- Start date: 4 September 2023
- End date: 3 September 2026
- Funder: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
- Principal investigator: Professor Rym M’Hallah, Faculty of Natural, Mathematical and Engineering Sciences, King’s College London
- Co-investigators: Professor Julia Bennell, Leeds University Business School, University of Leeds; Dr Chiara Calastri, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds; Professor Christine Currie, School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Southampton.
Sustainable transport is central to sustainable development, providing access to work, vital services, leisure, friends and family while enabling safe mobility at a reduced environmental impact. Providing affordable and flexible transport can reduce inequalities and empower those less able to access work and urban life. Effective transport is central to building a fairer society and low-carbon transport is central to a sustainable future.
While many are fortunate to have access to a car, private mobility has a high carbon footprint due to the manufacturing, use, storage and disposal of vehicles. Private cars spend 96% of their time idle and are responsible for 60.7% of total CO2 emissions from road transport. However, as a society, we are attached to the convenience and comfort of car ownership.
The project seeks to understand and build models for services that reduce CO2 emissions while mitigating societal loss. Moreover, it will support linking poorly served geographies and alleviating the challenges of the elderly and disabled to afford mobility.
This research proposes the development of the mathematical tools needed to deliver sustainable, flexible, shared mobility. The service is a hybrid of a bus and a taxi, where rides can be requested in a similar way to a taxi, while the vehicle may be servicing other customers simultaneously along the route. Specifically, this is known as a Demand Responsive Transport Service (DRTS).
This project is funded by the EPSRC. (Grant Ref: EP/X020835/1 – A scaled and sustainable demand-responsive transport service.)
In order to design a DRTS, the project needs to address a number of challenges.
The service needs to be attractive and meet customer requirements. We will undertake data collection from target demographics to understand preferences and attitudes towards shared mobility and the expectations around price and service quality.
The service needs to be efficient and scalable. We will design novel algorithms that optimise the routing and scheduling. Solving these large-scale, hard combinatorial optimisation problems, in real-time will enable a transformation of DRTS, part of the emerging sector of scaled shared transport solutions, encouraging increased take-up of shared mobility. Similar services, such as Dial-a-Ride, exist to meet specific needs but they are reduced in scope and heavily subsidized by local councils and the Department for Transport. They lack route planning flexibility and cannot manage high demand.
Financially sustainable across a wide range of routes. We will develop dynamic pricing models that will integrate with the scheduling and routing. Dynamic pricing will support incentivising more efficient scheduling and enable some subsidisation of less profitable routes.
At scale, with optimized dynamic pricing and routing, realistic demand forecasts, informed accurate behavioural models, and incentivised by policies that enhance their acceptance and induce voluntary behaviour changes, DRTS would be financially viable and more sustainable than private car use. The original transformative science in the form of efficient, complex optimization algorithms, and the rich understanding of preferences and attitudes towards shared mobility developed in this project will help enable DRTS to be both efficient and cost-effective; thus, promoting shared mobility and significantly reducing CO2 emission of local travel.
We anticipate that the project will:
Provide insights into behaviours and attitudes towards shared mobility and the service experience needed to incentivise car owners to use a DRT service
Develop effective scheduling and routing optimisation algorithms that can run in real-time and provide efficient schedules across a mixed fleet of vehicles.
Advance methodologies around integrating dynamic pricing into routing and scheduling services.
Deliver a large-scale simulation that can be used to test a wide range of user scenarios and support implementation decisions and understanding of investment scenarios and volume of demand required to make the service sustainable.
Inform transportation policy with respect to initiatives designed to reduce congestion and pollution in cities. For example, how to price clean air tariffs and parking charges.
On 21 November 2023, we will be running a workshop in Leeds to inform the scope and specification of the project. If you would like to attend and contribute your ideas, please RSVP to Alex Kliszcz (email@example.com) before Friday 10 November.
Purpose of the workshop:
This one-day workshop will inform the scope and specification of the project. Through engagement with a breadth of stakeholders, the workshop will explore current best practices, capture learning from previous and current DRT services, identify research priorities, and establish key measures of success.
• To devise a problem specification for large-scale demand responsive transport
• To determine key metrics for the project
• To gain an informed understanding of the state of shared services access across the UK
• To learn from the experiences of existing services or previous pilot schemes
What will the workshop deliver?
The findings from the workshop, along with relevant follow-up research, will provide a report on the best practice and key learnings. This will later be supplemented with an academic literature review identifying how research addresses the challenges and reflecting on where new research is required.
Benefits of taking part:
The workshop will include stakeholders from the government, local council, policymakers and software and transport providers. This will be an opportunity for participants to meet and network with key stakeholders in the DRT community, inform and advise on the direction for the project, with ongoing access to the researchers.
09.30 - 10.00 – Welcome with tea, coffee and pastries
10.00 - 10.05 – Introduction by Chair
10.05 - 10.20 – Introductions by attendees
10.20 - 10.50 – Introduction to project by research team (10 mins) + Q&A (20 mins)
10.50 - 11.00 – Break
11.00 - 12.30 – Plenary: Main themes and perspectives:
• state of shared services
• government perspective
• commercial providers’ perspective
• users' perspective (from the experience of an operator)
Followed by an open discussion to identify gaps, challenges and opportunities.
12.30 - 13.15 – Lunch
13.15 - 14.50 – Roundtable discussions:
• Defining problem specifications and key priorities for the project from a software point of view
• Defining problem specification and key priorities for the project from an operations point of view
• Metrics: how should the project be measured?
• How does DRT fit into the big picture and what/how might future innovations change how it operates?
14.50 - 15.20 – Feedback
15.20 - 15.30 – Sum up and close