Transit advocates worry that outsourcing fixed-route service will decrease service levels and raise costs for riders.
According to a blog post from TransitCenter, "[d]espite mounting evidence of the limits of microtransit, the transit agency in Denton, TX, is barrelling ahead with a plan to replace most of its fixed-route bus system with on-demand service." The "on-demand vans operated by Via are expected to replace six out of DCTA’s eight local bus routes, as well as its express bus service."
"But other experiments in microtransit – Innisfil, Ontario; Pinellas County, Florida; and Los Angeles – serve as cautionary tales. Outsourcing fixed-route transit functions to microtransit companies has not panned out well for riders or workers. Nor does it usually turn out to be the fiscal bargain it was promised to be." Unlike public transit, microtransit costs more as it scales up in size and geographic reach. If Denton goes forward with the plan, "thousands of riders’ daily mobility needs may soon hinge on a dubious business model that has performed poorly in other places. The promises of cheap fares, shorter waits, and lower costs only hold up when few people use the system and transit workers are devalued."
The blog post concludes that "[m]icrotransit is aptly named. Ridership will always remain tiny with microtransit, because the service is, by definition, preposterously expensive to scale up. And microtransit is typically tied to a business model that shrinks wages and benefits for transit workers."
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