People Aren’t Parcels

Most transport software treat people in vehicles like you would a parcel, not taking into consideration the experience of the passenger in the vehicle or the time they are spending in transit. At Road XS, we’ve developed something unique, passenger optimisation software. This is best explained using the scenario below – “People Aren’t Parcels”

tobys dial a ride problem

Toby’s Transport Problem

Toby is a transport manager operating a community transport service across a large area. He oversees a fleet of 5 minibuses which serve his local community. He accepts bookings via phone 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday, and often takes bookings for journeys a week in advance.

Toby takes a call from the passenger and notes down the requested pickup time. He informs the passenger that he will be in touch once he has worked out if he can fit them in, and if there’s a time slot available. He says goodbye and puts the phone down.

Toby then opens up his spreadsheet and views the vehicle’s manual ‘run sheet’ for the day once he has checked there are enough spaces available on a vehicle. He then manually enters the passenger’s address into either Google Maps or the AA route mapping website to work out an appropriate time slot for his passenger. He enters this estimated time onto the run sheet and calls the passenger back with a guestimate as to when they might arrive.

Toby continues to do this for each passenger during the week.

To begin with, Toby can easily estimate the mileage and times because there are only a few passengers on the vehicle, but as the passenger numbers increase, this becomes increasingly difficult. This is especially when some passengers have already been booked on a week in advance and have already been given their time slots which have already taken time to work out. He also needs to make sure that the vehicle is not overloaded with too many passengers on the vehicle at any given one time.

Toby’s problems and stress levels only increase as the week wears on, and what was fun on Monday is a chore come Friday. He often comes to realise that his estimate from earlier in the week leads to real problems further down the line as in reality, the times he thought could work, don’t. This means that vehicles show up too early, or too late and sometimes they even miss passengers completely.

When things get really hectic, Toby doesn’t have time to manually calculate how long passengers spend in the vehicle, and this leads to some passengers realising it would have been quicker to get a friend to drop them off, but that at least they have had a nice chat along the route.

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Slowly, Toby becomes more and more stressed and hates receiving calls from passengers either complaining that they weren’t picked up or that they were late for their appointment.

Toby blames himself but decides he must do something. He decides therefore that they need to build in more realistic ‘approximations’ to their times. Initially it works, but then he learns that they aren’t handling as many passengers and that actually what’s happened is that passengers are just waiting longer and longer at their destinations or on the vehicles.

Despite the problems and the difficulties Toby faces, the transport service is extremely popular, and demand is high. Why wouldn’t it be? Afterall, Toby and his team are providing a vital service to the local community, but the pressure is starting to build.

To add to Toby’s worries, funding is limited. It means they can’t just bring on more staff or expand their drivers or simply buy another vehicle. The fluctuating petrol prices, and maintenance costs are bad enough!

Despite limited funds, Toby is being asked to deliver more and more. The increased demand is good news for the transport services, but it’s bad news for Toby as it has become increasingly more difficult to manually work out all the permutations to meet the passenger demands.

Ultimately, despite trying to fix his estimations, Toby has had to start turning passengers’ requests down especially when they are busy, leaving minibus seats empty when they could be filled.

Toby decides enough is enough. He opens google and types transport software. He takes a deep hopeful breath and presses search.

toby finds a solutionToby Finds a Solution

To his excitement there are lot of different types of transport software for haulage and fleet management and deliveries. He even finds one that say they’ll do what he needs, but then after giving it a quick try, he realises that it doesn’t do route estimations, and he has to manually order passengers and then manually workout the pickup times – just like he was before on a spreadsheet.

Toby gets deflated and then decides to give it one last go. He types in community transport software.

Now he’s interested. One even offers Dial a Ride services, but he lets that go for now, knowing how the previous software worked, and he scrolls down the list. As he looks deeper into the websites, one is just a very basic booking software which offers nothing more than a calendar. Others say they are what he is looking for, but they don’t include journey estimates, a route map or any automated optimisations and he’d need to manually estimate all the times.

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He’d seen enough, Toby scrolls up back to the top and this time clicks on Road XS. He sees instantly that Road XS is an integrated transport software handling car schemes, group travel, dial a ride and caters for demand responsive transport responses. He looks through the website and feels that in comparison this was different to other transport software websites he’d seen. It looked modern, touted many, many features and the software looked easy to use.

He decided to book a call with Road XS there and then.


toby optimisationThe Dial a Ride Software That Works

The call didn’t last long, just over 20 minutes. Toby was impressed. Unlike the other software Toby had seen and tried, Road XS had been built to solve the problems that he faced daily. Not only that, Road XS is the only transport software available which focuses on the passenger and not the vehicles or fleet entirely. It also includes automated journey times, pickup and arrival times as standard.

On the call, Toby learns that unlike the other transport software providers he’d seen, Road XS took a unique view that ‘people aren’t parcels’ and they have developed something which had not been done before. As they pointed out to him, the problem with the parcel approach that other vendors took is that parcels have no feelings, nor do they care how long they sit in the vehicle for. With Dial a Ride, this approach just doesn’t work.

Toby learns that this is why Road XS is different. They focus on the passenger and ensure that the journey is built around the passenger experience meaning that not only are the minibus routes optimised, but that they do not stay in the vehicle for long periods of time between their pickup and sebsequent drop off point.

He finds out that Road XS had developed their own technology to ensure that all journeys that are entered, factor in estimated arrival and transit times, meaning they deliver a truly demand responsive service even on the journey day itself!

In using and switching to Road XS, it would mean that all Toby had to worry about was setting the start and stop point of the vehicle and the routes would then take care of themselves. No longer would he be required to manually work out the journey estimates on Google or the AA and nor would he have to worry about the time the passenger spends on the vehicle. It would all be handled for him.

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He realised that Road XS is one of a kind.

After giving Road XS a try, Toby saw that this was exactly what he’d been looking for. Not only with the features on offer, but that the cost of Road XS could also be absorbed by the transport service in full. He can now take a call from a passenger and add them to the journey there and then, providing them an estimated time. He can now inform them that this time may change, especially when they are booking a week in advance but that he will let them know if it does. This is now easy to spot because every change and passenger need is tracked to ensure they are kept fully informed.

Each and every dial a ride journey is now fully optimised from the passenger’s point of view and this ensures that the vehicle takes the most optimised route it can, taking into account the care of the human passengers on board. He can very quickly onboard passengers onto the vehicle and watch as the routes magically re-configure in an instant, something which used to take ages and caused immense stress for him and his team previously.

He now feels in complete control. All routes offer pickup and estimated arrival times and when they change they get automatically updated into the driver portal and onto the drivers mobile devices.

For Toby, gone are the days of long spreadsheets and ‘guesstimates. Toby now has the luxury of sitting back and watching detailed real-time reports on how their services are operating, something he has never had before. He can even get breakdowns within custom postcode groups too which he is able to communicate to funders and local councils about how transport is being used in their local areas. Road XS means they didn’t have to buy additional vehicles nor employ additional staff.

The future of dial a ride and demand responsive transport is here.


Although this scenario is long, it paints a picture of what it’s like operating a dial a ride service manually, versus using an innovative software like Road XS which is breaking down boundaries and using technology in ways not attempted before. Our goal is to ensure community transport and transport services in general, continue to get people from A to B safely and efficiently so that they can continue to do so tomorrow. Working together we can make a difference to people’s lives everyday.


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This article was updated:

Nov 4, 2019 | Insights