Smart commuter bus line
What happens when a tech company runs a bus service?
Learn how we built a technology that made commuters love bus transit so much that they swapped their car for Kussbus and paid double the price of traditional public transport. Learn how to offer efficient mass-transit between Luxembourg City and its rural outskirts by making the network responsive. And finally, learn how even buses of regular size can be integrated into demand responsive transit.
Kussbus was built on the commitment to show that commuters would swap their car for public transit if public transit increases convenience by adapting to demand.
More than 70% of Luxembourg’s working population commutes by car every day causing heavy traffic jams and severe emissions. Most jobs are concentrated in the Luxembourg City area. Outside this area you find a rural setup where the population is less dense. As a consequence, demand for transport is complex and widely scattered over a large area making it hard to offer convenient and efficient public transport. Therefore most commuters from rural areas rely on their car.
Unlike traditional buses that are tied to a route, our vehicles are tied to a corridor of stops and can thus move in multiple combinations. This means passengers can be taken all the way to the best spot for them within the corridor. Since it’s shared transportation, bus stops in the form of pick-up locations still exist, and are used to coordinate multiple passengers. Some stops offered free parking and were used by passengers coming from further outside the corridors.
To bring the Kussbus pilot into being, UFT teamed up with Voyages Emile Weber – a concessionary public transport operator in Luxembourg. The first Kussbus commuter line was launched on the 25th of April 2018 between the Arlon region in Belgium and the Kirchberg district of Luxembourg City, operating from 05:30 to 09:30 and from 16:00 to 19:00, Monday to Friday.
On the 24th of September 2018, a second smart line was added connecting the Thionville region in France and the Kirchberg district during the same service hours. In total, a maximum of 7 vehicles were in operation, ranging from 8-seater, to 19-seater, to 50-seater. We stopped our Kussbus pilot on the 6th of March 2019 after 10 months of operation.
We built the entire technology stack like user app, driver app and operator control cockpit from scratch.
Within a given corridor of stops, our vehicles could move in multiple combinations, rather than being tied to a route. Adding constraints like corridors, direction of travel, and frequencies to the service, allowed the efficient pooling of larger, regular buses.
Pick-up and drop-off locations were dynamically assigned based on demand and optimised such as to coordinate multiple passengers.
KPI’s like excess ride time (ERT) and pick-up time deviation were optimised for passenger convenience.
Our platform collected a wide range of data which allowed us to constantly evaluate service performance and helped making data-driven decisions on how to optimise the service.
An app alone can become a total game changer
Traditionally, updating bus schedules and physical bus stops is lengthy, expensive and cumbersome which is why they don’t evolve that much.
Since all bookings required the Kussbus app, information about pick-up/drop-off locations and schedules were easily made available. As a consequence, making changes to the Kussbus network became child’s play.
Unfortunately, most regulators and operators are cautious and more focused on what can go wrong, rather than what can be improved. They object that people won’t adopt to a world without physical bus stops and fixed schedules. Kussbus proved this assumption to be incorrect and outdated.
Our analytics told us a lot about user needs and mobility patterns. This helped us to design the Kussbus network that is best for our users. Our network evolved over time to better match demand.
How the Kussbus network adapted around evolving user needs
As we had no exact data on transport demand, we equally distributed a few stops in Arlon before launching Kussbus. Ridership was low to begin with.
A few weeks after launch, we had enough data to make first improvements. Our mapping tool allowed us to analyse where demand is coming from. Requests that did not lead to bookings told us where to reallocate or create new stops in order to bring our service closer to demand. As a result ridership figures went up.
After several iterations of data driven improvements, we reached outstanding occupancy rates and user satisfaction.
Besides the fact that commuters swapped their car for Kussbus, we are the most proud of our users love of Kussbus.
Marketing is crucial to build ridership! Kussbus taught us a lot of very important lessons we look forward to sharing with our customers. We learned hands on what channels and campaigns work and which don’t work, we learned a lot about referral marketing, out-of-home and social-media advertising, early-adopters and customer retainment programs, and co-branding strategies. We included several marketing features into our user smartphone applications and built up a well-working customer relationship centre.