On-demand shared-ride services promise new opportunities for modal shift and inclusive travel. This paper draws on evidence from the industrial-collaborative project ‘Mobility on Demand Laboratory Environment’ (MODLE) which has piloted a range of such services in and around the city of Bristol over the last three years. Led by Esoterix Systems, a technology SME, MODLE brought together local authorities, transport operators (bus and taxi) and employers in varied partnerships to explore different business and deployment approaches.
Using innovative techniques to uncover and map needs for such services, MODLE identified a series of potential markets for demand-led solutions. These included, (1) first and last mile access to high-frequency, high capacity bus corridors, (2) access to urban periphery employment locations (e.g. distribution and warehousing), and (3) urban trip attractors such as hospitals or enterprise zones that may be poorly served by existing public transport and have limited capacity (or desire) to extend car-based access.
The MODLE services utilised taxis and smaller buses, along with smart ticketing and sophisticated routing. A range of business models and fare collection approaches were adopted, including mobile-ticketing, employer subsidised fares and salary-sacrifice style schemes, with the partnership model of delivery offering key opportunities for effective delivery. The services launched successfully but exposed some challenges. These, in respect of routing, timetabling, demographics and cost, all of which are relevant for launching such services elsewhere, are explored in the paper.
Additionally, the MODLE pilots are reviewed against similar services trialled or launched in the UK and internationally to consider if such services can be part of a new transport landscape. This provides the opportunity to draw some wider conclusions about how, and where demand-led options might be beneficial, and what factors could contribute to their successful deployment.