demand service TAD IDFM in the Paris area, which took vulnerable people to the nearest vaccination centre. A recent example is the “Christmas shopping offer” provided by the HertsLynx DRT. 

A reliable partner who has the capabilities to collect and analyse the data generated by an on-demand service in a professional and far-sighted manner is crucial for the successful implementation of a DRT service. The right choice can ensure that on-demand mobility not only becomes an important part of the modal split but is also financially viable.

 

This article might also interest you: With HertsLynx, Padam Mobility continues its expansion in the UK 

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Ridepooling, Ridesharing, Ridehailing: which is what?

Ridepooling, ridehailing, ridesharing

With more and more new mobility offers, users are not only confronted with new decision-making possibilities to get from A to B but also with an ever-increasing number of new terms that are often difficult to distinguish from each other.

In this article, we would like to shed light on this and explain the most important definitions of the “new mobility” ecosystem.

Ridesharing

In the most classic sense of the word, the term ridesharing means that a ride is literally “shared”. Passengers and drivers usually find each other via digital platforms and discuss the details of their joint trip directly with each other. Typically, the passengers contribute to the costs of the journey so that both sides benefit: for the driver, using a car gets cheaper and the person travelling with him or her pays significantly less than with another means of transport. And even if ridesharing usually involves a private car, there is at least one less on the road …

Ridepooling

The principle of ridepooling sounds similar to that of ridesharing, however, there are decisive differences: Ridepooling is usually operated by service providers and is linked to certain objectives, such as improving the transport offer in a certain region, doing something for the protection of the environment, being financially rewarding, etc.

In comparison to other means of public transport, such as buses or trains, the services offered by ridepooling providers are usually highly technologised, allowing users to book the service via various digital booking channels, such as an application or a website. In addition, some providers also offer the option to book a ride by phone through a call centre. This booking option is especially helpful for older people who are often less familiar with technical devices.

Not all ridepooling services are created for the same purpose, the service structure can differ considerably from one provider to another. For example, services can be set up to transport passengers from door-to-door, to act as a shuttle service to certain key access points such as the nearest train station, or to be exclusive to employees for a particular company.

At Padam Mobility, that’s exactly what we do – develop tailor-made ridepooling on-demand services and provide advice to municipalities, transport companies and other players in the mobility sector. 

Ridehailing

Ridehailing services operate for commercial purposes as well. The difference is that they can be booked by individuals for a specific ride and do not pick up any other passengers during this ride. The chauffeur-driven services probably come closest to this description.

Usually, there are a number of features that are available to users of ridehailing services. These can be related to the fare, which is displayed to users directly at the time of booking and which can usually be paid directly within the app, or the real-time tracking of the ride on the user’s personal smartphone.

Nevertheless, these services are criticised because, unlike public transport or pooled rides, ride-hailing vehicles add another mode of transport to already congested streets and cause users who might otherwise have travelled by bus or metro to switch to an individual vehicle, which is an additional burden for the environment.

Slugging

Ever heard of it? Admittedly, this term is a rather American phenomenon, but it should nevertheless not be missing from this list, if only because of its curious name. Which, by the way, comes from bus traffic, because bus drivers call counterfeit coins “slugs”. And since in so-called “slugging” people stand in a queue waiting for private drivers to give them a free ride, often waving off bus drivers who think these people are willing passengers, the fake coins soon became “fake” passengers – or “slugs”. 

This type of ridesharing is bound to some specific rules, which are very vividly described in this article.

One important rule, for example, is that the passenger is not expected to pay. Nevertheless, both sides benefit from the shared ride because cars “in full occupation” are allowed to move to a High-Occupancy Vehicle Lane (HOV Lane), while individuals in their cars are often stuck in crowded traffic, which costs time, nerves and money.

Carsharing

When carsharing, users of (a) specific provider(s) share a number of freely available cars. In most cases, the vehicles can be booked, paid for and unlocked via an app, without a third person having to accompany the process. This is particularly practical in urban environments, where owning a car is usually rarely needed.

As with ridehailing, carsharing encourages individual car use but also ensures that there are fewer cars in the area overall. And that is bitterly needed, considering the fact that, according to new research from the RAC Foundation, in the UK, cars are parked for an average of 23 hours a day, covering up valuable space that could be used for green areas or attractive living space, for example.

 

Learn more about Padam Mobility 

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Discussion with Laurent Chevereau, “MaaS” research director at Cerema

MaaS - système d'information intermodale

In 2019, the Cerema (French Centre for Studies and Expertise on Risks, Environment, Mobility and Urban Planning) created the MaaS Observatory, which lists all the MaaS or intermodal systems initiatives on French territory on a single platform. The aim of this platform is to share knowledge about MaaS.

To explore further the issues of Mobility-as-a-Service, we wanted to share views with an expert on MaaS in France. Laurent Chevereau has been Director of “MaaS ” research project at Cerema for nearly three years.

What is Cerema’s approach to MaaS? 

Laurent Chevereau: As with many issues, Cerema has a vocation to provide knowledge. This is why we produce a lot of intelligence and good practices and why we launched the MaaS observatory, in partnership with national partners who bring together all the MaaS players. The idea is to facilitate sharing without necessarily comparing in order to avoid everyone reinventing their own model. Knowledge about MaaS must be a common resource.

For us, as for many local authorities, MaaS must be used to meet specific public policy objectives. In concrete terms, it is not necessarily easy to implement. At Cerema, we are trying to push the need for evaluation: some research has been done on the evaluation of the impacts of MaaS and there is not much, even at international level. In Europe, we see that the impacts are not necessarily positive. The example of MaaS Whim in Helsinki is quite eloquent because it develops the use of public transport but, on the other hand, the modal share of walking and cycling is reduced in favour of car hire.

What kind of advice do you provide for the deployment of MaaS solutions in rural or peri-urban areas?

L.C: To set up a MaaS project, you first have to prioritise the objectives that the territory wishes to address. This is very important, as well as the choice of the target audience, because I don’t think you can make a MaaS for everyone that meets all the objectives.

To sum up, the idea is to define one or two objectives, a main target and then the product: type, ergonomics, pricing policy and support.

In less densely populated areas, there is more of a need for exchange and acculturation to this type of tool, because very often, local authorities do not have as many skills in-house. The financial means are also lacking.

MaaS can have the power to bring together and connect different territories, including the most fragile. For this to happen, digital services must be developed to provide quality intermodal information. However, what are the other major challenges facing MaaS?

L.C: I think there is a major marketing challenge behind this. In large cities, everyone knows the name of the network, but in sparsely populated areas, people do not necessarily know who is in charge of transport and do not necessarily know the name of the network. It is not enough to develop an efficient digital service, it is also necessary to make it known and used, which is not easy in rural areas where digital use is less widespread. On regional intermodal system, we also see that usage is quite low compared to the cost of implementation.

Our publication supports a vision of a sustainable MaaS that should be closer to the territories in order to position itself as a catalyst for mobility offers, including for the most vulnerable populations. How can the development of intermodal logics benefit the territories? Is MaaS the right tool for this?

L.C: I think that we should first of all dissociate regular users from occasional users. In rural areas, alternative solutions to cars (DRT, carpooling, etc.) are going to be difficult to generalise in the short term for everyday journeys. In Saint-Etienne, the interface of the Moovizy application differs depending on whether the user is a regular or irregular user. The proposal of intermodal solutions can be a plus for these areas, but it is above all the multimodal aspect that is important for these areas. These tools can help to identify the right mode at the right time.

The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is one of the main objectives of MaaS. Between noise and pollution, the car is often blamed, especially in city centres. Does the use of the car have a place in a MaaS system?

L.C: At Cerema, we defend the fact that each form of mobility has its rightful place in space and time. To put it simply, in the city, the car has its place especially at night, where there are no more relevant offers or for specific needs of accompaniment / voluminous shopping.

In sparsely populated areas, the car does not have the same negative externalities as in the city. In terms of climate, the impact is roughly the same, but in terms of inconvenience and congestion it is not comparable.

Thus, reducing car use must be an objective, but not necessarily the primary one in all types of territory. In less well-served areas, the primary objective is to enable everyone to have a mobility solution. This may involve solutions that may generate more emissions, but which are largely compensated by modal shifts in dense areas.

MaaS brings together a wide range of actors and raises the question of governance. Taking into consideration the social and environmental role of MaaS, what would be its ideal form of governance?  Who are the most appropriate actors to develop, control and integrate?

L.C: In general, even if private players offer solutions for a certain population, local authorities remain the most legitimate to develop a MaaS. In London, the PTA (Public Transport Administration) was recently obliged to propose a solution for PRMs itself.

Nevertheless, local authorities are looking for the best way to involve private actors, and several are thinking about new types of public-private partnerships.

Is the question of financing the most important issue for MaaS today?

I think so. Today, private players have not yet found a solid economic model, particularly because there is no standardisation yet, nor easy access to sales services.

For public MaaS, local authorities do indeed have financing difficulties. Nevertheless, some MaaS are beginning to emerge because technological solutions are beginning to be available at lower cost.

In other countries, there is more national funding to help deploy MaaS and federate the players.

Intermodality obviously raises the question of the integration of ticketing systems and I believe that this is something that you have studied in detail. Where do we stand today and what are the technical obstacles to the integration of the different operators’ ticketing systems?

Large urban and regional networks often have heavy card-based ticketing. This does not facilitate interoperability with other mobility solutions. However, in recent years, light ticketing based on a back-office has been increasingly developed, in which the support only has an identifier (QR code, M-ticket). On a regional scale, or in large cities, most MaaS will try to mix the two in order not to exclude large transport networks but still take advantage of the benefits of light ticketing, facilitating the integration of digital-based mobility services. In smaller cities, it is easier to base everything on light ticketing.

As part of the MaaS observatory, we have looked into the issue of carpooling and several solutions exist. In Nantes, for example, Klaxit uses the local transport network’s ticketing card: by entering the subscriber’s number on the application, an advantageous rate is offered.

The Dynamic DRT offer is often described as a MaaS enabler. What does the term MaaS enabler mean to you and what do you see as the role of on-demand transport in the MaaS product portfolio?

MaaS has a real vocation to integrate dynamic DRT in its product portfolio, there is a strong interest. However, I am a little surprised that the local authorities are not more involved. This is probably linked to the fact that the dynamic DRT tool is fairly recent


Cerema is a public institution dedicated to supporting public policies, under the dual supervision of the. French Ministry of Ecological Transition and the Ministry of Territorial Cohesion and Relations with Local Authorities.

Cerema shares best practices and contributes to the implementation of accessible mobility policies and services adapted to the social and economic specificities of territories.

 

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Crossed views on MaaS with Hacon

maas

There is no better than our trusted sister company, Hacon, to talk about the topic of Mobility-as-a-Service. The company specialises in developing software solutions that connect different modes of transport into an intermodal travel chain. We interviewed Svenja Katharina Weiß, Marketing Manager and Thomas Wolf, COO of Hacon on their experiences and future visions of MaaS.   

As a leading provider of mobility apps, what experiences have you gained with Hacon so far in the development and implementation of MaaS apps?

Thomas Wolf (TW) : We have noticed that the app is the part of the solution that everyone sees and gets in touch with so it’s of course an important aspect of the overall solution. But actually, we talk a lot more about MaaS platforms than MaaS apps. Why? The app is of course the customer-facing part, and again it’s very important to make sure that there’s great usability, but the intelligence is more in the back office. Implementing a mass project is all about the back office: it’s about gathering the right data connecting with a huge number of mobility service providers  and of course to have a back-office system that helps people to make smart decisions. I would also emphasise that the key aspect of Mobility-as-a-Service is using the system to get access to smarter and faster options. A trip not found will not be booked: MaaS offers a whole new range of opportunities for the passengers and makes people explore their options quicker.

Svenja Katharina Weiß (SKW) : I’d like to add that not only different modes [of transport] but also different actions or processes have to be integrated. We like to call it “Plan, book, pay and travel with one app and one account”. MaaS has to accompany the user through the whole trip and everything that is associated with it. I believe that is the great potential of MaaS regarding intermodal travel that it fits the individual demands even better than single modes of transportation.

What is your motivation to advocate for a stronger MaaS approach and to further develop shared intermodal mobility?

TW: MaaS has become more popular over the past years. One reason for this is that the public and politicians aim to reduce carbon footprint. If you want to achieve this goal, there are all kinds of things you can do and need to do, but one thing people want you to do is to eventually abandon your own car. On the other hand, if you want to abandon your car, then the problem is you need mobility services for every aspect of your life. In that perspective, a car is quite hard to beat because it has been developed to fulfil all these different needs or pretty much all of them.

This is where MaaS comes in because instead of just either riding the train or the bus or bike or renting a car it should give you access to all of these mobility modes. For example, if you would need a car because you want to pick up building material which is going to be difficult by using a bus then you’re just going to use a car for this particular trip thanks to MaaS recommendations. In a nutshell, MaaS  must give people a true alternative to car ownership and that’s why I think it is an important topic these days.

It sounds like MaaS is also about creating a highly individualised travel experience. Is it already possible, for example when creating a user account, to set specific preferences on how somebody would like to travel? 

TW: Yes, we do offer personalisation. There exists already a variety of options a user can choose from, of course, they can also choose if they do or do not want to use bikes depending on their personal situation.  But I think when we talk about preferences in MaaS, an important aspect is people with reduced mobility. In this specific regard, we have lots of options we can offer as well as tools to manage the data. For example, when a wheelchair user arrives on a platform and wants to continue the trip, he or she needs to know if there is a functioning elevator and of course what to do if not. So we can actually route people around a problem. And even though that sounds like we are now talking about the details but in reality, if you are depending on a wheelchair – or have any other kind of disability – then you need to rely on the system, that is something that goes beyond a fancy app and nice-looking interfaces. We need to be able to provide a professional system that takes care of all those details. Especially when it comes to public transport, we have a high responsibility towards disabled people. And that is why I am bringing up that specific example because it goes above and beyond the luxury of preferences.   

SKW: I would like to emphasise the importance of data in order to enhance the overall MaaS experience. On the one hand, MaaS platforms are heavily dependent on high-quality data. This applies, for example, to timetable information or real-time data on the location of vehicles and their availability. This data must be reliable and managed efficiently and securely between the stakeholders. The same applies to the handling of account and payment data e. g. On the other hand, MaaS platforms are generating data and offer great potential for using mobility data analytics to create ever better, tailored mobility offers and to enhance service strategies. 

What happens to the data that the MaaS platform collects? Among the great diversity of MaaS stakeholders, who should “own” this data? Who can in theory use it for data analysis purposes? And how do you or other hosts of MaaS platforms make sure that the data stored is compliant with the EU data protection regulation (GDPR)?

TW: We firmly believe that the data which is generated by such a system belongs into the hands of our customers. Meaning in most cases public transit agencies, public transit operators or in short the public. Because we pay taxes so that there’s public infrastructure, we build public infrastructure and we provide public infrastructure, this is why we believe that the data being generated from such a system belongs to the public – it’s that simple!

Our key philosophy is we provide technology and our clients own the data. They need to be in touch with their users to know if they are happy with the service and to be able to reach out to them in case of an issue. If you don’t own the data you’re not in touch with your users anymore. And we believe that it is mind-blowing if you depend on a third-party provider to learn about what is going on in your own infrastructure.

And to the aspect of storing data in a GDPR-compliant way, this is not only a crucial aspect for our customers but also for the end-users, the passengers. Of course, we are making sure that this data is handled appropriately, we will make sure that nothing wrong happens with this data and that users won’t, all of a sudden, just because they used a MaaS-System or rode a bus, receive advertisements that they never wanted. This is not going to happen with our systems. We believe it is absolutely fundamental that the data stays with our clients and that we store and handle this data safely.

MaaS can have the power to bring together and connect different territories, including the most fragile. To do this, we need to develop digital services that provide quality intermodal information. But what are the other major challenges facing MaaS in low-density, rural areas?

TW: First and foremost, mobility in rural areas is a much bigger challenge than it is in Metropolitan areas. Ironically, even though there are traffic jams in the Metropolitan areas, there are also the most travel options, especially for sustainable travel. It seems absurd but the new modes of transportation show up in areas where you don’t desperately need them because in most cities the public transportation is very good. In contrast, rural areas are clearly not as attractive for anybody who offers mobility services, so I think it takes extra effort to have attractive transportation in rural areas. In my opinion in less densely populated areas, we just have to use resources in a smarter way:  for example, integrate the taxi services that are available already and make them more accessible.

What could be the role of DRT-Services in a MaaS-System, less densely populated areas?

TW: We have noticed that cities or public transit agencies when they think of Mobility-as-a-Service want to offer mobility alternatives to car ownership for a certain region. That means they want to offer a mobility solution for every aspect of people’s life. But if they look at their current infrastructures they eventually find certain gaps and issues – for example at night times or in rural areas.

This is where DRT comes in, it helps to fill those network holes. Whether network holes in a geographical meaning where there is only a poor existing transit service or network holes in a temporal meaning, for example, during night hours, where it simply does not pay off to have a fixed bus line service.

I think that’s the exciting part, MaaS can help to orchestrate this very well and make sure that we deploy DRT exactly where it complements existing infrastructure and public transportation.

As of today, there are not a lot of DRT services that are integrated into MaaS systems. How do you explain that? Is it because DRT is a rather young technology?

TW : Yes, I think that is simply because the technology is still emerging, it’s still an area that hasn’t been around for too long, and also, I believe people sometimes make the mistake to think that if you set up a DRT system you need to set up additional vehicles and drivers, which of course you could, but again I need to emphasise that in many cases drivers are already around. Often there are already existing operators, for example, taxi organisations, that have existing vehicles and drivers. So, I think if cities or public transit agencies realise that they can tap into this potential by just linking it smarter with a DRT-software, like Padam Mobility’s system. I think we need to educate them better and show them that they don’t always need a complete fleet and drivers but in most cases just the software.

SKW: I think it’s important to acknowledge that DRT should complement the existing public transport services and that there doesn’t need to be the fear that it will cannibalise the existing services. It’s an addition, it’s a very smart complement. Of course, it has to be orchestrated but I think there can be a synergetic relationship between public transport and DRT. But yes, there still is a need for education.

 

This article might interest you: Crossed views on MaaS with Kisio Digital

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A white paper to question the role of MaaS in low density areas

MaaS

Different from the city centre approach, mobility in peri-urban and rural areas is a community matter, which digital tools must learn to take into account. This is the reason why we wanted to publish a white paper on the subject of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). We aimed to offer a different approach to this recent concept and to increase awareness of the issues it could address in the most fragile territories.

Questioning the concept of Mobility-as-a-Service 

Which meaning should be given to MaaS in peri-urban and rural areas? Reducing car use, networking and opening up territories, better distribution of resources, improving the user experience, especially for People with Reduced Mobility (PRM): our publication attempts to provide some of the keys to understanding the objectives that MaaS could achieve in low-density areas.

Providing clarity on MaaS governance systems, stakeholder diversity and motivations

Between private, public or hybrid MaaS, the challenge of creating a MaaS platform lies more in its governance than in the existing technology. We looked at the different relationships between the multiple stakeholders in public transport within the MaaS ecosystem: Public Transport Authorities, Transport Operators, private players (developers, digital solution providers, etc.). We wanted to explore the different modes of governance that have emerged since the concept of MaaS appeared and their responses to the economic, social and environmental challenges of the territories. Finally, crossed views with our technological partner Kisio Digital allowed us to explore the issue of cooperation and the pooling of resources for the design of a MaaS “in good intelligence”.

Considering the opportunities raised by the integration of Demand-Responsive Transport in a more territory-based platform

The objective of Mobility-as-a-Service – in the most simplified way – is to integrate on a single digital platform all the mobility offers available on a territory. In remote areas, MaaS can thus offer relevant and personalised alternatives to the use of the private car. Dynamic Demand-Responsive Transport is an example of an alternative mode of travel that can be easily incorporated and sometimes already integrated into an intermodal mobility offer. In our white paper, we present some examples of successful or ongoing integration of DRT into a intermodal initiative.

Informing about the different levels of integration of DRT in MaaS and the related technical constraints

Integrating a mobility solution into a Mobility as a Service platform means integrating traveller information and, in the best case, a ticketing solution. To make these integrations possible, the implementation of data standards is essential. They also ensure the cohesion of the different mobility operators on the same platform. In 2019, the dynamic DRT developed by Padam Mobility has been integrated into the trip planner of the Ilevia app in Lille, France. This experience led us to report on the different possible levels of integration of DRT in MaaS. We also wanted to propose a better understanding of the technical and financial obstacles these integrations can generate.

Presenting Padam Mobility’s MaaS vision

As a French company, committed to the development of digital solutions for on-demand public transport (DRT and paratransit), Padam Mobility positions itself in favor of a responsible MaaS, closer to peri-urban and rural territories that may be disadvantaged by an unequal mobility offer. 

Our core business and our knowledge of territories where the demand for mobility is sparse, has led us to consider Mobility-as-a-Service outside urban centers. We have therefore focused our study on the best practices to follow and the levers to activate in order to bring a sustainable and inclusive MaaS in sparsely populated areas.

 

Download the White-Paper :  MaaS in peri-urban and rural areas : What role for Demand-Responsive Transport ?

Find out more about Padam Mobility solutions

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Crossed views on MaaS with Kisio Digital

MaaS

Padam Mobility gives the floor to its technological partner Kisio Digital through its Communication Director, Bertrand Billoud, who shares some thoughts on Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).

What would be Kisio Digital’s added value in a MaaS approach?

Bertrand Billoud (BB): The main technological contribution of Kisio Digital in the development of regional, national or urban MaaS is based on our Navitia traveller information system. Multimodal / intermodal traveller information is the core of our expertise on more and more modes of transport. We are a MaaS enabler. We rarely talk about user data for digital platforms, even though usage and the voice of the user are one of the main challenges of MaaS. If we engage in a MaaS logic, usage must drive innovation and continuous improvement of digital services.

Our white paper  argues for a solidarity-based MaaS that should be closer to the territories to position itself as a catalyst for mobility offers, even for the most vulnerable populations. How can the development of intermodal logics benefit the less densely populated areas?

BB: What is very interesting about MaaS is that it raises the question of the purpose, the objectives that we set and the resources that we mobilise to meet the social, economic and ecological challenges of a territory in terms of mobility. What do we want to do with MaaS? Do we want to limit car congestion, facilitate mobility for People with Reduced Mobility, boost tourism or alternative modes of transport…? Depending on the context, the chosen solution will be different. The offer must be adapted to the different challenges faced by the territories.

The priorities set by political decision-makers determine the direction of MaaS. Imposing transport modes that are totally disconnected from realities is not the right solution. On this point, I believe we are aligned with Padam Mobility in the sense that we consider that the integration of mobility solutions must be done in a way to answer specific local issues such as unequal access to transport services in low-density areas.

Is MaaS the right solution for peri-urban or rural areas?

BB: It depends on the local context. We have to realise that digital tools are not the solution to each society’s problems, especially in the mobility industry. Producing digital tools is a good thing on paper. Nevertheless, it requires a significant communication and marketing work to develop the audience and the uses by the citizens. We have to make it known, otherwise we have lost the battle of uses. Design a useful product? Yes, but the most important thing is to design a product that is used by the greatest number of people.

We must also keep in mind that the human aspect is essential and not always rely solely on digital tools. This is also sometimes what we try to put forward at Kisio Digital. Finally, uses evolve. Commuting five days a week is not anymore the reference. That’s why MaaS needs to cover the territory with points of interest, intermodal hubs and also third places, and take into account our lifestyles.

In large cities, the mobility offer tends to be more and more individualised with shared modes that are certainly expensive and less sustainable than they are said to be (electric scooters, e-bikes, car rental). How can MaaS fit into these dynamics and influence virtuous behaviours in urban and suburban areas?

BB: The mobility sector is political. If MaaS can influence virtuous behaviours, these will correspond to modes that the Public Transport Authority (PTA) considers virtuous. This can be cycling, mass transit, or carpooling depending on the context. In any case, it is important to be aware that all forms of mobility have an ecological impact, with the exception of walking and mechanical cycling, and it is important to limit this impact. Digital services (algorithms, data) can answer different issues (social, economic and environmental), simplify our life, but it will not be enough. I think that as citizens, we also have a role to play in reducing the impact of our mobility. And in the current context, with the development of working from home and videoconferencing, non-mobility is also part of this equation, which we could call the mobility mix. 

To encourage virtuous behaviour, MaaS can’t be radical. MaaS must encourage what is called the “mobility mix”, i.e. the use of different modes of transport depending on the context. In concrete terms, in some areas, it is inconceivable to do without the car. The car can still play an important role in transportation, provided that it is combined with gentler, more shared modes of transport and that other uses of the car, such as carpooling, are encouraged. For example, opening up the road traffic data would make it possible to better understand usage and improve intermodal services. Or offering, when relevant, a parking solution in a mobility hub and a feeder to the public transport network.

The issue of MaaS brings together a wide range of actors and raises the question of the governance. Taking into consideration the social and environmental role of MaaS, what would be its ideal form of governance?  Who are the most appropriate actors to develop, control and integrate?

BB: It is precisely this diversity of players that should make MaaS strong. Serviced mobility must be a common issue that requires strong cooperation. Cooperation between public and private operators, industrial players such as Kisio Digital or Padam Mobility, but also associations that encourage virtuous behavior in terms of mobility. MaaS requires alliances and it is the PTA that must be the orchestrator. Establishing the rules of the game, controlling the players and the offers is a necessity. The public space cannot give in to the anarchy of mobility offers. A trusted third party is absolutely essential to ensure that our data does not end up in opaque systems that favour one mode over another.

This has to be done in good intelligence and requires that everyone focus on their core business. For Kisio Digital, this is traveller information. We need to find alliances and partnerships rather than trying to do everything alone. There are these notions of shared ressources and cooperation that must be the driving force behind service mobility and digital sovereignty. As an example, our Navitia solution is open source: it’s a way of pooling resources and expenses and agreeing on a roadmap, with a view to continuous improvement.

In concrete terms, to what extent do companies like Kisio Digital or Padam Mobility that offer white-label services act as MaaS enablers?

BB: We are mainly in contact with public players under public service contracts to help them improve their services to travellers. We attach a lot of importance to the idea of improving the ” comfort ” or the quality of travel during a trip. This is a vision that we share with Padam Mobility. The idea of being able to use a reliable transport service in which one can have a seat, such as Demand-Responsive Transport or other public transport, contributes to the well-being of the users. 

Like you, we define ourselves as MaaS enablers. At our level, mainly on passenger information. We have more added value in doing traveller information well than in trying to do everything. We also try to make people understand the value and importance of public power to contribute to the well-being of mobility service users. This can be illustrated by the example of Transport for London (TfL). Last summer, the London Transport Authority released its official application that focuses on services for people with disabilities. Private players who operate MaaS services or offer B2C mobility applications do not necessarily treat this kind of subject as a priority. We have to do this when we support public players. The digital solutions we offer as white-labels are part of a general interest and public service logic. This is also part of what makes us different from other MaaS operators.

 

________

Kisio Digital, Keolis Group’s digital subsidiary, offers the Navitia traveller information platform. It receives more than 8 billion requests per year and allows it to operate on a multitude of local systems integrating multimodal (comparison of modes), intermodal (combination of modes), door-to-door and real-time itinerary search. The company is also a major player in the management and quality control of mobility data in order to provide the most reliable traveller information. As Padam Mobility, its main clients in the framework of MaaS projects are Public Transport Authorities (PTA) such as Île-de-France Mobilités in Paris and SYTRAL in Lyon but also other actors such as SNCF (French National Railway Company), Keolis or Mappy networks for example. 

 

This article might interest you: Mobility-as-a-Service and DRT : towards a sustainable platform

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Mobility-as-a-Service and DRT : towards a sustainable platform

Mobility-as-as-service

Mobility-as-a-Service is perhaps the trendiest concept in the mobility sector. This concept, sometimes misused, tends to be associated with the image of an ultra-connected city, with a wide range of infrastructures and innovative transport offers, while sometimes ignoring the suburban areas.

However, MaaS should be a way to promote sustainable and inclusive mobility, by highlighting public transport and shared mobility offers.

Integrating Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT), a recognized solution for serving low-density areas, into a more comprehensive MaaS solution that includes areas such as peri-urban and rural areas would be a real paradigm shift in terms of equal access to mobility services.

Mobility-as-a-service: innovating for better decision-making

MaaS allows users to access all available modes of transport (train, bus, tramway, DRT, bike, e-scooter, ride-hailing, walking…) on the same mobile app with a focus on intermodality and multimodality, and on reducing the use of polluting modes of transport such as individual cars.

As the vehicle autonomy classification, MaaS presents several levels of integration of transport offers.  These levels increasingly assist the user’s mobility. Ideally, the aim is to offer a fully integrated multimodal experience, without any rupture, and with a single ticket (level 5/5).

The Mobility-as-a-Service initiative : a multidimensional opportunity for public authorities

  • For Public Transport Authorities (PTAs), MaaS is a powerful public policy tool. It must ensure the common interest in the use and control of territories, and propose an improved model of urban and suburban public transport. MaaS is also a valuable tool to ensure that new mobility offers are complementary to public transport, rather than in competition with it.
  • It is in the best interest of public authorities to adopt an active attitude towards MaaS. Why? To achieve goals in reducing private car use and pollution, and to ensure that public transportation infrastructure is the backbone of the service.

Beyond the cities, Mobility-as-a-Service must provide peri-urban areas with access to relevant mobility solutions.

Integration of Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) in MaaS : a step forward towards a sustainable MaaS

Integrating DRT into a more global MaaS that includes sparsely populated areas such as peri-urban and rural areas highlights the need to address the mobility disparity between large urban areas and the rest of the territory.

DRT facilitates economic and social inclusion

The DRT developed by Padam Mobility in low-density suburban areas is a great opportunity in territories in need of a new impetus. It allows operators to optimize bus journeys in these areas to meet non-uniform demand.

The objective ? Reduce the polarity of transportation networks around major cities and connect remote areas to existing infrastructures  to facilitate access to dynamic areas and employment hubs, for example.

Promoting responsible MaaS also means considering all types of user profiles (working people, students, elderly people, people with disabilities, etc.) and their specific needs. It also means offering alternatives to digital technology for users who do not have a smartphone.

DRT is able to address these needs :

  • by providing services accessible to people with reduced mobility (PRM), tailored to different types of populations (young, active or senior)
  • by allowing reservations via several channels, including those addressed to less connected users.

Increased flexibility to meet changing mobility habits

A more global Maas must address the need to make transport more flexible, whether it is public or active (cycling, walking). Travel reduction, teleworking, e-shopping, the health crisis is a catalyst of this trend. The solution delivered by DRT emphasizes the need for more flexible public transport at the dawn of a profound change in mobility habits.

More data sharing between MaaS and DRT system for a successful integration

Data sharing between different transport operators supports the inclusion of DRT in MaaS initiatives. From this perspective, the greater amount of data exchanged provides accurate information for public policy and continuous improvement of services and infrastructure.

Mobility-as-a-Service and DRT in Germany: integration is in progress

DB Regio, a Deutsche Bahn subsidiary (one of the main transport operators in Germany), is restructuring its rural transport offer around Mobility-as-a-service. In order to rethink the DRT brick and adapt it to the challenges of rurality, DB Regio selected Padam Mobility to deploy its DRT solution WDW NOW in Rhineland-Palatinate, a rural state in the southwest of Germany. A partnership with the company Hacon, has facilitated the integration of Padam Mobility’s DRT solution into the overall local mobility offer, in an inclusive MaaS approach :

“One of the most persuasive aspects of the service is its inclusiveness, as it addresses the needs of different population groups especially those who do not have easy access to mobility options, such as people with reduced mobility. In addition, the different booking options cover all age groups : young people are used to make reservations via the app, while older people prefer to talk to a “real person.”

Gerd Overbeck, Head of New Mobility Services at Hacon

Other integrations have been made, such as in Lille, France (Keolis-Padam Mobility).

This article might interest you : MaaS : a rapidly changing transport industry

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DRT optimisation : without the guarantee of advanced booking, no efficient route optimisation

DRT optimisation

If your DRT tool does not optimise bookings in advance, it doesn’t really optimise your service. An interface that provides relevant routes in seconds in response to a booking request: that’s the promise of the Dynamic Demand-Responsive Transport for users.

A few seconds is the maximum the user is willing to wait for a result. At Padam Mobility, we allow ourselves a delay of 3 seconds, which is already a lot. But there are two ways of optimising a journey:

  • In real time, we have 3 seconds to assign a vehicle and insert a new route within a multitude of routes already planned. The exact time of this new booking will be adjusted by a few minutes between the booking and the departure.
  • If the reservation is made in advance – at least 24 hours in advance – a new world of DRT optimisation possibilities opens up ahead of the algorithms that calculate the routes.

Demand-Responsive Transport optimisation : exponential calculation times

On a given territory, the time needed to optimise each new route increases exponentially. The 20th journey may take 10 times longer to optimise than the 10th. The 100th will take an unacceptable amount of time to find the perfect route in real time.

This is why opening reservations in advance increases the optimisation capabilities of your service tenfold. The platform will be able to insert the last journeys, those booked in real time, into a service that is already optimised.

For a classic Demand-Responsive Transport  service, it is almost mathematically impossible to achieve perfect optimisation. A service that would serve 50 daily trips would take more than a month to define the ideal itinerary with the current algorithms. We carry out our calculations in the days preceding the journeys in order to arrive at a result where the deviation from the optimal result is less than 1%. That is why everything that is booked in advance saves kilometres of travel, thus time for the drivers, for the users, and CO² for the planet. 

DRT optimisation : Improving the occupancy rate

It is even useful to encourage users to book in advance when they can, because the more the service is optimised, the more it accepts passengers who booked in real time. According to a study made by Padam Mobility, 38%  of Public Authorites and Transport Operators said the main problem with their DRT was the occupancy rate, the benefit becomes decisive. The service will run faster, travel fewer kilometres, and consume less fuel.

Below, you can see a theoretical evolution of the occupancy rate according to the proportion of advance bookings.

DRT optimisation

It is preferable to avoid reaching 100% to enable users who have no choice to find a place on the same day. A balance must be found to not saturate the service in advance.

Padam Mobility works on all use cases of Demand-Responsive Transport, which can be adapted in various ways according to the reservations. If there are few reservations for night services, as in Padua, the algorithmic optimisation in advance achieves excellent results on services designed with a zonal algorithm (which takes unconditional reservations in a predefined area), or on a feeder service around a station.

Peri-urban services such as in Orleans or Sophia Antipolis take full advantage of it because many journeys, school or home-to-work, are recurrent.

If your DRT tool only promises real-time optimisation, your margin for progress, both in terms of occupancy and operating expenses, is immense. Be careful, accepting bookings in advance and optimising them are two different things. Some tools allow them but only process them in real time.

Contact us to evaluate what you are currently losing.

Other tools only offer bookings in advance: we will come back to the gains obtained through real-time optimisation in the near future. A good DRT service should offer both by default.

 

This article might interest you : Demand-Responsive Transport: explore and leverage the data generated by your service

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Demand-Responsive Transport: explore and leverage the data generated by your service

Transport à la Demande

Smart Demand-Responsive Transport and Paratransit services generate very useful data. This data is essential for adapting the on-demand transport offer to the users’ mobility needs and to the challenges of the territories.  

Collecting data in order to better organise the offer and improve services on an ongoing basis

Thanks to a dedicated management interface, transport operators and public authorities of Demand-Responsive Transport and Paratransit services powered by Padam Mobility technology can monitor the operation of their services while visualising the data required for continuous service improvement.

All Padam Mobility services include a turnkey statistical reporting tool. Configured as a continuation of the service launch, it includes tables, graphs and advanced analysis to provide key information on the operation of the service and its use.

The statistical reporting tool takes the form of a dashboard. For each graphical display, it is possible to filter the data display by day, week or month. It is also possible to customise the dashboard by pinning  favourite statistical elements. 

Demand-Responsive Transport: Which data for which analyses? 

The Padam Mobility services’ statistical reporting tool allows to visualise and quickly obtain information through around fifty indicators divided into 13 categories covering all the operations of a DRT or Paratransit service: acquisition, searches, conversion rate, user activity, flows, performance, groupings, vehicle fleet use, punctuality, quality of service, etc.

Focus on 8 categories and their indicators:

Searches: indicators that show the number of trip searches per time slot during the day as well as the number of searches per travel time. These indicators provide useful information on travel uses and needs in a given area. 

Demand-Responsive Transport
Example: number of searches, results and bookings carried out on the different booking channels as well as the conversion rates of searches (number of results / number of searches) or bookings (number of bookings / number of trips proposals).

 

Conversion rate: all indicators relating to the different conversion rates between searches, trip proposals and bookings made. These indicators give a precise idea of the volume of searches leading to a booking and the relevance of the trip proposals made to users.

Demand-Responsive Transport
Example: conversion rate between proposed trips and searches carried out (red) and conversion rate between proposed trips and trips booked by users (grey)

 

Flows: the reporting tool makes it possible to visualise on a map the flows of DRT or Paratransit trips carried out on the territory according to the filters applied (line, time slots, day of the week, departure or arrival stops). 

DRT data

 

Performance: indicators for visualising the performance of the DRT or Paratransit service with information on the trips made by the vehicles and the passengers carried. These indicators make it possible to ensure the optimisation of vehicle routes and itineraries.

DRT data
Example: number of passengers per trip per week. A trip starts when a vehicle is empty and goes to pick up a passenger. A trip ends when the vehicle is empty again.

 

Groupings: indicators providing information on the pooling rates of passengers in vehicles. These indicators help to ensure that vehicle loading is optimised, the keystone of a smart DRT and Paratransit service.

Demand-Responsive Transport
Example: number of people pooled together for a trip by vehicle, from two people up to six or more.

 

Use of the vehicle fleet: indicators for visualising the use of the fleet of vehicles of the DRT or TPMR service.

DRT data
Example: time repartition when operating vehicles. The data is presented as percentages of the total time. In bleu: percentage of time the vehicle is loaded. In light grey: percentage of time the vehicle is empty. Dark grey: Percentage of time the vehicle is parked.

 

Punctuality: indicators providing information on the punctuality of the service: rate of trips whose duration increases by 10 minutes, average number of delays in minutes in passenger pick-ups and drop-offs, delay duration in minutes, rate of delays in pick-ups and drop-offs, etc.

DRT data
Example: average delays in minutes on drop-offs and pick-ups and variations in travel times. In bleu: average delay on passenger pick-up. In light grey: average variation time on trips. In dark grey: average delay on passenger drop-off.

 

Quality of service: indicators that make it possible to assess the perception of the service by users through the ratings given to the service and the driver.

Demand-Responsive Transport
Example: number and average of ratings given to the service.

 

This article might interest you: Ride booking by phone: facilitating the care of specific populations.

Find out more about Padam Mobility.

 

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