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Padam Mobility Masterclass Series – #3 Scaling DRT – Using a flexible demand platform and a flexible vehicle supply model to grow patronage efficiently

Landor Links #3 Title

This Masterclass, on scaling, was the third in a three-part series of expert discussions covering the details of successful implementation of Demand Responsive Transport systems. The Padam Mobility Masterclass series was run in cooperation with Landor Links.

In the final edition, Asiya Jelani, Account Director at TRL and Women in Transport Board Member spoke with Daniel Mould, Managing Director at WeDRT and Jack

Landor Links #3

 Holland, Head of Business Development at Padam Mobility about how DRT services can be effectively introduced and scaled to achieve optimal coverage and economic viability.

What is scaling?

Scaling is essentially matching the number of vehicles to demand efficiently, as your DRT service grows. It’s possible to predict that services will grow from the outset with modelling. However, Jack Holland explained that it can also be planned once a service is in operation:

Scaling is not a gut feeling decision, but is carefully planned and decided during the run phase of a DRT service based on specific KPIs. This might relate to user numbers or pooling rates (the number of passengers on the bus at the same time) in a particular area, for example. If the available vehicles are constantly at capacity, this may be an indication that demand is not being served well enough and that potential users are unable to find a free vehicle at their desired time. These observations provide initial indications that an on-demand service needs to be adapted.”

As DRT can be configured to fit into local transport networks, it can be used to grow the overall ridership. Jack Holland again:

Efficient scaling depends primarily on the local conditions in which a DRT service operates. A service is only optimally used if it fits seamlessly into the structural transport network, i.e. if it brings passengers to major public transport hubs. In this context, the procurement of the DRT software plays a crucial role. On-demand services, which act as a complement to the scheduled network, can be configured in such a way that users are pointed to scheduled transport options in the app at certain times rather than booking a DRT vehicle for the desired trip.”

The ability to flex the fleet is also key. The WeDRT platform enables services to access properly registered and accredited fleet when services need more vehicles to meet demand. This is also useful when piloting the service or to test the market for additional areas or times of day when building ridership.

What about financing?

The expansion of transport services is generally assumed to imply an increase in costs, which means financing is a key concern. How can it be possible for an on-demand service to be economically viable? For Jack, this question needs to be tackled more holistically:

We live in a deregulated mindset but we need to look holistically at where we spend money on transport and how we can cross-subsidise different modes so that the overall cost is reduced for the local authority. That is how you make DRT viable in the UK. It is looking at these different subsidy pots, be it home to school, be it dial-a-ride, even be it corporate shuttles and how you can blend these different models.” 

However, regardless of external funding measures, it can also be possible to deploy a transport service in a way that is both demand-responsive and resource-efficient

Dan Mould:

Technical possibilities, such as well-deployed DRT software, help transport companies to use their fleet much more effectively. Intelligent pooling allows for better utilisation of vehicles, which means that in many cases the total fleet can be significantly reduced, which in turn saves costs.”

Jack added:

While it is currently almost impossible to offer a profitable on-demand service, it is certainly possible to set the parameters in a way that lowers expenses. At around 8 passengers per hour, a DRT service is considered economically viable. When demand is low, however, it is conceivable to reduce resources or, even better, to reallocate them to other use cases in order to relieve the cost to the public purse, e.g. for ambulance transport, school transport or company shuttles.”

Scaling – the right pace

Predicting the vehicle requirement for DRT can be very challenging. It is not easy to assess from the outset whether or not a service area should be expanded or more vehicles deployed. Making the wrong decision can have a negative impact on performance. On the one hand, having too many vehicles or a too extensive service area can generate enormous costs; on the other hand, under-provision of DRT services can lead to disappointment on the part of users. A flexible supply base is one solution.

Dan Mould: 

What we have seen in the market, and where the opportunities lie to make this more efficient, is flexible supply. If you have a core of your minimum supply base, for example, three minibuses, then you can flexibly mobilise the fourth minibus, which you may not be certain to use, through the WeDRT system.”

This ability is a real asset for on-demand service operators because both an underused fleet and an unfulfillable demand will eventually damage the service

Determining the fleet size and other parameters as accurately as possible – for example during the initial test phase – comes down to the right model design and analysis of the area. Jack Holland explains:

It is crucial to study the exact needs and circumstances of a particular region and then deploy a DRT service where it best complements, not competes with, the existing infrastructure. Scaling can mean starting in a very small area and introducing, for example, an initial feeder service to the main railway station. If this service proves successful, further stops can be added or new use cases identified.”

DRT services in France and the UK – A fair comparison?

Padam Mobility’s DRT service in the area surrounding Paris – TAD IDFM – is a very successful example of scaling. The service has been gradually extended to cover 40 service areas to date. It coordinates 8 different transport operators on a single platform, which simplifies travel for people living in Paris suburbs.

Whilst transport policies and the funding frameworks in the UK and France are very different, what we can learn is that people living in areas underserved by public transport will respond positively when they are connected to the public transport network using DRT.

Scaling – what are the take-aways?

The ability to scale a service is another very important success factor for a functioning DRT service. So what are the most important insights our experts would like to share?

Jack Holland:

Start small, have clear KPIs in place. If the KPIs are achieved look for growth, if the KPIs aren’t achieved look for something else. So, have a clear plan of where you launch, what your KPIs are, in terms of patronage, in terms of revenue, in terms of passenger experience. Use them as your basis and then look to expand from there and scale.”

Dan Mould:

You will never be able to simulate exactly what the demand or the optimal supply should be. You just want to have that foundation in the early stages to be able to scale efficiently. You need to have the set-up you need to react to data that comes in.”

The masterclass onScaling is the third and final webinar in the current series, run by  Padam Mobility and Landor Links. The other events in this series covered the topicsData Analysis of DRT Services and Integrated Ticketing. Click on the respective topics to access the corresponding YouTube video. You can find the corresponding articles under these links:

#1 A smart ticket to ride – Ask the experts! 

#2 Using Data Science to increase the success of your DRT scheme 

On-demand mobility can be a very important component in providing an effective, user-friendly public transport system. We believe that it’s important to share our experience of the implementation of DRT services with public transport authorities and operators and show how on-demand services could play an important role in BSIPs. We’re always happy to talk about how DRT can improve your bus network. Just contact Jack Holland or David Carnero directly.

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Padam Mobility Masterclass series – #2 Using data science to increase the success of your DRT scheme

Padam Mobility and Prospective Labs, in collaboration with Landor Links, present the second edition of the Quality Bus Masterclass Series. 

Kate Gifford, Head of Future Mobility at West Yorkshire Combined Authority, led the hour-long discussion of Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) and Data which featured Pete Ferguson, CEO and Co-Founder of Prospective Labs, and David Carnero, Head of International Business Development and Partnerships at Padam Mobility.

The webinar took questions from participants and discussed the role of data in setting up and shaping DRT services.

What data sets will I need for a feasibility study (and if this involves bus data,
how do I reassure the operator that supplying the data won’t have an adverse impact
on their existing business)?”


The Prospective Labs approach to data is about understanding the potential role of DRT within the transport network – and where it might have real competitive advantages over the private vehicle. 

Pete Ferguson:

We utilise a lot of the ticketing and timetabling data from the core public transport network and we combine that with essentially the core transport modelling activity that you may be aware of within your own local authorities that is looking at the propensity to travel under different conditions. How sensitive are local populations to changes in travel time, changes in costs and what will their behaviour be when you make that change.”

Another important source of data from which Prospective Labs draws information is the National Travel Survey, which provides about 100,000 responses annually, relating to different preferences depending on the mode of transport or reason for travel.

All this data is cross-referenced with the ‘supply side’, i.e. the structural, multi-modal public transport network across the UK.

There’s a core of national data sets that then can be combined with a rich representation of the actual underlying supply network”

This broad pool of data allows Prospective Labs to understand what would happen if any changes were made to public transport services in a particular region.

Because DRT can be configured in different ways, the impacts of different configurations can be checked. In some areas, it may make sense to maintain a fixed route structure that is then served ‘on-demand’, in other regions it may be more effective to operate in a free-floating model, and still others may benefit from the DRT service simply acting as a feeder or drop-off for central transport hubs.

David Carnero:

[It is about] understanding where the structural network is, what frequency it is running, what is the network coverage, etc. [From our side] we can implement the DRT in a way that it doesn’t compete with the structural transport network. […] We have a not-compete functionality in our platform, […] and so if somebody asks for a journey between point a and point b and that journey can be done by a fixed line bus then we will not accept the DRT journey and actually refer them to the specific timetable, to that bus line for example.” 

A good study will be able to reassure the existing operators that the DRT services will enhance the network rather than detract from it.

Data collection can be expensive and DRT schemes present financial challenges. How can the additional spend on data collection be justified?”

Collecting and evaluating relevant data, especially before an on-demand service is to be put into operation, contributes decisively to the success or failure of the new transport offer.

David Carnero:

The role of data from our perspective is really to de-risk a project, it can contribute to reducing costs, it can allow, for example, the right supply to be put in place at the right time. […] It takes away a lot of the surprises that can happen. […] We look at it as well as the base on which you build your  hypothesis at the beginning if there isn’t a previous DRT service and then you have something really concrete that you can measure against.”

Pete Ferguson adds that it’s more about the cost of not collecting and analysing data:

A few weeks of paying for drivers and vehicles for a poorly set up service is ultimately much more costly than upfront planning and data analysis. A possible later readjustment, in the case of a poorly running service, would therefore be more fatal than the investment in a thorough implementation process could possibly be.”

It’s crucial to use data expertise in decision-making, assessing the characteristics of a region and the behaviour of (future) service users and provide advice on the likelihood of success for each potential type of service.

We can look at concepts like the ‘consumer surplus’ which is useful for gauging what additional services or destinations that people can access with this additional connectivity. It’s good for both looking in the increase of the value to passengers, but also can be used to ensure minimal impacts if we’re trying to cut costs. Essentially you consider the least reduction in consumer surplus for each cost-cutting scenario”.

Padam Mobility partners with Prospective Labs because: “We have recognised that the need for data analysis of mobility behaviour in certain regions is very high for public authorities, but for various reasons often cannot be carried out independently”, says David Carnero.

In the event that DRT metrics show a decline in performance, what mechanisms can be used to identify problems early and trigger mitigating action?

Initially, Prospective Labs works to develop reliable scenarios that are very close to real-world scenarios, so that there’s a model to predict how well the DRT will be used which can be validated against the real world. So the first thing is to establish how well this process is working and use the model to predict how adjustments might be implemented.

In addition, long-term analysis of data from the platform is important, explains David Carnero:

We analyse the supply, we analyse how people are searching within our digital products and, for example, if there are lots of searches that aren’t what we call it ‘converted’ we then look to understand what’s happing. Things like where are the origins, where are the destinations? Do we need to extend the zone?” 

Using this approach, the service can be adjusted to provide the best and most cost-effective solution for the area, passengers and the operator.

If you’d like to hear more questions about DRT and data answered, the masterclass on DRT and data is available in full length on YouTube.

What hurdles do decision-makers and mobility managers see in the introduction of an on-demand service?

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According to the audience, concerns about unmanageable costs or unmanageable risk seem to be particular obstacles to setting up DRT in certain regions. This is a dilemma because if DRT services are rejected outright, best practices cannot be developed, which can slow down the overall evolution of new transport services.

What comes next?

Assuming the planning of a DRT service has been successful and the service has been running for some time, how should data continue to be used to improve the service or even identify and fix problems?

The next Masterclass will be about this very topic: Scaling DRT – Using a flexible demand platform and a flexible vehicle supply model to grow patronage efficiently. 

This third and final masterclass by Padam Mobility will explore the levers and measures that are available to efficiently operate on-demand bus schemes.

Dan Mould, Managing Director Of Coachscanner will be outlining his unique supply-side platform (We-DRT) for operating DRT using a mixture of permanent and flexible bus suppliers. This will include learnings from operating TfWM West Midlands On-Demand Service.

Jack Holland, Head of Business Development in the UK for Padam Mobility will be sharing his experience of managing and growing DDRT services over the past 4 years. He will go through how to make full use of DRT software including the levers for marketing and price elasticity.

This next Masterclass will take place on 10 March at 10:30 GMT. You can register for this event by clicking on this link. As usual, you are also welcome to send us your questions!

 

About the Quality Bus Masterclasses in association with Landor Links

The Masterclass series was created primarily to help decision-makers understand how DRT can be incorporated into an Enhanced Partnership Programme between transport operators and public transport authorities in the most risk-free way possible.

You can also watch the video of our first Masterclass at this link. Here David Carnero together with Matt Smallwood and Antonio Carmona talked about the topic “Integrated Ticketing”.

 

 

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Padam Mobility Masterclass series – #1 A smart ticket to ride: Ask the experts!

Landor Links

Ticketer and Padam Mobility, together with Landor Links, have kicked off the three-part masterclass series to share current thinking about the potential for Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) in Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) across the UK. 

The three-part masterclass series was launched mid-January by Padam Mobility in partnership with Landor Links. The aim of each of the engaging one-hour discussions is to draw out expertise on the integration of DRT into a  user-friendly, effective public transport service. 

In the first Masterclass, Antonio Carmona, General Manager International and Head of UK Sales at Ticketer, and David Carnero, Head of International Business Development and Partnerships at Padam Mobility, together with chair Matt Smallwood, Head of Digital Strategy, Transport for the North, talked about why – and how –  transport operators and public transport authorities should tackle the core problem of integrated ticketing. Below is a small excerpt of the questions and topics discussed during the webinar. The full video can be found on YouTube.  

Integrated Ticketing is key, is one of the main areas that you need to work on to remove those barriers to access the system.” Antonio Carmona

From the start, Antonio Carmona stressed the importance of a seamless payment and ticketing system to encourage people to switch to public transport. Combine with other measures – such as proximity of services, on-demand rides and pricing – it is essential for creating public transport that is more attractive and more used than private cars.

But how can public transport authorities and operators be convinced that an on-demand service can enrich the public mobility offer in a given region? 

It’s important to see DRT as a service improvement, according to David Carnero, rather than viewing it primarily as a profit-making business model. The overriding goal of on-demand transport is perfect integration into the existing infrastructure rather than competing with it – even if there are DRT services that are significantly more lucrative than maintaining fixed bus routes. DRT then has the potential to serve, for example, the first and last mile between the homes and larger transport hubs. People are thus offered a real alternative to their own car, without the DRT service competing with, but rather complementing, the existing public transport network. 

It’s about not competing with structural – fixed-line – transport, it’s about ‘adding to’ or giving more flexibility to the structural transport. To do this it has to have simple fares and integrated ticketing.” David Carnero 

Data sharing is an obstacle to an integrated ticketing system 

It’s clear that seamless travel – without tedious questions like “Which ticket do I need for which mode of transport?” or “Where can I buy my next ticket?” – is desirable. But why is it that the public transport offer in the UK resembles more of a patchwork quilt, and trips from A to B in many cases require more than just a single ticket? 

Antonio believes that there needs to be more confidence among operators to participate in a common system: 

In every beginning of integration processes you will see challenges about sharing data but in the end, once you have proven to the different operators that there is a benefit to them in participating in the system and sharing some data that is relevant, then those frictions will probably disappear. It is not a technical problem, lots of data is available. [The challenges are] more related to the agreements that are in place.”  Antonio Carmona 

One ticket – many payment options?

Transport-on-demand services are currently exceptional in most regions of the UK. People may have become accustomed to a neighbourhood service that they order over the phone. However, the technical booking options via app or website tend to deter older users in particular. Similarly, when it comes to the question of payment options. There are people who refuse to pay via an app or prepay card and prefer to pay in cash directly in the vehicle. Are these users going to be excluded from the ‘new’ transport services sooner or later? 

The simple answer is ‘no’. DRT services, as offered by Padam Mobility, are public services and do not exclude any user group. Providers need to ensure that people can use the service in the easiest way for them, for example, by ensuring that cash payment remains possible on board in addition to the booking option by telephone or online. Only then can it be guaranteed that the services remain inclusive.

How can the step towards more ‘on-demand’ succeed? 

One aspect, in particular, becomes clear during the discussion: the answers are there, DRT as a real enrichment of a region’s mobility offer does not have to remain a pipe dream, but can be successfully established with a well-thought-out approach.   

Nevertheless, at the moment, just before the launch of the Enhanced Partnerships within the Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIP), many public transport authorities and operators are faced with the major challenge of taking the first step. A reasonable, feasible plan has to be worked out to have a chance of securing some of the public funds. 

To have the best chance of success, careful data analysis and simulations before the actual service goes live is key to tailoring a DRT service for a specific area. There is not a standard service model for every region. In this context, David emphasises that Padam Mobility’s focus is on areas away from the big cities which need careful analysis.

Careful testing and data analysis will determine the best approach to serve a rural or suburban area. Where areas are unlikely to be profitable it’s important to provide a carefully designed service that supports the network and other fixed-line services. 

The next webinar will look at the topic of DRT and Data with Landor Links on 10 February 2022 at 10:30 am (UTC). You will find the link to the registration form further down in this article. 

A question of trust 

Can people who have become accustomed to a timetable just “change” like that? Certainly, the question of how to bring users along on the path to more flexible, demand-responsive transport should not be underestimated. Humans are creatures of habit. If the service does not work as intended or as they are used to, there is a risk that people will turn away and reject it. Gaining the trust of end-users may require introducing services in parallel, and will rely on full transparency, for example by guaranteeing real-time tracking of the journey or by providing users with push notifications on their mobile phones in case of delays and other problems. 

I think [the bottom line is] that the technology and the systems around that are a real key enabler for that integration piece, for that customer journey, and for I think [the issue of communication with users].” Matt Smallwood 

It certainly takes time to make new mobility services attractive to a broad population. Reliable support and transparent communication with operators and end-users will add to the eventual success of DRT.

Watch the entire masterclass with Matt Smallwood, Antonio Carmona and David Carnero on YouTube

We would also be very happy to welcome you on 10 February at 10:30 am (UTC). Then we’ll be covering in detail how the right data analysis contributes to a successful implementation of an on-demand service. Click here to register. You are also welcome to send us your questions in advance (use the dedicated text field in the registration form).

 

Find out more about Padam Mobility 

This article might interest you as well: Ticketer and Padam Mobility announce partnership to further develop the Demand-Responsive Transport landscape in the UK 

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Interview with Romain Roy, Vice-President of the Orléans Métropole

Romain Roy

On the occasion of the expansion of the Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) service Résa’Tao in Orléans, Padam Mobility spoke to Romain Roy, Vice-President of Orléans Métropole and in charge of transport and traffic.

The main function of the on-demand service is to bring residents to the existing public transport services”.

PADAM MOBILITY (PM): How would you describe the DRT service in Orléans Métropole?

Our DRT is a modern and innovative service that Orléans developed as of 2018 and expanded in 2019 within a pilot area. It is a service linked to a software suite that has made it possible to connect 100% of the metropolitan population to structured public transport. Users can book the service a month in advance or 5 minutes before departure via a mobile app, website or toll-free phone number. A ticket is no more expensive than a traditional bus ticket, although the user can travel directly from point to point in the defined area of Orléans Métropole.

PM: How does the DRT service complement the transport offer nowadays?

RR: The DRT not only complements it but gives every resident access to a public transport service. I don’t know of any network in France or the world that has managed to cover 100% of an area with traditional transport services. There are still isolated people who live far from a bus stop. The on-demand service can, therefore, also pick up people living far away from the Orléans city centre. However, this is not the only benefit of the DRT! It also allows people to move from point to point within the suburbs as more and more new lines are being created.

PM: What kind of users or purposes are served by Demand-Responsive Transport?

RR: Truly all of them! We don’t exclude anyone. We pick up schoolchildren in the morning, pensioners in the afternoon, people with reduced mobility, professionals, people who use the service sporadically, people without a car, etc. We connect all users with a service that is demand-oriented and close to the customer.

PM: What are the concrete advantages of this DRT service?

RR: The obvious benefit is that users are connected and that the service does not exclude any user. Mobility means demand-responsive transport, it means walking, cycling, park-and-ride, tram, bus, but first and foremost you need access to these transport options. And the primary service that DRT provides is to get residents to the structuring public transport network. Next, there is the temporal scope of the service: from 6 am to 9 pm, 7 days a week. Last but not least, it is a customer-oriented service. You no longer have to wait 30 minutes for your bus; if you book in advance, you can literally get your bus right in front of your door. For the time being, however, the service is only available from point to point, not yet from address to address. It is a local transport service at an ultra-competitive cost, shared but no more expensive than traditional public transport. 

We feel that we are better investing taxpayers’ money, especially since  the strategy of Orléans Métropole is not to gain economic advantages but to provide a better service”.

PM: How has technology helped you realise this vision?

RR: We started a trial area in 2018-2019 with 4-5 vehicles on a smaller operational area and a more limited time frame. This test showed us that users were satisfied and that demand was increasing. In 2019, based on the good test results, we decided, together with Keolis and Padam Mobility, to continue the experiment and expanded the test area to 9 test areas with 12-14 vehicles each with different time frames and different focus groups. Based on these two test trials and our conviction that Transport-on-Demand will be the mobility of tomorrow, we decided to expand the service to 4 large, newly designed zones from 3 January [2022], served by a total of 40 vehicles 7 days a week.

PM: Can you say something about economic rationality and what the technology can do for the community in terms of cost?

RR: Based on the 2019-2020 figures provided to us by our contractor [Keolis Métropole Orléans], the economic balance that the metropolis is aiming for is close to zero. Of the 11.6 million km purchased from our contractor, we have transferred almost 600,000 km to on-demand transport. 1 km with a traditional large bus, which also often runs without passengers, costs between 3 and 4 euros. 1 km with a smaller shuttle bus, which is rarely empty as it comes on demand and can be shared, is cheaper. The equation is balanced because we enable a customer-oriented and flexible service for the user. We feel that we are better investing taxpayers’ money, especially since the strategy of Orléans Métropole is not to gain economic advantages but to provide a better service.

PM: How did Padam Mobility accompany you to enable such an efficient service?

RR: Co-creation, exchange, many discussions, dialogues and tackling challenges, because there is a common interest between the metropolis, the contractor [Keolis Métropole Orléans] and Padam Mobility, which we achieve through professionalism, growth and innovation. We are proud to have been among the first to put our trust in you. We are also happy to see that our achievements and the result have been transferred to different areas. We are convinced that it was right to trust you and to reinforce the offer. Other factors were also taken into account: the mobility needs of the territory, the satisfaction and response of users, proximity, the safety aspect, etc.

PM: What are the environmental impacts of DRT? 

RR: Environmental awareness must be strengthened. We have taken lots of big buses out of service. Based on data and statistics, we have also cancelled lines that had hardly any more passengers. We have organised bus services in the metropolis according to school and holiday times as well as according to different times of the day. A large electric bus that doesn’t find its audience and runs empty will always be less environmentally friendly than several small shuttle buses that use hybrid or electric power and are operating at good capacity. Using the service is not only an economic but certainly an ecological gesture.

For us, the on-demand service is a tool to attract new users, in addition to connecting 100% of the users in the metropolis.”

PM: What are the goals of the Transport on Demand service in Orléans?

RR: We are in a growth phase where we are trying something new, but also measuring and controlling because we have a duty to provide quality services. That means we have to have a shuttle that is on time, that transports you safely and that connects you with other mobility services. If users give up their private cars, the bet is already won, both environmentally and socially. The goal is to shift more traditional bus kilometres to on-demand transport. Instead of having four big zones that are almost identical, we want to merge them and then, why not, think about on-demand night transport, which will certainly find its audience.

PM: To which strategy regarding the modal shift does Transport-on-Demand fit?

RR: The first strategy is to offer a service that we believe is truly relevant to our times. The fact that it is a responsive and intuitive local transport service allows passengers to easily understand it right from the start. If they want to get on an on-demand service and go from A to B, they can be sure that their transport is reliable. For us, the on-demand service is a tool to attract new users, in addition to connecting 100% of the users in the metropolis. It is really the extended arm of conventional public transport.

PM: Would you say that on-demand mobility brings new users to public transport?

RR: For sure, yes. Because on-demand transport appeals to everyone: the young generation, who are hyper-connected, and the other part of the population, who are less connected or live more isolated. Orléans Métropole has managed to maintain a toll-free number that allows people to stay directly connected during operating hours so they can book their transport. Thus, we also reassure people who are less tech-savvy. The fact that we provide multiple booking channels to connect people from their homes to a transport service will inevitably attract new audiences. We see this in the satisfaction rates. From pensioners who have a doctor’s appointment to young people who want a lift to school: We offer an innovative service that engages all segments of the population.

 

Learn more about Padam Mobility

This article might interest you as well: The Orléans metropolis expands its on-demand network Résa’Tao to four additional zones

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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.

 

These articles might interest you:

 

 

 

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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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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

Find out more about Padam Mobility.

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Reconnecting rural territories in the UK : Interview with Stuart Eccles, DRT Supervisor at Lincolnshire County Council

Lincolshire County Council has been operating a DRT for 20 years. Recently, the county switched to Padam Mobility’s technology to operate the service. Gregoire Bonnat, CEO of Padam Mobility, interviewed Stuart Eccles, DRT Supervisor, on the impact of this change on their service and users.

What is Call Connect ?

Call Connect is the bus service that we use in Lincolnshire, a very rural county, which has historical transport difficulties just with the nature of how disparate the villages are and how difficult it is to get from point A to point B.

Those villages are away from the main transport hubs. We have had, for the last 20 years, a Demand-Responsive Transport system in place to ensure that every settlement has adequate access to public transport, rather than having very long bus routes that could take an hour and a half to get from the villages into the main towns.        

Who are the users and what kind of needs does the DRT answer for them?

The majority of users are elderly and probably don’t drive themselves. They find it difficult to walk to access where main bus routes exist. We also carry quite a number of students because, just as it can be difficult for people to get into town, getting access to schools and doctors can also be difficult. 

I think one of the big benefits is where the small Demand-Responsive vehicles can go, because we can provide a more personalized service and offer enhanced transport needs for those who struggle to physically access the vehicle.

Having the DRT service makes their lives so much easier.

If it were not for the on-demand service, people would use their private car. Are there alternatives for them?

They would struggle because taxis are very expensive in a rural location, to the point that it’s probably cost prohibitive for them. So, if Call Connect wasn’t there for a large number of rural communities, they would maybe overly rely on neighbours and friends, having the DRT service makes their lives so much easier.

Call Connect has been there for 20 years and you felt the need to change something. What changed from an operational point of view?

The technology and what exists out there has moved on quite drastically, whereas we haven’t necessarily engaged with that as much as we would have liked. 

The main goal for us is trying to make it as easy as possible for people to access the service. Today, everything is very much mobile app driven, and we try to make the services easy for people to access especially for the younger market. For them, having to phone to make the bookings is not how they do things. So trying to bring that into our services is a key feature for us and we’re hoping that we can engage with that market and get them to use public transport more often. I think having that freedom is a massive win for them, to be able to control their own destiny and control their own access to transport.

We’re hoping that the net result is to make it easier for the existing passengers to use it but also to bring in new people.

Is it easier for the drivers, too ?

For the drivers, the system is very intuitive. It makes their lives infinitely easier because they can see the information in an easy to digest format, especially with the navigation options that come with the app, in case there are new locations they haven’t been to before, or if they’re not quite sure where they are.

Do you expect it will also have an impact on ridership?

We’re hoping so. When we first started 20 years ago, we only had the option of telephone bookings and that’s all we had for a long time. When we introduced online booking through a web page, we actually saw an increase in passengers. Actually, the app gives passengers the option to do it outside of normal booking hours. That might entice more people in. With the app, users can see all the options that they might have in a day and they can make an informed decision on their needs. So yes, we’re hoping that the net result is to make it easier for the existing passengers to use it but also to bring in new people.

It might even change the behaviour of users and how they organise their day…

I think you’re right. We’ve seen in the initial days that the bookings occur closer to the time of travel, which is interesting because that again gives them greater freedom. The service has always offered up to 7 days in advance, which is perfect if the passenger has regular patterns of things he does, like school and work. But if he’s having to plan going shopping a week ahead because that’s when he can get transport, that’s quite difficult and quite limiting. If passengers can book the next day or even better on the same day, it will change people’s habits. That gives users a great deal of freedom because they can control their lives much better. If you had the option to go on the same day and you had the confidence in knowing you can get your booking, that’s brilliant, especially here in the UK where the weather can change at the drop of a hat. 

The granularity of the data is huge, being able to see the number of passengers per hour across a day, across a week, gives us a greater insight into how people are using the service and when they’re using it. That gives us a good theory as to how the service needs to develop, we can see live the needs of the passengers.

I guess on one hand there are some people who are happy that the system changes and some other people are just happy with the way they used it until today. Is it equally important for you to maintain that? 

Absolutely! There are still a large number of people who are still accessing the service through the call centre, and that will always remain. For some people who access it that way, it might be one of the only calls that they make in the week. So having that human interaction for them is very important, having a little discussion, because of how isolated they are in rural communities. It’s definitely a balancing act. It’s bringing the service forward and up to date with modern technology and also maintaining the level of service that our consumer base has been used to.

How are you using it the data generated by the service?

The data that we get in at our level is one of the biggest wins that we’ve got out of this transition to Padam Mobility, so far. We’ve got greater visibility of how the service is performing. The granularity of the data is huge, being able to see the number of passengers per hour across a day, across a week, gives us a greater insight into how people are using the service and when they’re using it. That gives us a good theory as to how the service needs to develop, we can see live the needs of the passengers.

The big one for me is the map flows feature, where you can see graphically all the flows that exist and it shows what areas are being utilised and whether we need to have a promotional drive or change something in the service.

It’s just being able to see that data in a single place in an easy fashion, we’re used to having data thrown back into Excel documents and manipulating it and trying to find some meaning in it, which is quite laborious and intensive. But how it is now on the statistics is phenomenal. The insights it gives is brilliant. 

One of the really interesting features is the trip feedback (users can rate and give feedback on each trip) because historically, you’d probably only see the two extremes, the very good or the very bad, because that’s what people would like to tell you about. But now we see the whole spectrum. The constant feedback the passengers can give us on how the trip went, what they liked about it, what they didn’t, is great because it gives us an opportunity to go back to our operators and drivers to inform them that they’re doing a good job, which is very much appreciated. 

There are many things happening around mobility in the UK and especially rural mobility. There seems to be a new ambition. 

In the past year, the Department for Transport has put up a lot of funding for rural mobility. So whilst in Lincolnshire we’ve had a well-established DRT network for 20 years, a lot of places have looked at DRT and have tried to implement it with varying degrees of success. But now the government is pushing and suggesting it. 

I think the last year has shown everybody that transport can be delivered in a different way. Lots of authorities and transport providers have utilised the technology that exists for DRT, and seen that that might be a model that’s going to work when we come out of the covid-19 situation. 

I think the industry is going to be a long way back from where we were and we might have to provide services in a different way. There’s a shift that is occurring and the technology allows people to interact with it in a much easier and a much more manageable way. The technology is now hugely different than it was five years ago and it’s so much easier for people to put a service in, on short notice.

The timeline of this pilot is also quite interesting because it comes in when the UK is actually opening up again after this very difficult covid period…

Yes, it’s been a difficult year for everyone. We’ve soft launched the service to try and embed it amongst our users. They have been using it throughout lockdown just so they can get used to it. 

But in terms of timing for promotion and pushing this service and saying to the public “This is here” is quite timely because it actually then gives the confidence to people to say “Yes we can get out and we can we can travel again”. They can go out and interact in a way that they used to, which seems like a lifetime ago now. 

DRT isn’t necessarily the cheapest method of delivering transport. However, it does provide the best value for money in certain locations.

There is also another transition which is sustainability and the UK demonstrates a strong ambition for this as well. But this is happening locally, right ?

For us, we actually partner with a few local authorities to the south of the county and we’ve looked at pooling resources and trying to make the service sustainable long term, because DRT isn’t necessarily the cheapest method of delivering transport. However, it does provide the best value for money in certain locations. Also the carbon footprint is lower because you’re only running services when people want to use it. 

You’ve also got the option to look at potential for electric or hybrid vehicles, which also feeds into the sustainability model and the environmental plan that the government and local authorities are heavily looking at. The technology can help drive that as well because without the tech behind, it’s difficult to implement. 

So great future then for Call Connect ?

Absolutely yes! It’s been a long time coming. We’re really pleased with how the pilot is working and I’m very confident that it will bring new life to certain parts of the service and encourage more people to use it which is absolutely what we want to achieve. 

 

This article might interest you : Public Transport in United Kingdom: What’s next?

Find out more about Padam Mobility.

 

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Rural mobility: How to build a DRT offering to maximise commercial sustainability beyond the funding 

Rural Mobility Webinar

Mobility in rural areas: How to set up a DRT offer to ensure economic sustainability beyond the funding – this was the topic discussed by mobility experts in a recent webinar organised by Padam Mobility and presented by Beate Kubitz. Read the most important take-aways here!

While public transport in urban areas is largely well developed, rural regions are usually poorly or not at all connected to a public network.

Demand-Responsive Transport, i.e. transport that adapts to the needs of the individual inhabitants, can remedy this situation. Vehicles only cover the itineraries users request, thus avoiding unnecessary kilometres and CO2 emissions. A good idea in theory, however, not yet implemented in reality.

What are the reasons why DRT services remain rather underdeveloped?

The feasibility and concrete deployment of Demand-Responsive Transport services were discussed by the 5 mobility experts Beate Kubitz, Matthew Clark (Steer), Matt Dacey (VIX Technology), David Shakory (formerly MOIA, now what3works), and David Carnero (Padam Mobility) in a dedicated webinar entitled “Rural mobility: how to build a DRT service to ensure economic sustainability beyond subsidies” that has been organised by Padam Mobility and can be watched here in full-lengths.  

The experts agree, DRT is an important achievement and has great potential to significantly improve the mobility of rural populations and thus their overall quality of life. 

However, in order to make DRT available to all, it is necessary to overcome prejudices and eliminate identified problems. An important aspect in this context is the flexibility of the operator and the software provider. Each territory is different and therefore needs to be analysed individually in order to identify how the DRT service needs to be designed to provide added value for users.

First you have to understand exactly what the real needs of the population are and how these needs can be met“, says Matthew Clark. He adds “It is important to realise that ‘rural’ is not one place“. This aspect recurs throughout the discussion: understanding the needs and adapting a flexible DRT offer accordingly. 

How is it possible to make Demand-Responsive Transport economically viable?

So far, the general view is that public pooling services are not profitable. However, this should not be the main incentive to provide rural DRT to the population. David Carnero says any newly implemented service has to reach a certain point “where it is efficient from an operational point of view“.  He adds, “It’s a platform play, so the platform has to be built, the usage has to be built (…).”  To be able to speak of profitability at all, the service must offer users real added value, be well accepted by them and establish itself in the long term. This process does not happen overnight.

It is also crucial that DRT services are used efficiently, not simply as another mobility product in addition to the existing traffic, but to actually relieve traffic, for example, if users decide to use a DRT service to the nearest transport hub instead of relying on their own car. 

The high user-friendliness offered by DRT services can be a driver to encourage users in general to use more public mobility services. This could be an important step towards Maas (Mobility as a Service) and revolutionise the way we perceive and use mobility – especially in rural areas. 

Watch the full webinar in replay 

What do you think about this topic? Don’t hesitate to contact us!

 

This article might interest you: Mobility-as-a-Service and DRT: Towards A sustainable Platform

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Is Demand-Responsive Transport too expensive?

Is Demand-Responsive Transport too expensive?

Is Demand-Responsive Transport too expensive? In this series of articles, we suggest to deconstruct misconceptions about Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) and shared mobility. Misconception #2: “DRT is a financial drain”.

Some mobility stakeholders are reluctant to set up a dynamic DRT service, fearing its cost, which is considered exorbitant. Beware of abusive shortcuts!

Get the upstream Demand right

Before launching a DRT service, it is preferable to carry out an upstream study, as each territory has its own mobility logic. Workshops with elected representatives, users, local stakeholders to identify needs, expectations and an “acceptable” level of the offer (adequate pricing, number of dedicated vehicles, number of trips offered, etc.). Then, it is preferable to test the system and its dimensioning through a renewable public contract, collecting as much data as possible on the service organisation and operations.

Take advantage of the versement mobilité (France)

The challenge is to control expenditure by optimising the grouping of itineraries. Local authorities can compensate for part of this by deducting a portion of the versement mobilité des entreprises. Since the new French Mobility Act (LOM), it has become the missing financial instrument for the DRT. It provides the opportunity to improve DRT services by investing in digital tools to facilitate demand and speed up bookings.

The versement mobilité may even cover the entire operating cost. The Pays de Saint-Omer Urban Community, which devotes 490,000 euros per year to its rural DRT operations, is “reimbursed in full by the versement mobilité“, according to Marc Thomas, its transport Vice-President (La Gazette des communes, 2020).

Compare what is comparable

Smart and dynamic DRT often replaces or optimises “classic” DRT services. The importance of DRT configuration in its cost is often underestimated. Badly optimised, badly pooled, badly promoted, it can indeed prove to be out of price. The gains resulting from a better configuration, with the right tools, are enormous. In Orleans, the adoption of Padam Mobility solutions enabled the operating costs of the Résa’Tao service to be reduced by around 30%. 

Thought of as an intermodal service or as a feeder service towards existing lines, dynamic DRT makes it possible to increase the capacity of the DRTs it modernises while extending the offer, often in sparsely populated areas. Since the entire network benefits from it, its cost should be analysed at the overall network level.

Do not forget that the transportation industry remains a highly subsidised one

Like the rest of public transport, DRT is heavily subsidised. The user pays only about one-third of the cost of the transport operations. This on-demand public service is therefore not intended to be profitable. Less dense, more difficult to serve, the areas it covers are the least profitable. It is therefore a real political and social choice that targets isolated populations with no means of transport.

 

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