What is Microtransit?
The Definition of Microtransit
The term “microtransit” is fairly novel but describes what can be thought of more generally as “flexible transit”. Conceptually, microtransit fits somewhere between private individual transportation (cars or taxicabs or TNCs) and public mass transit (bus).1 Microtransit allows agencies to offer riders an on-demand option that is more flexible than designated fixed routes and appointment-like paratransit. In this post, we’ll go over its main benefits and what TripSpark’s microtransit app, Rides on Demand, has to offer.
An Example of Microtransit
A simple way to think of microtransit would be using an app to book your trip – kind of like UberPOOL or Lyft Line, but for buses. Using a dedicated app, online booking tool, or by calling in, riders can request a pickup anywhere in a given service area, or only at existing bus stops (depending on the agency’s setup). The designated vehicle may be an existing fixed route bus, paratransit vehicle, or dedicated vehicle, allowing agencies to maximize the use of their fleet.
As a real-world example, Lethbridge Transit pivoted to a microtransit type service during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to contend with the sudden shift in demand and social distancing requirements. By implementing microtransit service, they ensured the safety of their riders, and only essential trips were being made.
The Importance of Microtransit
Microtransit allows for individual service in response to demand. Since agencies will have the opportunity to maximize the use of their resources and reduce road congestion in their communities, microtransit will likely become more mainstream, especially in areas that do not warrant the need for dedicated fixed route service. Most importantly, microtransit enables flexible service and gives riders the power to manage their own transportation.
Research by KPMG found that:
“…when properly designed and executed, flexible microtransit services can help eliminate transit deserts, create first- and last-mile connections to transportation hubs, and provide convenient paratransit — all while getting people out of privately driven vehicles.”2
The Benefits of Microtransit
Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of microtransit, for both your agency and riders:
- Cost-effective: Alternative to fixed route service on low performing routes or during off peak hours
- Increase service coverage: Allows agencies to reach areas that their fixed route buses may not accommodate, without having to dedicate regular service
- Flexible service: Accommodates riders whose schedules may not fit into fixed route service timings (shift workers/those who work during off-peak hours)
- Equitable & Economical: Provide inclusive service and maximize use of resources by facilitating paratransit and conventional riders travelling together in the same vehicles
- Efficient: Pick up and drop off riders at common locations and stops, reducing travel times
TripSpark’s Rides on Demand
Our Rides on Demand App allows agencies to take advantage of the many benefits of microtransit, while leveraging the power of our demand-response software suite. The app (available to riders on Google Play and the Apple App Store) will enable your agency to offer flexible service combined with the automated scheduling, routing, and dispatching of our core platform.
Though the term “microtransit” only gained traction around 2015, the notion of “flexible transit” is not new. This type of service has been running for a while in Southern hemisphere countries and Asia. The advent of new technologies has led to a myriad of pilots and adoption in Europe and North America.1 The concept of flexible transit has been around for a long time – the innovation is the software and communications tools for requesting and dispatching service. Transportation can now be summoned on relatively short notice, compared to old, phone-based, and manually dispatched systems.3
The transit industry is evolving rapidly. By providing several cost-saving options to transit agencies, microtransit can offer more efficient service, without compromising service to riders.