UK Study: Variable Price and Attribute Transport System Could Replace Existing Bus and Taxi Services
A study by UK researchers concluded that a Variable Price and Attribute Transport System (VPATS) could, in principle, replace existing bus and taxi services while offering higher productivity, a higher level of service, and a lower level of subsidy. Given that taxis are among the highest emitters of carbon dioxide per passenger-kilometer, higher productivity would mean lower environmental costs.
VPATS is not a new transport mode as such, but is envisioned as a more efficient, technology-based way of delivering a range of transport modes. VPATS differs from existing, operating Demand Response Transport (DRT) services in that the same vehicle (or pool of vehicles) is used to offer a range of types of services, differentiated by price. Demand for specific services is expected to reflect willingness to pay, and the offer of a wide range of bundles within the same operating structure could attract a wide range of travellers to the one system.
Some of the attributes of different service bundles could include:
The extent of pre-booking versus immediacy of availability;
The extent of sharing versus exclusive use (which will affect journey time and directness as well as more subjective factors such as personal space/privacy); and
Specification of the vehicle (image, seating quality, air conditioning etc.)
The broad aims of the study were to: test the hypothesis that higher-technology, more flexible approaches to transport provision would better meet the needs of the travelling public, including the travel poor; consider the operational feasibility of any alternative transport systems, particularly in terms of resource costs; and consider feasibility more generally, including any specific implications for the travel poor.
Travel poverty is not solely defined by limitations on disposable income and exclusion from the use of transport services on the grounds of price, but also on factors such as time available for travel and availability of the services themselves.
The VPATS philosophy is to incorporate as many existing assets as possible within the VPATS environment, alongside new market entrants, new types of transport service, and new transport modes.
Key barriers or challenges to the implementation of a VPATS system would include:
Integration with existing travel systems and infrastructure;
Institutional arrangements; and
Monitoring and management.
The study authors—from the University of the West of England and Loughborough University—conclude that VPATS is likely to evolve over a period of time, in both terms of modes of operation and scale of operation.
A likely starting point is the extension of existing taxi modes into a higher-productivity, shared taxi system.
Texxi. One example of a service headed in this direction is start-up Texxi in the UK. (Earlier post.) Texxi developed a system that collates requests for point-to-point travel from a dispersed set of travellers via SMS (they text-message by cellphone their destination postcode to the system), and then packages travellers going in the same direction into one vehicle at a discounted fare.