AITPM Webinar: Introduction to On-Demand Transport report
Presenters: Ben Kaufman, Griffith Cities Research Institute (part Griffith University) and Trystan Eeles, Liftango. Moderator: Tim Boxall, AITPM Queensland Branch Secretary
Summary by Richard Hanslip
The presentation from 13 May provided a comprehensive overview of On-Demand Transport (or Demand Responsive Transport) services which are regaining popularity and are extending shared public transport (PT) services to users and roles that are not well covered by large scale integrated public transport services in urban areas. New technologies and data sources have facilitated this renewed interest. These types of services are currently operating in various states of Australia. Generally On-Demand Transport services operate in areas of lower accessibility to usual PT services and where the demands (and traffic) are relatively low. They can be particularly suited to outer suburban or rural areas with poor PT accessibility. They are unsuitable for high population (and traffic) centres and where there are existing trunk PT services.
On-Demand Transport services are a shared form of PT where vehicles adjust their routes based on actual user destination preferences and demand rather than following fixed timetables. It was noted that like most PT services, On-Demand Transport is not a profit making endeavour, importantly it should be regarded as a social service to improve social equality.
There are many potential service variables: trip purpose (what), users (whole of public or specific special needs’ groups like people with disabilities or the aged), size and type of vehicles (generally smaller than standard bus size, taxis to mini-buses, allowing access to all residential streets), origin and destinations (where, eg. to/from home, key communal facilities such as hospitals, feeder to trunk PT stations or stops), demand (how many), time of day, frequency, and pricing and cost. As the name suggests, On-Demand Transport services are pre-booked specifically to meet user specific needs and timing and their respective destinations. These attributes allow a broad range of beneficial applications that also come with great flexibility for change (user/ operator/ agency/ technology prescribed or circumstances like the current COVID-19 epidemic).
On-Demand Transport services have unique characteristics which are not compatible with existing evaluation techniques applied to usual PT services because the typical evaluation attributes and metrics are not the same. Usual PT metrics are cost per ride and passengers per hour; whereas On-Demand Transport is based on area population density, eg. rides per 1000 service area population. This is still being refined as On-Demand Transport services develop.
A rigorous feasibility, evaluation and service confirmation process was presented and strongly recommended, built on the confidence gained by using technology that is powering live projects, defining clear measurable goals, and following a well tried planning, design and operational framework. Good planning and design are key factors to achieving optimised sustainable services.
The one millionth On-Demand Transport ride occurred in Australia just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic here. Interestingly, On-Demand Transport is very suited to “COVIDSafe” travel required as we exit the COVID-19 restrictions, in order to avoid the overcrowding beyond safe social distancing which is difficult to manage on normal PT. On-Demand Transport would conveniently provide the necessary service flexibility, capacity control, contact tracing, infection risk monitoring and service lower patronage zones.
The presentation made a compelling case for the introduction of further successful On-Demand Transport schemes in Australia.
A full recording of the webinar is available for members here.