May 14, 2014

Feeder systems can unlock rural public transport potential

Shuttle services, park-and-ride and bike-and-ride services and pedestrian footpaths are among the tributary transport systems that can turn a weak rural bus or train line into a vital transport artery. This is the premise of the newly launched EC transport project SmartMove.

Public transport in rural areas faces tremendous challenges: the rising average age of rural inhabitants and their falling numbers are driving down public transport use, resulting in fewer public transport lines and a less frequent service. It’s a vicious circle.

One way to adapt scarce public transport resources to user needs is to build effective feeder systems to get people to public transport stops.

SmartMove, an EC-funded project being carried out in eight rural regions in Europe, starts by identifying existing feeder systems that can be better tailored to user needs.

SmartMove defines feeder systems as all the different ways to link inhabitants with their region’s backbone public transport system, usually a bus or train network or a combination of the two. SmartMove focuses mainly on suburban and rural areas, which the project defines as areas where most people have to travel some distance to reach basic services (school, workplaces, shops etc.).

The analysis of existing feeder systems considers two criteria:

  1. The means of transportation used: buses, bicycles, pedelecs, taxis, cars or walking – basically all means of transport, public and private, motorised and non-motorised.
  2. The degree of flexibility that public transport offers with respect to route, schedule and target users, and whether door-to-door services are offered.

Feeder public transport systems fall into three categories:

  1. Fixed-route transport systems in which vehicles run along an established path at pre-set times.
  1. Demand-responsive systems, consisting of smaller or medium-sized vehicles that have flexible routes and scheduling and can pick up and drop off passengers according to their wishes.
  1. Hybrid/flexible systems, which combine characteristics of the above.

Selecting the most suitable solution that best fits particular local conditions may be a tricky task – and this is exactly where SmartMove can help. Work has already begun on collecting European experiences, describing each mobility service in an easy-to-understand manner, and then trying them out in practice.

To learn more about public transport feeder systems, please watch the video “Keynote presentation 2: Feeder systems” from the project’s first training seminar.

Photo source: Budapest Transport Centre