What role for minibus services in urban areas, in a European market segmentation approach
In many European cities public transport, particularly busses, are unattractive and underused, due to the lack of direct connections, the need of transfers and the loss of time and comfort. Hence, this study aims at developing the business concept of an alternative or complementary type of public transport which enables a quicker and more flexible service and enhances patronage by using comfortable minibuses. First the business environment and the integration of a new service in the urban mobility market are identified. Then, in order to approve this concept, a concrete case study concerning a minibus service between the cities of Lisbon and Oeiras (Portugal) is applied. A mobility survey and focus group interviews are analysed to identify the current supply and demand. Based on a discrete choice model, a factor analysis and further descriptive statistics, the main target group of previous car users with needs of a quick and flexible transport service, particularly during peak hour, is confirmed. Besides, some user groups with a lower value of time and interests in a comfortable and easy accessible minibus service out of peak hour can be identified. Hence, the proposed service combines both types of needs, incorporating short routes, few stops and high frequencies during peak hour and an adapted, flexible service with significantly lower frequencies and the possibilities of additional on-demand service out of peak hour and on the weekends. At the end the potential risks for the operator companies are identified and the technical and operational feasibility of the service are critically discussed in the future urban mobility systems in Europe. However, before the real implementation of the proposed minibus concept, a deeper marketing research should be carried out, examining the expected demand for these types of services and the establishment of partnerships.