Mobility services in small towns and rural areas have to a great extent not yet reached an optimal division between the means of transport. There are less developed transport systems with gaps concerning efficiency, competitiveness, user-friendliness and quality of local public service.
In rural areas the bundling up of demand in public transport decreases. On the part of the users the consequences are gaps in the supply of mobility services and a strong orientation towards private car use. On the part of the operator the low demand for public transport and few options of bundling up stand for operation in deficit. The bus routes are mainly located at trips that are highly demanded which means they generally concentrate on business and school trips in the morning, at midday and in the afternoon. But in between those times of high demand, during times with less demand, the supply decreases significantly.
Based on this complex of problems, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has initiated ten research projects under the topic "Public Transport in the Region" in order to support a sustainable development in the transport sector. The disadvantages of the public transport in rural areas as limited access to social life for disabled people and low income households (social dimension) and environmental impact of car use (ecological dimension) are to be decreased by various pilot projects. The ministry's objective is to contribute to an increase of efficiency and quality in public transport outside of conurbations and large cities by scientific and practical experiences. Besides the project "Imago" the Wuppertal Institute is involved in conceptualizing and implementing the project "MultiBus", which is aiming at the introduction of a call-a-bus-system.
It is the challenge to develop and introduce a call-a-bus-system in order to achieve an efficient, competitive, user-friendly, demand-based and highly qualified public transport system by which the public transport in rural areas can be significantly strengthened. The project takes place in the three municipalities Gangelt, Selfkant and Waldfeucht (district Heinsberg) located at the border to the Netherlands, about 20 kilometres north to Aachen. The region is characterised by disperse settlements.
The idea of MultiBus is to combine a door-to-door service for passengers and a transportation service of goods (parcels and small packets) in order to develop a public transport service orientated to users needs in times of little demand. Thus, MultiBus is a competitive alternative to the private car and aims at a step-by-step individualisation of the regional public transport.
The name "MultiBus" goes back to the idea that not only passengers can use the bus, but that the bus also carries small goods. Up to now the transportation of small goods has been carried out in an uncoordinated way by different service providers. MultiBus aims at bundling up these transportation trips.
Within the project the Wuppertal Institute deals with three different work packages. Firstly, it collects experiences from related research projects in Germany and from abroad, in order to integrate the results of the analysis into the conceptualisation and implementation of the project. Secondly, the economic viability of the MultiBus system is assessed in comparison to the transport system without MultiBus.
Objective of this second work package is to gain knowledge about micro and macro economic aspects as well as social and ecological effects of the project. Furthermore, the Wuppertal Institute is concerned with the work package "social marketing and public relations". As besides the promotion of the product MultiBus a more general marketing towards a change in personal attitudes and behaviour is necessary, the Wuppertal Institute develops a social marketing concept, which focuses on communication activities.