Increase in city population and size leads to growing transport demand and heterogeneous mobility habits. In turn, this may result in economic and social inequalities within the context of rapid economic growth. Provision of flexible transit in fast-growing cities is a promising strategy to overcome the limits of conventional public transport and avoid the use of private cars, towards better accessibility and social inclusion. This paper presents the case of Dubai (UAE), where a demand responsive transit service called MVMANT (a company based in Italy) has been tested in some low demand districts. The contribution of this work relies on the use of an agent-based model calibrated with Geographic Information System (GIS) real data to reproduce the service and find optimal configurations from both the perspective of the transport operator and the community. Different scenarios were simulated, by changing the vehicle assignment strategy and capacity, and comparing MVMANT with a ride-sharing service with smaller vehicles. Results suggest that route choice strategy is important to find a balance between operator and user costs, and that these types of flexible transit can satisfy transport demand with limited total costs compared to other shared mobility services. They can also be effective in satisfying fluctuating demand by adopting heterogeneous fleets of vehicles. Finally, appropriate planning and evaluation of these services are needed to fully explore their potential in covering the gap between low-quality fixed public transport and unsustainable private transport.
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