Design Guide for Rural Deviated Fixed Route Transit Systems

Rural transit systems traditionally operate either conventional fixed route services or conventional telephone-based (dial-a-ride) demand-responsive services. In many instances though, rural transit providers seek to implement intermediate options, often termed “deviated fixed route transit” (DFRT) systems, in which the general route and schedule is pre-determined, but the route can be varied to some degree based on requests from riders. While traditional fixed route service is efficient for corridors with high ridership density, demand-responsive service is suitable for low-density areas and specialized services. DFRT addresses intermediate and mixed cases. For example, some transit systems combine fixed route service in a central business district with DFRT in outlying low-density residential areas. Similarly, some agencies switch from daytime fixed route service to late-night DFRT. DFRT service presents a number of policy and service planning issues. These include: (1) How much deviation from the standard route will be permitted and associated schedule impacts; (2) How far in advance a deviation must be requested and penalties for cancellations and no-shows; (3) Whether all riders are allowed to request deviations or only those passengers meeting certain criteria (e.g., physician-certified disability); (4) Whether vehicles return to the normal route after making a deviation or proceed directly to the location of the next known passenger (thereby bypassing non-appointment passengers waiting at intermediate stops); (5) Coordination with neighboring transit systems and other travel modes; (6) Target markets, fare policies, adaptation to seasonal demand fluctuations, and fare revenue; (7) Eligibility and reimbursement rates for various governmental programs; (8) Public communication, service marketing, and customer orientation for elderly riders and people with physical and cognitive disabilities; (9) Effects of DFRT on travel time, ridership, operating costs, productivity, and customer satisfaction. The research should evaluate the characteristics, benefits, drawbacks, and design considerations for rural deviated fixed route systems. Additionally, the experiences of rural transit systems that have implemented DFRT service should be gathered and summarized to identify common issues and opportunities. The objective of this project is to develop practical guidance that can assist practitioners with all aspects of rural DFRT system design, including policy-setting, physical layout, service planning, and revenue forecasting. The guidebook should address methods for estimating effects on ridership, customer satisfaction, labor and equipment requirements, and operation and maintenance (O&M) costs. The guidebook should also address objective methods for comparing proposed DFRT services with other service delivery methods and validating performance measure estimates against existing service plans.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $600000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-147

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20200922
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01739637
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-147
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: May 18 2020 3:06PM