Demand Responsive Transport: Towards Best Practice in Rural Applications
S Grosso, J Higgins, J Mageean and J Nelson, Newcastle University, UK
Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) services provide transport "on demand" from passengers using fleets of vehicles scheduled to pick up and drop off people in accordance with their needs. DRT is an intermediate form of transport, somewhere between bus and taxi and covers a wide range of transport services ranging from less formal community transport through to area-wide service networks. In recentyears, the ability of DRT concepts to provide efficient, viable transport services has been greatly enhanced by the use of transport telematics and its successful demonstration in a variety of environments in EC-funded R&D projects such as SAMPO and SAMPLUS. The potential of DRT has been further endorsed by the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) in its resolution on accessible transport (July 2001). In the UK the Government in its Ten Year Plan for transport has pledged to remove or (at least) relax constraints on the development of flexibly-routed bus services and to promote a greater role for community-based services, whilst recently-published research argues that flexible public transport services, provided by local authorities and bus operators inpartnerships with employers, stores and leisure centres would help break down social exclusion. Additionally, the recent Rural White Paper contains proposals for the extension of fuel duty rebate (FDR) to community transport. Finally, the recent successes of local authorities in winning substantial funding under the Rural (and indeed Urban) Bus Challenge programmes for the implementation of DRT confirms this new interest in flexible forms of transport.
The paper begins with an introduction to Telematics-based DRT systems based upon organisation via Travel Dispatch Centres (TDCs) using booking and reservation systems which have the capacity to dynamically assign passengers to vehicles and optimise the routes. Automated Vehicle Locationing (AVL) systems are used to provide real-time information on the status and location of the fleet for the route optimising software. This paper concentrates on recent British experience and provides an introduction to rural examples of DRT drawing on case-studies from Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire, Surrey and West Sussex.
In the main body of the paper a detailed description of on-going research in Northumberland is presented where the County Council is engaged in two DRT projects. Phone and Go is designing, demonstrate and evaluate DRT services at two locations in Northumberland; Click and Go is developing an internet-based system for pre-booking DRT (and other transport services) with special reference to health services. Current work is exploring the requirements for integrating the TDC with pre-trip planning facilities (such as the Northumberland Journey Planner) and real-time information generated by AVL and Automated Passenger Counting (APC) devices. The Northumberland experience points the way towards the concept of a Regional TDC with a multi-sectoral user base such as taxis, education, social services, patient transport services and community services.
The paper concludes by identifying some key issues for policy-makers concerned with the future implementation of DRT in rural areas.
Association for European Transport