Why on-demand mass transit may be the smart way forward

Start-ups such as Berlin-based door2door are looking at ways to supplement public transport instead of replacing it. Launching just last month, the app is helping to connect the country with the first on-demand local public transport system in a rural area, the Freyung Shuttle, in the Bavarian Forest town of Freyung. Let’s take a look at how cities can learn from this newly introduced app to help connect citizens to services they need, no matter if they live in an urban centre or more rural part of town. — Philippe Leonard  

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 Digitalising public transport

In February, German tech company Dalia Research conducted a survey and found that between 20 and 30 percent of the population between the ages of 14 and 65 in France, Germany and the UK requested a ride, car share or bike rental using a mobility app within the previous 12 months. By now, ride-hailing apps like Uber are nothing new for cities across Europe. These apps may help citizens and visitors get around while reducing the amount of traffic on the road—in addition to lowering air pollution—but they have also disrupted traditional taxi services and don’t always follow city- or country-wide regulations.

Last August, door2door took a different approach in terms of using a smartphone app for on-demand transport, following a philosophy that is “based on cooperation with municipalities and urban transport providers to create fair and innovative solutions for urban public transport,” according to CEO Maxim Nohroudi. After the trial service, the app rolled out in September in Freyung, offering a solution for on-demand mass transport in one of Germany’s more rural areas. Working alongside Freyung’s local public transport system, door2door offers small shuttle buses that can pick up multiple passengers, dropping them off at their desired location without the hassle of a set pickup schedule or fixed route thanks to technology that can calculate the best itinerary to meet this demand.

Door2door is serving as a public transport version of apps like Uber with drivers adhering to German regulations in terms of passenger transport licenses. Other transportation apps like Citymapper, meanwhile, are partnering with local public buses in cities like London, testing pop-up Smartbus projects that work with bus infrastructure and stops already in place.

Cities can look to these pilot projects that are rolling out in rural towns, as well as in metropolises, to find solutions that will push their own smart mass transit solutions forward, transforming and improving the way public transport is perceived at home.