What's your DRT demographic?

Demand Responsive Transport, or DRT, is the buzzword of the moment. Everybody in the bus industry is talking about it, and we’ve seen a huge influx of investment to fund various forms of DRT scheme. Falling bus ridership, limited public funding and an ever growing culture of immediacy have created the perfect set of conditions for DRT, whilst ever evolving technology looks set to provide the means to deliver it. But at Vectare, where we’ve been doing extensive strategic work on DRT, we’ve found a big issue with the implementation of DRT – nobody seems to know what their target demographic is! In the coming months we’ll be revealing more about what we’ve been working on, so you can expect big things, but for now take a look at what Dominic Kalantary, Director of Vectare, has to say.

When we do a project that will, or could, include an element of demand responsive transport, we categorise potential demand into four demographics:

  1. Concessionary pass holders and the older generation: Unlikely to have a smartphone or download lots of individual apps, unwilling to trust technology for everyday tasks (e.g. transport), would prefer to interact with a real person to make transport arrangements. Of course, there are exceptions, but we must remember that this group of people make up a significant proportion of our customer base – and for many, the bus is a lifeline.

  2. Paid-for bus pass holders: Younger, frequent travellers who see technology as a useful tool for enhancing their bus journeys. They will often have the app(s) of local bus operators installed on their smartphone, and if the price is right they will happily use DRT.

  3. Frequent bus users (in unfamiliar area): Whether tourists, businesspeople or visitors, these are people who are confident bus users – but they’re outside of their geographical comfort zone. They’ll probably have a bus operator app on their phone for their regular journey, but they might know nothing about the buses in the area they’re currently in. If we don’t cater to this group, we’ll lose valuable cash fares revenue, especially at off peak times.

  4. Infrequent bus users: If DRT is truly to succeed, it is essential for it to attract those who rarely or never use the bus out of their cars. Operational excellence is essential for this, it goes without saying, but although this group represents a significant opportunity for growth, this will only be achieved through effective marketing. We also need to make the barriers to making a booking on a DRT service as low as possible for this group of potential customers – they’re not going to download an app or telephone a call centre. We need to make booking a bus journey as easy as hailing a taxi – if not easier!

So, whether you’re replacing existing fixed route services with DRT provision, introducing a brand new service, or offering a flexibly routed bus service based on demand, its essential to understand which of these demographics you’re catering for. A financially viable service needs to attract the high value non-local and infrequent user traffic, whilst still catering to the needs of those for whom their local bus service is an essential part of their independence.

In my opinion, there is not a single technological service currently on the market that can meet the needs of each of these demographics. We don’t have a complete solution, and until we do I predict that DRT services will not perform financially at a level where they can be rolled out nationwide on a commercial basis.

So, when considering introducing a DRT service, you need to be categorising your population into these four categories, and then finding strategies to meet each of their individual needs. Don’t let potential revenue pass you by through not meeting people’s needs.

If you are considering introducing DRT, or reviewing your current provision, get in touch. Our unique data driven consultancy provides real insight using big data and GIS, and our technology solutions might be just what you are looking for. In a future blog post, I’ll be discussing what our “total solution” to DRT looks like, and how you can get on board!

Vectare is a young and dynamic transport consultancy. Our mission is to make public transport simple to use, whilst also supporting bus and coach operators in delivering exceptional and innovative public transport services. We started as a firm specialising in home to school transport, and whilst this remains a key part of what we do, we have now expanded to also offer transport data analysis and consultancy. Our current clients include municipal bus operators large and small, independent schools and further education establishments. For more information about what we do, please visit www.vectare.co.uk, contact me on dominic@vectare.co.uk or send me a message via social media.

©Vectare Limited 2018. These are the personal thoughts of Dominic Kalantary, expressed in his capacity as a Director of Vectare Limited. They do not represent the views of Vectare Limited as a whole. The owner is not liable for any errors or omissions in this information. The owner is not liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information.