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Evaluating the Impacts of Microtransit on Fixed Routes


Recently, “microtransit” services have been implemented or have been proposed in a number of cities. The microtransit mode typically operates with small-to-mid size vehicles with dynamic routes and/or schedules. Riders may be provided with curb-to-curb service or, in some cases, may be asked to walk a few blocks to a common pick-up/drop-off location. Research has shown that in some conditions, microtransit can be more cost-effective and[ provide superior service] (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965856415002232) than fixed-route transit, particularly to connect low-density neighborhoods with high-capacity transit. There is still, however, insufficient research to measure the performance of microtransit compared to fixed routes and identify areas of relative strength and weaknesses of the two modes.


The intent of this Problem Statement is to research the development of metrics that will determine the extent to which microtransit services are either complementary to fixed route services, or are being utilized to compete with and/or replace/substitute fixed route services.


It is anticipated that whether microtransit services are being used either as a “first mile/last mile” connector or as an origin-to-destination conveyance will determine the extent to which microtransit services are complementing fixed route service or competing with it. In this TCRP topic, we propose a three phase approach to develop performance metrics, compare microtransit with fixed-route service by simulation and evaluate case studies.

In the first phase of this research, performance metrics should be developed to compare different transit modes on the basis of service level, capacity, equitable access, space efficiency, and cost effectiveness. Considerations for customer cost, vehicle type and how the service is being operated (i.e., who is operating the service) should also be included. These metrics should allow a mode-agnostic comparison between fixed route service and different types of microtransit.

In the second phase of this research, the performance of microtransit should be evaluated via simulation. The researchers should build a discrete event simulation to compare fixed route transit with microtransit in realistic setting for first-and-last-mile and origin-to-destination service. A sensitivity analysis should evaluate the impact of different factors on the performance of each mode. The trade-off between service level and operating costs should be evaluated based on different land uses, density, and transportation networks.

Finally, in the third phase, researchers will use case studies to evaluate how microtransit services are competing with or complementing with fixed route transit in practice. Researchers should use historical stop level ridership data and origin-destination data from transit agencies having experimented with microtransit. The extent to which microtransit services may impact fixed route ridership, either positively or negatively, should be quantified. In addition, any differences apparent in ridership fluctuations for certain demographic categories – such as senior citizens or the mobility-impaired – should also be measured and analyzed.


Urgency and Payoff Potential

While autonomous vehicles technology is advancing at a steady pace, transit agencies need to build the tools and experience to provide an attractive alternative to low-occupancy driverless transportation. Providing seamless connections between low-density neighborhoods and high-capacity transit is imperative to ensure the economic and social benefits of transportation while minimizing its negative externalities. Microtransit services to connect high-capacity transit can be the stepping stone to providing autonomous first-and-last mile service. For this reason, transit agencies need immediate guidance to identify the natural advantages of fixed-route and micro-transit based on context.

Relationship to FTA Strategic Research Goals, TCRP Strategic Priorities and TRB Strategic, Critical, and Emerging Issues

This proposed TCRP topic is in line with the goals and priorities of the FTA and TRB. This TCRP topic will fulfill the FTA’s strategic research goals to increase transit ridership and identify operating efficiencies. In particular, the research will address the objectives of identifying best practices and technologies to increase ridership and transit operational efficiency. In addition, this research promotes the TCRP strategic priorities of enabling transit to operate in a technologically advanced society, revitalize transit agencies, and improving the performance of transit operations.

Sponsoring Committee:AP050, Bus Transit Systems
RNS Developer:This problem statement was developed by the TRB committee AP050 – Bus Transit Systems. Guillermo Calves was the main author of this problem statement. The statement was edited by other committee members including Lora Byala, Jennifer Frost, and Frank Spielberg. The Committee Research Coordinator, Dr. Simon Berrebi, submitted the Statement.
Date Posted:01/19/2019
Date Modified:05/01/2019
Index Terms:Microtransit, Public transit, Fixed routes, Demand responsive transportation,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Public Transportation
Operations and Traffic Management
Planning and Forecasting

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