Customer story

rnv complements fixed-route transit with mobility on-demand

Goal

To complement existing fixed-route transit with efficient mobility on demand in the Rhine-Neckar coverage area.

Overview

Rhine-Neck Transport (rnv) provides transit to 310,000 inhabitants in Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg. As the second largest train hub in Southwest Germany, Mannheim is an important connection point for people traveling within the region and beyond. With this in mind, rnv wanted to enable better first-mile-last-mile mobility and create a flexible extension of its main network that allowed for multi-modal trips.

Mobility on-demand is how rnv chose to accomplish its goals. It first launched in February 2021 as a temporary service to help Mannheim’s senior population get to their COVID-19 vaccine appointments. In March 2021, rnv expanded the service, dubbed fips, to the city’s general population. Riders can book on-demand trips through a whitelabel smartphone app powered by Spare or call rnv directly.

Challenges

  • Limited fixed-route bus service with a greater emphasis on light rail was not always convenient for seniors and other low mobility groups;
  • rnv’s offer in Mannheim was not aligned with Germany’s climate action plan to make public transit the main transportation alternative;
  • Certain areas in Mannheim were underserved due to insufficient demand.

Solution

With fips, seniors in Mannheim have more convenient access to services like healthcare, grocery and social opportunities. It’s also giving professionals, students and families living far from fixed-route options, a direct way to access public transportation for their commutes, enabling rnv to deliver a complete public transit solution to all of Mannheim’s residents.

The pop-up service rnv put in place allowed the agency to address the transportation challenges around the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. With Spare’s on-demand software platform, rnv was able to limit the number of riders per vehicle to allow for proper physical distancing and allocate dedicated resources specifically to this service.

Accessibility is at the heart of the fips. Children, people with disabilities and adults with an existing transit pass can access the service for free or no additional fare, while everyone else requires a valid ticket and pays a fixed surcharge per ride. Riders can also purchase an electronic ticket through the Spare app, which is charged at a set rate for every kilometer traveled, leveraging Spare’s customizable fare rules.

"With Spare, we were able to meet our transportation challenges around the COVID-19 vaccine easily, even if we were not yet ready to launch the larger mobility on-demand network. Now that it’s in place, we are excited that riders in Mannheim will be able to take advantage of faster and more direct connections, encouraging greater public transit use as a whole.”
Julian SchrögelProject Manager, rnv

Results

In the first two months of its vaccine transit service, rnv served between 50 passengers per week through its two dedicated vehicles, resulting in hundreds of administered vaccines.

Since expanding fips to the general population, rnv has dedicated 10 all-electric vehicles to the service with plans to scale to between 25 and 30 in the near future. fips includes three zones and is configured for both stop-to-stop and door-to-door depending on the rider group and type being served.

Overall, roughly 80% of trips are booked on-demand, indicating that riders book a trip when they arrive at a fixed-route bus stop and proving its value as a first-mile-last-mile solution. The average number of passengers per vehicle hour has also climbed steadily from 1.5 at the start of the service to 2.4 at the end of April 2021 and is projected to surpass 3. Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, simulations predict fips will serve between 300-400 trips per day.