'Flexlinjen' in Gothenburg has shown that it is possible to successfully arrange an attractive and effective local public transport for the elderly (65+) and other persons with specific needs. Since its start in 1996, this transportation form has successively developed and it now comprises more than half of the different districts in Gothenburg. At the start of 2004 there were 21 minibuses in traffic, vehicles that transported about 177 000 passengers during daytime, all weekdays. Flexlinjen is at first hand to be considered as a solution for local trips to service in the nearby area. In more peripherally located traffic areas there are also needs for trips outside the local area. A logical conclusion will be that well-functioning flexible traffic needs to be integrated with low floor buses and other new solutions concerning public transport now taking place in Gothenburg.
The aim of the project is to propose and demonstrate practical solutions for how a 'whole-journey-concept' can be realised throughout the described integration above. The key group is passengers with difficulties concerning their transportation to and from bus stops in the ordinary public transport system but are able to make the actual trip on their own by available low-floor vehicles. A connection between flex traffic and conventional public transport implies basically no problem concerning the outward journey. The passenger can book their flex traffic trip from home and because of a generally high frequency of transportation they then can take the first available tram/bus that comes along according to the timetable. The problem occurs on the way home when the passenger goes with the regular public transportation and then need to make a change to Flexlinjen. Each passenger ought to be able to book the entire journey from the actual starting point, knowing there will be a flex bus waiting at a suitable changing place.
The study is a combination of a research study of user needs (pilot study) and a limited demonstration study with evaluation in an after study with a panel of passengers who took part in the pilot study.
The result of the study shows that changes between Flexlinjen and trams or big buses is more common than was expected. The preliminary study points out that 38% of the respondents had some sort of experience of changing between different traffic forms. Unfortunately the project failed to accomplish any considerable improvements concerning the specific change between Flexlinjen and the main lines.
In order to increase the possibilities for a person with a permit (to go by Färdtjänst) to use the regular public transport system significant improvements have to be made:
- Low floor in 95% of all buses and trams on the main lines;
- Special reserved seats in the front of the vehicle, near the driver;
- A fare ticket system that makes it possible to quickly reach the seat without too much distress;
- Special education for all drivers in order to make the key groups feel safe during the whole trip but also to make sure that the reserved seats are used for those in need;
- Strategically chosen changing points have to be found all over the city;
- The distance between the two vehicles should not be more than 25 – 30 m;
- There is a need for some sort of restroom with access for this group, only were it is possible to easily reach the booking terminal by phone.