As cities get larger and more populated, mobility has never been more important. Getting from place to place has been a challenge for all of human history. Our current, default solutions need some adjustments to be sustainable long term. Right now there are two main ways of getting around: private transport and mass public transit.

Private cars can be a convenient way to travel, but are terrible if there’s traffic (which they cause). Private cars are also expensive and unsustainable. Trains and buses carry lots of passengers, so are more efficient than a private car. But they can’t be everywhere all the time, leaving some areas more infrequently served by public transport, making people more inclined to own a car.

That’s where On-Demand Transport, such as Keoride, can help.

Keoride RAV4 on the northern beaches

What is On-Demand Transport?

Put simply, On-Demand Transport gives you mobility, only when you need it. GoGet is a kind of On-Demand Transport, by giving you access to a car when you need one, without having to own a car yourself.

Keoride is another On-Demand Transport service that’s been incredibly successful in Sydney. A partnership between Transport for NSW, Keolis Downer, and GoGet, Keoride provides transport on-demand to areas that, for various reasons, have limited public transport options.

Keoride Northern Beaches

Take Sydney’s Northern Beaches, where Keoride first launched. The area doesn’t have a train line, but Transport for NSW provides the B-Line, a bus rapid transport service linking the Northern Beaches to the city. The B-Line has had significant success since it started operating in November 2017.

These double-deckers are meant to provide what’s called a ‘trunk’ line, which only runs along main roads. The challenge lies in getting residents who live away from those main roads to the B-Line stations.  This is called the ‘last-mile problem’, and most cities around the world struggle with it.

What Keoride does is replace the need for these residents to drive private cars to the B-Line station. By carrying passengers between their home and a B-Line stop and allowing them to share their rides on the way, Keoride addresses the first and last mile connectivity challenge, and takes cars off the road.

Here’s how it works:

  • Passengers book a lift to a B-Line station on the Keoride app.
  • The app aggregates trip requests, allowing ride share while optimising journey times.
  • Keoride drivers use GoGets to pick up their passengers at their home.
  • Drivers drop them off at the station, where they catch the B-Line into the city.

Keoride Macquaire Park

Keoride works a little differently in Macquarie Park, where it relieves the stress of commuting to one of Australia’s busiest business districts.

Here’s how Keoride works there:

  • Passengers book a ride in the app.
  • Keoride drivers use GoGets to pick up passengers from anywhere within the service area.
  • The requests are aggregated to allow ride sharing and optimise travel time.
  • Passengers are dropped off within Macquarie Park.

How successful is Keoride?

In a word? Very. Thousands of people regularly use the service, and it’s helped boost the use of the B-Line. In November, for the first time Keoride made 10,000 trips, and the numbers keep rising. Keoride’s own analysis finds a satisfaction rate of around 98%, which by any measure of this type of initiative is world-beating.

Keoride was part of a group of trials On-Demand Transport trials in NSW, which have been broadly successful. Each trial used different vehicles in different areas, to see which ideas worked in which regions.

Looking at passenger numbers, just one possible measure of success, both Keoride services have performed exceptionally well. You can see this in the graphs below, courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald.

This first chart shows the success of the Northern Beaches Keoride service (the navy blue line).

On-demand transport in south and east sydney

This chart shows the success of the Macquarie Park Keoride service (the light blue line).

On-demand transport in western sydney, central coast, newcastle

Why has Keoride been so successful?

There are lots of reasons Keoride works so well. It’s partly due to the organisations involved, the urban environment, and how the service has been designed. Below are a few of the things that we think contribute to the success of the project.

The urban environment

Both the Northern Beaches and the Macquarie Park region had mobility needs that Keoride could solve. The Northern Beaches had a mass-transit service, but the low density area means that not everyone had easy access to a B-Line station without a car. With Macquarie Park emerging as one of the largest central business districts in the country, On-Demand Transport offers an opportunity to reduce the impact of high congestion and demand for parking.

Unique solutions

Different problems require different solutions, and the needs of Macquarie Park and Northern Beaches passengers are very different. By developing Keoride as a flexible service, Keolis-Downer could offer a solution custom-tailored for each situation.

Using GoGet as an agile fleet

Because Keolis Downer used GoGet cars instead of purchasing a fleet, it could change vehicles as necessary. When Corollas weren’t big enough, GoGet swapped them with RAV4s. When more seats were needed, the SUVs were swapped for People Movers. All this without having to go through the trouble of selling and purchasing a new fleet – GoGet already had the cars available.

This modular fleet helped Keolis Downer scale Keoride as its popularity grew, and as it learned more about the ideal vehicle mix to service demand.

Public-Private partnerships

Each of the organisations involved brought unique expertise to the project. This organisational collaboration was pivotal to Keoride’s success.

Going forward, new and smart mobility projects will require productive collaboration between the public and private sector. By starting the project as a public-private partnership, it ensured that all parties were on the same page and have full buy-in from the very beginning.

What’s next for On-Demand Transport?

On-Demand Transport will be a key element of future mobility, and Keoride is one example of how it could be rolled out. Of course, different urban environments require different transport solutions, so the models of On-Demand Transport we see today will evolve as we learn more.

With that in mind, the best part about Keoride is that the current model doesn’t have to be the only model. Because Keoride is a responsive service, it’s been able to suit the requirements of two very different challenges. It’s this flexibility that will see Keoride continue to set the standard for how to develop On-Demand Transport solutions in the future.

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC and SBS.