12.2. Share results and lessons learned
Hannover is the capital and largest city of the German state of Lower Saxony. It has 535,061inhabitants. In 2011, a larger scaled SUMP was adopted by the Region Hannover. The local SUMP for Hannover provides perspectives for transport and mobility until 2025 for the city, including an integrated action plan with several focuses (including, for example, the promotion of bicycle transport, the improvement of the transport situation in the inner city, a better mobility management and measures for transport safety).
The EcoBus service was a pilot project operating in the rural area of Bad Gandersheim from June until August 2018. It combined different routes with similar starts and destinations calculated by an algorithm. Passengers could request door to door rides within an area of 100 km², which comprised the railway hub of Kreiensen, thus ensuring good connections with longer-distant means of transport. The population served was around 14.000 inhabitants, with an average of 4 buses operating simultaneously, and with operating hours (daily 8 AM until 11 PM, Mon – Fri starting at 6 AM, Fri and Sat nights until 2 AM next day) that covered different mobility needs. The price was the same as for scheduled public line service and tickets for EcoBus were integrated with those for scheduled bus and train service. Booking was managed via app, internet or telephone, ensuring to be easily accessible by different target groups. Reservations could be made for spontaneous requests or hours ahead for the same day. The routes were calculated in real time so that the passenger received a confirmation only after a few seconds.
Lessons learned from this project are that reservations by phone are a considerable cost factor. The human factor is a big challenge (humans as passengers, drivers or call-center agents). Electronic maps must constantly be updated and adjusted. The realistic ratio between the number of EcoBuses and the service area is absolutely crucial. Also, the practice showed that demand responsive transit like EcoBus is not suitable for peak hours (especially school children traffic) and for long distance rides (> 10 km) as pooling and bus allocation becomes more and more difficult.
The pilot project was co-funded by the state of Lower Saxony and the European Union (ERDF) on the one hand, and the Max Planck Society and the local public transit authorities on the other hand. The overall budget was around 2 million € for vehicles, algorithm, software drivers and call centre.