We’re still learning about demand-responsive transit, says Klumpenhouwer

Dr. Willem Klumpenhouwer, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Transit Analytics Lab, presented “Talking Demand-Responsive Transit in Canada: Effective, or Exaggerated?” on November 27, 2020.

Even though demand-responsive transit has been around for years, Klumpenhouwer says we are still learning. For transit, there is a spectrum of services that range from ride-hailing, ride-sharing, on-demand transit, to fixed-route transit. Demand-responsive transit services cover ride-sharing and on-demand transit, services that respond in real-time.

One major criticism of demand-responsive transit is lower productivity than fixed routes. This is acceptable if there are other main goals of the service besides ridership, cost, or productivity. Furthermore, demand-response critic Graham Currie analyzed a world-wide look at demand-responsive/micro-transit systems, and saw that most fail in the long run. However, services like this give people more access to transit, more frequently and help people move around.

Klumpenhouwer’s project was a survey of the state of practice of transit in Canada, where he questioned stakeholders in transit agencies like municipality and province services. Many stakeholders seemed to focus on inputs like jobs created and looked at outputs like productivity. However, Klumpenhouwer says what really matters are outcomes like improved mobility, lower congestion, cleaner air, healthier public, and stronger economy.

Presentation abstract

Demand-responsive transit, on-demand transit, microtransit.

Adding technology-powered flexibility to transit service is not a new concept, but with smartphones in (almost) every pocket and the emergence of cloud-based applications, a huge number of new on-demand transit services are being piloted in Canada.

Many politicians, planners, and operators have looked to on-demand transit as a potential cost-saving measure, or to deliver more efficient service to sparse suburban or rural regions of a city.

head shot of Willem Klumpenhouwer
Dr. Willem Klumpenhouwer

Dr. Willem Klumpenhouwer is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Transit Analytics Lab.

He studies passenger rail and urban transit performance analytics and emerging technologies. He holds a PhD in Transportation Engineering from the University of Calgary and a bachelor’s degree in Theoretical Physics from the University of Guelph.

In addition to his work as a transit researcher and advocate, he enjoys data visualization projects, and performing improvised theatre.

Presented by University of Toronto ITE Student Chapter, UT-ITE.

Related content