4 reasons why on-demand transport must be integrated into the wider public transport network

Demand-responsive transport (DRT) is a form of transport that has gained popularity over the last few years and is expected to keep growing (read our previous blog post to find out what DRT is and its main advantages). 

If correctly implemented, communicated to passengers and integrated with the standard fixed line services, DRT has the potential to shape the mobility of the future. Often, however, we see that on-demand transport projects are conceived and set up as a separate silo aside from the broader public transport network, with little or no integration between the two.

Setting up separate systems may seem as the easiest way to deploy such a paradigm, but this comes at a very high cost.

To achieve the objective of optimizing mobility networks and making people free to move, DRT must be fully integrated with scheduled services. Public administration and PTOs disregarding this usually fall into one or more of these traps:

  • The ridership is inevitably going to have two separate apps (one for the DRT and one for public transportation) or even more if we want to include shared mobility and micro mobility as well. This leads to huge confusion and awful user experience, against the mission to make life easier for all the passengers, as they are going to lose confidence in a vicious circle that will ultimately prohibit adoption.
  • Hardware and software solutions on board the buses are going to be needlessly duplicated, bearing huge extra costs especially due to installation and maintenance. Bus drivers will have to juggle multiple systems: their daily work will get more and more cumbersome, leading to dissatisfaction on multiple levels.
  • Transport operators’ management staff will continue to have challenges to effectively manage and govern their operation and successfully deliver the overall mobility scenario for their organization. Due to the lack of a centralized tool for managing both DRT and scheduled service, their operational flexibility will therefore be severely diminished.
  • Public administrations subsidizing the mobility ecosystem with taxpayer money are going to suffer duplication of unnecessary costs to support both public transport and potentially unnecessary DRT services and vice versa; think about a user with their DRT app booking for a door-to-door service while completely ignoring that potentially a fixed-line bus route is just around the corner and would perfectly serve their needs.

On the other hand, a full integration between DRT and public transport – possibly also with shared mobility and micro mobility – avoids an unjustified increase in costs, saves effort and improves the ridership experience by exploiting the intrinsic ability of on-demand mobility to act as a feeder service of the transport network. Effective intermodality enables full-scale MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service), which aims at tailoring the mobility to the needs of passengers to give freedom of movement but at the same time to streamline the mobility scenario in a holistic way, that is the fundamental building blocks of present and the goal of future mobility.

For this reason, the OpenMove platform supports all transport schemes, namely:

  • Fixed route (e.g. local public transport)
  • Fixed route with upfront reservation (e.g. long-distance services)
  • Demand-responsive transport (DRT), with different service options:
    • Door-to-door
    • Point-to-point
    • Curb-to-curb

It is possible not only to manage them all through a single app for the ridership, a single solution on board the vehicle and a single management dashboard, but also to seamlessly switch from one paradigm to another. Why is this flexibility crucial?

  • The design of public and shared mobility solutions cannot be the result of a top-down decision but must rather follow a bottom-up approach that starts from the needs of the people that are going to use the services. Needs are not static but evolve over time and from user to user. Integrating different transport schemes allows to tackle real-case scenarios and offer tailored solutions to individual customer needs, starting from the problem and not from the solution.
  • Flexibility means also being open to third party systems: being able to feature DRT, as well as other shared-ride and micro-transit services, into a wider mobility scenario is key to implementing a future-proof scheme in which people are really free to move and can do that in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.
  • DRT is great when it comes to serving areas with low and dispersed demand but it may not be the best choice in other areas or when demand grows quickly. Having a single software platform allows you to seamlessly shift from one paradigm to the other, while introducing interoperability and eliminating possible confusion while saving costs

Versatility resonates with mobility: OpenMove software solutions are engineered to cover all transport schemes and to integrate and adapt to evolving passengers’ needs, mitigating the risk of wasting money on purchasing a silo software solution that becomes obsolete over time and cannot support the plurality and growth of emerging transport paradigms.

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