Synthesis of Information Related to Transit Practices. Topic SB-41. Microtransit Solutions in Rural Communities: On-Demand Alternatives to Dial-A-Ride Services and Unproductive Coverage Routes

With the advent of on-demand technology, on-demand transit services has provided a cost-effective immediate-fulfillment, shared-ride transportation service for the general public in areas where and/or when fixed-route service is not viable. Increasingly, transit entities have implemented on-demand models to: Expand public transit access to new areas or times and, by doing so, to test the demand in these areas or times; Replace underperforming routes or route segments and/or to replace “coverage” routes; Reduce demand at nearby station or bus facility parking lots. On-demand services are provided directly with dedicated vehicles operated by transit entities, including paratransit contractors or the new crop of on-demand technology vendors, as well as by non-dedicated service providers (NDSPs) such as taxis and/or TNCs, or a combination thereof. On-demand dispatching technology can be licensed separately by a transit agency for the service or provided by a provider (sometimes called software-as-a-service). And, with the ADA requirement for service equivalence in mind, transit agencies have either required vendors to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) service directly or through a subcontract, or directly operated WAVs. On-demand transit has been successfully implemented in portions of rural areas with a high demand density. In such a setting, the high demand density enables a transit entity to directly or through a contractor cost-effectively operated on-demand transit as a dedicated service, as an alternative to fixed route service. Moreover, such high-demand settings are more apt to attract TNCs and taxis which can provide on-demand trips either as the primary vendors or in support of a dedicated fleet. The conundrum for on-demand service models occurs in less dense areas of a rural community. Here, rural transit entities are more apt to provide a flex or fixed routes (often structured as one-way loops) that “cover” certain areas with an eye toward equity but that are often inconvenient and unproductive. Similarly, most rural dial-a-ride services that provide coverage are available only on an advance reservation basis. A better solution for riders in rural communities is an on- demand service, which enables more spontaneous travel options and is often more cost effective than the rural coverage routes. And there have been on-demand solutions implemented in rural counties such as Delaware County, NY and Summit County, UT as well as in Bowen Island, BC (population 3,600), Marble Falls, TX (population 7,000) and in Dryden NY population 13,600). However, the design options for on-demand transit services in rural areas are more limited. Research on state of the practice for on-demand transit in rural areas is needed for agencies to plan and operate/administrate service in their communities that better meets rider needs. The successes can serve as a guide to those transit agencies in rural communities who are contemplating introducing on-demand services to rural areas. Despite all the attention and research of on-demand, this is the one aspect that has lacked adequate research. The objective of this synthesis is to document the current state of practice of transit entities that have implemented on-demand services in rural settings.


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  • Funding: $55000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project J-07, Topic SB-41

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

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

    Federal Transit Administration

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

    Griswold, Emily

  • Performing Organizations:

    ,   Germany 

    Four Square ITP

    Rockville, MD  United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    McKeeman, Alanna

  • Start Date: 20231115
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01884763
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project J-07, Topic SB-41
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Jun 9 2023 7:17PM