In almost all municipalities in the country, residents can now order an on-call bus. They mainly transport children and older citizens. Society benefits from this – even if the costs are not insignificant.
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They are called Walfy, Schengi or Bummelbus and have become increasingly established in the Grand Duchy over the past two decades. These are on-call buses, door-to-door collective transport services. Research by the Journal has revealed that 85 municipalities now have a local bus service. The vast majority of them offer their residents an on-call bus service (82 in total), while some offer additional or exclusive local bus services. This does not include late-night bus services or school transport.
On-call buses are not a new invention. Research into demand-responsive transport (DRT) or dial-a-ride systems dates back to at least the 1970s. A study from 2015 describes them as a response to "dynamic user demand" that cannot be met by local public transport with fixed timetables that is geared towards a critical mass. These are mostly services for specific groups of people, especially older people or people with disabilities.
Another study by Sweden's Lund University concluded in 2019 that DRT systems are experiencing something of a revival, but this time mainly in urban rather than rural areas, and by targeting a broader audience. A development that undoubtedly also applies in part to Luxembourg. Even in the cities of the south, on-demand buses complement the mobility portfolio of public transport and city buses in many places.
On-demand buses as an inclusion factor
A survey conducted by the Journal among various stakeholders shows that two population groups in particular currently benefit from on-demand buses: Minors and the elderly. For the latter, on-demand buses are a way of remaining independent for longer if they can no longer or no longer want to drive or for whom the use of public transport is too difficult for various reasons. One example is the municipality of Sanem. Introduced in 2014 as a service for older citizens, the on-call bus can now be used by all residents of the municipality. The geographical distribution of the various localities and, in some cases, their connection to public transport were the motivating factors at the time, as the municipality explained in writing. To get from Ehlerange to the municipal administrative building in Belvaux, for example, it takes at least 20 minutes by bus and you even have to change buses once, whereas the direct door-to-door journey takes just under ten minutes.
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