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Transit Operators

Revolutionising Mobility: Movia Trafik introduces the ‘Nærbus’ on-demand service to transform public transport in the Faxe region

  • Movia Trafik’s new On-Demand Service “Nærbus” officially launches on April 8, 2024, and will replace three fixed, underutilised bus lines.
  • Users can book the service on weekdays as needed from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm.
  • The “Nærbus” currently covers 108 stops and operates without a fixed schedule, meaning its route is determined solely based on current bookings.
  • Faxe is a municipality consisting of the middle-sized towns Haslev and Rønnede, with a total population of approximately 35,117 residents spread over an area of 405 km².

To provide residents of the rural Faxe municipality with a better alternative to private cars and to optimise the existing public transportation network, the Danish transport authority Movia Trafik, in collaboration with Padam Mobility, has developed a new demand-responsive mobility service.

Named “Nærbus”, the service aims to enable residents in and around Haslev to reach desired destinations within the area more easily and quickly. In particular, the service aims to simplify access to long-distance travel, especially considering that 25% of Faxe residents commute over 50 km daily to their workplaces. Therefore, the connection to the local train station, linking people to larger cities like Køge and Copenhagen, is essential to provide a comprehensive and attractive transportation alternative.

The “Nærbus” operates in a free-floating configuration, meaning its route is determined by current bookings, allowing users to be taken directly to their desired destinations. Additional users with similar destinations can join along the way, with the travel time only varying within the specified time frame. This not only prevents the driver from stopping at stops where no passengers want to board or alight but also enables travel routes to be covered almost as quickly as with a private car.

Padam Mobility will support Movia Trafik throughout the project to ensure the best user experience for all passengers. This includes extensive planning and simulations before the start of the project as well as ongoing monitoring and analysis of the generated service data, which enables a precise evaluation of the network and, if necessary, adjustments to the service.

User interface and booking process of the Nærbus app

The “Nærbus” can be booked via app, phone, or a booking website. Additionally, the service is partially integrated into the national trip planner “Rejseplanen”. Users who already use Rejseplanen can easily access the On-Demand Service within the app to plan and search for Nærbus trips and book via the whitelabeled Nærbus app.

The integration into the Rejseplanen app marks an important development step for “Mobility as a Service” in Denmark. Users receive all the essential information for a seamless journey, including current traffic information, ticket prices, transport options, etc., all in one application. The collaboration with Padam Mobility gives Movia Trafik a  strong partner to incorporate on-demand services into its existing offering and to expand its service to other regions in Denmark.

 

This article might interest you as well: Padam Mobility launches “Buss On Demand” for Swedish Public Authority Västtrafik

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Royal Geographical Society Symposium 2024: Geography in Practice – The Future of Rural Mobility

This day-long symposium held at the Royal Geographic Society presented a range of perspectives on the issues and challenges emerging in rural mobility. A range of speakers from different regions and bodies looked at case studies that covered the use of new low-carbon modes from e-bikes to DRT in rural areas.

Padam Mobility provided some of the research material used by researcher Beate Kubitz to present case studies to show the contrasting approaches to DRT in the UK and in France.

Mobility provision in the greater Orléans area through the RésaTAO on-demand service; Example extracted from Beate’s presentation

The French mobility law or LOM came into force in 2019 and affirms everyone’s right to mobility. It is the organising principle behind transport in France and has lead to French transport authorities reviewing their networks to ensure this provision. Whilst trains, trams and fixed line buses provide a network of mass transit, where the population is less dense – at the edges of cities and in rural areas – they have designed DRT services to link people to onward travel or allow them to travel within their area. These DRT schemes form rings round major cities, serving dispersed communities, villages and hamlets.

In the UK, the Future of Transport rural strategy includes DRT as an effective part of rural transport. However, the implementation so far is more fragmented, with a number of pilots funded by the Rural Transport Fund providing services in some areas.

Mapping the population density in the HertsLynx on-demand service area for the county of Hertfordshire; analysing mobility supply gaps; Example extracted from Beate’s presentation

There are still similarities between the UK and France though. Where DRT schemes are implemented there are common themes that emerge in the experience of the people using it. Research indicates that DRT enables more people to access public transport close to their homes, their journey times by public transport are reduced and they can travel to work, social activities and services.

Did you miss Beate’s presentation? Contact her by clicking here to find out more.

We also recommend reading “Future of Transport” by the Department for Transport, which is freely available under this link.

 

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‘HertsLynx’ Demand-Responsive Transport Service expands to new areas in Hertfordshire

  • HertsLynx On-Demand grew to include Ware, Hertford, and the district of Dacorum in December 2023
  • HertsLynx On-Demand in the Buntingford area reached the milestone of 50,000 passengers in November 2023
  • The service was commissioned by the Hertfordshire County Council in 2021 and is based on the DRT technology from Padam Mobility, with UNO Bus responsible for operations

The HertsLynx service, launched by Hertfordshire County Council in September 2021, provides residents of very rural areas in North and East Herts with flexible and easy access to nearby Key Hub Towns. The on-demand service offers a new quality of life, particularly in places where people were previously heavily dependent on their own car. Partly funded by the Rural Mobility Fund, the service aims to provide bus services where conventional bus routes would not be economically viable. This is an important commitment by the government confirming that mobility is an important factor in creating a liveable area for all.

The HertsLynx service operates flexibly, meaning it does not follow a fixed route but adapts to the ride requests of users. It can be reconfigured based on demand, with project teams from HCC and Padam Mobility closely aligning the service design with the real needs of users. A night service, which was initially introduced during the 2022 Christmas period to transport people safely to and from the Christmas market, was made permanent in April 2023. The so-called “HertsLynx Evening Service” now operates every Friday and Saturday from 8:00 PM to 11:30 PM.

Users of all ages have embraced the app-based transport service from the outset. The service now handles around 3,000 journeys per month and reached the milestone of 50,000 passenger journeys in November 2023. The positive reception confirms that the service is a much needed tool enhancing local mobility.

These excellent developments have prompted Hertfordshire County Council to further expand the service. In recent months, the on-demand service has been extended to several service areas. Two additional vehicles now serve Hertford and Ware, bringing the fleet to a total of 7 vehicles. This new area is also served by the “HertsLynx Evening Service” on Fridays and Saturdays. To make the service more efficient, some trips, e.g. from Hertford to Ware and vice versa, are not permitted. Users can find out about the authorised distances online.

Recently, the Dacorum area has also been integrated into the HertsLynx platform. The service will cover Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead, Tring, and surrounding villages, aiming to increase access for residents to employment, education, healthcare, and leisure activities by offering transport links from rural areas.

The launch of the new HertsLynx service is part of Hertfordshire County Council’s Government-funded Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), which intends to increase passenger numbers through the introduction of several key initiatives, such as the establishment of on-demand rural services.

 

This article might interest you as well: HertsLynx On-Demand service reaches 50,000 passenger trips mark

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HertsLynx on-demand service reaches 50,000 passenger trips mark

There was excellent news for HertsLynx this month, as it reached the 50,000th passenger trips mark! This rural service, launched in late 2021, is leading the way in delivering public transport across rural areas. It serves the area around the Hertfordshire town of Buntingford. These areas, where some villages consist of only 30-40 houses, are difficult to serve with fixed line routes and around 40,000 people were more than a 15-minute walk from a bus stop.

When HertsLynx launched, people were quick to adopt the new service, both those people who live near the skeleton network of rural bus routes, but also in villages and hamlets which were not previously on bus routes. Customer surveys show it’s being used by a variety of people with about 25% of ticket sales to young people and 10% to older people. Key destinations include Freman College in Buntingford and stations in Royston and Stevenage. The service notably provides people in the area with a direct link to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage, which was previously only possible on public transport via a very circuitous route. Trip patterns also vary, as its used for a variety of purposes, with one in six passengers using the service 5-20 times a month to make about a third of the trips, and the majority of the others use it less regularly.

Padam Mobility is really proud to be working with Hertfordshire County Council to power this vital service.  The service has proved very popular and is being extended to cover the area below Buntingford as far as Ware.

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Best practice in Digital DRT and Community Transport – Q&A

 

Beate Kubitz, Victoria Armstrong, and Louise Currie discussing Best Practices in Community Transport

The recent webinar on Community Transport and DRT threw up some interesting questions. It focused on The Robin in the Forest of Dean, operated by community transport operator Lydney Dial-a-Ride and was hosted by Victoria Armstrong, CEO of the Community Transport Association (cta). Louise Currie from Lydney Dial-a-Ride provided insight into the community approach to running a sophisticated DRT operation, with metrics provided by independent transport consultant Beate Kubitz. We selected some commonly asked questions from the chat and outlined our replies below.

How did you promote the new service to everyone? We also have an older generation mainly in the area and have already had some passengers concerned about the DRT system to be implemented.

Working with a CT operator has been great for this. Lydney Dial-a-Ride already has good understanding of this group and in the webinar Louise outlined her approach to getting people on board. The data shows that we have seen great uptake from this demographic across app and call centre usage.”

I think a key metric when evaluating DRT is passengers carried per hour (or, to avoid issues with variations in distance, passenger boardings per hour). Would you agree that, if the result is lower than can be provided on a fixed route, the funds would be better spent on traditional fixed route (or timed many-to-one DRT) service?

We look at patronage per revenue our as a metric and want to grow this. However fixed line services would not be able to serve such a diverse range of destinations as the DRT where the virtual stops do not have to be distributed along linear routes and can provide for people across the area. Serving the same stops by fixed route would be very expensive . DRT provides more accessibility for more people. To improve value we try and design systems to carry people to a central hub, allowing them to make an onward journey on a bus or train. Also, in places where there is a fixed route service, there is an option to direct people towards the fixed route and ensure that DRT does not compete with routes served by commercial services.”

How can passengers guarantee a trip for a fixed arrival time, e.g. for medical appointments?

The Padam Mobility software that sits behind the DRT offers both a “depart at” and “arrive by” option when journeys are booked. We approach DRT from a public transport approach rather than a ride-hailing / taxi approach. This means that the arrival time is “locked in” after booking and is the latest time that you could arrive, inclusive of any other users that you share your journey with.”

Why does it have to be to bus stops – why can’t it be door-to-door?

Whilst it’s possible to run a door-to-door service, we’ve found that services with virtual stops work more efficiently. Virtual stops increase patronage rates as you are asking people to congregate at virtual or physical bus stops. Otherwise you could theoretically use a large amount of the flexible journey time stopping at each house on a street rather than a single collective stop. Also stop to stop services helps DRT distinguish itself from other services such as dial-a-ride that may be door-to-door given mobility needs of users.”

Is completely flexible DRT really sustainable? Some commentators suggest that many-to-one services (e.g. Petworth Route 99, Wiltshire Connect (ex-Wigglybus)) may stand a better chance (as has been proven over many years).

Semi-flexible DRT can help drive higher loadings but not all rural areas have population densities that can support this. Flexible DRT does have some place in the more isolated areas of the country, but can operate as a feeder service to key hubs, such as transport interchanges and town centres. The services in Gloucestershire and in Hertfordshire support this observation where 15-20% of trips start or end at rail stations.”

 

This article might interest you as well: DRT & Transport Consulting – Webinar with Xuefei Wang, Jack Holland and Chris Hillcoat – Q&A 

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Padam Mobility Launches New Demand Responsive Transport App as part of the Solent Future Transport Zone programme

Padam Mobility and SCiA Project Teams

In collaboration with Community Transport Organizations FYT Bus on the Isle of Wight and Southampton’s Social Care in Action (SCiA) Dial-a-Ride; Solent Transport and its four local authority partners, have introduced a new mobile app for the Solent region to improve access to FYT and SCiA’s services.

Specifically, FYT’s on-demand service will cater to residents and visitors on the western side of the Isle of Wight, while members of Dial-a-Ride in Southampton will be able to book SCiA’s Dial-a-Ride service through the new mobile app.

Powered by Padam Mobility, a globally renowned provider of dynamic demand-responsive technology, the new journey planning app aims to offer seamless and convenient access to public transportation on the Isle of Wight and across Southampton. To access these services, users can download the “FYT and SCIA Booking” app from the App Store or Google Play, select their local service and book their journey..

This innovation in community transport within the Solent region has been made possible through the support of the Solent Future Transport Zone (FTZ) programme, funded by the UK Department for Transport. Collaborating closely with FYT Bus and SciA Dial-a-Ride, the Solent FTZ will monitor and assess the advantages of on-demand transportation solutions. This valuable information will contribute to shaping transport policies at a national level.

Introducing the “FYT Bus On-Demand Service”

The on-demand FYT Bus, also known as the “Route E afternoon service” or West Wight FYT Bus, will be running only in the afternoons and aims to cater to the transportation needs of residents and tourists on the picturesque, west side of the Isle of Wight. This cutting-edge on-demand service is designed to offer convenience and flexibility, with the inclusion of virtual stops and several fixed points served during each ride. Passengers will experience a new level of convenience, allowing them to reach their destinations seamlessly.

Enhanced Accessibility with the “Southampton Dial-a-Ride Service”

In addition to FYT’s Route E afternoon service, Padam Mobility is delighted to provide Southampton Dial-a-Ride members with access to the “Southampton Dial-a-Ride Service” within the same app. This service, offered in collaboration with the SCiA Group is set to improve public transport accessibility in Southampton and the surrounding areas by offering real-time bookings across a website, call centre and mobile app.

Padam Mobility’s cutting-edge technology and expertise will be harnessed to enhance efficiency, streamline booking processes, and simplify management for users of the Southampton Dial a Ride Service. Passengers can look forward to an improved and more user-friendly experience, making travel within the city and beyond more accessible than ever before.

 

About Padam Mobility:

Founded in 2014, Padam Mobility provides digital on-demand public transport solutions to transform peri-urban and rural areas and provide better access to mobility services for all.

To achieve this, Padam Mobility provides a software suite with intelligent and flexible solutions that better adapt public transport services to real demand, especially in sparsely populated areas. The software suite is based on powerful algorithms and artificial intelligence.

Public transport operators, public authorities and private companies trust Padam Mobility when it comes to improving access to territories, enhancing mobility services and optimising operations. The company accompanies its clients on the road to operational excellence while promoting environmentally friendly mobility.

Padam Mobility was acquired by Siemens Mobility in May 2021. The company is headquartered in Paris.

About Solent Transport:

Solent Transport is changing the way the public travels in the Solent area; making it greener, healthier and economically stronger than it’s ever been before. Through the delivery of transport solutions, Solent Transport provides leadership, strategy and direction to support sustainable economic growth in the Solent area. Originally established in 2007, Solent Transport is an apolitical partnership between the councils of the Isle of Wight, Hampshire County, Portsmouth and Southampton. In collaboration with the local community, business, government and transport operators, Solent Transport undertakes research; develops transport policy and strategy; submits and supports funding bids; and lobbies for transport improvements that will benefit everyone.

About the Solent Future Transport Zone:

Solent Transport won £29m from the Department for Transport (DfT) to implement innovative future transport solutions around personal mobility and freight movements. The funding means the Solent area will benefit from several innovative transport solutions including: smartphone apps for planning and paying for sustainable journeys demand, e-bike share scheme, and new approaches to freight distribution, including drone freight trials for NHS deliveries across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. Funding will be allocated to different projects across the region. The Solent Future Transport Zone programme proposes to address local challenges such as high levels of car usage and the environmental impacts of freight movement within Solent’s urban areas. It will do this by delivering a series of complementary projects within two key themes: Personal Mobility and Sustainable Urban Logistics.

 

This article might interest you as well: Enhancing Accessibility in Rural Cheshire West and Chester with DRT Service “itravel”

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Padam Mobility launches “Buss On Demand” for Swedish public transport authority Västtrafik

  • The new DRT service is deployed in Ulricehamn, Vastra Gotaland
  • The aim of the first eight-month pilot is to investigate the influence of DRT on the mobility behaviour of the population
  • Users can already book their “Buss On Demand” by using the dedicated application

One of Sweden’s largest transport associations, Västtrafik, was looking for a solution to connect the less populated areas around the medium-sized city of Ulricehamn and thus improve the intra-urban mobility of its inhabitants. To do this as efficiently as possible, a digital solution was sought that would best meet the needs of the area.

The project is divided into several pilots. The first pilot will last 8 months and will investigate how the introduction of DRT affects the travel behaviour of the population. In order to expand the transport offer and also reach areas in the surrounding area, Västtrafik has opted for Padam Mobility’s on-demand solutions.

Ulricehamn belongs to the province of Västra Götalands Iän, which provides the app “Västtrafik To Go” to public transport users. With this travel app, which is available for Android and iOS devices, users can keep track of all public transport in the region and also buy tickets. For future pilot projects, it is planned to partially integrate the timetable information system HAFAS from the German company Hacon. Padam Mobility and Hacon are both wholly owned by Siemens Mobility and work as sister companies on intelligent software solutions for public road passenger transport. 

The first pilot project aims to demonstrate the impact of DRT solutions for local users in a service area limited to about 20 km². The trips are on-demand and not bound to a fixed route, meaning that users are transported to their desired destination in the quickest way possible in a free-floating configuration. The intelligent algorithms on which the system is based ensure that trip requests are bundled and passengers with similar destinations are transported in the same vehicle at the same time.

To simplify this process, Padam Mobility is introducing a new ticketing prototype that will allow users to pay for tickets for the on-demand service directly through the MaaS app via a deep link. The price is based on the existing fare structure, also valid season tickets are accepted on board the “Buss On Demand”. 

From the launch of the service, users can access the service from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm during the week and from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm on weekends. At the beginning of the project, one vehicle will be deployed, however, the fleet can be flexibly expanded by another vehicle according to demand. 

 

About Västtrafik

Västtrafik is responsible for public transport in the Västra Götaland region, Sweden. Every day, over 444,000 customers choose to travel with our buses, trains, trams and boats. By developing and offering sustainable trips and smart services, we want to be the obvious choice when you travel. In this way, Västtrafik contributes to provide a foundation for sustainable growth in Västra Götaland. An attractive and competitive region.

About Padam Mobility 

Founded in 2014, Padam Mobility provides digital on-demand public transport solutions to transform peri-urban and rural areas and provide better access to mobility services for all.

To achieve this, Padam Mobility provides a software suite with intelligent and flexible solutions that better adapt public transport services to real demand, especially in sparsely populated areas. The software suite is based on powerful algorithms and artificial intelligence.

Public transport operators, task managers and private companies trust Padam Mobility when it comes to improving access to territories, enhancing mobility services and optimising operations. The company accompanies its clients on the road to operational excellence while promoting environmentally friendly mobility. 

Padam Mobility was acquired by Siemens Mobility in May 2021. The company is headquartered in Paris. 

About Hacon 

For over 35 years, Hacon has been developing software that helps transport operators optimise processes and make travelling as easy as possible for passengers. The company aims to ensure that its solutions help to establish public transport as a viable alternative to the private car. To this end, Hacon is constantly developing its portfolio: Mobility as a Service, Travel Information and Ticketing, Operator Business Products or Timetable Design and Scheduling – Hacon’s products cover all aspects of intelligent transport systems. 

Hacon links public and private transport and provides travellers with over 100 million door-to-door route calculations every day. In addition to regional platforms, Hacon also develops nationwide solutions, e.g. for the Netherlands and Spain. Hacon has been part of Siemens Mobility since 2017. The company is headquartered in Hanover. 

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Enhancing Accessibility in Rural Cheshire West and Chester with DRT Service “itravel”

iTravel

Padam Mobility provides the on-demand solution for Cheshire West and Chester Council

  • Cheshire West and Chester Council commissions Padam Mobility to introduce “itravel”, an on-demand service addressing the lack of public transport in rural regions.
  • The seventh DRT service by Padam Mobility in the UK aims to connect remote regions with fixed main lines and key locations, benefiting residents with limited mobility options.
  • Supported by £1.075 million from the Department for Transport’s Rural Mobility Fund, “itravel” is a three-year pilot project, contributing to the improvement of rural mobility with innovative solutions.

Cheshire West and Chester Council is taking a proactive step to tackle the transportation challenges faced by residents in rural areas. Traditional public transport providers often struggle to maintain service levels on fixed routes due to unpredictable demand, resulting in inadequate services for people who live in places away from main routes. In response to this dilemma, the Council has teamed up with Padam Mobility, renowned for its Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) expertise, to introduce “itravel”, an innovative on-demand service, operated by Stagecoach.

With “itravel,” residents in the borough’s remote areas will gain better access to key destinations and fixed main lines. The service aims to reduce residents’ reliance on personal vehicles and promote inclusivity by providing mobility options for the elderly, individuals with reduced mobility, and young people who cannot travel independently.

Unlike conventional public transportation, “itravel” operates on a free-floating model, accommodating user bookings to tailor its routes dynamically. Users can easily book trips within the designated zone up to 30 days in advance, while those seeking spontaneous travel are advised to book at least an hour before departure.

To ensure a seamless experience, Padam Mobility offers the “itravel” user app, allowing users to effortlessly search, book, and manage their journeys. The app also provides real-time tracking of the vehicle’s route. For individuals without smartphones or who prefer alternative booking methods, the service is easily accessible through the website or phone reservations.

The “itravel” project receives support from the Department for Transport’s Rural Mobility Fund, with an allocation of £1.075 million. This three-year pilot project is part of the broader initiative to enhance rural mobility, with a total funding volume of £19,411,523 shared among 17 successful applications.

The official launch of “itravel” is scheduled for 31st July, marking a significant step towards improving accessibility and transportation options for residents in rural Cheshire West and Chester. As a visionary solution, “itravel” demonstrates the commitment to fostering efficient, inclusive, and sustainable mobility solutions for all.

 

This article might interest you as well: Padam Mobility Joins PAVE Europe to Educate and Innovate in Autonomous Transport 

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DRT & Transport Consulting – Webinar with Xuefei Wang, Jack Holland and Chris Hillcoat – Q&A 

Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) aims to reach people where access to the public transport network is scarce or non-existent, for example in outlying or very rural areas. In fact, the idea of providing people with transportation on demand is not new. However, digitalised on-demand transport optimises the resources used, chooses more efficient routes and operates in such a way that as many people as possible are served at the same time. The concept of DRT is undoubtedly revolutionising the public transport offer, yet it requires careful planning and management. Each area has different characteristics, including its geographical setting, as well as population density, and mobility habits of the citizens, among others. 

To illustrate how Padam Mobility works in setting up DRT services as well as providing insights into the (technical) options available to the Transport Consulting team to model on-demand transport, we hosted a webinar together with Landor Links. Chaired by Chris Hillcoat, mobility expert at KPMG, Xuefei Wang, Head of Transport Consulting, and Jack Holland, Head of Business Development, Northern Europe, exchanged in-depth views from theory and practice.

The interest in the webinar was huge. The audience could ask their questions to the panellists in advance or during the webinar. However, 90 minutes was hardly enough to answer all questions in detail. Therefore, we summarise the most frequently asked questions in the following article. Your question is not included or you would like to contact Xuefei or Jack about another topic? – You can reach them at xuefei@padam.io or jack@padam.io. 

  • When you model a DRT service, what are the most important contextual questions? 

When we model a DRT service, we always aim to fill gaps in the existing public transport offer. This can also mean that a DRT service complements an already fixed line at certain times of the day or that the line is transformed into a DRT service when demand is low, for example at off-peak times. 

There are also various contextual aspects that we include in our analysis: Demographics (Who are potential users and what are their needs?), Geography (What are the points of interest in the area? Are there remote areas?, etc.), Economics (Are there industrial sites in the area? Does it make sense to set up transport for employees?), Mobility (What is the modal split in the area? What other mobility providers are present? How do locals usually get around?) and Policy (Is there a local mobility plan? What funds are available for mobility measures?).

All these aspects can shed light on what kind of DRT services people in an area need and influence the modelling of the service: Use case, service design, size of the fleet, costs, number of potential users, etc. 

  • Do you have guides on the minimum and maximum populations, trip densities etc. which support a successful DRT service? 

Rural services covering vast areas with a free-floating design are likely to have a vehicle occupancy rate of 2 – 3 passengers per hour (at maturity). 

Peri-urban services with quite densely populated areas are likely to have occupancy rates of 3 – 5 passengers per hour with a free-floating design. It could be possible to have 6+ in certain service designs if the ingredients are right – such as feeder or virtual lines to a popular transport hub or workplace in peak times. 

Minimum population – DRT can cover extremely rural areas, but high subsidies would have to be considered.

Maximum population – In European urban areas with strong bus networks and other public transport, DRT is unlikely to be needed or have a positive effect on congested roads. Here, the focus should be on mass public transport.

  • What are some of the characteristics of rural areas in relation to DRT? Do these characteristics make it easier or harder to operate? 

In very rural areas, the distance between destinations is greater, so bundling can be less efficient than in suburban areas. In this case, feeder services in combination with free-floating can be a good service concept, and attempts should also be made to combine D2D-Dial-a-Ride with DRT from bus stop to bus stop.

In addition, deploying EVs is a big challenge in rural areas. Minibuses are a real challenge for battery capacity as they do not have a large footprint for battery capacity, unlike full sizes buses. 

There may also be signal problems with the internet, which can disrupt operations. One solution could be using a multi-sim onboard router that picks up different internet providers. Another solution is to print the itinerary for the day as a PDF file so that the driver can use it as a reference, but this would only list the pre-booked passengers, which means less flexibility for cancellations and bookings on that day.

  • What are some of the common misunderstandings about DRT you see in tenders from local and regional authorities? 

DRT services with only one vehicle can cover a large area, but can also only reach a very small number of passengers and are therefore often insufficient for residents.

In the UK, most DRTs focus on the free-floating service as a one-size-fits-all service solution. However, from a commercial point of view, other service concepts often involve lower subsidies – semi-flexible, virtual and feeder services can complement free-floating at peak times by targeting demand in specific areas.

Compared to the US, France and Scandinavian countries, we are not yet as advanced in integrating DRT with other modes of transport, such as dial-a-ride, door-to-school, taxi, etc. However, such integration would help to reduce the overall cost of implementation.

Also, pricing in tenders is often based on a trip-per-vehicle model. However, for larger projects, per-trip models may work much better.

  • How can DRT contribute to accessibility and inclusion?

Studies suggest that lack of access to transport puts people at a much greater risk of social isolation. This can in turn lead to high levels of funding needed for healthcare, lack of work, and lack of access to vital goods and services. DRT and dial-a-ride (plus community transport) are essential for serving these areas.

Transport for the North estimates that 3.3 million people in the North of England, or 21.3% of the population, live in areas in which there is a relatively high risk of social exclusion because of issues with the transport system. These areas are widely distributed across the North but are particularly concentrated in former manufacturing and mining communities, in coastal areas, and in smaller towns and cities. The research tells us that high levels of car dependency are the key driver of TRSE (transport-related social exclusion) in the North. This has been exacerbated by declining bus service provision – reducing the travel choices for the most vulnerable people in our communities

  • How does DRT interact with other public transport modes, individually and in a MaaS platform? Can it create efficiencies for bus companies?

One of our most important principles is the integration of DRT into the existing transport network. Non-competition is a very effective tool for this, ensuring that DRT services do not cannibalise fixed bus services. The non-competition feature allows users to be directed to the existing fixed-route service instead of offering a DRT ride.

MaaS is an important concept to integrate DRT as a first and last-mile solution to connect people to existing services. In doing so, feeder services, for example, can effectively take people from their desired stop to key nodes, such as train stations.

  • How do you create a DRT proposition which fills the gap in general transport provision and doesn’t detract from fixed route services whilst also being easy for customers to understand? 

Padam Mobility has recently launched a new feature that allows displaying alternative fixed-line services and redirecting users directly to these services. In this way, we achieve that DRT services do not compete with the existing fixed bus line network and thus become counterproductive.  

  • Do you have examples of how to get integration between DRT and mainline bus services and the railway network? 

Yes, we can use bus and railway timetables in the back office. This schedules the DRT service to meet the timetable (e.g. 5 minutes before). Our best use case for this is the Greater Paris region. We operate 125 vehicles that serve more than 60 metro stations. This generates 700,000 trips each year that connect people to the metro or intercity train. 

We also operate another scheme in Strasbourg using 40 electric minibuses which expands the tram network into the rural areas surrounding the line terminus. 

  • Scheme economics have always been a challenge for this type of scheme. How would you go about making the best case possible in any given situation? 

We believe that DRT funding should be looked at across the silos of funding, not solely on DRT-specific funding. This should look at existing Community Transport funding, dial-a-ride funding, home-to-school and Section 106 Grant Funding to create a long-term funding plan for DRT.

 

This article could might interest you as well: Transport planning and DRT 

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Transport planning and DRT

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An Article by Beate Kubitz

Some areas of the UK have become transport deserts, served by public transport a few times per week if at all. This worrying trend has come into focus as the need to cut transport emissions has become more pressing. At the same time, social and economic issues (for instance the productivity gap between the UK and its European neighbours) point to the absence of public transport as a factor in deprivation and economic lassitude.

Reversing the desertification trend is a tricky long term project, but it’s one that progressive local authorities are tackling.

The Padam Moblity transport planning team works on how to use DRT to help ensure that more people have better access to public transport. We use our transport planning tools analyse the existing transport network and the population and work out the best way to link them together. From this analysis we can simulate usage to show authorities the journeys we would anticipate, and look at different scenarios and configurations. This is an inexpensive way to help authorities make decisions about their network and where DRT can improve it. Once we have demonstrated different options we use them to suggest DRT pilots and their impacts.

Transport connections and fixed routes can be a difficult match, particularly in rural areas. To illustrate the kinds of situations we tackle, imagine you’re trying to get passengers to a railway station where trains leave every 30 minutes in each direction – so, every hour there’s a train to Town A or Town B. This frequency of service isn’t unusual for a smaller rural station – indeed you could argue it’s pretty good these days – but it creates headaches for anyone planning a feeder service using a fixed route bus.

Bus speeds on rural roads aren’t stellar. On smaller roads, or passing through settlements, they may be around 20 mph average speed moving (not including stops). Even if the overall average speed is 20 mph, this means the longest possible route you can cover with a single vehicle while still offering an hourly connecting service is 10 miles (because the bus will need to make a return journey too). Once you factor in the distance users are willing to walk to stops (which can be very low for elderly passengers, or anyone with small children in tow) the population covered by a service shrinks still further.

Then there is the question of when to drop off and pick up your passengers at the station. The wait for a connection affects not just the journey time but also its overall quality, especially if it’s at a small station with no facilities. Ideally there needs to be enough time between the bus arriving and the train departing that a couple of minutes’ lateness won’t cause a missed connection, but also not so much that passengers are left waiting on a cold, exposed station platform for a protracted period of time. If the bus visits the station every hour, it might be the case that it can only connect well with services to Town A, while the train to Town B may involve a wait of 20 or 30 minutes.

What about passengers arriving to catch the connecting service? You could factor in some layover time at the station but that would reduce the overall length of route than you can serve while still keeping the same frequency.

Under these circumstances the DRT model of putting in a booking via a call centre or an app, being collected from outside or near your front door, and being able to divert or change should something happen to the connecting train, starts to look very appealing.

A second advantage for DRT is that the buses can take a more direct route. If a fixed bus route is programmed to travel near more homes (enabling it to pick up more people) this generally means diverting the route so that it’s not direct. For instance, it may pass through a housing estate off the main journey trajectory or, in rural areas, via a village, creating a less direct and much longer route with more stops. Obviously there is no guarantee that there will be people at all those stops, however the bus is still obliged to follow the time table. This extends the lengths of journeys making them longer than the equivalent trip by car, often by several times the journey time. In contrast, DRT only diverts to pick up known passengers, and whilst the trip will be longer than the trip by car, the difference is much smaller.

All these considerations go into designing the provision of DRT. But it doesn’t stop there. Once there is a pilot in place our transport planning team can simulate different scenarios to work out how to improve performance. Are more vehicles required at certain times of day or could some be cut and journeys reorganised to ensure the same performance?

The longer term impact is that the network is being designed with knowledge of where people want to go. DRT bookings enable us to see the desire lines for transport – the most popular origins and destinations for journeys. Origins and destinations, together with the times of day people are requesting trips, create indicators we look for to see whether the routes can be adapted to semi-fixed or fixed at certain times of day. As ridership increases, this becomes more likely and more practical. Using desired trips on DRT as a guide also means that any fixed lines can be optimised for the journeys people want to make. Of course, the limitations of fixed lines won’t meet everyone’s needs, so it’s unlikely to completely remove the need for DRT, however, creating a mixed of fixed and DRT services can optimise the overall network.

With the tool of DRT in our transport planning toolbox, we can design a network to meet more people’s needs, more of the time – and start to make transport deserts bloom.

 

This article might interest you as well: Accessing rural bus services – how can we ensure equity? 

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