UITP AWARDS: BVG and ViaVan introduce the world’s largest on-demand offer by a public transport company

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The UITP Awards celebrate the most innovative and ambitious sustainable mobility projects undertaken in the last two years in cities and regions around the world.

The 2019 UITP Awards were handed out during the Global Public Transport Summit in Stockholm. We sat down with each winning team to learn more about their project and to pick their brains about innovation in the sector.

  Winner of the Award ‘Public and Urban Transport Strategy’: VIAVAN TECHNOLOGIES B.V. and BERLINER VERKEHRSBETRIEBE (BVG) for "Berlkönig”

Tell us briefly about your project.

As a supplement to existing fixed-route services in Berlin, Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) and ViaVan have joined forces to launch a dynamic ride pooling transit service, creating routes in real time in response to rider demand. The project is the world’s largest on-demand offer by a public transport company, efficiently aggregating riders heading in the same direction.

The 4-year pilot launched in September, 2018 with a fleet of 50 state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz vehicles and has quickly expanded to more than 150 vehicles, more than 50% of them being fully-electric.

What are some of this project’s key successes?

Berlin’s public transport passengers now have a 24/7 on-demand service. With a customer satisfaction rate of 97% on more than 500,000 shared rides since launch, the BerlKönig boosts unprecedented customer satisfaction rates in the public transport sector.

BerlKönig includes Mercedes V-Class vans that are also wheelchair accessible. Wheelchair riders use the service in the same way as non-wheelchair users, ordering on-demand rides and being pooled with other passengers going in a similar direction. With Berlkönig, wheelchair riders only need to book rides 20 minutes prior to their departure time, compared to 2-3 days in advance with traditional paratransit services.

The mission of the BVG and the city of Berlin is to offer more mobility for all citizens of Berlin, while reducing private car ownership and usage

In what way does this project bring about significant change in the public transport sector?

The mission of the BVG and the city of Berlin is to offer more mobility for all citizens of Berlin, while reducing private car ownership and usage. To achieve these goals, public transport must become more comprehensive and integrated, while increasing accessibility and flexibility to its users.

BerlKönig is a first step in the company’s plans to establish new types of on-demand transport to offer a service that is flexible to its passengers, efficient in use and quickly responsive to demand shifts. This will allow BVG to deploy new solutions for first-/last-mile use cases, to access living areas too narrow for large buses and rural areas with low population densities.

The high percentage of electric vehicles is also a role model both to the private car and taxi fleet, contributing to lower emissions and noise pollution in a dense and growing metropolis.

How does it benefit public transport users?

The 24/7 service doesn’t operate on fixed routes or schedules, optimising routes in real time and being fully flexible to demand, traffic flows and obstacles. Layers are added to ensure highest efficiency and ETA accuracy, such as real-time traffic data, speed maps or forecasted demand. BerlKönig operates with 5,000 “virtual bus stops” throughout the service zone, a technology patented and pioneered by Via, ensuring smooth routing including physical, existing BVG bus stops.

Intuitive state-of-the-art applications enable riders to track and identify designated vehicles and communicate with drivers if necessary. Adding high-quality customer service, BerlKönig redefines what a public transit journey can be, even surpassing the convenience and comfort of a private vehicle.

What lessons can other organisations and authorities learn from this project?

The world is entering the golden age of Mobility as a Service (MaaS), with cities around the globe turning to shared bikes, scooters and on-demand vehicles to move around their communities. Perhaps one of the biggest trends in MaaS, however, is the dramatic onset of shared on-demand public transport. ViaVan’s large-scale partnership with the BVG is a case study for what a successful on-demand public transport network can look like in a major metropolis, proving it can be a success.

The world is entering the golden age of Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

The partnership is also a positive lesson in data sharing. Via and ViaVan have more than 70 launched and pending deployments in more than 15 countries, providing more than fifty million rides to date in some of the world’s largest cities. Via uses data and insights from its network of global microtransit deployments to optimise the BerlKönig service, enabling it to run more efficiently.

Tell us about any new projects.

Via and ViaVan are growing rapidly around the world, forecasting around 200 new transport partnerships by the end of 2019. 

BVG is running an initial service with autonomous minibuses on the grounds of the Charité hospital in Berlin-Mitte, and will soon launch Jelbi, a digital one-stop shop to buy tickets, ride-share, bike-share, or hail a cab.

Stay tuned for more interviews with the remaining winners of the UITP Awards! 


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