Demand Responsive Transport: The Solution to Getting Around

by | Mar 5, 2021 | Insights

Demand responsive transport (DRT) is seen by many as the future of public transport. It ensures that only services with demand operate on a daily basis. The current planning, contracting and operating models are simply not fit for purpose if we are to build a world where we utilise public transport to the highest levels of convenience and efficiency to meet the needs of future passengers.


 

Demand responsive transport (DRT) is seen by many as the future of public transport. Due to the constraints placed upon public sector finances from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is now more emphasis than ever on ensuring transport efficiencies are met along with value for money both for the public and stakeholders of any transport service.

Demand responsive transport ensures that only services with demand operate on a daily basis. If there is no demand, there is no need for the service to run in a particular area. Afterall, what is the sense in operating a vehicle that just passes through an empty bus stop?

“Why run transport services when there is no demand?”

The Problem

bus usage statistics the need for demand repsonsive transport

Source: gov.uk

In 2019/2020 the number of local bus passenger journeys fell by 238 million (5.5% to 4.07 billion year ending March 2020. Whilst some of this can be attributed to the first national lockdown bus companies reported that they were seeing declines across their services in the preceding weeks leading up to this.

Most bus journeys prior to 2020 still occurred in London. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit our shores, 50% of the London bus network was often operating at full capacity. Even with demand responsive transport factored in, this number is still forecast to rise post pandemic and is why so much focus is being placed upon efficiency and assessing demand.

A rapid rise in demand moving forwards into 2022 and beyond could also see a rise in the cost of energy, which is more expensive to maintain than the traditional diesel bus which currently supplies London with most of its bus services. The introduction of fuel-efficient busses is also not keeping the same pace with the demand from the commercial car market with drivers seeing their cars increasingly equipped with hybrid capabilities and increasingly, fully electric vehicles already.

london bus usage london demand responsive transport

Source: gov.uk

The Demand Responsive Transport Solution

Though the future is largely uncertain, it’s clear that it’s time for a change in how we use and run our transport services moving forwards. Innovation is often labelled as expensive and often linked to start-ups, which can be seen as a roadblock in high-volume, low-profit projects that require traditional financial incentives. However, the current planning, contracting and operating models are simply not fit for purpose if we are to build a world where we utilise public transport to the highest levels of convenience and efficiency.

Simply put, demand responsive transport is better for passengers (which has been our primary focus from day one at Road XS), but that’s not all that demand responsive transport is good for. It is also better for:

• The environment and for taxpayers
• For cities as more efficient land use increases space for housing and retail which then in turn become more accessible too
• Reduces the financial burden on taxpayers
• Reduces congestion.
• Reduces air pollution.
• Reduces vehicle emissions.
• Reduces road accidents.

How Demand Responsive Transport Works

Demand responsive transport is something of a hybrid of two existing transport systems. The vehicles used for such as service are geared up for demand, meaning that they’re electric or fuel-efficient to run at certain times of the day to meet demands set by the passengers. The journey times are dictated by the number of people waiting at a particular stop, while some buses are set to only operate when needed for more specific time driven scenarios, such as for medical appointments and require more time slack in their scheduling.

The simple premise to demand responsive transport is simple to understand. It is simply this, why run transport services when there is no demand?

Conventional bus routes are often designed with no consideration for time. Buses are often not scheduled for demand; they are on their own timetable. So, what is the point of a bus that only runs during rush hour if there is no demand? If you ever take the bus to work, you either get to your destination very early or by your return have to wait for an hour longer than if they had driven yourself to work.  The structured timetabled approach just isn’t convenient enough for most to be cajoled from using their cars.

Summary

We’re in the middle of a massive shift in how we access public transport. Since the rise of smartphones, public transport services have been transformed from being a medium for the non-motorised to becoming a communal space for the use of all those on the move. Our environment is changing, not only due to climate change but also because of how technology is changing our lifestyles. This is making people more mobile and increasingly willing to choose an alternative form of transport if it’s the cheapest and best value for money. It is up to us, the public to demand that public transport becomes truly responsive to our mobility needs.

At Road XS we have spent the last few years building the only demand responsive transport software that meets the needs of the public, but also the needs of those with mobility and social requirements not covered by standard commercial services. We not only consider required arrival times but also capacity, loading times and more to personalise the services to the passengers using them.

Find out more about the future of transport with Road XS.