Work carried out by a team of academics at the University of Malta was recently published in the Elsevier journal Research in Transportation Business and Management, following presentation at the World Conference on Transport Research in Mumbai in 2019. It will also form part of a Special Issue focusing on Urban Transport from the same conference.
The work by Prof. Maria Attard, Mr Michael Camilleri and Prof. Adrian Muscat entitled The technology behind a shared demand responsive transport system for a university campus is a product of the project part-funded by the Vodafone Malta Foundation in 2015 through its Connecting for Good Programme which aims to explore innovative ways in which mobile technology can deliver social change.The project aimed to develop and test the technology for Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) services using the University Msida campus as case study.
Mr Camilleri described DRT as “a transport system which is something in between a private car and public bus. Imagine being able to have flexible services for your different destinations and at the same time sharing the cost of travel with other people on the same or part of the route. Our DRT system achieved this by building upon a set of routes which were engineered based on past travel behaviour to University, and then modifying them on the fly as demand increases”.
The tool uses a field of mathematics known as Combinatorial Optimisation, to dynamically update routes, while at the same time, keeping travel times reasonable to maintain a good quality of service for passengers.
Prof. Muscat added that "switching to flexible shared modes results in both a significant reduction in air pollution and a better quality of life. However, the success of these systems requires the support of transport policy."
Prof. Attard argues that “the visibility that the project managed to get over the past years and the discussion that ensued were an inspiration to many of today’s on-demand mobility services. The culmination of the work as a published academic article is testament to the contribution and impact that academia can have in society.”
The article is accessible through sciencedirect.