14 Nov 19

New report: on-demand transit better than ride hailing and public transport

A new study of four on-demand minibus services in cities in Europe and the US has concluded that the systems can offer a more efficient and cleaner first and last mile alternative to both public transport and ride-hailing operations.

On-demand transit lets travellers use a smartphone app to summon a minibus to a virtual bus stop, close to their location, and then shuttles them with other passengers, close to their final destination. This shared service can provide transport links from residential areas both to workplaces and to hubs, such as bus and train stations, where ‘riders’ can connect to public transport services for the next stage of their journeys.

Four-city survey

Research conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in Berlin, Arlington, Texas, Seattle and West Sacramento, California found that on-demand transit services reduce congestion, cut pollution and open economic opportunities to the most disadvantaged areas of cities.

Last mile efficiency for fleets and multinational companies will be at the heart of Fleet Europe’s Connected Fleets Conference 2020, in Brussels on 28 and 29 January. 

BCG sees on-demand transit as forging a middle path between the inflexibility of traditional, fixed stop public transport bus services, and the convenience of ride-hailing, which has been blamed for driving up traffic volumes by competing with established bus and subway services. A study published in May in the journal Science Advances, for example, found that transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, increased weekday vehicle hours of delay in San Francisco by 62% between 2010 and 2016, compared to 22% in a scenario without TNCs.

BCG's consultants said on-demand transit services could operate on lower subsidies than public transport, while enhancing customer experience. The shared minibuses also generate less pollution and congestion than if their passengers made single-occupancy car journeys.

Berlin success

Using data provided by Via, the developer and operator of public mobility systems, BCG said on-demand transit was most beneficial in rush hour, where the average passenger volumes were nine commuters per vehicle in Berlin, and where only 3% of the minibuses had a single passenger. Via operates 130 vehicles in the German capital and has 5,000 virtual bus stops.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Via’s on-demand service in Arlington achieved a 36% reduction in the miles driven solo by its passengers.

“Through a massive expansion in large cities and sharp regulatory changes to discourage personal ownership of cars, on-demand transit could help cities reduce traffic by 15% to 30%,” said the BCG report.

Future of on-demand transit

Looking to the future, it recommends that cities and on-demand transit services experiment to create alternatives to fixed route public transport, and to use the new services to create more convenient connections to public transport hubs. The report also suggests that on-demand transit operators create: “a seamless, hassle-free travel and payment experience.”

Above all, it concludes: “The existing system is unsustainable. Clogged streets and rising emissions are strangling economic and social opportunity. It is time for cities to take back their streets.”

To understand more about the dynamics of smart logistics and last mile efficieny, we invite you to Fleet Europe's Connected Fleets Conference on 28 and 29 January in Brussels. This conference will unravel the opportunities and challenges related to Parcel Delivery and Last Mile Solutions. More information about this conference and the programme can be found here

Authored by: Jonathan Manning