On Demand Public Transport – Cities Of The Future

On demand public transport is transforming the way we travel. In fact, the on demand app economy is changing and disrupting the world!

Back in 2021 we discussed the rise of on demand apps, and post covid we are continuing to see more and more industries succeed in this space including real estate, recruitment and healthcare. 

In this article, however, we are focusing on on demand public transport; Transport is fundamental to our society and the country’s economy. By creating an effective, fully functioning transport system a city can improve access to jobs, ease road congestion and facilitate wider business opportunities between consumers and suppliers.

Covid has presented many challenges and opportunities over the last 2 years and travel is certainly one of them. Urban mobility trends have changed dramatically as a result of continued social distancing and working from home and studies suggest that people are not only choosing to travel outside standard peak times to avoid large crowds but actually changing their methods of transport altogether. 

There is now a real shift in the way people are choosing to travel and commute around cities and during the first wave of Covid, Melbourne experienced a more than 70% reduction in public transport use across all models.

This coupled with regional internal migration and the exodus from larger capital cities has provided an opportunity for emerging technologies and emerging transport in the forms of ride sharing, shared mobility and autonomous vehicles.   

Unsurprisingly, rideshare king – Uber, has already expanded, offering Uber Transit and Uber Freight, providing on demand options in both public transport and logistics.

On Demand Public Transport – how does it work?

On demand public transport, allows passengers to book their journeys at a time convenient to them via an app to be collected at an agreed location. Also known as DRT (demand responsive transport) this solves the first and last mile connectivity issues which are a significant problem in urban mobility.

First and last mile connectivity issues are related to the distance a commuter has to travel from a transit stop to their final destination or vice versa. This can particularly affect those with mobility needs, and those who live in lower density populated areas, where transit options are few and far between.

On demand public transport eliminates this problem by delivering travellers closer to their required destination at a time pre-planned by them. 

Many countries have seen success with on demand public transport and now Australia is following suit, embracing new and innovative solutions.

Helsinki originally had success with on-demand bus service, Kutsuplus “mobility on demand” in 2013, This service put people travelling in the same direction together on a minibus, this service was more efficient than traditional buses and cheaper than a taxi. 

Unfortunately the service was only available for 3 years and the company’s final reports concluded that the yes the pilot had been a success but unfortunately the ‘ the municipalities did not grant the funding for the proposed capacity increase in the challenging economic situation”

There are now hundreds of on demand public transport services operating globally – 

MOIA is an initiative between the city of Hamburg and Volkswagen and is currently operating in Hamburg, offering the option to share a ride with up to 5 people who want to travel in the same direction.

Ubigo is operating in Stockholm, and combines public transport, car sharing, rental car services and taxi in one app. For payment, the traveller can choose a mobility subscription.

DiDi Bus hopes to help improve the percentage people choose to take public transport in cities by offering bus routes and shuttles available on demand. 

Closer to home in Australia, the success of the ponds services in NSW has demonstrated that on demand public transport can assist with economic benefits including reduction in emissions and socio-economic benefits within the community with the following statistics:

55% of passengers made the same journey by private car previously. Half of these passengers were single car users driving and parking at or near the station.

13% of individuals stated in a recent survey they would not have made the journey if they did not have access to the OnDemand service

By 2050 it is expected that Queensland’s population will have grown to 8 million people placing significant stress on our transport system. So city leaders should act now to prepare years ahead to ensure their cities are able to continue running efficiently.

Locally on the Gold Coast, Translink on demand is currently being trialled and is now the city’s newest mode of public transport. Operating 7 days per week in Nerang, Highland Park and Pacific Pines, This 2 year trial aims to improve public transport in Northern areas of the Gold Coast where regular services are not as readily available.

In addition to this The City of Gold Coast and RACQ are trialling driverless buses for a 12 month period in Main Beach to improve connectivity to transit stops.

What are the benefits of on demand public transport?

There are numerous benefits of on demand public transport within the community, apart from reducing the amount of cars on the road, cities can run more efficiently making them more attractive to tourists and more “liveable”


On demand public transport eliminates the fixed route, fixed schedule model and offers people more freedom to travel at the times convenient to them, which is an advantage for those with no drivers licence or regular access to a car.  


On demand public transport offers a connection between smaller towns and larger metropolitan areas creating better access to jobs, education and opportunities, particularly in less densely populated areas where public transport is not as easily accessible. 


As mentioned earlier, the benefit of on demand public transport is the reduction of carbon emissions and air pollution caused by single occupancy vehicles and buses and trains which are at low capacity. On demand public transport is a much more sustainable alternative.


Safety is a huge plus when it comes to this type of transport, not only does it accommodate the more vulnerable members of the community including the elderly and disabled but eradicates the “stranger danger” felt by parents of young adolescents and solo travelling females late at night.

Transporting cities into the future

As more cities worldwide embrace the latest in technology and new solutions in answer to urban mobility issues. On demand transport whether public or private will be the future of transit.

According to research the on demand transportation market will hit $340 billion by 2030. This is a market which also consists of on demand logistics, freight and fuel delivery. 

Whilst the on demand public transport options are currently government run, we are seeing a trend in partnerships with key players in these industries and further initiatives being outsourced to private operators. 

As technology advances, the transport industry is being transformed, 6.64 billion people have access to smartphones and so the gap between consumer and transport reduces considerably.

Transport decisions made by city leaders today will have effects on the economic prosperity, quality of life and tourism well into the future.

Final Thoughts

The evolution of transport dates back to horse and cart, the invention of the wheel and even the chasqui runners of the inca empire. We as a society have continued to invent, evolve and adapt. 

We are currently in an era where technology has a vast impact on our everyday lives which now includes the way we travel and navigate our cities. If we as citizens and leaders embrace the change, think where we may be in another 100 years!

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