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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing the right fleet size

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

fleet size
Figure 1

Service optimisation – the “right” configuration can work wonders 

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

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

Enlargement
Figure 2

Service optimisation – extensive possibilities of data analysis and evaluation   

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

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

Conversion
Figure 3

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

Figure 4

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Learn more about Padam Mobility 

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Padam Mobility launches new Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) service “Holibri” in Höxter, Germany

Holibri

On this St. Nicholas Day, Padam Mobility launches its new on-demand service “Holibri” in Höxter, Germany. Padam Mobility and Hacon provide the software for the innovative on-demand project, which will completely replace four fixed bus routes in Höxter, a medium-sized city with about 30,000 inhabitants. “Holibri” is a service of fahr mit, the umbrella brand of five rail and ten bus companies in the “Hochstift” area (a region in the east of North Rhine-Westphalia) and is operated by the Paderborn/Höxter local transport association (nph). 

Holibri – The name says it all 

The “Holibri” service is named after the speedy hummingbird (in German: “Kolibri”).  In this sense, the DRT service is designed to get its passengers to their desired destination quickly and quietly. The new vehicles are low-noise above all because they are powered 100 % by green electricity – an important step for the city of Höxter to establish itself as a pioneer in the transformation of local public transport in the Hochstift region. 

A new concept to strengthen public transport 

The new on-demand service will completely replace the existing fixed bus routes HX1, HX2, HX3 and HX5, only school bus services will continue to run as usual. With regard to the other regular bus lines, the city of Höxter had been observing a decline in passenger numbers for some time and complained that the buses often ran with only a few passengers on board. A problem that many municipalities and smaller towns are probably familiar with: The fixed bus schedules cannot meet the needs of all residents, and in addition, the routes are significantly longer than a direct car journey to the target destination due to the compulsory stops at all given stations. As a result, people prefer to rely on their own cars and public transport is used less and less. 

Padam Mobility and Hacon support with their technical know-how

The nph is responding to this dilemma with the new on-demand service “Holibri”. The now starting pilot project, which will run for 3 years, aims to test how people in Höxter accept the new mobility service. In this context, Padam Mobility and Hacon are providing full support to the operational team. The carefully developed concept, which among other elements includes the definition of the service area, the operating hours or the service configuration, is constantly monitored and analysed by the experts. In this way, it is possible to determine how customers react to the service, which aspects are working well and which adjustments may need to be made.

A successful first appearance 

At the end of October this year, Padam Mobility and Hacon were present at the unveiling of the new Holibri mobile and answered questions about the software. In addition to the technical details, such as how the software manages to bundle journeys in real-time to create an intelligent route planning, Sven Steinbeck, Business Developer at Hacon, was also able to clear up any remaining question marks about the booking process. Those who do not want to rely on an app or website for booking, also have the option of reserving their desired trip via telephone. Everyone else can download the Holibri app for iOS and Android. In the dedicated user profile, it is possible to access past or cancelled rides and, of course, manage upcoming trips. Shortly before and during each ride, customers can even track the exact location of their vehicle via a navigation tool. On-board wi-fi and comfortable leather seats make the experience perfect. 

nph Managing Director Marcus Klugmann was also delighted with the new on-demand offer:

During this three-year project phase, we can gain valuable insights – for possible further developments as well as the expansion of the concept to other areas.” 

At the end of the three-year test phase, it will be decided in which form the on-demand project will be continued. 

Read more about the Holibri service here (content in German) 

 

This article might also interest you: With Karlstadssbus Nära Padam Mobility kicks off its first DRT service in the Nordics 

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Padam Mobility launches new DRT service in Surrey

Surrey connect

“Surrey Connect” is a new on-demand service, launched by Padam Mobility in the UK. It offers residents in rural West Leatherhead a better public transport experience. 

At the beginning of November 2021, “Surrey Connect”, the new Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) service in West Leatherhead, was officially launched. The service has been in trial operation since May and has now been introduced to the local community by Surrey County Council. The new DRT service has received a contribution from the Department for Transport Rural Mobility Fund of £660,000. This reaffirms the UK’s commitment to its new mobility strategy and sends an important signal for future-oriented, sustainable transport. 

“Surrey Connect”, equipped with a fleet of 2 minibuses, is operated by Mole Valley District Council and is available weekdays from 7 am to 6 pm. The on-demand service is aimed at travel for all: elderly people who can no longer be independently mobile, young people without alternative means of mobility or commuters travelling to the station to catch a  train, for example. 

Several booking options are available on the Padam Mobility platform and users can book a trip according to their preferences, either via the “Surrey Connect” app, booking website or call centre. Tickets can then be paid for in cash on the bus. 

One particularly user-friendly aspect of the service is the flexible booking time. Users can book a trip up to 7 days in advance, and their place is guaranteed according to a first-come, first-served logic. Those who want to make a last-minute reservation can do so up to 30 minutes before departure. All they have to do is set up their starting point and destination, as well as their desired pick-up or arrival time. Padam Mobility’s intelligent algorithms, on which the on-demand service is based, then calculate an optimal route in real-time based on the total amount of bookings. In this way, the system is able to consider as many of the users’ requests as possible simultaneously, while economising on resources.  

People with reduced mobility, who use a wheelchair, for example, can also specify their requirements in the app, on the website or while booking a trip over the phone. This ensures that everyone gets exactly the support he or she needs. 

So far Surrey Connect is available in Leatherhead within the designated zones (see Figure 1), but will be rolled out to other areas of the region in the coming year. 

service area
Figure 1: Service area of the “Surrey Connect”

*Following a free-floating model, it is possible to travel to any location within the two marked zones. Only bookings from one zone to the other are permitted. The markers show the main points of interest in the area, which includes, for example, the Springfield Business Park. 

This service model provides rural areas in Leatherhead with much better connectivity where reliable access to public transport was previously unavailable. 

I am delighted that we are now able to offer this convenient, doorstep service for residents in West Leatherhead. This will help people who may be isolated due to their out of town location or have had to traditionally be heavily car dependent.”

Matt Furniss, SCC Cabinet Member for Transport and Infrastructure

Visit the website of Surrey County Council 

WHY PADAM MOBILITY?

  • Empowering non-motorized populations in their travel (seniors, minors, etc.)
  • Reducing dependence on the private car and its negative impacts (pollution, maintenance costs, etc.)
  • Opening up certain low-density areas by providing a public service accessible every day Improving access to services and jobs, in particular improving access to health facilities
  • Digitalising the territory with the introduction of a solution based on optimisation algorithms thanks to artificial intelligence, but also on user-friendly interfaces

ABOUT PADAM MOBILITY

Established in 2014, Padam Mobility provides digital on-demand public transport solutions (DRT, Paratransit) to reconnect peri-urban and rural areas and bring communities closer together. To do this, Padam Mobility provides a software suite of smart and flexible solutions that improve the impact of mobility policies in sparsely populated areas for all types of users. To get users, operators and Local Authorities on the move. This software suite is based on powerful algorithms and artificial intelligence. It includes :

  • Booking interfaces (mobile app, website) for users and call centres
  • navigation interface (mobile app and tablet) for drivers
  • management interface for operators and Public Transport Authorities
  • simulation tool for designing and setting up mobility services

Transport authorities, operators, private companies and consulting firms trust us to open up territories, to optimise the mobility offer and facilitate its operations, to accompany them towards operational excellence, and finally to enable environmentally-friendly mobility.

Key figures: 

  • +470 000 users transported in 2020 (already 365 000 users transported at the beginning of 2021)  more than 1M users transported since our creation
  • +70 territories deploy our solutions in Europe, Asia and North America
  • 80% pooling rate in average
  • Up to 3.3 x less expensive than a similar offer if operated by fixed lines
  • 33% of our users were previously using private cars, 19% were walking or unable to get around

Website | LinkedIn | YouTube |Twitter

 

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

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How to optimise on-demand systems: 10 success factors to reduce the costs of your DRT

Optimisation du TàD

The economic optimisation of on-demand services is arguably one of the main issues faced by PTAs and transport operators.

A misconception is that the more users an on-demand service has, the more expensive it becomes. In order to limit costs, operators therefore regularly adopt measures to limit the number of passengers. However, this rather leads to a deterioration of the quality of service and number of trips.

However, if a DRT service is based on a digital solution and automatic optimisation algorithms, costs can be reduced without affecting the number of passengers. It is even possible to reduce the cost per passenger and thus reduce the overall cost of the service.

So, what are the essential factors for success in optimising a DRT service in sparsely populated areas?

We distinguish between two categories: technical optimisation, i.e. which of the different functionalities of the deployed solution should be activated, and service optimisation, which concerns the configuration of these functionalities.

Optimisation of on-demand systems: Technical optimisation

Enabling or disabling certain features can reduce the cost of on-demand transport:

Demand forecasting: helps transport operators plan their service by predicting demand. The forecast uses data collected over time since the service was introduced and complements it with data collected during the ongoing operation of the service.

Multi-Stop and Intelligent Multi-Stop: These configurations make it possible to suggest a stop that is slightly further away from the preferred stop if neither the preferred stop nor the selected time slot can be offered. Urban areas are particularly well suited for this function due to the density of points of interest. With multiple stops and smart stops, it is possible to optimise vehicle routes by avoiding detours thus increasing ridership by up to 20%.

Filter: Optimisation of a DRT service is possible by manipulating the route suggestions. The most interesting filter is the bundling filter, which makes it possible to reduce the number of kilometres and thus reduce the cost of the service

Managing travel time: The optimisation of a dynamic DRT service is mainly based on the algorithm’s ability to calculate travel time. The more finely it is calculated, the better the optimisation…

Optimisation of on-demand systems: Service optimisation

The optimisation of DRT services involves the adaptation of the technical characteristics and the design of the service. In order to reduce the costs of on-demand systems, various service optimisations are possible:

Making a service more flexible and simple: When a service is subject to restrictions, e.g. in terms of stops or journey times, it will never be able to satisfy all individual needs of users. Here, simplifying the way it functions can help to increase the use of the service. For example, in Clamart (Haut de Seine), we have developed a free-floating service, the Clam’Express, which has enabled a 20% increase in ridership, from 1,000 to 1,200 passengers per month.

Service restrictions: If a service carries large passenger flows (multimodal hubs or stations, etc.), e.g. in the context of home-to-work trips, it may make sense to impose restrictions on the service in order to keep the vehicle fleet focused on these flows and to meet the demand. In Pau, the additional restrictions on the SAFIR Dial-A-Ride service have enabled the transport of 17 passengers per trip at peak times.

Better utilisation of the service: By adjusting the parameters of the service, such as the number of detours or time restrictions, local conditions can be better met and higher occupancy rates (passenger pooling) can be achieved. In this way, the service can be made more attractive for the same amount of resources. In Lincolnshire, a rural county in the UK, the local operator increased the number of detours to allow more users to be pooled on the same journey.

Modification of service configuration: This aspect concerns departure or arrival points of vehicles, times or spots of drivers’ breaks, location of parking depots. The configuration of the service layout can be modified. When using computational and optimisation algorithms, such configuration can increase the attractiveness of the service, in particular, because a reduction of waiting times and a better distribution of vehicles can be achieved. In Lyon, the analysis of the demand flows for the TCL on-demand service has shown the need to adapt the starting and ending points of the car parking areas so that they are closer to the origins and destinations of the users. In this way, waiting times have decreased while at the same time the pooling rate has increased.

Downsizing the vehicle fleet: Sometimes a service is suboptimal because there are too many vehicles in relation to the actual demand. In this case, it is possible to improve operational efficiency by reducing the fleet to a certain number of vehicles and/or at certain times. The analysis tools provided by Padam Mobility make it possible to determine the appropriate number of vehicles according to users’ demands.

Choose the right partner!

For the implementation of these various optimisation projects, it is essential to have a competent and reliable partner at your side. Customer proximity, responsiveness and expertise are the three criteria that authorities and operators should not compromise on when choosing their provider of digital on-demand solutions.

At Padam Mobility, we pay special attention to the everyday support of our customers. Our teams know their territories and challenges very well and can therefore make suitable suggestions for optimising DRT services. Moreover, all our solutions are 100% developed by public transport experts. We already support more than 80 different territories regarding their transport policy.

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Find out more about Padam Mobility

You might also like this article: Demand-Responsive Transport: Explore and leverage the data of your service

 

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Uses and Limits of Paratransit Services: A comparative Study between France and Germany

Etude TPMR

Since the founding of Padam Mobility in 2014, our ambition has been to provide mobility services accessible to all, especially to people who do not have a wide range of choices available to them or who rely on outside assistance to be mobile.

We try to develop and design software components and features in such a way that they support people with limited or reduced mobility (PRM) as best as possible on their everyday journeys. For example, by being able to specify special aids, such as a wheelchair, automatically when booking a ride, or by making door-to-door bookings possible.

This summer, we wanted to find out more and therefore asked a number of people for their personal opinion. This yielded very interesting and insightful answers from a total of 48 different people in two of our main markets: France (F) and Germany (G). Most of these people (97.1% F; 84.6% G) are themselves affected by reduced mobility, others (2.9% F; 7.7% G) are involved in this issue in a professional context or are related to a person with reduced mobility (7.7% G).

The survey

The survey was conducted online between May and July in France and between June and August in Germany. Participants were recruited in a similar way. We contacted associations representing people with disabilities, dedicated Facebook groups and online platforms, and approached individuals from our private circle. The questionnaires were filled out online and anonymously.

The respondents

Most of the participants, both in France and in Germany, were between 25 and 49 years old (47.1% F; 50% G). It is noticeable that, especially in France, many people had no job or were househusbands/housewives (38.2%). In Germany, half of all respondents (50%) were in permanent employment, while 35.7% were already retired. Especially people who are no longer firmly integrated into working life, often have a hard time staying connected if they do not have an intact social environment. Suitable mobility solutions are an important component in this context that helps them to overcome the barrier of participating more actively in life.

However, the mere availability of public transport is often not sufficient. Most of the respondents have physical disabilities (85.3% F; 76, 9% G). Travelling by means of public transport is therefore often challenging. Lack of boarding aids or non-accessible infrastructure can turn journeys that are not a big deal for “non-impaired people” into a real challenge.

The spatial distribution of respondents is also interesting. In France, 41.2% of all respondents said they lived in a city with 100,000+ inhabitants (another 23.5% lived only about 20 kilometres from a city of this size). In Germany, the picture is similar, with 45.5% saying they live in a city of 100,000+, while 36.4% live 50 or more kilometres from a city of this size. This is a very interesting situation for the evaluation. Although it is not possible to determine which answer came from which participant, it is possible to deduce from the other statements whether certain conditions are clearly polarised, i.e. whether they are different in large cities and in rural areas, or whether the two areas are similar to each other.

Use of technology

As a software provider and, in particular, a manufacturer of user software, it was of course very important for us to find out how confident the respondents are in using a smartphone. Rides with our services can be booked via three different channels: Booking website, user app and via a call centre. Making these booking channels accessible and constantly improving them is one of our main concerns. Since we will return later in the questionnaire to the question of which technical aids our participants consider useful and which features they still miss, it is of great value that almost everyone among the respondents is familiar with the use of a smartphone (97.1 % F; 92.9 % G). 

Mobility behaviour

We tried to find out more about the reasons why respondents are mostly on the move in everyday life. The most frequent answers in this respect in France were administrative appointments, doctor’s visits, etc. (76.5 %) and general shopping (79.4 %), while in Germany most respondents said they were visiting friends and family (84.6%) or pursuing leisure activities (76.9%). It is interesting to note that in the context of this survey, mobility is particularly associated with everyday leisure activities, lesser with e.g. commuting or tourism. This is an important sign that public transport, especially in rural areas, should not concentrate too much on school and work transport; people should also be given the opportunity to easily get from A to B flexibly during off-peak times.

Accompaniment of paratransit users

For people who are dependent on assistance for a variety of reasons, especially when travelling, it is important to ensure that this assistance is provided. We firmly believe that technical solutions can also help simplify processes of, for example, declaring accompanying persons, so that, for example, a person can be taken along free of charge with ease. We, therefore, wanted to know from the participants of our questionnaire what their habits are regarding “accompanied travelling”. Are they being accompanied? If so, how often? And are there any aspects that could be improved?

The answers revealed that professional help, such as caregivers, is rarely used and that in both France (70%) and Germany (48.9%), most people in need of assistance are accompanied by people they trust, family members or friends.

The choice of transport

The fact that in our survey most people with reduced mobility are not accompanied by professional assistants is of course also related to the choice of transport. Specialised paratransit services are rarely used in both countries. Among all respondents, only 5% of the respondents in France stated that they used paratransit services, compared to 21.43% in Germany. These figures are striking, as the number of those who need special equipment on their rides, such as a wheelchair, is rather high (55.9% F; 57.14% G).

Many of the respondents prefer to resort to their own car, whether specially adapted to their disability or not. With regard to generally available public transport, individuals stated that “public transport and trains are not acceptable for a wheelchair user”. Accessibility also ranked high for other people who used the free text fields to give personal opinions.

Another important point is the issue of “independence” and “offer”. A rather patchy offer, no planning security, etc. makes it difficult for the respondents to do without their individual car:

“The car can be used individually

“You are more spontaneous than with public transport”

“[The car] is the fastest and most flexible

“Because we are more independent with the car (we used to take the train more often in the past)”

Others, in turn, spoke in favour of public transport and explained why they did not use a dedicated paratransit service as follows:

“Public transportation is more convenient than calling an adapted transportation which you have to book a day or more in advance depending on the city”

“You have to plan a trip in advance

“Constraining schedules, high costs”

“They ask you to book the services at least 48 hours in advance“.

Spontaneity, flexibility and ease of use, for example, are attributes that tend to be ascribed to the private car and were mentioned remarkably often. If transport services for PRM become similarly easy to use, and if it is ensured that the required equipment can be taken along without any problems, or if availability is generally enhanced, this will be major steps towards offering PRM a similarly comfortable experience with on-demand transport as people without constraints can enjoy.

Expectations on paratransit service

Although most of the participants do not use paratransit services, they still have a lot of expectations about how to improve them. Here are the most important demands at a glance:

1) Being able to book a ride in real-time

2) A better-equipped fleet 

3) A better overall service offer

4) Better connection with other existing transport services, including non-disabled transport services

5) Improved booking interfaces and passenger information 

Expectations on digital tools

A concern of ours is to closely examine the technical tools that paratransit users have at their disposal or which they still lack. In the questionnaire, we, therefore, asked what expectations Paratransit users have regarding digital features. The most frequently mentioned answers are listed below:

1) Information about the trip in advance and in real-time

2) Possibility to contact the driver directly

3) Information on the accessibility of public places near the itinerary 

4) Having the possibility to rate, comment on the service and consult other users’ comments

Summary

Mobility is a basic need of all people, which, in a well-functioning society, should be made available to everyone in the best possible way. However, PRMs experience difficulties. From non-accessible vehicles to non-adapted digital tools, stumbling blocks lurk in many places and can significantly limit the user experience. This can reach the point where PRMs stop relying on transport services entirely, preferring to use an individual vehicle whenever possible.

A particularly common complaint has been that paratransit services often have to be booked well in advance, making it impossible to go on spontaneous trips. In terms of technology, the provision of real-time information is still lacking. Indeed, nothing is more unsettling than having to wait significantly longer than indicated for the vehicle to arrive.

Of course, due to the heterogeneity of our respondents, especially with regard to their place of residence, it is not possible to give specific tips for certain areas. However, the expressed dissatisfaction among the participants shows that there is room for improvement. 

At Padam Mobility, we offer consultations and simulations for such purposes, which facilitate decision-making on a wide range of resource deployments. In this way, and by working closely with the people concerned, we can gradually make it possible to provide mobility services and technical features that make a real difference to PRMs.

 

 

This article might also interest you: Accessibility – How barrier-free is Public Transport in the UK?

Click here to find out more about Padam Mobility

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Beyond BSIPs: Building DRT into Enhanced Partnerships

public transport in United Kingdom
On Wednesday 10 November, Padam Mobility, together with Landor Links, hosted a webinar on this very topic. You can access the recording here.

At the end of October, Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) and local bus operators in the UK agreed on their Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIPs). The next step, in order to receive future funding, is to submit detailed plans for Enhanced Partnerships (EP) or franchised operations by March 2022.

In this article, we clarify some of the key aspects that LTAs and bus operators need to consider if they want to successfully integrate on-demand services into their plans.

Demand-Responsive services as mobility catalysts 

Bus passenger numbers in the UK have been falling for some time – and with lockdown and the pandemic, they plummeted. The 2021 National Bus strategy and the subsequent process is an attempt to address some of the systemic issues which have made travelling by bus increasingly unattractive and unviable for many people. Although high-frequency bus services are popular with passengers, they are almost impossible to implement in sparsely populated, rural areas – and challenging even in many peri-urban areas. Economic pressures mean that the service often diminishes in off-peak hours – limiting the usefulness of the bus further. This means that the car is still the most popular means of transport in these areas.

Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) services can counter this problem. With the help of smart algorithms, ride requests can be processed much more flexibly and individually. This does not involve the deployment of a new vehicle for each requested ride, but rather the combination of several booked rides in advance and/or in real-time. On-demand services can be used, for example, when it is not worthwhile to maintain one or more fixed lines, such as at weekends or during off-peak times, outside of school and commuter traffic or at night. 

Use Case: West Leatherhead DRT for Mole Valley 

Together with Mole Valley District Council, Padam Mobility set up a DRT service aimed at maintaining the mobility of the older population in rural areas.

Older people often suffer from having little suitable mobility provision available to pursue an active social life. Thanks to the transport service, which can easily be booked over the phone, they have the flexibility to reach the most important points in their neighbourhood, such as the shopping centre or social events. The service can be booked almost up to a month in advance and is easily accessible for people who rely on assistive devices, such as walking frames.  

What LTAs need to look out for  

Many BSIPs include DRT as a tool for expanding networks, expanding access to buses in rural areas, and to optimise community and accessible transport. The next step is to draw up Enhanced Partnership Plans. Plans for DRT services will need to take account of: 

  • Accessibility: as described in our Mole Valley example, the target groups for on-demand transport are often people who rely on assistance to be mobile. These may be older people or people with disabilities. In order to ensure that People with Reduced Mobility can be transported smoothly, Local Transport Authorities have to make sure that the vehicles intended for the DRT service have the appropriate equipment, for example, to carry an electric wheelchair, etc. 
  • Another important point in this context is the service design. On-demand services have the great advantage that they are not bound to fixed stops that must be served one after the other, but can be configured very flexibly. This means that almost any number of virtual stops can be set up, making it much easier for people to reach a transport service (or the transport service to reach them). In some cases, door-to-door services can also be implemented, transporting passengers from their front door directly to their desired destination.
  • Pricing: On-demand services should not be considered as stand-alone services, but should be integrated into local ticketing offers. Integrated ticketing is now a requirement of Enhanced Partnerships and a feature of franchises, so this should become simpler to make a reality in 2022. Subscriptions and other season tickets should be valid in the vehicles just like “normal” single tickets, and there should be no surcharge. On this matter, Padam Mobility and Ticketer announced a newly formed partnership widening the opportunities for further DRT ticketing integration for operators and local authorities.
  • Network structure: The DRT service branding should show that it is part of the network – reflected in the logo or name of the service, for example. This increases comprehensibility and acceptance among users. In addition, it needs to be ensured that the service does not cannibalise fixed-line services. To guarantee this, the DRT can be configured so that bookings are only possible if the DRT ride cannot be made by fixed-line buses. 
  • Passenger information: Passengers must always be informed about the status of their travel options and their current bookings. For this purpose, DRT service operators have a variety of options at their disposal. A direct contact with the users can be achieved via text message, email or in-app messages in the DRT user app. In this way, complications and frustrations on the part of the passenger can be reduced, while at the same time confidence and trust grow.
  • Booking ahead: For DRT to work as part of the public transport network it needs to be very reliable. It must offer the option for people to book well in advance and guarantee the booking so that they know that they’ll reach work, catch their train or make their appointment as reliably as with a regular, high frequency, bus service. Also, local trip planners and timetables should include any DRT services so that people know what options are available to them.
With you on your journey! 

The National Bus Strategy is a milestone in the history of public transport in the UK. In the next few months, several authorities will be working on plans for network expansion and service development with DRT to develop successful EP plans and schemes. 

DRT schemes can achieve many goals – but to achieve their goals they need to be set up carefully and initial parameters configured to ensure they can meet them. Designing a DRT scheme to be cost-effective or more suitable for certain groups of passengers or particular trips will require careful planning and choices about elements of the scheme. At Padam Mobility, we have helped our clients design appropriate on-demand services in rural and urban areas. 

If you would like to hear more practical tips for successful DRT schemes, come along to our webinar series on “Enhanced Partnerships” next Wednesday 10 November, at 10:30 am by registering here.

In the first webinar, hosted by UK new mobility expert Beate Kubitz, we will look in detail at what LTAs need to consider when establishing Demand Responsive Transport as part of their Enhanced Partnerships Plan. 

 

You couldn’t attend the live webinar? No problem, rewatch it here.

 

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Propulsion Technologies of the Future – Alternatives for Petrol and Diesel in Public Transport 

technologies de propulsion

An important principle of shared mobility is to get as much individual traffic off the road as possible because more and more cars also mean more and more CO2 emissions, the equation is simple.

Cars are a central cause of air pollution in Europe and account for a full 60.7% of total CO2 emissions from European road traffic.

Of course, this is especially due to the fact that cars are still widely driven by internal combustion engines. But the share in the distribution of fuel types within the European Union of petrol engines (2018 approx. 52 %) and diesel engines (2018 approx. 40 %) is steadily decreasing. With approx. 60 % (petrol + diesel) to 40 % (electric drive) in 2021, electric propulsion systems and other alternative fuels have caught up significantly.

Time to take a closer look at this development and ask what alternative forms of propulsion technologies are actually available, especially for local public transport, what are the advantages and what challenges exist?

Propulsion Technologies of the Future: Electric Engines

For some time now, we have become accustomed to electric cars on our roads. Most car manufacturers have realised that they need to adapt their portfolios to technological and social change and have started to offer quite affordable electric cars.

All in all, this is a positive trend, because electric cars offer decisive advantages over the combustion engines which have been widespread up to now: they do not emit any direct pollutants and thus avoid smog, especially in big cities. Moreover, they drive much more quietly, which is especially beneficial for residents living near busy roads.

However, a car is still a car, and even if electric cars may pave the way for less emission-heavy road traffic, there are still criticisms that indicate that electric engines are not the magic bullet. Although developers advertise that their electric cars do not emit any direct pollutants, this is by no means the case when it comes to electricity generation and battery production.

Here, it is the carmakers’ responsibility to ensure that battery production does not diminish the eco-balance. In fact, the differences from country to country are considerable, which is why no general statement can be made about the CO2 balance of batteries. 

Another alternative source of propulsion: Natural Gas Engines

Another much more environmentally friendly alternative to diesel and petrol are vehicles powered by CNG (compressed natural gas). Compared to combustion engines, vehicles powered by natural gas save up to 77% in CO2 emissions. Moreover, emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides and particulate matter are almost completely reduced.

Advocates of natural gas propulsion also see a great opportunity for public transport and claim that the available quantities of sustainably produced natural gas are already sufficient to power “all public transport buses” (referring to Germany). The generation of electricity, on the other hand, according to them, is not as mature and is much more harmful to the environment than bio natural gas.  

Despite the good environmental balance, however, this market is developing only very slowly. The main disadvantage is the poor infrastructure of refuelling stations (only about 900 in Germany).

In addition, there are currently only very few manufacturers who are pushing the supply of natural gas vehicles, which will probably make widespread deployment in local public transport very difficult in the long term.

Hydrogen engines – The energy source of the future? 

Just like electric vehicles, hydrogen vehicles are equipped with an electric motor. However, the electricity required is not generated by a battery, but by means of fuel cells directly on board. This eliminates the usually long charging process, while the CO2 balance, like with electric vehicles, is similarly positive.

Despite these and other advantages (e.g. long ranges, low-noise operation), hydrogen drives are not yet ready for widespread use in public transport. This is due in particular to the high costs entailed. For example, a bus with a hydrogen fuel cell costs about € 650,000, while a bus with a diesel engine costs about € 200,000 €. To compare: electric buses rank in the middle here with about $ 750,000 (equivalent to approx. € 635,000). 

In addition, hydrogen production is not yet mature enough to make the fuel suitable for mass useTherefore, hydrogen propulsion also requires extensive financial support and a sound political framework. Only then will it be possible to move alternative forms of mobility into the centre of society and make them more attractive, especially for transport providers.

Propulsion technologies: What does this development mean for public transport?

Public transport can definitely benefit from the developments described above. Even though at the moment, people often only talk about individual transport in connection with electromobility, it can be assumed that it will also develop into a dominant element for local public transport.

For example, in the near future, the London transport network is going to be expanded by 68 new zero-emission buses. In addition, the ZeUS project (Zero Emission Urban Bus System) reported that, according to their own research, 19 public transport companies active in 25 European cities, have already submitted plans for a zero-emission bus network. 

But regardless of the efforts to establish a (largely) emission-free public transport system, the question of financing will certainly play a decisive role. A recently published study comparing “clean technologies” in relation to their costs indicates that CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) is currently the most affordable solution for public bus networks, which is why this technology is most often chosen by transport operators worldwide. However, which form of propulsion will ultimately prevail in public transport networks will depend on the national and local circumstances in the energy sector, e.g. taxation of energy sources.

To sum up – where are we now? 

The steadily advancing developments of alternative forms of propulsion are certainly a step in the right direction. In particular, the many discussions about combustion engine substitutes show that people are generally willing to make the switch for environmental reasons. Yes, perhaps even take this turnaround in the mobility sector as an opportunity to get more informed and thus become increasingly open-minded towards other forms of (shared) mobility.

Electric mobility in particular promises opportunities for emission-free transport provided that the production conditions of the electricity are sustainable. Moreover, studies show that electric public transport is more economical in terms of maintenance costs. The money saved could ultimately be used to do (even) more for environmental protection, to enable low-income earners to get a discounted public transport ticket, or to promote transport-on-demand projects that might convince people that there are not only attractive alternative forms of propulsion but also attractive alternatives to owning a car.

 

This article might also interest you: Between Reality and Science-Fiction – Will DRT be autonomous? 

Find out more about Padam Mobility

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Accessibility – how barrier-free is public transport in the UK ?

TPMR Royaume-Uni

Accessibility in public spaces – especially in public transport – is unfortunately still a major struggle for people with reduced mobility. 

Yet it should by no means be treated as a niche issue: In the UK alone, there are 13.9 million people who rely on accessible public transport for a variety of reasons. 

And it is not only for people with congenital or permanent disabilities that the prospect of greater accessibility means a better quality of life: people of all ages and conditions can be affected by a disability at some point in their lives: the teenager that got injured playing sports, the young parents who struggle with a pram or the elderly who have trouble climbing stairs. 

The trend of an ageing population is set to become even more acute in the coming years, with 1 in 4 UK residents predicted to be aged 65 and above by 2050. Poorly accessible local transport would contribute to intensifying the already huge problem of loneliness. 

The British have recognised the issue: in 2018, the government published a strategy paper entitled “Inclusive Transport Strategy: achieving equal access for disabled people” (in short IST). The overall goal is to make public transport ( referring to all available transport options, from buses to planes) more accessible for people with disabilities by 2030

 

This policy paper pays particular attention to the following 5 points:

1. Raising awareness of passenger rights and how to enforce them

It happens that people with disabilities feel unfairly treated, for example when promised assistance is not provided or other aspects do not function in the same way as non-disabled people can expect. One example is the fare, which should not rise on any form of transport (bus, taxi, and so on) simply because an electric wheelchair has to be carried, for instance. 

The UK government promises to provide better assistance throughout the journey and, if a passenger wants to raise a complaint, to simplify communication channels so that he or she can easily express his or her views

2. Better training of staff

In order for public transport staff to be more responsive to the needs of persons with disabilities, the British governments are encouraging transport operators to provide training to their staff. In November 2020, the Department for Transport (DfT) therefore introduced a ‘disability awareness training package’, which was developed together with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC). 

The aim is not only to increase the use of public transport by people with mobility impairments through more professional assistance but also to raise awareness among all other passengers through a public campaign about the fact that discrimination is a criminal offence and can be punished accordingly.

3. Better Information 

In 2018, the DfT published an interactive map, initially tailored to railway stations, to make it easier for passengers to get information about the accessibility of specific stops with just one click. This map is also specifically adapted to the needs of visually impaired people.

This tool is designed to give people with disabilities the chance to plan their journey more freely and to give them a confident feeling as they are reassured that they might not suddenly get stuck at any point in the travel chain.

4. Inclusive (physical) infrastructure

This aspect is probably one of the most important for people with disabilities when it comes to travelling without barriers and difficulties. 

Of course, overcoming barriers created by missing and incomprehensible passenger information is also important in this context. In its strategy paper, the DfT, therefore, announces, among other investments in the existing physical infrastructure, to significantly improve audio-visual information in public buses and thus enable people to plan their journeys more independently.

5. Future of inclusive transport

In order to continue to provide relevant mobility solutions in the future and to be able to respond optimally to the needs of people with mobility impairments, a large-scale study was carried out in 2020 that focused on the areas of micro-transit, buses, taxis and rental cars, as well as Mobility as a Service. All these areas and even more aspects were considered against the background of inclusivity. Further results can be found in detail here.

It is important to note that the topic of inclusivity must be comprehensively considered, especially when we talk about future mobility trends. One important point, for example, is the accessibility of mobility services regardless of the physical infrastructure. Since many of the new mobility services can be booked via digital media, such as mobile apps, barriers may arise again, for example, because older people are generally less likely to use a smartphone. These and other barriers need to be taken into account and addressed.

 

To document progress towards more inclusive public transport, the UK government regularly publishes news on its website. This strategy is certainly an important step, not only to make life easier for many people but also to show “We see you, we hear you and we want to achieve a more inclusive society”.

Accessibility – A society-wide responsibility

However, other barriers cannot simply be improved by construction measures: Tolerance and support.

In the UK, one in four people with disabilities say that they feel uncomfortable travelling on public transport because of ‘negative reactions’ from other passengers and therefore avoid using public transport as a result; a further 40% say they often encounter difficulties when trying to travel by public transport (referring to rail). 

These figures are alarming and should remind us of the importance of involving those who are affected in decision-making processes, giving them a voice and asking how the public transport travel experience can be improved for them. 

In addition, it is important to be aware that it is not only physical barriers but also the gazes and comments of others that prevent people with disabilities from moving freely in public. Therefore, it is the responsibility of each and everyone to be sensitive to the needs of others in our daily lives and to break down barriers where we can.

 

This article might also interest you: DRT – a mobility solution adapted to people with reduced mobility

Find out more about Padam Mobility 

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Transport and shared mobility glossary

transportation glossary

Free floating, pooling rate, virtual line… The transport lexicon is rich and varied. And because sharing is part of our DNA, here are some definitions that will help you deepen your knowledge of this sector, including shared mobility.

Transport glossary: the basics of public transport

Shared mobility: consists of a means of transport that several users can either use at the same time (carpooling, bus, Demand-Responsive Transport…) or share its use individually, such as bicycles, scooters, etc.

Intermodality: refers to the combination of several means of transport to make a trip. For example, a person living on the outskirts of a city can take the bus to the station, then a train to the city centre.

Structural transport: refers to a public transport network whose service influences the organisation and development of an area. It is said to be a structuring network when it meets most of the transport needs of a population (range of hours, speed, capacity, etc.).

Conventional transport: is a term used in opposition to new forms of transport such as car-pooling, DRT, car-sharing etc.

Sustainable mobility: refers to all non-motorised means of transport. This includes cycling, walking, scootering, or any type of collective transport, or not, that has no CO2 emissions.

First and last kilometre (or mile): this refers to the first or last section of a journey. 

Transport glossary: the case of Demand-Responsive Transport

Dynamic Demand-Responsive Transport: It’s an on-demand transport where the route is defined in real time, depending on the reservations. This form of DRT leaves the door open to last-minute bookings. Dynamic DRTgenerally works thanks to an algorithm that allows reservations to be dispatched and journey times to be calculated.

Free floating: a vehicle is in free floating mode when it circulates freely in a zone without following a precise line. 

Virtual line: this is a classic line, but with only a few stops served, depending on the reservations.

Feeder line: A feeder line is a line that serves a particular stop at a specific time. This is the case when it is desired to match the drop-off time at a station with the arrival time of the train.

Door-to-door: A door-to-door service model refers to the possibility of pick-up and drop-off at any point within a defined area. This model is similar to the taxi model.

Multi-territory: this refers to the possibility of offering a Demand-Responsive Transport service in several distinct territories (each with its own specific characteristics) on a single booking platform.

Trigger threshold: this is the booking threshold below which a DRT service cannot start its route. 

Transport glossary: let’s talk technology!

SaaS: for Service as a Software, is a software that is installed on a remote server rather than on the user’s computer. This form of software allows for rapid deployment as well as savings in acquisition and maintenance costs.

Ticketing: refers to all the tools used to manage transport tickets. 

Trip planner: a tool used to determine the most appropriate route based on route calculation algorithms, with different specificities, in order to improve the journey planning experience.

MaaS: for Mobility as a Service, is a concept that aims to bring together all modes of travel in a single application. This service does not include the personal vehicle, since the interest of MaaS is to limit its use as much as possible. MaaS thus provides access to multimodality and intermodality in a fluid and coherent way, whether for a short or long journey.

Passenger information system: is a tool that aims to facilitate the daily life of transport operators. The focus is on optimising the links between the operators and the network, in order to improve the management and regularity of transport.

Transport glossary: the importance of key performance indicators

Pooling: is an indicator that measures the filling of vehicles by users. It is particularly relevant to get an idea of the success of shared mobility.

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

Quality of service: indicators that give an idea of how the service is perceived by users through the ratings given to the service and the driver.

 

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

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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