Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen AG (SSB), the principal public transport operating company in Stuttgart, will launch the SSB Flex mobility service on 1 June 2018. (Earlier post.) SSB Flex will pool similar journey requests in three areas to provide additional, more flexible journey options in certain high-traffic areas or at specific times in order to supplement the existing transportation services offered.
SSB will be deploying a fleet of 10 vehicles: Mercedes-Benz V-Class sedans with five seats in the rear and 2 Mercedes-Benz B-Class vehicles with electric drive and three seats in the rear. All of the vehicles are clearly labeled with the yellow and white SSB Flex logo. SSB vehicle drivers are either specially trained Flex drivers or SSB bus drivers who have received additional training.
The SSB Flex mobility service gives customers a flexible, on-demand and tailored way to book journeys using the SSB Flex app. SSB Flex is the first on-demand service in Germany approved by the Stuttgart Regional Council as a regular passenger service under the German Passenger Transportation Act (Personenbeförderungsgesetz – PBefG).
SSB Flex will be offered from Monday to Saturday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and also from Thursday to Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. the following day in large sections of Bad Cannstatt and Degerloch. Both service areas are currently underserved in parts by the local public transportation network. SSB Flex will also be available in the Stuttgart city center every Thursday to Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. the following day.
These are times when trains, buses, and trams run less frequently in the city center. For this reason, SSB will offer SSB Flex as a supplemental mode of public transportation in what are known as transportation “blank spots” and during off-peak times.
We want to complement our existing bus and train service with flexible, customer-oriented solutions. We can then fill the gaps, both in time and location. The goal is to have ever more citizens choosing public transportation.—Wolfgang Arnold, Chief Technical Officer and spokesperson for Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen
Anyone can use SSB Flex: they simply need to download the SSB Flex app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store onto their smartphone. Customers can save their personal information and payment details in the app. Flex trips can be paid via the app with a credit card or PayPal. When a customer uses the SSB Flex app, the app locates the passenger and shows them possible connections to their destination. Alongside SSB Flex, the app also includes possible connections with the other means of public transportation in the VVS area, which allows it to show the user all possible combinations together with the cost of each and the estimated timing. The passenger has a minute to choose their preferred option (the app displays the elapsing time) and purchase their ticket for the journey with SSB using the SSB Flex app.
After booking, the app shows the passengers where the Flex vehicle will pick them up and how they can get there quickly on foot. After the booking procedure, the app shows the license plate number of the vehicle booked. The driver of the Flex vehicle also receives the information of how to reach the pickup point, the customer name, and how many passengers will be waiting there. The Flex vehicle arrives, the passengers board, then disembark at the predetermined drop-off point close to their destination. If passengers are already sharing the trip or more passengers register while under way, further stops will be added or the route adjusted. The fare is paid via the SSB Flex app.
SSB Flex thus offers additional intermodal trips in Stuttgart on the basis of the multimodal app. Passengers can use SSB Flex to reach the nearest public transportation stop easily, to avoid an interchange, or to take a more direct or earlier journey.
Holders of VVS day or season tickets can enter the public transportation zones for which their tickets are valid into the SSB Flex app. If the ticket is valid for the time and area where they want to use SSB Flex, the fare will be lowered by around €1. The ticket is valid for the part of the trip traveled using VVS public transportation. SSB Flex users can book trips not just for themselves, but for up to four other passengers. If several passengers use SSB Flex for one booking, the fare is reduced for each passenger. The fare is dependent on the route, the number of passengers in a group, and the VVS ticket entered. An adult can book short trips with SSB Flex from €2.20. Children travel from €1.80.
The SSB Flex app is based on the moovel on-demand platform’s algorithm, which intelligently pools journey requests to enable ridesharing. To ensure that users can get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, the travel routes are continually calculated and updated taking into account the latest real-time traffic data and information from the public transportation network. Furthermore, the anticipated demand is estimated so that the fleet can be managed proactively.
If other people want to take a similar route, the system pools the requests so that multiple passengers can share a single vehicle despite having different pickup and drop-off points. If a passenger decides to use SSB Flex for a portion of their journey, they are picked up within walking distance of their current location. The algorithm lets Flex drivers see where they need to pick up or drop off passengers, how many passengers they need to pick up or drop off, and the route they need to take to the next stop.
The locations where the vehicles pick up passengers are controlled by the algorithm, which uses virtual routes and stops to determine the route the vehicle will take. This means that passengers cannot spontaneously board a passing Flex vehicle or request to be dropped off at a different location. They also cannot be picked up from their location on request or driven directly to their destination, but rather are guided by the app to a pickup location that is a short walk away and brought to a drop-off point close to their destination.
As is the case with a bus or train, the SSB Flex vehicle cannot wait for passengers at the pickup point. The point of contact for SSB Flex passengers and drivers is the Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen AG control center.
We want to offer customer- and needs-oriented, modern public transportation. For this, we use digital innovations for economical mobility solutions.—Stefanie Haaks, Commercial Director at Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen
SSB has received a permit from the Stuttgart Regional Council (Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart) that allows and enables them to operate SSB Flex under passenger transport regulations, which also apply to regular bus services. This permit is the first of its kind for this type of transport. The Stuttgart Regional Council is thus demonstrating its openness to innovative transport models. This makes SSB the first provider of on-demand, ridesharing, and pooling services in Germany with a permit for passenger transportation in accordance with the German Passenger Transportation Act.
The service is made possible by SSB’s close partnership with moovel. moovel’s contribution to the partnership is its moovel on-demand platform, which has been successfully tested as Flex Pilot in Stuttgart since December 2017. SSB Flex will also initially be piloted until end of 2019.
Results of pilot operation. The moovel Group’s Flex Pilot has served as the preparation for the launch of the on-demand service offered by Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen AG. moovel has been testing the service on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays since 14 December 2017. The pilot phase ends on 26 May 2018. More than 20,000 passengers have used the mobility service for free during the test phase. Flex Pilot proved to be a particularly attractive transportation option late at night when the buses, trains, and trams run less frequently. In April, the pilot phase expanded to parts of Bad Cannstatt and Degerloch in addition to the city center business area. This allowed SSB and moovel to continually develop the system and add intermodal routing.
The positive customer feedback regarding Flex Pilot and the number of passengers who used the service exceeded our expectations. Now we are handing the reins over to SSB. We are pleased to continue working together with SSB to develop SSB Flex in the future so that we can offer customers the best possible service. We feel confident that multimodal platforms and flexible, on-demand mobility solutions will help to encourage the switch to public transport.—Daniela Gerd tom Markotten, CEO of moovel Group GmbH
moovel on-demand is comprised of a variety of components: There’s the app for the driver, which optimally guides them through the business area by taking the latest traffic information into account. The customers have access to the passenger app, which makes it easy for them to find the right route and book their tickets. The underlying system uses intelligent algorithms to efficiently pool journey requests and also incorporate and combine different mobility options. This makes intermodal routing easy. The operator dashboard can be seamlessly integrated into the transit authority’s existing control center and was developed by moovel in close collaboration with Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen AG. This allows the moovel Group to offer a comprehensive system that can quickly and efficiently supplement existing public transportation networks.
moovel Group GmbH develops solutions that make it easier for passengers to access and use urban mobility services and that encourage people to switch to public transportation. Over time, multimodal platforms that make it possible to integrate a variety of mobility services will become increasingly important. The moovel Group, with locations in Stuttgart, Hamburg, Berlin, and Portland, USA, serves over 4.5 million customers. In the first quarter of 2018, more than 6 million transactions were completed using moovel apps.