Smart Mobility

An Introduction to Demand Responsive Transport

Demand Responsive Transport is a solution that combines both public and private transportation services to provide an experience similar to an on-demand mobility service. This could be the answer to bridge the gap between public transport and private vehicles.

Smart mobility apps are facilitating the combined use of multiple modes of transportation, helping passengers plan and book their journey. The growth of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) solutions, which integrate multiple modes of transport into a single platform, is changing the way passengers commute. But millions of people who live in rural areas or are mobility impaired, cannot benefit from this new technology. Read on to learn more about Demand Responsive Transport (DRT), its benefits, challenges, and future growth potential.

In this article you'll learn about:

What Is Demand Responsive Transport (DRT)?

Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) is an emerging form of transport characterized by its passenger-oriented nature. It is a combination of regular public transit and personalized taxi services, usually serving areas that lack traditional or frequent public transport services. 

DRT often operates as a shared-ride transport solution between pick-up and drop-off locations, according to passenger needs. Passengers demand fast, simple, personalized service. As a software solution, it can combine demand-responsive services with a mobile app to respond to this demand.  

The rise of ride-hailing apps reveals a change in the popular perception of transportation. Instead of passengers adapting their itinerary around a set transport schedule, the transport service functions according to the passengers’ schedule.

This kind of service can fulfill the needs of several target markets, such as:

  • Areas with a low frequency of public transport: This includes areas where there is low demand for public buses, such as rural areas. In addition, DRT can provide feeder services from these areas to public transport hubs. 
  • Elderly and mobility-impaired people: The elderly and mobility-impaired segment of the market has changed over the last decades. The rise in life expectancy has accompanied an increase in mobility-impaired people. This growth in the market for mobility-impaired people will directly contribute to the growing demand for DRT. 

How DRT Works

Passengers use a mobile app to register their request for a car service. The application uses algorithms to match their requirements with vehicles riding in the same direction. Fleet drivers are then directed according to the pick-up and drop-off information collected by the app from passenger requests.

The application works as route optimization software, calculating journeys according to the fastest route based on real-time data. In addition, a mobile app allows passengers to save specific journeys, track arrivals, and follow the route when on board. 

Benefits of Demand Responsive Transport

This new merge of public and private transportation provides several benefits, including:

  • Reducing pollution—connecting suburban areas with transport hubs such as train stations, or metro lines, reducing single-car use. 
  • Connecting rural population cost-efficiently—increasing transportation options can make rural areas more attractive for residents, reducing migration to urban centers. It is also a solution to connect rural tourism destinations, increasing the number of tourists, thus developing rural centers. 
  • Supporting mobility-impaired residents—these initiatives are usually a joint effort between local governments and non-profits. 
  • Improving estimated arrival times—the passengers benefit from the visibility of on-demand services apps, they can track where their ride is and be aware of delays.  
  • Reducing booking times—demand responsive transport software can handle bookings at short notice by tracking active drivers close to the passenger’s given location. This allows for sudden changes in itinerary, such as unexpected cancellations.

DRT Challenges

Combining the worlds of public transport and private hire is intended to solve the increasing need for on-demand transportation. Users want to create their own journey, aided by ride-hailing apps, which enable commuters to communicate and travel when and how they like. 

However, the flexibility of demand responsive transport services is not without its challenges, including:

  • Excessive flexibility: The same flexibility that attracts users in rural and suburban areas can be a setback for the use of the service as a feeder to public transport hubs in urban areas. Often functioning as an on-demand service, the route and schedule may be too variable for passengers who need a reliable solution to commute to the city. 
  • Complex routing decisions: The challenge of predicting behavioral responses for late-running services or preventing no-shows can sometimes make it difficult to optimize routes. An effective DRT solution uses artificial intelligence to predict busy areas or times, helping to fill the routes. 
  • Perception bias: DRT is often seen as a service geared exclusively for mobility-impaired people. Thus, it is not usually included in transportation maps and is overlooked by transportation planning apps. 

The Future of DRT

On-demand transportation cannot solve the challenges to urban mobility at a large scale, if each passenger uses an exclusive, personalized service, as in ride-hailing. After all, the idea is to reduce congestion and provide a transportation system that is more efficient overall.

Shared occupancy, demand-responsive transit is considered one of the answers for reducing car dependency and improving public transport efficiency. DRT molds around the passenger’s life━, for example, a passenger can travel to the city center on a community minibus, get picked up by a ride-hailing service to get to work, and then get on the community minibus to travel back home. 

The market for DRT shuttles is growing, with reports predicting it will account for 50% of the shared mobility market by 2030. Smart city initiatives are shifting the transportation world towards multimodal and intermodal mobility, providing a fertile ground for this type of shared and combined services to grow.