Demand-responsive transport (DRT), also known as demand-responsive transit, demand-responsive service, Dial-a-Ride transit (sometimes DART), flexible transport services, Microtransit, Non-Emergency Medical Transport (NEMT), Carpool or On-demand bus service is a form of shared private or quasi-public transport for groups traveling where vehicles alter their routes each journey based on particular transport demand without using a fixed route or timetabled journeys. These vehicles typically pick-up and drop-off passengers in locations according to passengers needs and can include taxis, buses or other vehicles. Passengers can typically summon the service with a mobile phone app or by telephone; telephone is particularly relevant to older users who may not be conversant with technology.
One of the most widespread types of demand-responsive transport (DRT) is to provide a public transport service in areas of low passenger demand where a regular bus service is not considered to be financially viable, such as rural and peri-urban areas. Services may also be provided for particular types of passengers. One example is the paratransit programs for people with a disability. The provision of public transport in this manner emphasises one of its functions as a social service rather than creating a viable movement network.
DRT can be used to refer to many different types of transport. When taxicabs were first introduced to many cities, they were hailed as an innovative form of DRT. They are still referred to as DRT in some jurisdictions around the world as their very nature is to take people from point-to-point based on their needs.
More recently, DRT generally refers to a type of public transport. They are distinct from fixed-route services as they do not always operate to a specific timetable or route. While specific operations vary widely, generally a particular area is designated for service by DRT. Once a certain number of people have requested a trip, the most efficient route will then be calculated depending on the origins and destinations of passengers.
Some DRT systems operate as a service that can deviate from a fixed route. These operate along a fixed alignment or path at specific times but may deviate to collect or drop off passengers who have requested the deviation.
Comparison of demand-responsiveness by type edit
- Fully flexible route, fully flexible schedule, no booking – car, bike, foot
- Fully flexible route, fully flexible schedule, booking – taxi
- Fully flexible route, fully flexible schedule, no booking – hackney carriage taxi
- highly flexible route, highly flexible schedule, mobile booking – microtransit
- some degree of flexible route or schedule, no booking – share taxi/taxibus
- some degree of flexible route or schedule, booking – paratransit
- fixed route and fixed schedule, no booking – public transport
DRT services are restricted to a defined operating zone, within which journeys must start and finish. Journeys may be completely free form, or following skeleton routes and schedules, varied as required, with users given a specified pick-up point and a time window for collection. Some DRT systems may have defined termini, at one or both ends of a route, such as an urban centre, airport or transport interchange, for onward connections.
DRT systems require passengers to request a journey in advance. They may do this by booking with a central dispatcher who determines the journey options available given the user's location and destination. Increasingly, the booking is via an app, which provides the interface to software that creates a schedule in real time; adjusting the schedule to accept (or reject) bookings as they come in. This provides an instant decision for the potential user, but at the cost of efficiency: each individual travel need is considered individually, potentially resulting in higher levels of idle time (when the schedule has gaps that are too short to allow an additional journey to be added) and "dead mileage" (driving empty between one drop-off and the next pickup) than might be expected from a schedule built by an experienced human operator.
Vehicles used for DRT services are typically small minibuses sufficient for low ridership, which allow the service to provide as near a door-to-door service as practical by using narrower residential streets. In some cases taxicabs are hired by the DRT provider to serve their routes on request.
DRT schemes may be fully or partially funded by the local transit authority, with operators selected by public tendering or other methods. Other schemes may be partially or fully self-funded as community centred not for profit social enterprises (such as a community interest company in the UK). They may also be provided by private companies for commercial reasons; some conventional bus operating companies have set up DRT-style airport bus services, which compete with larger private hire airport shuttle companies.
Health and environmental effects edit
DRT can potentially reduce the number of vehicles on the road, and hence pollution and congestion, if many people are persuaded to use it instead of private cars or taxis.
For a model of a hypothetical large-scale demand-responsive public transport system for the Helsinki metropolitan area, simulation results published in 2005 demonstrated that "in an urban area with one million inhabitants, trip aggregation could reduce the health, environmental, and other detrimental impacts of car traffic typically by 50–70%, and if implemented could attract about half of the car passengers, and within a broad operational range would require no public subsidies".
DRT schemes may require new or amended legislation, or special dispensation, to operate, as they do not meet the traditional licensing model of authorised bus transport providers or licensed taxicab operators. The status has caused controversy between bus and taxi operators when the DRT service picks up passengers without pre-booking, due to the licensing issues. Issues may also arise surrounding tax and fuel subsidy for DRT services.
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Analysis of the Yorbus DRT scheme in a rural area of the UK showed very little combination of individual travel needs. Of the 35% of operating hours when the vehicles were carrying passengers, there was just one passenger (or a couple travelling together) for 74% of the time, and two passengers (or couples travelling together) for a further 20% of the time. The 15-seat minibuses could have been replaced by small taxis without capacity problems for 97% of the operating hours.
List of current DRT systems by country edit
Since the mid-2010s several DRT projects started up but failed.
In the US several DRT operators appeared and promptly failed, due to either lack of customers or health and safety issues. 2019 trials in London found that "satisfaction was really high"; users scored the service at 4.8/5 and praised ease of use, safety, cleanliness and accessibility. But low take-up, misunderstandings about who the service was for, and safety concerns about unlit stops—together with problems due to the covid pandemic from 2020—caused the trials to fail.
Lukas Foljanty, a shared-mobility enthusiast and market expert, keeps track of the different DRT schemes around the world and thinks a tipping point may have been reached in 2022. There were at least 450 schemes around the world, and in 2021 fifty-four new projects started within a three-month period.
David Carnero of Europe-wide DRT technology company Padam said that successful DRT requires subsidies, must be delivered at scale, and must be part of an integrated, rather than competitive, transport policy.
- CoastConnect, first-mile / last-mile demand-responsive transport service in Woy Woy, New South Wales, operated by Community Transport Central Coast Limited and Liftango
- Kan-go, demand-responsive transport service in Hervey Bay, Queensland and Toowoomba, Queensland
- SmartLink, demand-responsive transport service in Blue Mountains.
- Skybus hotel transfer service in Melbourne, Victoria.
- Telebus in Melbourne, Victoria providing demand-responsive bus services to some outer suburbs of the metropolitan area since the 1970s.
- Flexiride in Melbourne, Victoria replaced Telebus services in 2021
- Belbus — has been working since 1991 in the Flemish Region
- Belleville, Ontario – BT Let's Go, operated by Belleville Transit, replaces fixed route night bus services with an on-demand transit service. This provides stop-to-stop scheduled pick-ups and drop-offs requested by riders through a web-based application. Buses are dynamically routed to riders in real-time by an autonomous algorithm.
- Cobourg, Ontario – operated by Cobourg Transit, it plans to be a complete replacement of fixed route bus transit service, and will require residents to book a stop in advance. It is undergoing a pilot right now, and is scheduled to be fully implemented with the town's WHEELS transit service and replace fixed route transit on June 14, 2021.
- Edmonton, Alberta – Edmonton Transit Service offers On Demand Transit in designated areas not served by scheduled routes.
- Guelph, Ontario – Works in addition to fixed route service.
- Niagara Falls, Ontario – TransCab Service, operated by Niagara Falls Transit, provides service to the Montrose Junction section of the city during the daytime and early evening.
- Toronto, Ontario — Wheel-Trans
- Winnipeg, Manitoba – WT On-Request, operated by Winnipeg Transit, replaces regular fixed transit route service in three neighbourhoods during low-use hours and provides door-to-door transit service in one inner-city neighbourhood during daytime hours.
Czech Republic edit
- Radiobus – has operated across the country since 2004. Since 2011, it has been part of the general public transport system to supplement the existing system during times of low demand. It uses fixed timetables, but vehicles only operate when called by passenger.
- DHD – has operated since 2003. Its primary purpose was for collecting workers from sparsely-populated rural areas. DHD provides bookings and administrative support; however, the buses themselves are operated by several local transport companies.
- All 5 major Public Transit Authorities in Denmark provide door-to-door DRT services in different variants and degree. The DRT-services in Denmark is maintained as a collaboration between the PTAs and FlexDanmark, which they collective own and fund, thus providing nation wide DRT-services (exluding some islands).
- Movia Trafik covers the eastern part of Denmark, including the Copenhagen metropolitan area as well as the rest of the island of Zealand, Falster and Møn.
- MidtTrafik, Sydtrafik and FynBus covers middle and southern Denmark, including the island of Funen.
- Nordjyllands Trafikselskab covers the northern part of Denmark.
- Akaa – Akaakyyti
- Inkoo – Inkyyti 
- Jakobstad – Vippari
- Porvoo – Kyläkyyti
- Riihimäki – R-kyyti
- Berlin – Allygator Shuttle, Clevershuttle, BerlKönig
- Braunschweig, Lower Saxony – Anruflinien-Taxi (ALT) and Anruflinien-Bus (ALB) 
- Cologne – AnrufLinienFahrt (ALF), an on-demand minibus service that operates in predominantly rural areas of the city.
- Dresden – Anruf-Linien-Bus Verkehrsgesellschaft Meißen
- Duisburg – myBUS
- Elbe-Elster – Anruf-Linienbus, a DRT bus service operated by the regional public transport authority in Herzberg, Sonnewalde, Umland and Finsterwalde
- Freyung, Bavaria – FreyFahrt
- Hamburg – MOIA (Volkswagen AG#Mobilitätsdienstleistungen [de])
- Munich – IsarTiger
- Rostock – REBUS = Regional Bus Rostock
- Districts of Tirschenreuth, Neustadt an der Waldnaab and Schwandorf – Baxi, a mix between taxis and buses taking passengers from stops to any destination within the districts.
Hong Kong edit
Red minibuses which serve non-franchised routes across the country, depending on routes, allow passengers to reserve their seats by phone such that operators and drivers are able to know where passengers are and how many there are in deploying their vehicles.
Public transport authority in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik and the surrounding municipalities. Manages public bus transport and disabled transport, but does not have its own vehicles. About 1,300 enquiries and thousand trips a day. Uses 60 vehicles and 10–20 more for school transport for children with special needs.
A network of over 1,000 demand responsive transport routes are provided across rural Ireland under the TFI Local Link brand. Many of these routes are once a week services which operate a door-to-door pickup from a rural area into a nearby large town, where people can access shopping and other services, followed by a return service a few hours later with a door-to-door drop off back to the same rural area. Other routes include daily return services to/from colleges or employment centres, weekend evening services to/from a night-time activity centre, weekly services to attend Mass, feeder services to connect with scheduled bus and train services, and services on off-shore islands to connect with ferry departures and arrivals.
Services are managed by 15 regional TFI Local Link offices across the country on behalf of the National Transport Authority (NTA), and usually require prebooking by phoning the relevant office in advance. As of June 2023, there are no real-time app-based demand responsive transport services operating in Ireland, but in April 2023 the NTA informed suppliers that they intended "to procure a trial of and, if successful a roll out of, Smart Demand Responsive Transport services (SDRT), using app based products to secure services and routing algorithms to match vehicles with capacity to users".
Following some pioneering DRT schemes implemented in the 1980s, a second wave of systems were launched from the mid-1990s. There are now DRT schemes in urban and peri-urban areas as well as in rural communities. Operated by both public transport companies and private service providers, the DRT schemes are offered either as intermediate collective transport services for generic users or as schemes for specific user groups. DRT schemes operate in major cities including Rome, Milan, Genoa, Florence, and in several mid- to small-size towns including Alessandria, Aosta, Cremona, Livorno, Mantova, Parma, Empoli, Siena, and Sarzana.
- AllôBus and AllôNuit, demand-responsive transport service in Aosta
- DrinBus, demand-responsive transport service in Genoa
- PersonalBus, demand-responsive transport service in Florence
- ProntoBus, demand-responsive transport service in Livorno and Sarzana
- EccoBus, demand-responsive transport service in Alessandria
- StradiBus, demand-responsive transport service in Cremona
- Radiobus, demand-responsive transport service in Milan
More than 200 of the 1,700 local governments in Japan have introduced DRT public transport services.
- Flexibus – several Flexibus services operate in different parts of the country. The system operates on the basis of passengers calling a central point from which optimal routes for the vehicles are calculated.
- Kussbus – private door-to-door bus service primarily for commuter purposes.
New Zealand edit
- MyWay in Timaru, a replacement of the usual bus service with demand-responsive transport service.
The first ever demand-responsive transport scheme in Poland – called Tele-Bus – has been operated since 2007 in Kraków by MPK, the local public transport company (see also Tramways in Kraków).
- "Po puti", or "On the Way", is the first-ever demand-responsive transport scheme in Russia. Launched on October 1, 2021 and operated by Mosgortrans, it serves two zones in NAO and TAO, Moscow (both often referred to as "ТиНАО" in Russian). Zone 1 includes Filimonkovskoye, Sosenskoye, Desyonovskoye and Voskresenskoye Settlements with the Prokshino metro station. Zone 2a, introduced on November 1, 2021, includes Ryazanovskoye Settlement with the Silikatnaya railway station, Line D2. Starting from December 24, 2021, the Shcherbinka railway station, also D2, was added to zone 2a, whereas zone 1 was expanded by adding more blocks of Filimonkovskoye Settlement and southern areas of Desyonovskoye Settlement. Further enlargement is announced.
Regional transport authority in Västra Götaland in southwestern Sweden is responsible for all public transport and for transport offers to citizens with special needs. This is an example of DRT used for people with special needs (paratransit).
DRT services have operated in some sparsely populated areas (under 100 p/km2) since 1995. PostBus Switzerland Ltd, the national post company, has operated a DRT service called PubliCar, formerly also Casa Car.
United Kingdom edit
Some DRT schemes were operating under the UK bus-operating regulations of 1986, allowed by having core start and finish points and a published schedule. Regulations concerning bus service registration and application of bus-operating grants for England and Wales were amended in 2004 to allow registration of fully flexible pre-booked DRT services. Some services, such as LinkUp, only pick up passengers at 'meeting points', but can set down at the passenger's destination.
The Greenwich Association of the Disabled had earlier developed a prototype service, GAD-About, which offered pre-booked door-to-door transport for its members, inspired by similar minibus usage in church and youth clubs. That was then cloned as an easily scalable module, under the aegis of London Transport, to become the Dial-a-Ride service launched as part the general services of Transport for London (TfL), rather than as a bus service.
Examples of UK schemes include:
- WESTlink, a service in Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire and Somerset operated by the West of England Combined Authority 
- ArrivaClick (Kent, Watford and Speke)
- Connect2Wiltshire (Wiltshire)
- Fflecsi, (Wales), DRT services implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic with app provided by ViaVan, and co-ordinated by Transport for Wales.
- CallConnect (Lincolnshire)
- LinkUp (Tyne & Wear) (Closed 2011)
- London Dial-a-Ride
- Nippy Bus (Somerset)
United States edit
The large majority of 1,500 rural systems in the US provide demand-response service; there are also about 400 urban DRT systems.
- Demand-Responsive Van Service,
- Demand-Response Shuttle, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
- Demand-Responsive Transit, Redwood National and State Parks
As of 2022, at least 30 transit agencies in Florida have demand-response trips.
- Flex Service, Votran, New Smyrna Beach
- NeighborLink, Lynx, Central Florida
- SNAP, UF Transportation and Parking Services, Gainesville
- Bayway, Bay County
- Call-n-Ride, Pace Bus, Chicago metropolitan area
- Safe Rides, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area (evening and overnight service only)
New York edit
- Access-A-Ride, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City
- Bee-Line Paratransit, Bee-Line Bus System, Westchester County
- RTS on Demand, Regional Transit Service, Rochester
North Carolina edit
- Dial-A-Ride, GWTA, Goldsboro
- Flex Service, Greenway Transit, Taylorsville & Burke County. Hybrid of fixed & on-demand.
- Night Shuttle, Tar River Transit, Rocky Mount
- Qualla Community Resident Transportation, Cherokee Transit, Jackson County. Hybrid of fixed & on-demand.
- Rural General Public Service, MTS, Charlotte metropolitan area
- Trailblazer Routes, BCMM, Asheville metropolitan area. Hybrid of fixed & on-demand.
South Carolina edit
Washington State edit
- Zone Service and Flex Service, Whatcom Transportation Authority, Whatcom County
- Dial-a-Ride Transit, Community Transit, Snohomish County
- Metro Access, King County Metro, King County
- Finley Service, Ben Franklin Transit, Tri-Cities, Washington
Washington, D.C. edit
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