On-demand bus service as a solution beyond urban spaces
Since late June 2019, the Kreisverkehrsgesellschaft Offenbach (kvgOF) has offered the on-demand bus service kvgOF Hopper, based on the technology of door2door, as part of the local public transport system. In the long term, the new digital service is intended to replace the existing call and collect taxi service and further enhance mobility in and between local municipalities. The new uniform and flexible public transport service will aid some 350,000 residents and employees in the Offenbach district in the long run. During the first six months of operation, more than 43,000 passengers have already been transported in the eastern district.
Better mobility between municipalities in the Offenbach district
Within the framework of the local transport plan in force since 2016, the district of Offenbach decided on consistent management of regular buses on the main routes in order to create fast and dense connections in the thirteen municipalities. The increasingly important provision of local public transport within the individual neighbourhoods and municipalities also played an important role in the local transport plan. Important contact points such as the local medical centre, public institutions and the weekly farmers’ market in Seligenstadt needed to be quickly and easily accessible for all citizens.
A call and collect taxi service model, in which passengers can get on and off at stops on a fixed route on demand, already filled existing gaps in the bus service. However, the system lacked the desired flexibility and public awareness. The call and collect taxi service lines were managed by different operators. This hindered the existence of a comprehensive and uniform service that was easy to use.
The new digitalized service offered the opportunity to take the changing mobility requirements of citizens in cities and municipalities into account and provide them with flexible, state-of-the-art local transport. These considerations led to an order from the district council for the Kreisverkehrsgesellschaft Offenbach (kvgOF) to introduce an on-demand bus service in December 2017.
A clear goal in mind
As a result of changing mobility needs, kvgOF saw an opportunity to restructure supplementary transport services, replace the existing call and collect taxi system and reduce motorized commuter traffic in the Offenbach district. kvgOF set itself the goal of introducing an on-demand bus pilot project that would serve local public transport needs within the municipalities. At the same time, it could be used as a feeder service on the public transport axis to and from Frankfurt. The aim was to create an area-based service without fixed routes or timetables on demand in real time. Rides would need to be requested and booked via a smartphone app, thereby providing key data and billing information.
In the long term, a digital service from a single source will be offered throughout the district using the same software. door2door was chosen as the software partner not only for its proven technology, but also its ability to implement a digital local transport concept over the long term. The pilot project was divided into four phases and areas within the district so that experiences and findings could be incorporated into each successive implementation step. For the first phase, kvgOF selected the eastern district around Seligenstadt, Hainburg and Mainhausen with connections to Hanau and its 45,000 citizens.
Being independent of the automotive industry and large corporations in the mobility industry, door2door has unrestricted autonomy in its efforts to make public transport even better, more flexible and more future-proof. This culture was and will remain an important facet of our DNA.
Dr. Günther Lamperstorfer
Chairman of the door2door Advisory Board
From idea to implementation
In early 2018 kvgOF Managing Director Andreas Maatz was looking for a partner with the clear goal of introducing the planned bus-on-demand in the Offenbach district and completely redesigning the classic call and collect taxi system. The need for a collaborative partnership to implement a modern, digital and flexible local transport concept for the Offenbach district quickly became clear. The door2door CONSULTING SERVICES TEAM started planning the operating concept for the first phase and also carried out a mobility analysis of the local conditions of the district. The data-based comparison of supply and demand, together with the local expertise of kvgOF, made it possible to create an efficient operating area and suitable operating times for the new on-demand bus offer. In order to identify the best starting scenario and scope for the new service, simulations were carried out based on previously determined factors such as the expected number of bookings, fleet size and number of bookable seats, and various scenarios were run through. Using the data obtained, the team developed an operational concept as the basis for the new on-demand bus service within a span of just six months. In February 2019 the supervisory board approved the implementation of the first phase with an operating area including Seligenstadt, Hainburg and Mainhausen.
Roll-out in just 12 weeks
After developing the operating concept with all key parameters, the new service entered the introduction phase. As project lead, Theresa Mayer of door2door was responsible for the smooth implementation of the individual project phases from the product concept to the successful start of operations. On the basis of the collaborative project plan, she coordinated individual work steps with the corresponding specialist departments at kvgOF and ensured the successful start of operations. In particular, the involvement of local stakeholders such as city councils and mayors of the individual municipalities played a decisive role in the smooth implementation of the project. By providing comprehensive support and an intensive exchange of information on site, door2door ensured that the new service was adapted to local needs and thus optimally complemented the existing local public transport service.
When selecting the vehicles, kvgOF considered factors such as electromobility, accessibility, space and comfort and finally decided on a fleet of Mercedes Vito vehicles as well as electric LEVC vehicles, better known as the “London Taxi“. In May 2019, kvgOF commissioned MWM-Solutions GmbH from Berlin for the vehicles, initially for one year and subsequently with an extension until the end of 2020. kvgOF provided the necessary driving personnel and rented appropriate premises as the dispatch centre and fleet garage in Mainhausen-Zellhausen. After a successful training phase with the drivers and numerous field tests, the entire project team was on site to supervise the introduction of the new on-demand bus service. In a collaborative partnership, the entire service was implemented in just 12 weeks.
During my time as project lead at kvgOF in Dietzenbach, there was no “us” or “them”. We were a team. Together we mastered the challenges and shared the excitement about the Hopper’s successful launch. It’s a nice memory to think back on.
Project Lead door2door
Brand development and positioning
In order to establish itself successfully on the market and achieve a strong recognition value, the new on-demand bus offer needed a memorable name and its own branding. In this area, door2door also brought in its expertise. After intensive research and market analysis, it developed a brand concept that gave the service its own identity while visually capturing the character of the region.
The district of Offenbach is often referred to as a “big city in the countryside”. Characteristic of this are the local oaks and forest animals. The squirrel as a symbol linked the new service with agility and flexibility and was the inspiration for the name “Hopper” and the corresponding design. The newly developed brand was implemented in the Passenger app, on the vehicles and in marketing applications such as the Hopper website.
The Offenbach district council invites tenders
for implementation of a 2-year on-demand
bus pilot project
First contact between kvgOF and door2door
and partner selection
Official project start:
Operating concept workshop in Dietzenbach
The operating concept is finalized
The Supervisory Board approves launch
of the pilot project for phase 1 (eastern district)
Product concept workshop
and Hopper brand development
Test phase starts
Official start of operation after
of Telephone Booking Service
Implementation of PayPal payments
and pre-booking function
The bus that runs for you
The name kvgOF Hopper playfully communicates the concept of the on-demand bus service: “The bus that runs for you: quickly and flexibly arrive at the desired destination with the Hopper”. Within just a short time, the Hopper has become a common term around the eastern district. Residents from Seligenstadt, Hainburg and Mainhausen have “hopped” to the supermarket, to the doctor’s office or to nearby railway stations. The branding has helped the Hopper become more visible and simultaneously increased its degree of popularity.
Every detail of the name and branding was thought out in detail. This was a decisive step for the successful start of the new service. door2door’s previous experience in the field of on-demand buses – coupled with creative talent and an eye for detail – meant that our vehicles have not only become an absolute eye-catcher; “hopping” has even become the latest lingo throughout the eastern district.
Quality, Operations, Customer Information kvgOF
How the Hopper works
Passengers desiring a ride simply enter the start and destination points into the Hopper app. Close to their doorsteps, passengers are taken in groups of maximum seven people per vehicle on the automatically calculated ideal route to the desired destination points. Both passenger and driver are shown the optimal start and destination points on the corresponding app displays. The route as well as all entering and exiting passengers can be tracked in real time by dispatchers in the control centre. The Hopper app manages user data and automatically handles the payment process. The app also includes a function that enables wheelchair users to book an accessible vehicle.
The new digital offer has quickly enjoyed growing popularity and been continually developed based on customer feedback and operational experience. Just two months after operations began, new features were implemented for the Hopper. In order to address even more customers and to facilitate access for users without a smartphone, kvgOF also implemented Telephone Booking in mid-August 2019. Since then, users have been able to order rides by landline to dispatchers at the control centre in Mainhausen. Since August, the Passenger app also offers a feedback function. This provides kvgOF with valuable feedback for further improvements to the new service. In the future, parameters such as waiting and detour times will continue to be checked in the app in order to optimize availability and capacity and thus vehicle productivity.
At the end of 2019, kvgOF conducted a survey on user satisfaction and behaviour. In addition to a good deal of positive feedback, users expressed the wish to pre-book rides and pay via PayPal. kvgOF evaluated the customer requests and implemented both functions together with door2door in early 2020. Since then, passengers have been able to book a trip in advance, specifying the desired pick-up or arrival time. In the future, this function will offer users even more planning security to meet deadlines and, especially for commuters, to reliably reach trains at central transfer points.
Future plans for Offenbach
After the successful first phase, in which more than 43,000 passengers were transported in the eastern district during the first eight months of operation, the second phase is to continue in autumn 2020 to include the central-north area with Mühlheim, Heusenstamm and Obertshausen. In the area with 72,000 inhabitants, an operation with 15 vehicles will be introduced 24 hours a day from Monday to Sunday. The existing city bus and call and collect taxi lines will be replaced by the Hopper, as is already the case in the eastern district. The fleets can also be successively expanded to achieve the long-term goal of replacing private cars and changing mobility habits sustainably, step by step. The aim is to introduce the on-demand service throughout the district by the end of 2021, thereby making it available to all 350,000 citizens of the Offenbach district. The innovative measures in the pilot project are being supported by the Federal State of Hesse with up to one million euros from October 2018 until the end of 2021. In December last year, kvgOF received start-up financing from the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure for the next four years for the continuation and expansion of the project.
Our customers love the Hopper and always bring new ideas to us. Together with door2door, we learn from these new wishes and work on continuously optimizing our service.
Managing Director, kvgOF
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