Report: How Can Cities Make Microtransit Work?
A new report from the Eno Center takes a deep dive on microtransit, or small-scale, on-demand public transit systems. As Patrick Sisson writes, "the report analyzed a handful of pilot programs meant to solve the challenges facing urban mass transit: ridership declines, costs and inefficiencies, and insufficient options, especially for resources for underserved communities."
The failures of early trials, including the startup Bridj and the Santa Clara County’s Valley Transportation Authority's FLEX service, "have shown it's better to build on existing services than try to create entirely new systems. Or, in tech vocabulary, try to iterate as opposed to disrupt."
One microtransit attempt that's faring reasonably well is the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District's Flex (not to be confused with the above FLEX). Eschewing a mobile app, Flex lets users book trips in advance. Pickups occur at city bus stops, but riders don't have to stand and wait. "The AC Transit's Flex system isn't perfect, but the agency found the switch offered faster rides for many customers, and was revenue neutral."
According to the report, AC Transit's Flex system also benefited from extensive marketing and outreach. "The authors found that AC Transit 'knew it had a clear customer base for this line, albeit low density and low demand,' and that by focusing on a specific challenges and customer base, they were able to generate significant ridership."