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    Flemish on-call bus sees decline in use

    Traffic into Brussels is disrupted due to an unannounced strike by bus drivers on Tuesday. Credit: Vitaly Volkov/Wikimedia Commons

    An on-call bus system typically used by low-population areas has seen a serious decline in use, and a new service is partly to blame.

    De Lijn, a Flemish transport company, launched the on-call bus service in 1991 to serve passengers in low-population areas. The buses operate on demand and do not stick to a fixed route or schedule, and the price is the same as a standard bus ticket.

    Since 2012, the number of riders on these buses has fallen by half, and buses in 2018 carried 931,257 people, about a quarter fewer passengers than in 2017.

    In Antwerp and Flemish Brabant, some of the areas served by on-call buses were eliminated in 2015 because of regular bus and tram networks in the area.

    De Lijn says much of the decrease in traffic is due to a new reservation system. The system, called Cover, was introduced in 2016 and is more cost-effective. Using the old system, passengers would call the on-call bus centre and be assigned the next available space. With Cover, the centre looks for alternative routes on a fixed bus line or train, eliminating some of the need for an on-call bus.

    The future of the on-call bus system is now in the hands of the new 15 transport regions. The Flemish decree for basic accessibility states that each region has to organise local transport. The regions can choose to keep the on-call buses or replace them with taxis or shared bicycle programs.

    Sam Nelson
    The Brussels Times