In the Global South, many ongoing public transport improvement initiatives are based on a complete restructuring of the existing system. More often than not, plans call for an eventual absorption of incumbent operators into a new “formal” system or for a more radical eradication. These operators are often considered by city authorities to be the cause of inefficient transport systems. When implementing bus-rapid-transit-based plans, public transport improvement initiatives typically propose the transformation of paratransit-based direct services into feeder-trunk-distributor models that introduce new “formal” and “modern” modes. The move from direct services to feeder-trunk-distributor services can, however, have significant implications for travel patterns within the urban territory. Formal feeder-trunk-distributor public transport systems are more rigid than the paratransit-based model they are meant to replace. Some areas of cities in the Global South, generally located in peripheral zones, are growing and changing rapidly, and as such they ideally require a public transport system that is flexible and demand-responsive to fulfill their residents’ basic access needs. With the introduction of formal-only trunk-and-feeder schemes, some of these benefits of paratransit services are lost. Without disregarding the need for paratransit upgrade in terms of operations and business practices, it is argued that complementarity between formal and paratransit services is possible within a feeder-trunk-distributor model. Such complementarity should eventually lead to more equitable and sustainable public transport systems in cities that are changing fast and where the development of paratransit operators has, in one way or another, contributed to the inclusion of the poorest sectors of society in the city.
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