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5 Project Background Demandâresponse public transit service has typically been associated with paratransit service provided to assist people with disabilities, or with services in more rural areas where fixed route transit is not operationally appropriate or financially practical to provide. Until recently, only a few progressive transit agencies providing fixed route services engaged in the provision of some type of demandâresponse services for the general public. All other public transit agencies focused on the âmassâ in mass transit, carrying as many passengers as possible on fixed route buses or passenger rail services. Demandâresponse service for the general public was left to the domain of taxi companies and, recently, transportation network companies such as Lyft and Uber and private microtransit providers such as VIA and Chariot. Fixed route transit still remains the mainstay of public transit services and will continue to be so for the future. However, a few key factors have contributed to a sudden rise in transit agenciesâ interest in the provision of general public demandâresponse service or microtransit. Those factors are the following: â¢ Ridership has decreased for most transit agencies since 2014. There are many likely reasons for this trend, including the competition from transportation network companies that provide an attractive and convenient form of personal demandâresponse mobility service for those who can afford it (2). Their popularity suggests they are meeting a need that public transportation has not served well, though their price point is beyond what transit passengers ordinarily pay. Nonetheless, transit agencies are exploring various ways to increase their ridership, includ- ing providing some forms of demandâresponse service for the general public. As the general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation stated, âUber and Lyftâs ability to pull riders off surface rail is not a trend that will go away. We have to continue to test out and try things to transform the way we deliver public transit, in a way that people like better.â (3) â¢ Suburban development continues unabated, with most population growth in the United States occurring in areas with fixed route transit services and that are not able to be easily or economically served (4). Transit agencies are searching for ways to remain relevant and cost effective in these ubiquitous lower density and far-flung environments. â¢ Transit agencies want to address issues of political/jurisdictional equity, by providing all areas that support transit through taxes with some form of service and socioeconomic equity. Transit agencies also want to address issues of political/jurisdictional equity by providing lower income people, wherever they may live, with the mobility they need to access jobs, education, and services (5). â¢ New ridesharing technology in the form of real time route optimizing software, mobile hard- ware, and communications capabilities are now available to transit agencies, which give them the opportunity to potentially provide demandâresponse service to the general public in a C H A P T E R 1 Introduction
6 Microtransit or General Public DemandâResponse Transit Services: State of the Practice more economical and dynamic fashion than ever before that might better be referred to as âon-demand.â â¢ While transit agencies have always tried to be accessible and serve as many people as possible, they have historically been supply-oriented, focusing on their operations and requiring people to adjust to what they provide. Technology has progressed to the point where people are now accustomed to receiving a vast number of services at the touch of a screen or clicking a key- board (think Amazon, Netflix, TNC services, or any number of apps). The world has become much more customer-centric and demand-driven, and peopleâs expectations for services of all kinds are now much higher. With general public DRT/microtransit, the transit vehicle usually finds the person instead of the other way around. As noted earlier, the provision of demandâresponse transit service is not a new concept. Some transit agencies started providing more flexible services such as fixed route deviation and point deviation services in the 1980s (6). The Denver Regional Transportation District started pro- viding âCall-n-Rideâ service in 2004, which allowed passengers to call the driver of a van directly to arrange pickups in a variety of low-density zones, so they could be transported to the nearest transit stop or any other location within the zone (7). However, the emergence of new and less expensive technology platforms and the growing availability of smartphone access have made the possibility of new service models of demandâresponse transit more operationally and financially feasible. These new models are referred to as microtransit. The term reflects that smaller vehicles are used to carry smaller numbers of passengers in subsections of a larger urban area. They offer the potential for transit agencies to serve lower density areas more effectively while enhancing the total customer experience. While not every form of general public demandâ response service neatly fits into what people understand microtransit to be (e.g., fixed route deviation can be done with large buses), for purposes of this report, microtransit and general public demandâresponse transit shall be regarded as the same. Purpose of Synthesis Report and Intended Audience The purpose of this synthesis report is defined narrowly because there are many forms of demandâresponse public transit. The report will not focus on classical paratransit demandâ response services for those with disabilities. The report will also not review agreements that public transit agencies have reached with nonprofit agencies, transportation network compa- nies, or other companies that provide their own transit services without complete integration with the local transit agency. The projectâs objective was to learn from agencies that either have established, or are planning to establish, general public demandâresponse services. Those are agencies in which the transit agency (a) runs the service with their own equipment and person- nel (with a form of scheduling/routing technology solution) or (b) contracts for this service with a private provider under the auspices of a traditional contract, with appropriate oversight mechanisms that ensure the service is provided as an integral part of the local transit systemâs services and complies with that agencyâs policies. The report also focuses only on those general public demandâresponse services that support multiloading of passengers (originating from or dropped off in different locations on the same vehicle trip) and that offer passengers the ability to reserve/request a trip 2 hours or less in advance of when they wish to travel. Transit systems now offer, or aspire to offer, advance request times considerably less than 2 hours. This synthesis report provides an overview of the current state of the practice of providers of general public DRT services that work with markets that are ill-served by current transit offer- ings. Some DRT services were implemented but are now discontinued. Other DRT services are successful and expected to continue, yet other DRT services are only in the planning stages. The report will review and summarize many facets of these services, including the following: â¢ Service history and design â¢ ADA, Title VI, and other equity considerations
Introduction 7 â¢ Costs and revenues â¢ Fare policy and payment methods â¢ Fleet considerations â¢ Funding â¢ Implementation process, including planning and marketing of the service â¢ Labor considerations â¢ Performance metrics â¢ Technology This synthesis report will be of interest to policy makers and managers of transit agencies of any size in any area of the country, because most agencies contain within their service areas suburban-style development with densities or other characteristics that make fixed route tran- sit difficult to provide effectively and efficiently. The report contains information that will be of particular interest to transit agency personnel engaged in planning, marketing, operations, customer service, community relations, administrative services, procurement, labor relations, and information technology services. The report should also be of interest to communities that currently do not receive any public transit services but are considering doing so, whether it would be provided by the nearest public transit agency or by establishing such service through a direct contract with a private provider. After reading this synthesis report, local public transit staff and board members should have a better idea of how, why, when, and where demandâresponse services are provided for the general public and what their options are when considering whether to provide this type of service. They will learn from the experience of more than 20 transit agencies that have instituted or plan to institute such services. While every transit agency must identify the specific market and purpose for services in their area, this synthesis of information and case examples will provide them with sufficient information to work with their staff, governing boards, and local commu- nities to determine if general public DRT service/microtransit is appropriate to provide in their communities. Technical Approaches The technical approaches to this synthesis report included the following: â¢ A literature review that searched for papers included in the Transportation Research Interna- tional Documentation (TRID) database, the worldâs largest and most comprehensive biblio- graphic resource on transportation research information. The Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Engineering, Science, and Medicine, with sponsorship by state departments of transportation, the various administrations at the U.S. Department of Trans- portation, and other sponsors of TRBâs core technical activities, produces and maintains the database. The TRID Database contains nearly 1.2 million records of references to books, techni- cal reports, conference proceedings, and journal articles in the field of transportation research. â¢ A review of reports developed by graduating classes of the Leadership APTA program of the American Public Transportation Association, comprising the most promising young managers among APTA members, who must complete a capstone team project as part of their curricu- lum. Those projects always deal with current issues facing transit agencies and are preserved in reports and Powerpoint presentations. â¢ Internet searches of articles or blogs that reported on the experience of transit agencies as they planned for, executed, or discontinued general public DRT/microtransit service. â¢ A review of recent editions of public transit publications such as METRO and Mass Transit magazines, as well as electronic publications produced by ITS America (ITS America Smart- Brief), SmartCities, CityLab, Planetizen, or Mobility Lab.
8 Microtransit or General Public DemandâResponse Transit Services: State of the Practice â¢ Inquiries sent to various transit industry associations, including APTA and the Community Transportation Association of America, and state transit association directors to identify where general public DRT service is being, or had been, offered. â¢ A survey of public transportation agencies to first identify those that were engaged in the provision of general public DRT and then to receive detailed information describing their experiences. â¢ Telephone interviews conducted with a number of the survey respondents to clarify and expand on information they provided in the survey. Interviews also conducted with managers of the systems featured as case examples in this synthesis report. â¢ Telephone interviews and e-mail correspondence with representatives of technology suppliers to the transit industry that help make general public DRT/microtransit feasible and efficient. Organization of This Report Following this introductory chapter, Chapter 2 identifies and summarizes the major points made in the literature that describe the concept of general public demandâresponse transit or DRT/microtransit service and the experiences of a few public transit agencies that have con- sidered, implemented, or discontinued such service. Chapter 3 identifies the 22 public transit agencies that responded to the project survey and that have provided or planned for general public DRT service, which is designed to carry multiloads of passengers and respond to requests for service in 2 hours or less. Chapter 3 also provides the findings from the surveys that those 22 public transit agencies completed and returned. Chapter 4 provides the case examples of geo- graphically dispersed transit agencies with experience in providing DRT service for the general public. Chapter 5 presents conclusions from this project and offers suggestions for further study. There is a helpful glossary and then references from articles, papers, reports, and interviews used to inform this synthesis report immediately follow Chapter 5. Appendix A contains the survey instrument used to gain information directly from transit agencies. Appendix B features a recent request for proposals issued by a transit agency interested in establishing public micro- transit services.