Demand-Responsive Transit Is the Future of the Mobility Market

Traditional public transport models must evolve to meet growing demand for flexible, sustainable mobility. Demand-responsive shuttles hold the key to revolutionize the market and reduce dependence on private vehicles.

 Our cities are growing. The United Nations predicts 66% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, up from 54% in 2014. This means increased congestion and demand for transport services. By contrast, rural areas with falling populations are already experiencing public transport cuts due to the cost of maintaining low-demand routes.

In parallel, people are increasingly demanding personalized mobility that adapts to their needs, not the other way around. Apps integrating multiple modes of transport into a single platform (Mobility as a Service, MaaS) are changing the way we access services. Similarly, the ‘sharing economy’ and the ability to easily request, track, and pay for trips via mobile devices have led to an explosion in ride-hailing services.

Shared mobility should mean fewer cars on the roads. However, a recent US study found greater numbers of single- or low-occupancy ride-hailing vehicles are actually causing increased congestion.  

Transport accounts for around a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe alone. To tackle the challenges of pollution and scarce urban space, we need sustainable solutions that improve on current models of car dependency and inflexible or inefficient public transport.

Shared occupancy, demand-responsive transit (DRT) is being hailed as one answer. A recent report from Frost & Sullivan predicts DRT shuttles will account for 50% of the shared mobility market by 2030. They forecast DRT market growth from $2.8 billion in 2017 to $551.61 billion, and an increase in fleet size from 24,100 units to 5.8 million by 2030.

DRT uptake will be driven by smart city initiatives, governmental and mobility policies, reduced car ownership and a shift towards multimodal and intermodal transportation.

Much of this growth will be in Europe–currently the largest shared mobility market–and China. With shuttles already substituting public transport, the Asia-Pacific region constitutes one of the biggest DRT markets and will account for over 60% of growth in fleet size.

The US is also experimenting with different models and should see strong mid to long term growth. In other regions like Latin America, however, shuttles compete with existing shared transportation, while the potential market in Africa is even smaller. 

DRT shuttles combine the affordability of public transport with the convenience of single-occupancy rides. Accessible transport promotes social inclusiveness as citizens of all income levels are able to commute to work within a reasonable time. Flexible scheduling, stops and routing in response to user demand also make them cost-effective to run.

The ITF Forum suggests substituting all car trips for on-demand shuttles would also have a positive effect on the urban environment by freeing up parking space and road lanes. This could then be repurposed for public use.

Since DRT shuttles generally complement public transport, Frost & Sullivan recommend public-private partnerships to expand the market and effectively deploy resources. They suggest asset-heavy services could be run in collaboration between different service providers, or through custom-built technology platforms.

Shotl is working to make this a reality by providing Shotl On-demand Shuttle services to transportation professionals and users. Our platform matches multiple passengers traveling in the same direction with an available vehicle and allows users to book a ride via their smartphone. We aim to help public transport authorities replace low-ridership routes with efficient, optimized mobility and reduce dependence on private vehicles.

Shotl is helping revolutionize mobility with services in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, UK, Switzerland, Portugal, Finland, and the US.

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