The need for more flexible and personalised public transport services is increasing with a steadily increasing share of elderly persons in the population and to meet the goal of full accessibility in Swedish society by 2010. The requirements will also become more stringent in order to co-ordinate minimum transport services in sparsely populated areas and to integrate demand responsive services with regular public transport system (rail, tram, bus).
The FOKAT project was established to study the preconditions and requirements for IT support systems for Demand Responsive Transport (DRT). It was supposed to consider a new generation of appropriate systems to increase efficiency of DRT for users with special needs in a national perspective. The possibility to simultaneously offer differentiated and integrated public transport services (door-to-door) also to other groups such as the general public was also to be considered.
Initially a broad analysis of the global conditions and requirements were made, also including a survey and interview study concerning the current situation in Sweden. Finally the project has focused on describing conceivable modules for IT-systems that would be able to perform the tasks described in different management and operation processes.
- The study shows that the DRT is a domain undergoing tremendous development. In the past decade we have seen important progress in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the UK and other countries.
- The global review shows that four of the fifteen largest DRT organisations in the world are located in Sweden. The Special Transport Authority in Stockholm County is the largest service provider of DRT services all over the world.
- Sweden is still at the front of the DRT development process, with the exception of differentiated and integrated public transport with door-to-door service available for various target groups at different fare levels.
- DRT in Sweden could be more uniform. The need for standardisation is obvious, especially when integration between general public transport and DRT puts stronger demands on a functional interplay within the local IT-systems.
- An important prerequisite to the functioning of DRT services that are fully integrated with line-haul scheduled transport is that both these forms of transport are planned and executed together.
- Effective planning tools are currently lacking for simulating new traffic concepts and strategies for the execution of DRT. With the support of databases that contain demographics, division of areas, buildings, services provided, information on the availability of the outdoor environment and existing line-haul public transport network, a GIS-based tool can be used to plan and evaluate different transport solutions.
- SOA is a service-oriented architecture that makes it easier to integrate all types of IT environments in a company or organisation. This requires, however, a total understanding, on a detailed level, of what information needs to be communicated/exchanged. This is an issue for the systems users as weel as for the suppliers.
- The fact was established that there is a multitude of different service concepts which are more or less similar in Sweden today. This is a problem for the software developers as well as for benchmarking between different service providers. To deal with this problem the study recommends that the different institutional frameworks and service levels be brought into a more streamlined shape.
- From the systems point of view the largest challenge is to develop comprehensive integrated solutions for huge urban regions with millions of DRT trips per year. There is a need to find a common architecture that can provide traffic concepts in forms of separate modules as well as to integrate a suitable number of different concepts that uses mutual resources. The original purpose of the project has thus partly been changed since the development of a new generation of systems probably can be postponed a few years by adopting the proposed SOA based strategy.
- The DRT services that are connected to scheduled transport must be planned accordingly. This speaks for including demand responsive services in the responsibilities of the public transport authority – in any other case, the possibility for combining trips is made more difficult as a result of vague areas of responsibility.
- Finally there is a good reason to believe that within only a few years there will be IT support systems on the market that satisfies the seamless 'whole trip' perspective and thus to fulfil most of the future travel needs and transport solutions that are currently predicted. But this is not only a matter of IT support that can 'read' a traveller's individual travel profile and suggest a suitable travel mode from that profile – it also has to do with soft issues such as escorts at stops where changes will be made, travel training for those who feel uncomfortable about travelling by themselves, and insight into how persons with different impairments should be met in order to feel safe and secure in their travelling.