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The FTA Office of Research, Demonstration and Innovation define Mobility on Demand (MoD) as “an integrated and connected multi-modal network of safe, affordable, and reliable transportation options that are available and accessible to all travellers.”
Mobility on Demand is exactly that—integrated mobility solutions that are accessed conveniently, on-demand or in real-time, at the leisure of an individual when they request it. Mobility on Demand is achieved through a combination of private and public transportation assets and technologies, working together to allow commuters a customised way to travel with the aid of new software solutions. At its core, Mobility on Demand actually moving people—not just vehicles.
The technology has the ability to decongest urban transit systems, while creating opportunities in rural areas where traditional mobility services are not adequate or suitable for particular members of society. Mobility on Demand has also allowed for modal shift within communities where innovative on-demand or MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service) transit options have ensured that commuters can access transit in a way that fills the gaps in current transportation networks.
The most common form of Mobility on Demand can be found through the modern day implementation of smartphone Applications, where, like popular rideshare apps, booking public or private transport can be one tap away. This traveler-focused solution can be considered as a multi-modal offering to commuters—an attractive proposition for users and Transit Agencies alike in servicing community needs. MoD requires data sharing across the board in both private and public transit sectors to collectively create a passenger experience that is cohesive across multiple services.
What are the benefits of Mobility On Demand?
Imagine having the ability to book the bus on your phone, or having a shuttle bus pick you up and take you to your local transport hub—all for the cost of a regular public transit trip. When mobility networks utilise modern technologies to create a more efficient mode of travel, everyone can benefit, especially members of the community with accessibility requirements or difficulties in accessing local transport systems. There are thus multiple benefits of Mobility On Demand for the community and transit providers alike. They include:
1. Equity and accessibility
The offer of an on-demand service created through traveller-centric design can help to service individuals who need safe and easily accessible travel. Transport equity is a natural byproduct of Mobility On Demand services as they accommodate for vulnerable community members who cannot drive or access traditional public transit conveniently.
On-demand and advanced bookings that work around the timetable and life of the commuter rather than the Transport Operator. This means that individuals’ needs can be met exactly when and where they occur—literally, without needing to work around the timetable of fixed-route service providers.
With the integrations of Apps, passengers can monitor vehicles enroute, and also receive real-time notifications and updates if there is a vehicle breakdown or delay. Commuters never have to wonder if they missed the bus, or if it’s late, ever again!
With Mobility on Demand technology integration, there is privacy protection and contact tracing of passengers, plus onboard capacity tracking—which means that services know exactly who is using a service.
Automated vehicle dispatch and dynamic routing means that vehicle routes are being optimised and being configured in real-time, to ensure that the most efficient and effective transit routes get you to your destination, on-time and as hassle free as possible.
What is influencing a shift to Mobility on Demand?
The world as we know it has become ‘on-demand.’ From internet shopping to bingeing television series at our fingertips—it would seem natural that as technology advances at a rapid rate, more efficient modes of transport (such as multi-modal or integrated networks) would be offered to travellers as these solutions become available.
With the shift toward becoming more technologically dependent than ever, as well as the need to supplement single vehicle ownership for more sustainable options, new MoD transit trends like on-demand or shared transport solutions are becoming increasingly popular.
It’s with thanks primarily to the innovation of transport Apps that have caused a modal shift amongst community members as they’ve become accustomed to booking transport on their devices, instead of working their lives around fixed-route transport timetables. Despite the need for fixed-route systems—especially in cities—rural regions and councils are increasingly becoming more open to Mobility on Demand solutions that service individuals where they are, when they need it. The desire to provide better coverage for community members in sparsely populated areas, and create less of a reliance on privately owned vehicles in urbanised and rural areas has contributed to an increasing uptake and trials of MoD solutions, like Demand-Responsive Transport.
Mobility on Demand in action
Mobility on Demand is the integration of utilising different transit systems to get commuters where they need to be. Here’s a real-life example:
The City of Woy Woy in NSW, Australia, is a regional, low-density area on a peninsula that makes travel in and out challenging during peak hour periods. Being an hour from the city of Sydney, many residents choose to commute to work via rail. The subsequent congestion at the train station is a direct result of peak demand and insufficient parking. Commuters were regularly faced with battles of a lack of parking at the station, car vandalism when parking at the station, a lack of alternative public transit options (including safety concerns for evening travel on public transport) and congestion.
To arrive at the Woy Woy train station on time in order to catch the train that arrives at Sydney Central station at 8am, catching the bus wasn’t seen as a viable option for many in the area—driving was significantly faster.
The Liftango team deployed an On-Demand solution as part of a Statewide multi-site trial on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia. The On-Demand service was run to deliver social benefits to the Woy Woy community by assisting commuters to get to the train station safely and on time. This model was unique in that it only ran for eight hours a day to cover morning and afternoon peak hour commuter travel. This model is known as a ‘Meeting Point to Hub’, in that you could request a ride from one of the predetermined meeting points and head to the train station or vice versa.
At its core, its purpose was to assist with the existing Public Transport infrastructures put in place—Mobility on Demand in practice. In this map view, you can see where all of the hubs were in the service area:
For this lightly populated zone, the implementation of an On-Demand Bus worked because Public Transport in the area was deemed too unreliable to get people to the station in time to make their connecting train. The project saw on average between 1000-1300 users per month take trips to and from the train station from different meeting points. This type of service is a classic example of Mobility on Demand, showing how On-Demand solutions can effectively connect people to existing services.
Implementing Mobility on Demand
Transport has become a commodity—with premiums and value exchanged for time, convenience and a cost.
Implementing Mobility on Demand is a challenge for communities and transit providers alike—but with the integration of tools and technology that allow for efficient systems that service travellers when they need it, a sustainable and convenient modal shift for society can be achieved. And as we look for ways to service these communities more effectively, we put the priorities of people first—combatting transport poverty and transport disadvantage. Implementing Mobility on Demand on a mass scale will require governments, public and private transit providers to work together to ensure that a cohesive passenger experience can be created. Together, let’s be innovators when it comes to implementing Mobility on Demand in new and creative ways.