Towards large-scale flexible transport services: A practical perspective from the domain of paratransit


Brendan Finn

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - paratransit, place - africa, place - asia, place - south america


Paratransit, Informal transit, Developing countries, Flexible transport


Conventional transit generally does not cater for the large number of local, diffuse and inter-suburban trips in urban areas, which are made almost exclusively by car. It is clear that new paradigms of local transportation are required, responsive to the diverse travel needs, pervasive and frequent.

European and North American cities do not have effective models for such mobility services, and the regulatory frameworks generally form barriers to their introduction. By contrast, there are many cases in Asia, Africa and South America of large-scale paratransit provision. In some they are the primary form of public transport, carrying more people every day than extensive metro systems in Western cities. These paratransit services are never ideal, but this reflects the environment in which the services emerged, the lack of effective regulators, and having to work at the “penny war” end of the market.

The constructive aspects of paratransit are usually overlooked, including their organisational capacity, the ability to make self-financing business and the ability to identify and respond to user needs as cities and travel patterns evolve. This paper examines characteristics of such services, presents relevant practice from case studies and concludes with suggestions for transfer of experience to more developed environments.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


Research in Transportation Business & Management