Providing on-demand transport offers for everybody in Ludwigslust-Parchim (LUP)
How the MARA project helped to make a good public transport service even better:
The mission of two men using digital tools to provide a nurse who needs to travel every morning to the hospital from her home in LUP with a good on-demand bus service.
Ludwigslust-Parchim (LUP) is one of a total of six administrative districts in the German federal state Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (plus two independent cities). With 4,767 km2 it is the second largest of the approximately 300 administrative districts in Germany. Compared to other regions in Germany and to the average population density in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (69 people per square kilometre), the LUP district is sparsely populated (45 people per square metre). For LUP – as for many other sparsely populated districts – it is a great challenge to offer its residents and guests mobility options beyond motorised private transport. Increasing urbanisation, demographic change and tight municipal budgets make the state’s task of providing services of general interest – such as public transportation – more difficult. This is also the topic of the transnational Interreg project MARA.
When Stefan Lösel took over the management of the public transport company Ludwigslust-Parchim mbH (VLP) in 2015, he found a situation in LUP in which local public transport with buses (ÖPNV) almost exclusively served school bus transport. All other user groups had to rely largely on motorised private transport.
Five years later, LUP has a close-knit route network covering almost the whole of LUP. Today, VLP offers a service standard to almost every village, where call buses can be requested every hour.
„Since August 2018, VLP has been offering the flexible „Rufbus” throughout its service area. By introducing this call-a-bus system, we have been able to increase VLP’s timetable service by almost 500% to 48 million timetable kilometres per year in 2020, of which 40 million km are accounted for by the call bus alone”
c/o VLP The bus service during the school period on a working day of 2016 in LUP and the bus offer on a weekend of the year 2016 in LUP
c/o VLP The call-a-bus service system in 2021 in LU
At the time of the call bus introduction also the transnational MARA project was developed, in which 12 partners from nine countries in the Baltic Sea region are working together on innovative mobility solutions for sparsely populated, rural areas. Together with the project’s lead partner, the Ministry of Energy, Infrastructure and Digitalisation of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (EM), the VLP and the LUP district are involved in the project, which started in 2019. Gundolf Landsberg is responsible for public transport in the district:
„Within the framework of the MARA project, we can share our experience with the Rufbus system with other interested regions while we benefit from digital tools developed by other partners that we can use here in LUP to further improve our public transport services”
c/o Ministry of Energy, Infrastructure and Digitalization Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (EM) Please click on the logo to go to the video about the D.U.GIS tool
One MARA tool is the D.U.GIS tool that analyses and visualises accessibility gaps. It provides a multitude of possible applications for the tool for LUP but also for many other regions that do not yet have such a close-knit public transport service as LUP. The tool uses an open source data approach that integrates data on mobility options and possible destinations in one platform. This evidence-based support can help spatial and mobility planners to make better planning decisions.
„The Population Mobility Monitor (PMM) vividly depicts people’s movement patterns at any time of day or week using mobile phone data and potentially other data sources as well.
This helps us to quickly and efficiently determine the demand for transport services and serve them accordingly with pinpoint accuracy.” The PMM is used in LUP to develop very targeted proposals for cooperation with neighbouring transport companies.
c/o EM Please click on the logo to go to the video about the PMM tool
After the first experiences with these two new tools, the approach of the PMM was further developed in LUP in a broad MARA case study.
„As a transport company, we need digital support to quickly and easily match mobility demand between any two municipalities in LUP with our existing timetable service”
„This is exactly what our PTM tool (Public Transport vs. Mobility tool) does, which we developed together with the EM in the MARA project.”
The PTM tool visualises – similar to the PMM tool – the mobility flows of the entire population based on mobile phone data. However, the „spider figure” that visualizes the mobility streams between a selected municipality and all other destinations (outgoing) or origins (incoming) also carries a colour code: A green „spider leg”, for example, means the connection is served by the VLP at least once an hour. A red spider leg, on the other hand, (i.e. less than one connection every 4 h) means that there may be a need for action.
„The timetable information has to be provided by the transport companies as of 2021 in a GTFS data format as standard. We have developed an IT application for this GTFS format for use in the PTM tool, so that no post-processing of the millions of data records is necessary for us.”
VLP’s managing director elaborates.
When timetable changes are due two or three times a year, the transport company can first quickly check the existing timetables and schedules with the help of the PTM tool and, if there are corresponding colour signals, take targeted action to optimise the timetable offer between two municipalities if necessary.
What already works in LUP can also be used by other districts and transport companies across Europe. The tools developed in the MARA project are open source and only need to be „refuelled” with the appropriate data to be used elsewhere. More information on how to adapt the tools is available at www.mara-mobility.eu/tools
Nevertheless, a lot of work still awaits Stefan Lösel and Gundolf Landsberg – even with the new digital tools. In addition to ensuring the public sector’s promise that all people – including those who do not own a car – can participate in social life, the decarbonisation of society is the next big challenge for them. Their goal is that in the future not only the nurse will drive to work with the VLP, but if possible also all her neighbours. In order to make appropriate offers to them and all other inhabitants and guests of LUP, the VLP and LUP will continue to work with the digital MARA tools in the future.