Demand-responsive transport

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Demand-responsive bus service of the Oxford Bus Company in 2018

Demand-responsive transport (DRT), also known as demand-responsive transit, demand-responsive service,[1] Dial-a-Ride transit (DART),[2][3] flexible transport services,[4] Microtransit[5] or Non-Emergency Medical Transport (NEMT)[5] is a form of shared private or quasi-public transport for groups traveling where vehicles alter their routes each journey based on particular transport demand without using a fixed route or timetabled journeys.[6] These vehicles typically pick-up and drop-off passengers in locations according to passengers needs and can include taxis, buses or other vehicles.[7][8]

One of the most widespread types of demand-responsive transport (DRT) is to provide a public transport service in areas of low passenger demand where a regular bus service is not considered to be financially viable, such as rural and peri-urban areas.[9] Services may also be provided for particular types of passengers. One example is the paratransit programs for people with a disability. The provision of public transport in this manner emphasises one of its functions as a social service rather than creating a viable movement network.[10][11][12]


DRT and other kinds of transport

DRT can be used to refer to many different types of transport. When taxicabs were first introduced to many cities, they were hailed as an innovative form of DRT. They are still referred to as DRT in some jurisdictions around the world as their very nature is to take people from point-to-point based on their needs.[13][14][6]

More recently, DRT generally refers to a type of public transport. They are distinct from fixed-route services as they do not always operate to a specific timetable or route.[15] While specific operations vary widely, generally a particular area is designated for service by DRT. Once a certain number of people have requested a trip, the most efficient route will then be calculated depending on the origins and destinations of passengers.

Share taxis are another form of DRT. They are usually operated on an ad hoc basis but also do not have fixed routes or times and change their route and frequency depending on demand.[16]

Some DRT systems operate as a service that can deviate from a fixed route. These operate along a fixed alignment or path at specific times but may deviate to collect or drop off passengers who have requested the deviation.[1][17]

Comparison of demand-responsiveness by type[edit]

  • Fully flexible route, fully flexible schedule, no booking – car, bike, foot

Shared vehicle[edit]

  • Fully flexible route, fully flexible schedule, booking – taxi
  • Fully flexible route, fully flexible schedule, no booking – hackney carriage taxi

Shared journey[edit]

  • highly flexible route, highly flexible schedule, mobile booking – microtransit
  • some degree of flexible route or schedule, no booking – share taxi/taxibus
  • some degree of flexible route or schedule, booking – paratransit
  • fixed route and fixed schedule, no booking – public transport


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,[9] varied as required. As such, users will be given a specified pick-up point and a time window for collection.[9] 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[9][15] 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.[9][18]

Vehicles used for DRT services will usually be small minibuses, reflecting the low ridership, but also allowing the service to provide as near a door to door service as practical, by being able to use residential streets.[9] In some cases Taxicabs are hired by the DRT provider to serve their routes on request.

DRT schemes may be fully or partially funded by the local transit authority. 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). They 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.

Simulations of health and environmental effects[edit]

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".[19]


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.[20][21] Issues may also arise surrounding tax and fuel subsidy for DRT services.


Ridership on DRT services is usually quite low (less than ten passengers per hour), but DRT can provide coverage effectively.[22][23]

List of current DRT systems by country[edit]



  • RufbusLinie 326 Leopoldschlag – Summerau – Freistadt[31]
  • W3 Shuttle [32]


  • Belleville, Ontario – BT Let's Go, operated by Belleville Transit, replaces fixed route night bus services with an on-demand transit service. This provides stop-to-stop scheduled pick-ups and drop-offs requested by riders through a web-based application. Buses are dynamically routed to riders in real-time by an autonomous algorithm.[33][34]
  • Edmonton, AlbertaEdmonton Transit Service offers On Demand Transit in designated areas not served by scheduled routes.[35]
  • Guelph, Ontario – Works in addition to fixed route service.[36]
  • Niagara Falls, Ontario – TransCab Service, operated by Niagara Falls Transit,[37] provides service to the Montrose Junction section of the city during the daytime and early evening.
  • Toronto, OntarioWheel-Trans
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba – WT On-Request, operated by 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.[38]
  • Cobourg, Ontario – operated by Cobourg Transit, it plans to be a complete replacement of fixed route bus transit service, and will require residents to book a stop in advance. It is undergoing a pilot right now, and is scheduled to be fully implemented with the town's WHEELS transit service and replace fixed route transit on June 14, 2021.[39]

Hong Kong[edit]

Red minibuses which serve non-franchised routes across the country, depending on routes, allow passengers to reserve their seats by phone such that operators and drivers are able to know where passengers are and how many there are in deploying their vehicles.[40][41]

Czech Republic[edit]

  • Radiobus – has operated across the country since 2004. Since 2011, it has been part of the general public transport system to supplement the existing system during times of low demand. It uses fixed timetables, but vehicles only operate when called by passenger.[42]
  • DHD – has operated since 2003. Its primary purpose was for collecting workers from sparsely-populated rural areas. DHD provides bookings and administrative support, however, the buses themselves are operated by several local transport companies.[43]



Public transport authority in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik and the surrounding municipalities. Manages public bus transport and disabled transport, but does not have its own vehicles. About 1300 enquiries and thousand trips a day. Uses 60 vehicles and 10–20 more for school transport for children with special needs. For more see


Following some pioneering DRT schemes implemented in the 1980s, a second wave of systems were launched from the mid 1990s. There are now DRT schemes in urban and peri-urban areas as well as in rural communities. Operated by both public transport companies and private service providers, the DRT schemes are offered either as intermediate collective transport services for generic users or as schemes for specific user groups. DRT schemes operate in major cities including Rome, Milan, Genoa, Florence, and in several mid- to small-size towns including Alessandria, Aosta, Cremona, Livorno, Mantova, Parma, Empoli, Siena, and Sarzana.

  • AllôBus and AllôNuit, demand-responsive transport service in Aosta/Aoste
  • DrinBus, demand-responsive transport service in Genoa[54]
  • 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 Milan


More than 200 of the 1700 local governments in Japan have introduced DRT public transport services.


  • Flexibus – several Flexibus services operate in different parts of the country. The system operates on the basis of passengers calling a central point from which optimal routes for the vehicles are calculated.[55]
  • Kussbus – private door-to-door bus service primarily for commuter purposes.[56]


The first ever demand-responsive transport scheme in Poland – called Tele-Bus – has been operated since 2007 in Krakow by MPK, the local public transport company (see also Tramways in Krakow).[57][58]


Regional transport authority in Västra Götaland in southwestern Sweden is responsible for all public transport and for transport offers to citizens with special needs. This is an example of DRT used for people with special needs (paratransit).[59]


DRT services have operated in some sparsely populated areas (under 100 p/km2) since 1995. PostBus Switzerland Ltd, the national post company, has operated a DRT service called PubliCar, formerly also Casa Car.[60]

United Kingdom[edit]

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.[61] 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.[61] Some services such as LinkUp only pick up passengers at 'meeting points', but can set down at the passenger's destination.

Previously to that, the then Greenwich Association of the Disabled had developed a prototype service, GAD-About, which offered pre-booked door-to-door transport for its members, inspired by similar minibus usage in Church and youth clubs. That was then cloned as an easily-scalable module, under the aegis of London Transport, to become the Dial-a-Ride service launched as part of TFL's general services, rather than as a bus service.

United States[edit]

Dial a Ride in New Jersey, 1974
Minibuses operating on SafeRides, an overnight demand-responsive service operated by the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District in Champaign and Urbana, Illinois

The large majority of 1,500 rural systems in the US provide demand-response service; there are also about 400 urban DRT systems.[67]






New York[edit]

North Carolina


South Carolina[edit]


Washington State[edit]

Washington DC[edit]

See also[edit]


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