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It is no secret that ridehailing services like Uber and Lyft have had a negative impact on public transit utilization. Traffic is worse and public transit utilization is declining in many cities — to the extent that ridehailing has been limited or banned by some cities like New York. Studies have found that most rides come at the expense of public transit, causing a loss of revenue for public agencies and adding more cars to clogged city streets.



See Modular Lohr Shuttles in Action

While the arrival of new mobility services caught much of the public sector off guard, some are starting to catch up by using new types of vehicles and new types of services. One example of this can be found in Strasbourg, France, where Lohr Industry and Bestmile are helping Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeoise (CTS), the public transportation provider for the city, to offer more nimble services with small electric shuttles. CTS is testing an innovative new service that replaces a traditional bus line with electric vehicles that are ingeniously designed to link together to add and remove capacity as needed.



The Problem of Empty Buses

A significant drag on public bus networks, most of which are mandated to run at all hours to provide access to all residents, is that they are empty much of the time, especially during non-peak hours such as mid-day and evenings. This impacts the bottom line for transit providers and upsets a sustainability-minded public that sees empty diesel-powered vehicles chugging through city streets.




CTS has launched a pilot program that uses small electric shuttles and trailers manufactured by Lohr. Lohr’s Cristal electric shuttles seat five people including a driver, can reach speeds up to 70 km/hour and operate for a full day on a single charge. Up to four coupled vehicles can accommodate a total of 82 standing passengers at speeds up to 40 km/hour. The linked vehicles can be added and removed as demand warrants.



Replacing Inefficient Bus Lines

The project replaces the city’s bus line 10 and attempts to make the service more efficient for the agency with smaller infrastructure and carbon footprints. Passengers can use the Cristal vehicles as they would any other bus in the CTS fleet.


“Non-polluting, silent and flexible, this vehicle could prove interesting on lines that are busy during peak hours but not very busy the rest of the day,” Jean-Philippe Lally, Director General of CTS told the media when the service launched.



Managing the Service

The service is managed by the Bestmile Fleet Orchestration Platform, which is unique in its ability to manage vehicles of any brand, human-driven and/or autonomous. The platform enables CTS to monitor the status, locations and telemetry data of the Lohr vehicles from an operator dashboard. A traveler mobile app shows riders the route, schedule and the locations of stations and vehicles. This trial comes on the heels of a partnership between Lohr and Bestmile announced in October 2018.


“In this partnership, we set out to show the world how we can deliver the transit services of the future, today,” said Jean-François Argence, New Mobilities Director of Lohr Group. “Bestmile is an ideal partner because its platform will allow us to smoothly transition from human-driven to autonomous vehicles and services in the future.”


The project has been a hit with passengers. Exit surveys found that 90 percent of passengers found the vehicles to be somewhat to very attractive, 95 percent found the electric shuttles to be somewhat to very comfortable, and 97 percent felt perfectly safe. The vast majority (90 percent) of those surveyed were regular public transit users (at least one time per week).



Future Plans

CTS plans to migrate to an all-electric fleet in coming years, with a new mix of vehicles capable of offering a range of right-sized services including on-demand and fixed-route micro-transit alongside conventional electric buses that are more economically and environmentally sustainable. With Bestmile’s Fleet Orchestration Platform, the agency is well-prepared to offer the right service with the right vehicles for any scenario.



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