First West of England is to launch a public trial urban taxibus service in May to improve access to core bus routes in Bristol, TransportXtra reported.
The operator is working with the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) and intelligent mobility firm Esoterix Systems to trial the My First Mile service. It will initially connect the Henleaze residential area of the city to bus services on the A38 Gloucester Road. From there, passengers can board conventional bus services to Bristol’s northern fringe and the city centre. The trial is expected to run from May 8 to September 28, 2018.
A First West of England spokesperson told CBW that a behind closed doors trial is already underway to ensure the infrastructure is in place and working correctly ahead of the public trial.
The taxibus services will operate during commuter hours – between 0600 and 1030hrs and 1500 and 2000hrs. In the morning, three fixed routes (green, purple and blue) will each operate to a half-hourly timetable, calling at existing bus stops marked with a MFM flag and delivering passengers to a ‘hub’ point on the Gloucester Road.
The evening service will be different, with vehicles not adhering to a fixed route or timetable, instead operating like a shared taxi. Vehicles will drop passengers off at stops, with the optimal route calculated using Esoterix’s routing technology.
The drivers of evening services will follow instructions about when to leave the hub, with the aim of minimising the average wait time for passengers. TSC said a typical instruction might be to leave the hub five minutes after the first passenger boards.
The taxibus operator will be expected to provide three vehicles, each with capacity for six-eight passengers. Vehicles must be to a hackney-cab style layout, with front row seats facing the second. Vehicles will have My First Mile branding.
The operator must also be capable of supplying additional and larger vehicles, with a capacity of 12-16 seats.
The project is part of the Innovate UK-sponsored MODLE (Mobility on Demand Laboratory Experiment) which also includes Bristol City Council and the University of the West of England.