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Why do demand responsive transport systems fail?

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  • Communication
  • Design


In developed countries, Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) (loosely termed 'paratransit' in US parlance) emerged in the 1970s to serve the specialist niche market of people with mobility difficulties. DRT systems are starting become a mainstream public transport mode and this paper examines mainstream public transport DRT schemes from around the world that have failed, in order to identify the reasons for failure, and draw lessons to help prevent similar outcomes occurring. Research for the Intermode study developed detailed cases of 72 DRT projects. A number of key failed cases are reported together with a note of the lessons that each provides. This is followed by a generic analysis of failure factors based on a marketing approach. It is concluded that DRT projects are often not realistically costed or designed with a full understanding of the market they are to serve. There is a very dangerous temptation to offer too flexible a service and to include costly technological systems, when they may not be needed. An incremental approach, if possible, appears sensible. DRT also requires more marketing effort and skills than is traditional in conventional bus operations, but above all, it requires new skills in working in partnership. It is concluded that the latter area is where the root of DRT failure is often to be found.

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