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Demand-responsive transport

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Demand-responsive transport

Demand Responsive Transport or Demand-Responsive Transit (DRT) or Demand Responsive Service[1] or Dial-a-ride or Flexible Transport Services[2] is "an advanced, user-oriented form of public transport characterised by flexible routing and scheduling of small/medium vehicles operating in shared-ride mode between pick-up and drop-off locations according to passengers needs".[3] In many areas DRT is instead known as DART, or Dial-a-Ride Transit.[4][5]

DRT systems provide a public transport service in rural areas or areas of low passenger demand,[6][7] where a regular bus service may not be as viable, and/or for disabled passengers. As such, DRT schemes for may be fully or partially funded by the local transit authority, as providers of socially necessary transport. As such, operators of DRT schemes may be selected by public tendering. 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).

DRT schemes 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.

Differences from other modes of transport

  • Regular transit bus routes: DRT employs flexible routes and schedules[8]
  • Shuttle bus services: DRT departure and arrival points are not necessarily fixed[8]
  • Deviated Fixed Route Service: Transit service that operates along a fixed alignment or path at generally fixed times, but may deviate from the route alignment to collect or drop off passengers who have requested the deviation[1]
  • Paratransit: DRT is available to the general public, whereas paratransit is available to pre-qualified user bases, especially for people with disabilities and the elderly
  • Share taxis: DRT is pre-booked in advance, whereas share taxis are operated on an ad-hoc basis
  • Taxicabs: DRT generally carries more people, and passengers may have less control over their journey on the principle of DRT being a shared[6] system as opposed to an exclusive vehicle for hire. Additionally, journeys may divert en route for new bookings.[8]

Mode of operation

A DRT service will be restricted to a defined operating zone, within which journeys must start and finish. Journeys may be completely free form, or accommodated onto skeleton routes and schedules,[7] varied as required. As such, users will be given a specified pick-up point and a time window for collection.[7] 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 by booking with a central dispatcher[7][8] who determines the journey options available given the users' location and destination.

DRT systems take advantage of fleet telematics technology in the form of vehicle location systems, scheduling and dispatching software and hand-held/in vehicle computing.[6][7][9]

Vehicles used for DRT services will usually be small minibuses, reflecting the low ridership, but also allowing the service to provided as near a door to door service as practical, by being able to use residential streets.[7] In some cases Taxicabs are hired by the DRT provider to serve their routes on request.

Simulations of health and environmental effects

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”.[10]


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.[11][12] Issues may also arise surrounding tax and fuel subsidy for DRT services.

DRT by country

Sorted by relevance.

United States

The large majority from 1,500 rural systems in the US provides demand-response service; there are also about 400 urban DRT systems.[13]


South Carolina

  • CARTA Flex-Route Zones, portions of Charleston SC

Washington State

Washington DC

Germany and Austria

In German-speaking countries many isolated systems exist under the following names: Anruflinienfahrt (ALF), Anruf-Linien-Dienst (ALD), Anruflinienbus, Anruflinientaxi (ALT, alita), Anrufbus, Rufbus, „Ruf-mich-Bus“, Linienbedarfstaxi(LBT), „Taxibus“, „Linientaxi“, „Bedarfsbus“, Anruftaxi, RuftaxiAnruf-Buslinien und -Sammeltaxis.


  • In sparse populated areas (under 100 p/km2) seit 1995 PostBus Switzerland Ltd (national post company) operates a DRT service called PubliCar. For more see project's web page (however only in DE,IT,FR).
  • CasaCar is a DRT service operated by PostBus region of Graubünden (part of PostBus Switzerland Ltd) in canton of Graubinden - see PostBus region of Graubünden (EN)

United Kingdom

Under the existing UK bus operating regulations of 1986, some DRT schemes were operating, allowed by the fact they had a core start and finish point, and a published schedule.[15] For England and Wales in 2004, the regulations concerning bus service registration and application of bus operating grants were amended, to allow registration of fully flexible pre-booked DRT services.[15] Some services such as LinkUp only pick up passengers at 'meeting points', but can set down at the passenger's destination.


  • SmartLink, Demand Responsive Transport service in Blue Mountains.[21]
  • PocketRide, a door-to-door DRT system being developed in Ballarat, Victoria.[22]
  • Kan-go, Demand Responsive Transport service in Hervey Bay, Queensland[23][24]
  • Kan-go,[25] Demand Responsive Transport service in Toowoomba (Rangeville), Queensland[24]
  • FTS - Flexible Transport System, Demand Responsive Transport service connecting airport passengers to hotels in Melbourne, Victoria.[24][26]


  • Dial-a-Ride Transit, 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.[4]


Following some pioneering DRT schemes implemented in the eighties, in Italy a new generation of applications have been launched and are in operation starting from mid nineties. Current schemes are provided in urban and peri-urban areas as well as in rural communities. Operated by different kind of organisations (Public Transport companies, private service providers) such schemes are offered either as intermediate collective transport services for generic users or as schemes for specific user groups. DRT schemes are operated in major cities like Rome, Milan, Genoa, Florence, as well as in several mid- to small-size towns such as Alessandria, Aosta, Cremona, Livorno, Mantova, Parma, Empoli, Siena, Sarzana.

  • AllôBus and AllôNuit, Demand Responsive Transport service in Aosta/Aoste
  • DrinBus, Demand Responsive Transport service in Genoa[27]
  • 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 Milano


The first ever demand responsive transport scheme in Poland - called Tele-Bus - is operated since 2007 in short video.


See Flexibus' web page (in DE and FR).

Czech Republic

There is recognized only one public city DRT system - Radiobus - and one rural DRT system - operated by DHD - in the Czech Republic. Legislation[28] still does not support public DRT system (year 2010). For more information see cs:poptávková doprava (in Czech).


"Radiobus" is a kind of city transit system. It is operated like line bus transport and has a regular timetable, but every ride is held only when somebody confirms by telephone or by internet that it will be used and only the needed part of the route will operate. In the Czech Republic, several local lines in AudisBus states that this way of transport was inspired by similar ones in the Netherlands.

Rural DRT system operated by DHD

This system works complementarily to regular DHD company provides booking and organization, however, the transport is implemented by several local transport companies. DHD is now trying to extent this system as an alternative to the less effective and expensive (however easier to use) rural public transport with fixed timetables.

See also

Notes and references

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