Transportation on demand is a new way of getting around in the Greater Montreal area and the surrounding RCMs. It is gaining and will continue to gain in popularity, especially with the EXO’s pilot project Exo on Demand currently underway in some targeted municipalities (Belœil, McMasterville and Terrebonne), and, of course, with those that will follow. However, the concept remains unclear to the general population and this article intends to bring some clarity by explaining what transportation on demand is, and by describing how the Fabrique des Mobilités Québec is positioning itself to help grow this new mode of transportation with great potential.


What is TOD ?

Transportation on demand (TOD) is a form of transportation whose schedule, itinerary or service is adapted to passengers’ request, in addition to having a specific fare or a fare combined with the city network to which it is attached. The TOD concept presents a new way to plan trips and travel in a simplified, efficient and flexible manner. This mode of public or private transportation offers convenient and potentially more sustainable options than traditional public transit.

It includes many types of transportation services such as traditional or collective cabs, cab sharing, carpooling (and van pooling or bus pooling), car sharing, school buses, and even bike and self-service scooter.

This multimodal service offer is intended to replace public transport during a trip or to facilitate its use by being a complement. Instead of waiting for a bus or subway, your smartphone will help you plan a trip by suggesting various modes adapted to your needs.

The capacity is generally smaller than a standard bus, ranging from a five-seat vehicle to a 20-seat minibus.

It is a service accessible to all that requires the user to register in advance via a platform such as an agency, telephone, internet or with an app. It could also be reserved for subscribers with a free or specific profile, for example, people with reduced mobility. For some TODs, reservations are made at least one working day in advance, for others, one to two hours in advance.

The service may include a meeting point, also known as a hub (Transport hub), which has a regular schedule, and offers pick-up without reservation. It is possible to classify TODs into two distinct categories:

  • Virtual routes: with fixed or variable departure times, with fixed routes or adjusted according to stop points only;
  • “Zonal” TOD: with fixed (optional) or variable departure times serving, without a reference route, only the requested stops.


The Fabrique des Mobilités Québec’s implications with TOD

The Fabrique des Mobilités Québec is involved on several levels in support of integrated mobility actors and especially of Transportation on Demand. Here are three axes around which the Fabrique des Mobilités Québec’s work is based:

Analysis and replication of data standards

In particular, it is the integration of these standards in trip planners that is currently being tested.

Experimental approach

We work in successive iterations in order to develop an experimentation plan allowing us to derisk it. This approach was reflected, for example, in our work with the Montreal Taxi Office, with an initial reflection/conceptualization phase to identify priorities (e.g. the integration of existing cab stands), among others. This first phase also generated a reflection on the valorization of cab data (e.g. reflecting on the relevance of crossing cab and carpooling data).

Data sharing framework

Our work on data management and data sharing is a rich learning source for all actors of the TOD. The objectives are to define a data sharing framework, to create data license frameworks, notably for open data, to standardize and facilitate access to certain data from the Montréal Taxi Registry to different mobility actors and to allow the cross-referencing of cab data with that of other integrated mobility elements (see the Pôle’s page).


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Overall, it is possible to observe a mobilization of transportation actors to push for the large-scale adoption of TOD, in order to meet the objectives set by the sustainable mobility indicators issued by several levels of government, both at the municipal level (e.g. the City of Montreal’s 2020-2030 climate plan) and at the provincial level.

Although this new urban transportation offer presents many opportunities, it also has its share of challenges. Both sides will be detailed in a future article to analyze them, such as MAAS (Mobility as a Service), drawdown, standards, legislation and more.

Article written by Jeremy Laplante

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