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UpRouted: Exploring Microtransit in the United States
In the United States, public transportation agencies are experimenting with on-demand, shared, and dynamic models to augment traditional fixed-route bus and train services. These services—referred to as microtransit— are enabled by technology similar to the mobile smartphone applications pioneered by privately operated transportation network companies. As interest in this technology grows, it is critical for public transportation agencies and departments of transportation to understand the benefits and challenges of incorporating components of these innovations into publicly funded services. This research is informed by limited literature to date as well as a series of interviews with the project teams working on the pilots. It concludes with a set of recommendations intended to inform the design and implementation of future public microtransit pilots and service delivery models.
Agencies seeking to test microtransit or dynamic, on-demand options need to prioritize customers’ needs ahead of the novelty of new technology and think critically about how to design, develop, and implement a pilot that puts the customer first.
Transportation agencies should utilize a contracting process that empowers those most familiar with the project to make decisions outside of the standard bureaucratic processes in order to be able to fail fast and iterate quickly.
The success or failure of the application should be determined based on performance metrics that go beyond ridership changes and farebox recovery, such as improved mobility, increased safety, and enhanced customer experience.
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