Yorkshire Dales ShareRoute Pilot Testing

In the Yorkshire Dales the ITRACT project runs alongside the Connecting the Dales project of the Dales Integrated Transport Alliance (DITA). As part of the Connecting the Dales project, DITA has set up ten transport Hubs. These are local community facilities where members of the public can find out transport information and make transport enquiries. Several of the Hubs also manage a community transport operation using volunteer drivers and a car or minibus, to meet local transport needs that are not met by scheduled public transport.

 

ShareRoute is a software package that has been developed with funding from the ITRACT project. ShareRoute provides a journey planner incorporating demand responsive, community transport and taxi options alongside scheduled public transport. It enables Hub managers and members of the general public (through a web interface) to plan journeys that include a mixture of scheduled and non-scheduled transport, and as well as giving options to complete the whole journey by one or the other if available.



The ShareRoute journey planner

 

ShareRoute enables registered users to book trips by volunteer car, community transport or taxi, and to easily see and manage the trips they have booked. It also enables the operators of those services to accept or reject booked trips, and to manage their booked trips.

 

The ShareRoute Pilot aimed to test the five Apps provided within the ShareRoute software package, with two target groups: (a) Hub managers, and (b) community transport operators. The aim is to find out whether the system will be useful for them (a) for helping members of the general public who come into the Hub with information requests and to book trips, and (b) for managing the community transport operations.


ShareRoute for Smartphones

 

Each Hub manager was visited during the pilot testing to test the software one-on-one. The pilot testing phase went smoothly due to extensive testing of ShareRoute with feedback passed back to the developer to improve the software before the pilot testing started. Also, it was useful to prepare the Hub managers through the two Hub Workshops before the pilot testing began, so that they knew what to expect. Using Hub managers as the pilot testing group was a good choice because they all have extensive experience with journey planners and responding to transport enquiries from members of the public.


Andi Chapple, Hub manager at Sedbergh Hub, testing ShareRoute

 

Overall, Hub managers scored the software as satisfactory, and good in some respects. Most felt that further development of the software would be worthwhile, though one Hub manager sounded a cautionary note, saying that “I also worry that it might be a bad idea to try to replace organic, human networks of information and exchange, which are cost-free and indeed add value to the rural society in which they operate, with a technological solution…”. On a similar note, other Hub managers commented that their volunteers tended to know about all the transport available locally, so that the need for ShareRoute within the Hubs would be limited to the more complex enquiries for travel outside the immediate geographic area. The future of the pilot will be dependent on finding ongoing funding, and this will be a key area of work for the remaining months of the project.



Katy Penn, Hub manager at Pateley Bridge Hub, testing ShareRoute

© Jan Frick 2014