A practical and convenient public transport system
A large proportion of people in the developed world live in moderately populated areas such as suburban
districts or areas surrounding major cities.¹ Although the travel demand in these areas is substantial, serving
them using public transport is difficult since the population is distributed over a wide area. This requires at least
one intermediary journey to and from a centralised meeting point, such as a station or bus stop, making public
transport considerably less attractive than the private car. Consequently, outside densely populated metropolitan
areas and main commuter routes public transport is used by a diminishing number of people who either cannot
drive or afford a car. This low demand for public transport results in a either a reduced service, or under-utilised
vehicles producing high emissions per passenger carried and an unprofitable service requiring substantial
subsidies from the taxpayer. It is therefore necessary to radically rethink of how to adapt and operate our public
transport system to meet the needs of a modern society and make it financially self supporting whilst retaining a
low environmental impact.
Many research projects have been performed on how to manage bus and taxi systems more efficiently, but none
of these really address the fundamental issues. For any public transport system to widely succeed it must be
competitive with the private car in terms of door to door travelling time, lack of exposure to the
weather, reliability, safety and cost. To address these issues, it is necessary to provide the advantages of a
fully utilised public transport system with the convenience and flexibility of the private car. A potential solution
is now proposed based on the following observations and lines of reasoning.
For every car journey during peak travelling periods there are probably other people who live near to the driver,
or the route they take, who wish to undertake a similar journey at approximately the same time. If these journeys
could be co-ordinated and consolidated so the people are travelling in the same vehicle then this would radically
reduce the number of vehicles on the road, reduce overall emissions and provide an efficient pubic transport
service at reduced cost.
Of course standard car sharing schemes have been attempted before without much success. Major drawbacks to
these methods are their inflexibility. If people are late, tired or delayed due to unforeseen circumstances they
still feel obliged to take the scheduled journey, especially if the passengers dont have backup transport at their
disposal, so they are reluctant to offer sharing in the first place.
One promising development in public transport is the use of flexible transport systems (FTS) using demand
This is an attempt to route public transport vehicles in the most logically efficient
fashion possible using the virtues of modern technology. Instead of using fixed collection points and schedules
as with conventional public transport, the service can be adjusted in accordance with travel requests. Passengers
may be given a location and convenient time interval to be picked up and dropped off so the overall collective
distance or time can be minimised. Taxis are normally used for this service, which instead of serving one
request at a time could be transporting several people which are picked up from separate locations and travelling
to different destinations simultaneously. FTS therefore offers something of a compromise between the
cheapness and simplicity of a fixed route bus service with the convenience and comfort of a conventional taxi
There are several public transport sharing schemes using FTS or taxi sharing schemes in operation today³.
However, these have seen only moderate success, possibly due to poor publicity and marketing and most lack
the economies of scale and public support, which are essential for the success of such enterprises. However,
there is a more fundamental problem that prevents similar schemes having a major impact. Public transport
operators and taxi companies all use a fixed number of vehicles which cannot operate efficiently in both the rush
hour and over less busy periods. In the former case there will never be enough vehicles and drivers to serve
public transport demand; in the latter case they will be inoperative. One potential solution is to use part time
drivers as who are fully vetted members of the public using their own cars. These drivers are potentially on call
for when the fixed system gets overloaded, but even this type of system may still not be able to meet the large
surges in demand caused by rush hour traffic. Another problem is that the driver is effectively a redundant
passenger reducing the room in a typical car by 20-25%.
Transport Concept 1: Public Transport and Co-ordinated Shared Transport (COAST)
See Figure 1 in exploratory analysis of suburban land cover and population density in the USA as an example
Summary of Demand Response Management, please examine sources
Summary of shared Taxi systems, please examine sources.