Demand Responsive Transport: Responding to the Urban Bus Challenge

Demand Responsive Transport: Responding to the Urban Bus Challenge


J Mageean, J D Nelson, S Wright, TORG, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK



In recent years, the ability of Demand Responsive Transport (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. Experience from Europe shows that DRT is more strategically straightforward to implement in more regulated environments as there is less conflict with other public transport modes. Thus it is significant that DRT has progressed more rapidly on the continent than in the UK. In its Ten Year Plan for transport the UK Government pledged to remove or (at least) relax constraints on the development of flexibly-routed bus services, e.g. route registration, and to promote a greater role for community-based services. Subsequently, the publication of the Department for Transport Consultation Paper entitled ?The Flexible Future? (August 2002) has put forward new proposals for the registration of flexible transport services (DfT, 2002). Research findings suggesting a link between flexible public transport services and reduced social exclusion and the widespread successes of local authorities in winning substantial funding under the Rural and Urban Bus Challenge programmes for the implementation of DRT have resulted in widespread interest in flexible forms of transport.

This paper concentrates on recent British experience in urban and peri-urban environments and draws on the findings of a major study into the development of DRT services. The seven Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs) in England and Scotland are currently proceeding with the development and implementation of DRT at a variety of sites. The DRT Liaison Group of the Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG) have commissioned the Transport Operations Research Group (TORG) at Newcastle University to undertake a programme of monitoring and evaluation for DRT schemes. There is a particular requirement that the methodology adopted should be transferable to other schemes ? so as to ensure a valid cross-site comparison. In each case the study team have followed the development of the DRT installations in operating environments with diverse administrative and political objectives and user needs. Particular reference has been given to software and telecommunications, the Travel Dispatch Centre, vehicles and drivers, and the definition of the service offered

The paper describes the evaluation methodology employed in this study which has been continuously developed since its implementation as part of the EC-funded SAMPLUS project (1998-2000) and which is now being applied in the current EC-funded FAMS project. The evaluation indicators for three Assessment Categories are defined: economic viability (considering operational efficiency and financial performance), service provision (behavioural evaluation and distributional costs and benefits), and technical performance.

Following presentation of the results of the evaluation referred to above the paper concludes by identifying some key issues for policy-makers concerned with the future implementation of DRT, noting in particular issues of market environment (especially institutional and legal barriers); economic barriers; and inter-modality and system


Association for European Transport