DRT challenges - getting people on the bus

At Shotl, we’re often asked what the greatest challenges are in getting people to accept our model of flexible, demand-responsive transit. Or, to put it another way, which users are the hardest to get on the bus? The answer may surprise you.

Ask most people in the mobility sector this question and you’ll get the same answer: the elderly. This is understandable, considering older generations tend to be resistant to change, nervous about uncertainty, slow to adopt new ideas and frequently challenged by new technology like Shotl’s ride-booking app (and that’s if they own a smartphone at all).

However, if you put prejudice aside and look at our user profile, a different picture emerges. Shotl’s ideal passengers are those who need to get around but don’t have an easy alternative to public transport. Also, flexible, on-demand transport is perfect for short local trips outside of peak hours, or when you can’t or don’t want to wait a long time or walk very far to the nearest stop.

And who fits this user profile and needs? That’s right, the elderly. Free to move around when it suits them, they still need to access local services but may no longer be able to drive themselves. So, far from being reticent about on-demand, we find they are crying out for solutions like ours. As for the technology, they always seem to find a way around it, like asking a neighbor or family member to make bookings for them.

In our experience, it’s actually car owners who present the greatest challenges. For habitual drivers —who take the car to go everywhere and do everything— public transport, no matter how convenient, can never rival the convenience and personal comfort of the car.

So how do we tackle this more challenging group? Well, it starts with making life easier for non-drivers and those who don’t really need their car. For example, improving the public transport experience for young people helps shape habits and thinking before they buy their first car. If we do a really good job, we may even delay that purchase for a few years, if not indefinitely.

Having good on-demand services also means there’s a viable alternative in place for habitual drivers on days when they can’t use the car, like when it’s in the shop for repairs. If we can show these occasional passengers that on-demand is easy to use, economical and convenient, hopefully they may stop and think about whether they really need a new car when the time comes to trade in the old one.

At the end of the day, there is no silver bullet to influence behavior and preconceptions. Pandemics and emergencies aside, habits change slowly, bit by bit. Therefore, mobility providers must chip away at the convenience of car ownership with measures like parking restrictions, congestion charges, etc. while simultaneously providing viable, game-changing public transport alternatives.

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