This background information can be used for educational purposes, and for obtaining more in-depth knowledge.
Complementary Service coverage in non-core hours
Provide bus services in non-core hours (such as evenings and Sundays).
In order to create a 'culture' where Public Transport (perhaps combined with car sharing or Car Club membership) is a valid-enough lifestyle to enable citizens to give up their car, and to deliver mobility to people without access to a car, there must be public transport services throughout the whole day and during non-core hours (such as evenings, Sundays and through the summer). From an economic point of view, however, the demand level during these times does not usually justify regular bus operation as loadings are light.
The urban public transport service during non-core hours should still aim for high-quality features such as appropriate frequency, a clear network layout and a homogenous service offering regular transfer options between the lines. It may require reduced evening services, which may involve a reduced frequency compared to day-time, no service at all on some corridors (e.g. only on trunk lines), or different route patterns in the evening.
Night buses with special route patterns are often provided, after the regular network operation stops in the evening hours, matching a significant demand from leisure activities in the city centre (e.g. cinemas, pubs, theatres, discos). About 59% of all cities analysed by PROCEED have a night bus service which is most often only provided on weekends (Fri-Sat and Sat-Sun).
Alternatively, the use of complementary modes (e.g. on-demand operation of buses, taxi-services) can contribute to serving low-demand mobility needs during non-core hours. The frequency should not be less than one departure per hour in order to ensure an acceptable service level. On-demand services complement the regular bus network in about 26% of all cities analysed by PROCEED. For an overview of complementary modes see ► Background information: Common complementary modes in public transport.
Changing routing patterns or the line numbers during non-core hours can lead to confusion for travellers and make the public transport network hard for users to understand. So this should be avoided if possible, and certainly minimised. It is also important that return tickets or all-network tickets are valid on the (contracted) non-core-hours buses as well as the core-hour services. This is so that the passenger perceives a single network, even though it may be serviced by different operators.
A local car sharing scheme (car club) helps to promote public transport as a lifestyle choice which enables them to give up the private car, because not all trips are feasible by public transport (e.g. transport of heavy / bulky shopping goods). Marketing efforts have to be made to ‘sell’ the advantage of linking public transport with car sharing. Car clubs can be seen as complementary, but can never fully compensate for the absence of public transport.
Dieppe (France): This Normandy port town (urban-area population of 54,000) has launched a demand-responsive minibus service called “Créabus” to complement its “Stradibus” urban network. Créabus operates in less dense outlying areas during daytime off-peak times and in the evenings. It is run using three minibuses and fares are the same as the regular bus network. A telephone reservation must be made one hour in advance and the passenger will be provided with a pick-up time at their specified bus stop within an hour of placing reservation.
Euskirchen (Germany): In the early morning hours as well as during evening hours on Friday – Saturday and on Sundays (all day and evening) the network is reduced to 2 lines operating as loops. During evening hours on Monday - Thursday there is a collective taxi service operating on demand (so called ‘Anruf-Sammeltaxi’) which can be used at a slightly higher fare level than ordinary public transport fares. The ‘Anruf-Sammeltaxi’ concept is widely used in small towns in Germany in order to secure local public transport supply during times with low demand.
Graz (Austria): The eight lines of the night buses (‘Grazer Nightline’) operate in the nights from Friday to Saturday and Saturday to Sunday on an hourly basis from 00:30 to 02:30 h (from the central bus station ‘Jakominiplatz’) and can be used with ordinary tickets.
Karlstad (Sweden): The Swedish city of Karlstad used to have a poor range of public transport services during the summer (holiday) period. However, after it was decided to keep most of the routes operating during one summer, it was found that the travel demand during that period was much higher than expected.
Parma (Italy): PRONTO BUS is an on-demand dial-up evening / night time service (from 20:00 to 01:00) with flexible routing. Users can book the service to have them picked up and taken to their chosen destination. Routes are planned with specific software, based on the booking made. This service has replaced - and eliminated - some permanent night-bus services.
Schaffhausen/Neuhausen (Switzerland): The operating hours of the bus service (18 hours) enables interchange to the first train in the morning and from the last train in the evening. There are no routes without service in non-core hours, but the service frequency is lower at these times.
Saint-Brieuc (France): This city in northern Brittany (112 000 inhabitants including the surrounding catchment area) created the “Taxitub” service in 1990, covering 14 outlying communes. This network consists of “virtual lines” with fixed timetables and stops: a reservation at least 45 minutes in advance is required in order to use the service.
Toledo (Spain): In most Spanish cities night buses (so called "buhos") are available during the weekend for young people to return home. These urban services have a low frequency, with long intervals between each bus. There are also night tickets with a unique fare which can be used only in vehicles operating these special night services.
Tours (France): In evening hours the bus routes are rationalised into three large loop lines (“Bleu de Nuit” network) which cover most of the urban area in order to reduce the operating resources required.
VDV Verband Deutscher Verkehrsunternehmen (2009) Diffenzierte Bedienung im ÖPNV – Flexible Bedienungsweisen als Baustein eines marktorientierten Leistungsangebots. / Multi-level differentiated services in public transport – flexible services as approach towards a market-oriented service level. Hamburg (Germany): DVV (in German with English summary)
There are different approaches to cover low public transport demand in the non-core hours apart from buses. The main principles are as follows:
Service with fixed route and timetable, but prior registration: On-demand operation by taxis or minibuses, standard public transport fares apply, and prior registration by phone is necessary (e.g. 30 minutes in advance). The operation is often subcontracted to local taxi operators.
Service with fixed departures and prior registration: The service operates in a corridor starting at fixed times and with fixed departure stops, but customers can choose the place to alight (e.g. their home door) within the service area; prior registration by phone is necessary (e.g. 30 minutes in advance). Local taxi businesses are often subcontracted to perform the service. This is known as ‘Anruf-Sammeltaxi’ in Germany and Austria.
Route service with voluntary drivers: Known as ‘Community bus’ (UK), ‘Buurtbus’ (The Netherlands), ‘Bürgerbus’ (Germany). This often involves use of mini buses. It is mainly used in very rural areas; and is generally not suitable for urban services in non-core hours (e.g. due to unreasonable working hours for volunteers).
Route service operated by taxis: These are sometimes used if there is a regular but very low demand on tangential lines or special service lines. This has a limited suitability for urban services in non-core hours where demand is fairly constant.
Service without fixed routes or timetables: Vehicles are dispatched according to people’s needs. Prior registration by phone is necessary (e.g. 30 minutes in advance). This has limited suitability for urban services in non-core hours: it is generally only feasible in very small towns with a low demand level.