FirstGroup is to launch a trial urban taxibus service next month to improve access to core bus routes in Bristol.
First West of England is teaming up with the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) and intelligent mobility firm Esoterix Systems to trial the ‘My First Mile’ service, connecting the Henleaze residential area of the city to bus services on the A38 Gloucester Road. From there, passengers will be able to board conventional bus services to Bristol’s northern fringe and the city centre.
The taxibus services will operate between 0600 and 1030 and 1500 and 2000. In the morning, three fixed routes (green, purple and blue) will each operate to a half-hourly timetable, delivering passengers to a ‘hub’ point on the Gloucester Road. The services will call at existing bus stops and bespoke stops marked by a MFM flag.
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 Esoterix’s routeing technology advising the driver via an app of the best route to take between stops.
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. The TSC says a typical instruction might be to leave the hub five minutes after the first passenger boards the vehicle.
The Catapult is procuring an operator for the taxibuses and Esoterix will deploy a transport manager to oversee the operation.
The trial will run from 8 May to 28 September.
The taxibus operator must 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. The vehicles will carry My First Mile branding.
The operator must also be capable of supplying additional, and larger vehicles (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.
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