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Ridesharing as a Complement to Transit Summary Closing gaps in service and penetrating difficult to serve areas are the top reasons that public transit agencies use ridesharing to complement their services. Despite these important reasons for integrating ridesharing into transit services, only a modest number of public transit agencies is involved in ridesharing. These are key conclusions from this synthesis, Ridesharing as a Complement to Transit. The purpose of the synthesis is to report the state of the practice as well as to assist transit agencies and other entities in deciding how to enhance ridesharing and public transit coor- dination. The review integrated three methods of collecting data. First, a review of relevant literature was conducted. Second, an original web-based survey was sent to a sample of agencies based on size and geography. The sample was gleaned from the literature search and knowledge of the field by both the consultants and the technical panelists overseeing the study. Survey results represent 28 public transit agencies and 13 nontransit agencies, for an 83.7% response rate. Finally, brief agency profiles were developed based on interviews with survey respondents or others identified in the literature search. Although much has been written about ridesharing, the literature review produced only a few documents discussing the linkage between public transit and ridesharing. Twenty-six documents were reviewed, but most were not specifically about the nexus between the two travel modes. As of July 2010, there were approximately 384 ride-matching programs in the United States, with 32 of these programs operated by public transit agencies, according to the literature review. This evidence supports the finding that, although ridesharing has been a common travel mode for decades, it is still not well-integrated with public transit. Despite the small percentage of public transit agencies that have embraced ridesharing, the agency profiles tell a number of positive stories. Chapters three through six each contain agency profiles that highlight successful or innovative approaches to the synthesis topic. Agencies profiled are: · Pace, Illinois--vanpool feeders from Metra train stations · King County Metro Transit, Washington--ridesharing integrated into the transit agency's services · Des Moines Area Regional Transit Agency (DART), Iowa--vanpool miles used to maximize transit revenue · Kings County Area Public Transit Agency (KCAPTA), California--vanpools for farm workers · State of Washington--state legislation supporting ridesharing · Metropolitan Transportation Commission, California--Metropolitan planning organi- zation funding a nine-county ridesharing program · Space Coast Area Transit (SCAT), Florida--communication through social media · Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Avego Corporation-- dynamic ridesharing pilot program · San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), California--controls on casual carpooling
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2 · Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC), Virginia--promotion of casual carpooling. Several innovations described in these agency profiles present opportunities for using ridesharing as a complement to transit. These examples could be considered by other public agencies as ways of expanding their markets and providing a robust menu of transportation options to the communities they serve. · Solving the "Last Mile": Pace, serving the suburbs of Chicago, and King County Metro in Seattle have used feeder vanpools--vanpools limited to 10 miles between home or work and the transit stop--to transport transit riders to their workplace, a problem dubbed "the last mile." In the process, both agencies have found a new application for well-used vanpool vehicles in their fleets. · Maximizing Agency Revenue: DART receives $3 million annually from the FTA, which awards funds for vanpool miles traveled in areas with a population of at least 200,000. The funds are used to replace aging vans, with the remainder converted into operating funds for the agency's bus fleet. · Creating Capacity through Slugging/Casual Carpools: PRTC in Virginia supports casual carpooling, which arises spontaneously, because it helps address PRTC's capacity constraints. Thousands of people irregularly (casually) carpool into the core employment areas around the District of Columbia, commuters that PRTC could not accommodate on its transit service. · Leading through Legislation: The state of Washington has a 30-year history of legislative and financial support for vanpooling, thanks to which 20 public transit agencies operate vanpool programs across the state. Other notable findings from the study include the following: · The top two reasons why it is important for ridesharing and public transit to work together are to bridge service area gaps not filled by existing transit, and to address market demand from customers. Transit agencies indicated that they use ridesharing to serve people in areas not dense enough to justify transit service. The primary ways that customer feedback is incorporated into ridesharing programs are by e-mail surveys of customers and by collecting customer comments to improve the program. Ten agencies reported that their ridesharing program was created because of customer requests. · Carpool/vanpool matching, marketing to businesses, and providing a guaranteed ride home benefit are the top three components of both public transit and non-transit ridesharing programs. Only those agencies that had some type of ridesharing program were surveyed. Of the 41 respondents who checked components of their ridesharing program, 36, or 88%, said that they provide carpool and vanpool matching. Although approximately 78% of the respondents reported that they market to businesses, half of the public transit agencies and fewer than half of the non-transit entities market ridesharing to transit riders. · Vanpooling is a key component of the ridesharing programs offered by both public transit and non-transit agencies. Approximately half of the articles found in the literature review are about vanpool programs. The literature search indicated that vanpooling is used by rural transit agencies to extend their reach into areas of their service district with sparse populations. Establishing vanpools and subsidizing vanpool fares had a high frequency of response from survey participants reporting components of their ridesharing programs. · Most agencies use a variety of performance measures to determine whether the amount spent on ridesharing is worthwhile; however, the majority considers ridesharing as part of their mix of mobility services rather than using a cost-effectiveness metric separately to evaluate the ridesharing program. More than one-third of the public transit agencies reported spending less than one percent of their operating budget on ridesharing. The
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3 most common performance measure used by both transit and non-transit agencies is the number of individuals who sign up for the ridesharing program. · Technology supports the integration of ridesharing and public transit on agency websites. Twenty-seven of 37 respondents have a link to ride-matching on the agency's website. About half indicated that their trip planner responds to a specific query by searching for both ride-matching and transit options. Fifteen respondents also promote ridesharing and transit on social media. However, using social media for ride-matching is not common, although some agencies reported that they are in the process of developing these and other technological tools, including smart phone applications. · A high level of coordination exists between regional planning entities and agencies with ridesharing programs. The majority of public transit and non-transit agencies attend regional rideshare planning meetings. Other significant coordination activities include participating in transportation events sponsored by regional agencies, information tables at businesses, and reporting program results to another entity. · Although no successful dynamic, or real-time, ridesharing program was operational among those surveyed, there is substantial interest. Forty-five percent of 40 respondents indicated they are interested in dynamic ridesharing, which is same-day or "on-the-fly" ridesharing. WSDOT and the Avego Corporation implemented a pilot program in 2011, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has funded a future pilot program in three San Francisco Bay Area counties. However, close to one-third of survey respondents indicated that they do not see dynamic ridesharing as part of their mission. Most public transit agencies do not consider the economic benefits of supporting vanpools versus instituting more rail or bus commuter service. This finding is significant, given the uncertain funding climate for public transit and the opportunity ridesharing could provide for retaining levels of service. Only five public transit agencies indicated that they compare the capital and operating costs of transit to the cost of a ridesharing program. Also, only three transit agencies reported that they go the additional step of substituting ridesharing for a transit route as a cost-saving measure. Examples of agencies that consider the economic trade-offs between fixed routes and vanpool routes are KCAPTA, DART, and the Regional Transportation District (RTD) in Denver. RTD subsidizes the regional vanpool program, because RTD performs an annual analysis that shows the subsidy per boarding for its express routes is substantially more than the vanpool subsidy. KCAPTA uses vanpools, at half the per trip cost of fixed-route service, to transport farm workers with nontraditional hours. As mentioned, DART's vanpool program actually increases the federal revenues available to the public transit agency. To understand why ridesharing as a complement to public transit--the topic of this synthesis--is not more prevalent, the survey asked what challenges all respondents (transit and non-transit) faced in integrating ridesharing with transit. Of the 35 who answered the question, almost 46% responded that some consider ridesharing to be competition for transit riders and resources. Almost as many, 40%, answered that not everyone considers ride sharing important to the agency's mission. Close to 29% said that customers do not easily accept ridesharing as a substitute for full transit service. By its nature, a synthesis has a limited survey sample size. A good topic for future study would be a more in-depth look at the challenges of integrating ridesharing and public transit. Follow-up research could delve into the obstacles identified here and present a more robust case for integrating ridesharing and transit. Findings from this synthesis suggest four major areas of future study: · Obstacles and opportunities for integration of ridesharing with public transit: Before public transit agencies can be convinced that ridesharing presents them with economic and operational opportunities, a more thorough examination of the challenges is needed. Why is ridesharing considered competition and what opportunities can be
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4 offered to counteract this perception? Research could explore in more detail the topics listed previously--solving "the last mile," maximizing agency revenue, creating capacity through slugging/casual carpools, and increasing legislative incentives. A toolkit could be developed to outline how to take advantage of these opportunities. Through case studies and cost comparisons, the toolkit could also address the economic benefits, such as the lower subsidy required for vanpool programs, and could document how agencies have used ridesharing in contingency planning for natural disasters and security crises. · Emerging technologies for ridesharing and transit: Models for use of emerging tech- nologies that support mobility management, such as real-time ride-matching, social net- working sites, and programs accessed by means of mobile phones, could be documented through further research into successful practices. · Ridesharing and public transit parking management: Agencies are clearly searching for answers to the competition for parking when ridesharing is promoted with transit and would benefit from research that identified solutions. · Better performance measures for evaluating the worth of ridesharing within a public transit environment: When difficult economic decisions are being made, agencies might benefit from a study providing the metrics for developing better performance measures for evaluating ridesharing programs. It is highly unlikely that transit can absorb the anticipated growth in vehicles that is predicted over the next decade. Ridesharing needs to be given serious consideration as a solution in partnership with public transit if congestion, pollution, and emissions are to be tamed in the future.