On-demand buses help recover confidence in public transport

A new study shows how post-pandemic recovery of public transportation ridership is much faster when supported by demand-responsive vehicles, compared to results of occupancy provided by regular bus lines in the same location.

Public transport has been strongly affected by the pandemic. To better understand how different services are responding, Shotl recently partnered with Mobility Institute Berlin (MIB)—a consulting and research firm supporting the transformation of urban mobility. We analyzed in detail the use of on-demand services in the suburbs of Barcelona during the first weeks of the crisis compared to regular bus lines. The results are published in a research paper available for download here.

The core findings are:

  • During the first weeks of the crisis, ridership of regular and on-demand bus services dropped by 95%. On-demand mobility recovered more quickly and reached 87% of previous demand by the beginning of July, while regular bus services in the same area only recovered up to 45% by that point.
  • Demand from commuters decreased due to the shift to remote working.
  • When traditional public transport was suspended, users shifted to on-demand services.
  • In neighborhoods where mobility is largely due to school runs, users continued to travel for other purposes.

"The significant recovery of on-demand services compared to traditional bus lines may be thanks to the flexibility and speed these new services can provide, especially in low-density areas without sufficient bus or train connections,” explains Adrià Ramirez, Shotl CPO. “Enabling safer levels of vehicle occupancy through applied technology solutions also ensures permanent ridership and a much lower risk of contagion.”

Different mobility offerings should not, however, exist in isolation. "We have to push for the integration of multimodal services. Route planning and booking processes must allow for the combination of different mobility offerings and be designed in a simple, understandable way," says Miguel Álvarez from Mobility Institute Berlin. "In this way, on-demand services and traditional public transport can complement each other optimally and create an attractive offering for the user."

Download and read the full paper here.

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