The rise in private car use in Great Britain has major implications relating to how transport more generally is provided. One problem is that conventional public transport (i.e. bus, light rail and heavy rail) is steadily becoming a less viable travel option for more and more journeys, and consequently there is an urgent need for new alternatives to be developed. Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) is one solution that almost become a mainstream mode during the 1970s and in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and would now appear to be making another attempt to become a viable transport option. The purpose of the ‘DRT for DRT’ project was to develop relevant tools to determine the potential contribution of Demand Responsive Transport to meet transport and wider (social, economic and environmental) public policy objectives in Great Britain.
The research determined the existing national position of DRT from an operator survey in 2011 – there were 369 existing DRT schemes from 59 organisations. The future of DRT seems to be uncertain owing to reduced funding. This could mean that DRT schemes are withdrawn either nationally in response to demand or in specific areas in response to funding. An alternative could be that DRT schemes increase, either as investment in conventional public transport declines and the voluntary sector plays a growing role in transport provision, or as public transport mobility changes in response to an ageing population.
A series of basic demand models were developed to explore the effects of various socio-economic factors on the demand for DRT, using secondary data for Lincolnshire and Greater Manchester. The significant findings from these models are that potential for DRT services is higher in areas with low population density and experience high levels of deprivation. A questionnaire survey was conducted with over 400 members of the general public, split equally between an urban (Rochdale) and rural (Melton Mowbray) area, to determine the propensity to use DRT from the general population. Very few respondents had heard of DRT (although around half were aware of dial-a-ride). Most respondents were favourable towards the DRT concept, particularly the pre-booking and doo-to-door aspects. Trips with the greatest potential were to health facilities, shopping and group leisure activities (especially in the evening). Most respondents were willing to pay £5-£10 per DRT trip (higher than bus fares but lower than taxi fares). A stated preference experiment compared DRT versus bus/car (dependent on car availability) and model elasticities stressed the importance of fare levels. Forecasts generated from linear and logit probability models using assumed service characteristics on a corridor show that 23.2% of car users and 35.7% of bus users would use DRT.
At the start of the project, focus groups and interviews were undertaken to better understand the current and potential market demand for DRT. The following six market niches were tested for national level application: a rural hopper service linking a number of rural settlements to a market town; an employment shuttle giving staff access to a large suburban employment centre; a station access service designed mainly for commuters; a shopping service serving (normally) a large supermarket; an airport access service; and a hospital access service. The DRT service delivery options have then been mapped onto a national demand profile.