Multimodal transportation: The role of Demand-Responsive Transport

Demand-Responsive Transport: A Key Component of Multimodal Transportation

Many of the less densely populated suburban areas choose not to implement public transportation rather than to see their buses do empty runs. This means that the people who live there have no other option but to rely on their personal vehicle to get about. Demand-responsive Transport (DRT) makes it possible to bring public transport to these locations and to take users to transportation hubs that already exist. To that end, DRT plays an important role in multimodal transportation. Let’s find out how.

What is Multimodal Transportation?

In more tangible terms, multimodal transportation – also called intermodal transport or combined transport – consists in bringing passengers or goods from one point to another by using at least two different means of transportation successively.

Although this notion used to encompass freight almost exclusively and aimed to optimise production and delivery costs until quite recently, it now also includes passengers. For instance, multimodal transportation could describe a person who takes the bus, then the plane, and then a cab to reach their holiday destination or a professional location. On a smaller scale, combined transport can even be implemented for short trips, such a home-work commute, by using the bus, the underground, the tramway, a car, the train…

Demand-Responsive Transport: an essential aspect of Multimodal Transportation

Demand-Responsive Transport represents a relevant offering where demand is sparse, be it in areas where there is little to no service, or at certain times of the day when fewer people need to use public transport. This is where it allows users to reach transportation hubs easily, thus inscribing itself within the framework of multimodal transportation.

Combining several means of transport to facilitate access to area-specific employment pools

Demand-Responsive Transport allows populations that reside in areas where the public transportation service is less dense to get to strategic places within the permanent networks. From there, people can reach their workplace by using a different mode of transport.

The practicality of DRT when it comes to facilitating access to an area’s employment pool is therefore obvious. It makes it possible to welcome potential employees who could not have reached these places otherwise. In addition, it contributes to reducing traffic on major corridors (motorways) used by commuters to drive to work.

Within the framework of multimodal transportation, Demand-Responsive Transport thus counts as a key actor in how businesses operate in an area.

transport multimodal

Improving traffic on major highways

By allowing travellers to reach the main public transportation hubs simply and easily, Demand-Responsive Transport contributes significantly to decreasing traffic on major highways. The very principle underlying DRT is indeed to group several users in a single vehicle.

By subscribing to a multimodal transportation approach, DRT also acts to promote quality road networks and to reduce any issues commonly associated with them (accidents, parking complications, lateness due to traffic jam…).

DRT: an efficient, affordable solution at the core of multimodal transportation

The main benefit of Demand-Responsive Transport is that it is inherently flexible. This means that it can adapt to the networks already in place. DRT does not require the installation of any additional equipment or dedicated infrastructure, which makes it extremely simple and cheap to implement.

Thus, each area can tailor their DRT offer to their own needs and constraints and allow passengers to reach various connection points, be it a bus terminal, a train station, an underground station, or even a tramway stop.

Whether it is extensive or relatively small, a DRT network can therefore be implemented very rapidly and can be worked into any wider public transportation network already in place. This gives DRT an important role to play in the development of a global offering. It becomes a key component in the network which it streamlines down to the very last mile.

A few exemples of how DRT serves Multimodal Transportation

How better to understand a service than by seeing concrete examples of it? To that end, we have compiled two real-life situations where implementing demand-responsive transport greatly contributed to promoting multimodal transportation.

Combining rail and road: getting to the train station using Demand-Responsive Transport

According to a study conducted in 2016 by the French transport regulatory authority (formerly known as Arafer), 90% of the French population lives within 6 miles of a train station. Thus, many French workers go to work by train every day. Although the network is sufficiently close-knit to meet the demand, the last few miles between the train station and their homes are where suburban and rural areas fall short.

There, public transport is seldom developed or even not at all and relying on a bicycle is not always feasible. This is why many commuters choose to favour their personal vehicle instead.

By arranging for public vehicles to pick up passengers at the time and place most convenient to them, DRT makes it possible to cover the first (and last) few miles that separate them from useful and reliable means of public transportation. Demand-responsive transport is therefore an integral part of multimodal transportation and broadens the existing public service offering.

Reaching larger train stations and public transportation hubs

What is true for train stations also stands as far as other axes of public transport are concerned: tramways, buses, cabs, underground… Demand-responsive transport can even allow users to access areas where sustainable transportation is developed. This enables them to reach bicycle or scooter rental stations, which is typically impossible right from their own residential area. Through multimodal transportation, DRT fulfils sustainability objectives and helps passengers reduce their CO2 emissions and contribute to environmental protection.


Padam Mobility offers demand-responsive transport solutions that inscribe themselves into the framework of transport multimodality. Simple, quick to implement and inexpensive all at once, Padam Mobility’s DRT can be implemented within existing networks easily and broadens transportation service offerings in suburban and rural areas.

ghita@padam.ioMultimodal transportation: The role of Demand-Responsive Transport
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