Public transport as travel alternative for users of Special Transport Services in the Netherlands

Anne Durand*, Toon Zijlstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: Special Transport Services (STS), a.k.a. paratransit, help keep people with an impairment mobile. Yet these services face financial and organisational challenges. Public transport (PT) is usually seen as a way to alleviate some of these burdens. In fact, the discussion around the potential for PT to substitute STS has been on the agenda of policymakers in the Netherlands for years. Methods: In this paper, we relied on survey data and STS trip registrations to analyse the extent to which STS can be substituted with regular PT in the Netherlands. Using the Capability Approach as a conceptual framework, we link conversion factors to individuals’ opportunity to use PT. We then provide a range of the substitution potential of STS with public transport. Results: Virtually all STS users have difficulties that make travelling independently challenging. The first and last mile and getting in and out of vehicles are main obstacles for PT use. Many passengers rely on STS because of a lack of support from their network. Besides, long walking distances and travel times for PT trips compared with door-to-door STS trips can deter people from switching mode. Lastly, STS seem to be particularly important during bad weather conditions, emphasizing their role as safety nets rather than go-to options. In the current state of affairs, 0%–16% of STS trips in the Netherlands could be done by public transport instead. The upper limit of 16% is likely an overestimation as it does not account for many factors like health and weather. Conclusions: Our results show that STS play an important role in people's mobility, especially at times when and for destinations where no other option exists. This study confirms that, despite efforts to make public transport more accessible, it is not a panacea for people with an impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101568
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Transport and Health
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Impairments
  • Older adults
  • Paratransit
  • Public transport
  • Special Transport Services


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