A new form of public transport has launched today in Sutton, with the start of a 12-month 'on-demand' bus trial. Using mobile and predictive technology, GoSutton is aimed at finding out whether flexible demand responsive transport services can play a role in boosting public transport use.
Sutton was chosen as the trial location as it has high car use and has been difficult to serve with traditional public transport. The borough has 24 well-used bus routes and 9 railway stations.
However, due to its relatively low housing density and its historic development planned around people using private transport, TfL claim that it has not always been practical to run a dedicated bus service in certain areas.
This trial aims to explore how creative methods, like demand responsive travel, can add to the traditional bus network, improve the links with existing public transport and reduce car usage.
The fully accessible buses, which can seat up to 14 people, all have USB charging points and free WiFi on board. They will operate in a defined area, rather than following a linear route.
Customers travelling on the new buses will be able to book a seat in real time using the GoSutton app, or on the phone. The system will be powered by advanced algorithms, which enable multiple passengers to seamlessly share a single vehicle.
The technology directs passengers to a nearby 'virtual bus stop' for pick-up and drop-off, and then routes the vehicle in real-time, allowing for what is claimed to be quick and efficient shared trips without lengthy detours.
Michael Hurwitz, TfL's Director of Transport Innovation, said: 'We are growing the bus network in outer London, as well as improving the capital's Tube and rail service, but we also need to innovate and explore new ways of encouraging people out of their cars and onto more sustainable forms of transport.
'This trial will help us determine whether a more flexible, on-demand bus service complementing traditional routes could help us achieve the goal of making our streets better places for everyone.'
Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: 'On-demand buses are an innovative new form of public transport designed to be even more convenient, particularly in areas of outer London where it can be harder to get around.
'This trial will help us determine whether expanding demand responsive technology can reduce car use and help clean up our toxic air.'
Image: Transport for London