8 reasons demand-responsive transport systems fail

We’re huge believers in the power of demand-responsive transport (DRT) systems to provide a sustainable, affordable alternative to private vehicles. But there’s often a long road to travel when it comes to convincing everyone else. That’s why we put a lot of time into analyzing and planning each new project to avoid these common reasons DRT can fail:

1. Doesn’t provide value

There’s no point implementing DRT in areas that are already well-served by fixed-route-and-schedule public transit, micromobility, etc. In places like city centers, it’s just one more element in an already crowded mix and brings little additional value. Also, like any transport system, DRT must connect users with where they need to go. Shuttle busses circulating within confined areas, without connecting users to the shops, services, or transport links, are unlikely to see significant uptake.

2. Fails to address user needs and challenges

Certain user groups, like the elderly, require more hand-holding when it comes to understanding DRT (see here for more details), as well as things like a backup phone line for bookings, etc. If these requirements aren’t taken into consideration it can be an obstacle to uptake. Similarly, DRT services aimed at specific users, like people with reduced mobility, school transit, etc. often need to respect pick-up and drop-off times rather than provide full flexibility, so the system and routing algorithms need to be configured accordingly. See here for more details.

3. Lack of joined-up thinking

DRT needs to be easy for users to get their heads around, so it can’t be too complex. It makes total sense to switch between DRT to fixed lines at times of low and high demand. By contrast, however, offering DRT only on certain days and not on others is just going to confuse people.

4. Lack of communication

There’s no point in having a revolutionary new transport option if you don’t let people know about it. A solid communication and marketing campaign will help spread the word, educate people about DRT and how to use it, and give them a gentle push to change their habits.

5. Lack of compliance

For DRT to work, everybody has to be on board, literally and figuratively. If controllers or drivers don’t do their bit and input cancellations or changes to the system, it won’t work properly. It’s vital to recruit and train the right operatives for the job and ensure they understand the value of DRT and are behind the project.

6. It’s not DRT

Often, transport authorities believe they’re offering DRT, but in reality, they’re operating a fairly primitive system involving advance booking by phone and journey planning using Excel. As well as being a headache for operators, this comes up short when it comes to flexibility and convenience, and fails to convince users. True DRT hands all that hard work over to apps and algorithms for an improved user experience and operational cost savings.

7. Lack of funding

DRT services usually start life as a pilot. The lucky ones become a regular fixture of the transit landscape. The unlucky ones grind to a halt when the funding runs out. Short-term thinking or lack of political vision are often to blame. That’s why it’s essential to get politicians and transit providers onside beforehand and ensure they understand that short-term investment pays dividends further down the line in better, more sustainable transit, happier users, and cost savings.

8. Lack of support from your DRT provider

Switching to DRT is an ongoing process and a learning experience for all involved. That’s why, at Shotl, we don’t just set up the system and leave you to it. Our data, marketing, tech support, and customer success teams are always on hand to resolve issues and turn feedback from our clients and users into improvements to our product.

We want all our DRT operations to be as successful as possible, which sometimes means saying “no.” Before embarking on a new project, we always conduct a thorough analysis of transport needs and user behavior in the target area. If we don’t think DRT is the best solution, we’ll say so. This, along with planning for the factors above, helps maximize the success of all our operations, driving the on-demand revolution forward.

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