Can On-Demand Transit Replace Traditional Buses?

For small towns and hard-to-reach areas, on-demand microtransit could offer an effective alternative to fixed-route buses.

1 minute read

July 19, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

A North Carolina town could serve as a model for on-demand transit, reports Nick de la Canal for NPR. But the model could also lead to increased air pollution and traffic congestion, critics warn. 

“Wilson, with a population of about 50,000, replaced bus service with these on-demand minivans almost two years ago in partnership with a company called Via. The city pays Via for vehicles, drivers and software to run it all.” City planner Rodger Lentz told NPR that “the service runs about 3,700 trips a week, and that's more than 2 1/2 times the ridership of the old bus system pre-pandemic.”

While this type of on-demand transit can connect hard-to-reach neighborhoods, serve small rural communities, and provide an efficient way for people to get to work, transportation consultant Jarrett Walker “worries that citywide service, like in Wilson, might not be sustainable. It would be cost-prohibitive for bigger cities and increase congestion.”

In Wilson, “Lentz says the ride service costs the city of Wilson about 25% more than buses. But for a smaller city like his, he thinks it's worth it.”


Sunday, July 17, 2022 in NPR

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