MultiBus - a New and Innovative Approach for Bus Systems in Rural Areas

MultiBus - a New and Innovative Approach for Bus Systems in Rural Areas


C Schaefer, H Dalkmann, Wuppertal Institute, DE



Mobility services in small towns and rural areas have to a great extent not yet reached an optimal division between the means of transport. There are less developed transport systems with gaps concerning efficiency, competitiveness, user-friendliness and quality of local public service. In rural areas the bundling up of demand in public transport decreases. On the part of the users the consequences are gaps in the supply of mobility services and a strong orientation towards private car use. On the part of the operator the low demand for public transport and few options of bundling up stand for operation in deficit. The bus routes are mainly located at trips that are highly demanded which means they generally concentrate on business and school trips in the morning, at midday and in the afternoon. But in between those times of high demand, during times with less demand, the supply decreases significantly. The negative consequences increase reciprocally: On the one hand the fixation on car use in rural areas leads to a worsening of public transport supply because of little demand. On the other hand the bus supply is not adjust to people?s needs and therefore they fall back on using individualised, mostly motorised transport modes. Furthermore, many people do not realize alternative options of transportation use, because they do not question their daily travel behaviour. Up to now, no competitive alternative compared to private cars has got his way in rural areas. Based on this complex of problems, the German Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Technology has initiated ten research projects under the topic ?Public Transport for the Region? ( in order to support a sustainable development in the transport sector. The disadvantages of the public transport in rural areas as limited access to social life for disabled people and low income households (social dimension) and environmental impact of car use (ecological dimension) are to be decreased by various pilot projects. The ministry?s objective is to contribute to an increase of efficiency and quality in public transport outside of conurbations and large cities by scientific and practical experiences. One of the projects is called ?MultiBus? aiming at the introduction of a call-a-bus-system.

Project approach
It is the challenge to develop and introduce a call-a-bus-system in order to achieve an efficient, competitive, user-friendly, demand-based and highly qualified public transport system by which the public transport in rural areas can be significantly strengthened. The name ?MultiBus? goes back to the idea that not only passengers can use the bus, but also the bus is able to carry also small goods. The project takes place in the three municipalities Gangelt, Selfkant and Waldfeucht (district Heinsberg) located at the border to the Netherlands, about 20 kilometres north to Aachen. The region is characterised by disperse settlements.
The Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy carries out the project in cooperation with the local public transport services (Kreiswerke Heinsberg), the municipality of Heinsberg and a consulting engineer (Harloff Hensel Stadtplanung Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH). The main topics worked on by the Wuppertal Institute are the collection of experiences of similar research projects, the analysis of economic efficiency and ecological-social balancing as well as the social marketing and public relations.
The idea of MultiBus is to combine a door-to-door service for passengers and a transportation service of goods (parcels and small packets) in order to develop a public transport service orientated to users needs in times of little demand. Thus, MultiBus is a competitive alternative to the private car and aims at a step-by-step individualisation of the regional public transport. The call-a-bus-system functions as follows: The customer calls a disposition centre and makes a request for a trip about at least thirty minutes before. He tells where he want to start from, where to go to, how many people will go with him and at what time he wants to leave respectively wants to arrive at the destination. The disposition centre feeds the computer with the desired data and confirms the trip request. The customer will be picked up at his front door (or any other desired place) at the arranged time by a comfortable minibus (about nine seats). The MultiBus-user has to pay the usual ticket price and additionally a comfort bonus, which is still far cheaper than a taxi. The MultiBus is more flexible than buses in scheduled service and is an alternative to private cars, especially the second car, which is mainly used for shopping, bringing and picking up children and leisure activities. People who are limited in their mobility because of missing transport modes or personal restrictions, are enabled to use a safe, reliable and cheap mobility service.
Additionally to the transportation of people the combination of passenger transport and the local transport of goods (parcels and small packets) is examined. Up to now the transportation of small goods has been carried out in an uncoordinated way by different service providers. MultiBus aims at bundling up these transportation trips.

Project objectives
The project follows up three major objectives:
1. Ecological objective: By saving of kilometres driven as a result of bundling up trips and by shifting car trips to MultiBus trips (public transport trips) the environmental burdens should be reduced.
2. Social objective: MultiBus enables people who could not make trips from time to time, because they did not have a transport mode at their disposal, an improved participation on social life.
3. Economical objective: On the one hand the economic situation of the public transport services should be improved that means that the breaking even should increase. On the other hand positive effects on the regional economy are expected.

Contents of the project presentation
The project focuses on marketing aspects. It is not only important to promote a new mobility service, but it is even more important to promote new travel behaviour. Therefore a new path by using strategies of social marketing is carried out during the project. Social marketing is the use of commercial marketing techniques in order to promote the adoption of a changed behaviour. Because without a changed travel behaviour ? shifting from car to MultiBus ? the new mobility service will not be accepted. As one of the first steps, 5,000 inhabitants of the region, which are one sixth of the total population, have been interviewed. Besides demographical data these interviews dealt with information concerning travel behaviour, attitude to different transport modes, and wishes and needs in regard to public transport. Based on these findings and the general objectives of the project, different target groups have been identified and marketing as well as communication strategies will be adjusted to the target groups.
In summary, the project contains of the following tasks:
* General conditions of new mobility services
* Collecting experiences of similar research projects
* Research of travel behaviour in that specific rural area
* Market analysis of courier, parcel and postal service
* Development of a flexible mobility service supply
* Putting the pricing and financing system in concrete terms
* Analysis of economic efficiency and ecological-social balancing
* Social marketing and public relations

The presentation will cover the listed tasks and give an overview about the present results out of the research project. Additionally, the generalised opportunities for new mobility services will be provided within the public transport in rural areas as well as the constraints will be pointed out. Furthermore the social marketing guidelines for the implementation of such a system will be presented in detail.


Association for European Transport