Impacts of Microtransit: Early Understanding

Impacts of Microtransit: Early Understanding

Last year, we wrote about the impacts of shared mobility on transportation demand management. Microtransit is a privately or publicly operated, technology-enabled transport service that typically uses multi-passenger/pooledshuttles or vans to provide on-demand or fixed-schedule services with either dynamic or fixed routing. In recent years, microtransit has gained popularity with a number of services operating in Europe and North America. At present, these services operate similar to jitneys and shuttles of the past, but they are enhanced with information technology. Microtransit’s use of smartphone technology avoids traditional and costly methods of booking rides, such as call centers or booking websites. A number of microtransit operators target commuters, primarily connecting residential areas with downtown job centers.

 

Innovatives On-Demand Ride-Sharing-Angebot startet in Europa: Mercedes-Benz Vans gründet Joint Venture mit US-Startup Via Innovative on-demand shared ride service to launch in Europe: Mercedes-Benz Vans sets up joint venture with US start-up Via

 

A few popular micro transit services include :

• Chariot (now owned by Ford Smart Mobility LLC) operates similar to public transit by running 15-seater vans, typically along predefined routes. Customers can make requests for new “crowd sourced” routes to be created based on demand. Chariot operates in Austin, Columbus, London, New York City, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Seattle. Fares typically range from $3 to $6 USD on select routes.

• Via operates as a flexible route service and allows customers to request a ride using minivans, 10- to 14-seater vans, and shuttles within a pre-defined geographic area. Via operates in Arlington (Texas), Chicago, New York City, and Washington DC. The service has also recently announced partnerships with public agencies in Berlin, Los Angeles, and West Sacramento. Fares, based on the trip distance, typically range from $5 to $25 USD (excluding trips to the airport) in most markets.

• Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen (SSB) operate SSB Flex in Stuttgart Germany. More than 20,000 passengers used the service during an initial pilot phase that ran from December 2017 through May 2018. The service provides flexible, on-demand microtransit service using 10 Mercedes V-Class vans and 2 electric Mercedes B-Class vehicles. FlexPilot trips start at €2.20 and can be paid using the app with a credit card or PayPal. The technology behind the service has been developed in close partnership with SSB by moovel Group, who is offering the service and technology to transit authorities.

 

A former microtransit service, Bridj (now defunct in the US but operating in Australia), used millions of data points to deploy dynamic transportation routes that change based on user demand. Previously, Bridj operated in Boston and Kansas City, the latter through a partnership known as “RideKC” with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) using ten, 14-passenger Ford Transit vans. RideKC launched in March 2016 and ran for one year. The pilot project offered on-demand rides within two areas of the city (downtown, as well as surrounding the KU Medical Center) during certain hours of the day (AM and PM commutes). These service areas are illustrated in the map below.

 

Kansas City

Source: RideKC

The Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley conducted an evaluation of the RideKC program. In general, highly-educated, Caucasian younger females were the pilots’ largest user group. Fifty-five percent of survey respondents were between the ages of 19 and 35, and 56% were female. Eighty-nine percent of survey respondents were Caucasian, and 100% had a four-year or post-graduate degree. Additionally, most of the survey respondents lived in two-person households and half had gross household incomes exceeding $100,000 USD.The pilot evaluation found:

• Price affordability and convenience were the most common motivations for using microtransit. Fifty-six percent of the survey respondents said they used microtransit because it was cheaper, and 39% said it was more comfortable than alternatives. A third said microtransit allowed greater flexibility than alternative transportation modes.

• An overwhelming majority (89%) walked to or from the RideKC:Bridj stop. About one third of respondents took less than five minutes to get to the RideKC: Bridj stop from either their workplace or their residence.

• More than half of respondents use RideKC:Bridj in the afternoon only. This could have been in part because one of the service areas surrounding the KU Medical Center had many hospital workers with shifts that fall outside of the normal workday.

• One third of respondents would have driven alone for their most recent trip, if RideKC:Bridj were not available and one third would have taken a regular KCATA bus. Twenty-two percent would have used a ridesourcing/TNC service (e.g., Lyft or Uber).

• Additionally, 25% of respondents said they drove alone less often because of RideKC: Bridj, and 16% rode the streetcar more often because of the service.

• All respondents said they would possibly, probably, or definitely use RideKC: Bridj for a $2 USD fare; however, 23% would not use it, if the fare were $3 USD.

• Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they were interested in the service, if the service area were expanded, suggesting that the geographic service coverage may have been a key factor limiting microtransit ridership.

 

While the impacts and understanding of microtransit are still emerging, microtransit and other shared modes have the potential to: 1) provide first-and-last mile connections to public transportation, 2) augment or replace underperforming routes (particularly in lower-density environments), and 3) provide supplemental late-night transportation service. More pilots and research can aid the public and private sectors in understanding potential synergies and the ways public transit can learn from, build upon, and interface with innovative transportation modes, such as microtransit, from a user, business model, technology, and policy perspective.

 

For more information on the Bridj:KC evaluation, please visit http://www.kcata.org/documents/uploads/TSRC_Bridj.pdf

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

 

How Dockless Bikesharing is Transforming Cities: Seven Policy Recommendations to Minimize Disruption

How Dockless Bikesharing is Transforming Cities: Seven Policy Recommendations to Minimize Disruption

For over a decade, modern-day bikesharing systems have disrupted mobility across the globe. Bikesharing users access bicycles on an as-needed basis for one-way (point-to-point) or roundtrip travel using one of three bikesharing models: 1) station-based bikesharing, 2) dockless, and 3) hybrid bikesharing systems. These systems currently operate with both traditional (motorless) bicycles and electric bicycles or “e-bikes.” Bikesharing fleets are commonly deployed in a network within a metropolitan region, city, neighborhood, employment center, and/or university campus.

 

The majority of bikesharing systems in the world are public for a nominal fee, with a credit/debit card on file. This is not to say that there are not equity issues associated with universal access due many individuals being unbanked or underbanked. In a station-based bikesharing system, users access bicycles via unattended stations offering one-way service (i.e., bicycles can be returned to any station). In a dockless bikesharing system, users may access (unlock) a bicycle and park it at any location within a predefined geographic region. In a hybrid bikesharing system, users can check out a bicycle from a station and end their trip by either returning it to a station or a non-station location or users can pick up any dockless bicycle and either return it to a station or a non-station location within a designated geographic (or geofenced) area.

 

As of May 2018, there were over 1,600 information technology-based public bikesharing systems worldwide with over 18.17 million bicycles (Russell Meddin, unpublished data). Of those bikes, approximately 6.1 million are located in China across more than 640 bikesharing programs. The U.S. has 261 operators with more than 48,000 bicycles (Russell Meddin, unpublished data). Between 2010 to 2017, 123 million bikesharing trips have been completed in the U.S., with 35 million trips completed in 2017 alone (NACTO 2018).

 

In recent years, the number of dockless bicycles has grown considerably across North America. As of 2017, dockless bikesharing bicycles accounted for about 44% of all bikesharing bikes in the U.S. and approximately 4% of bikesharing trips (NACTO 2018).

 

There are several ways that dockless bikesharing impacts cities in ways that docked systems do not. First, there could be a greater potential for bikes to be ridden (and parked) in spatially non-uniform ways, whereas the potential spatial imbalance of docked systems is limited to the number of available docking points within a given vicinity. In a dockless system, users are free to ride and park bikes wherever they choose typically within a predefined geofenced area without the requirement of having to return them to an available docking point.

 

26196675899_46f32c9127_kSource: Eric Fisher. Online image. Chicago 2017 photo album. October 15, 2017

 

Additionally, without bikesharing stations co-located next to mobility hubs or public transportation nodes, additional policies may be needed to encourage multi-modality. Without the ability to physically co-locate dockless bikesharing with these other transportation services, digital and fare payment integration is critical. Digital integration can include leveraging application programming interfaces (or APIs) to integrate dockless bikesharing with public transportation apps and multimodal trip planners. Fare integration involves the development of a single fare payment method across multiple modes. As part of the Federal Transit Administration’s Mobility on Demand Sandbox, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is currently partnering with Divvy bikes, a station-based bikesharing operator, to integrate bikesharing into their Ventra app and allow customers to pay for their bikesharing use with their Ventra card (fare payment). Ventra cards store public transit credit for use on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Pace. The goal is that Chicago public transit riders will be able to open the Ventra App, add transit value to their account, pay for a bikesharing pass, go to a bikesharing station, and start cycling.

 

With the growth of bikesharing fleets, cities are increasingly confronting questions about curb space management, how to prevent dockless bicycles (and scooters) from parking in inconvenient or dangerous areas that impede the rights-of-way of pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles. Seattle has developed a policy for curbside management and to guide where dockless bicycles should be parked in urban areas.

 

Seattle’s policy defines three key zones: 1) a landscape/furniture zone, 2) a pedestrian zone, and 3) a frontage zone. Seattle requires dockless bicycles to be parked in the landscape/furniture zone and has painted labels on several curbs to highlight appropriate parking places. Please see images below of zones and painted parking labels. Additionally, Seattle prohibits bicycles from being parked on corners, driveways, or curb ramps, and being parked in a way that blocks access to buildings, parking meters, benches, bus stops, or fire hydrants.

Zones Seattle GovSource: City of Seattle
Processed with VSCO with a6 presetSource: Seattle Department of Transportation

In addition to curbside and bicycle parking management, a number of cities also employ “geofencing” or the process of designating a certain region of a city or metropolitan area as off limits to prevent bicycles from being parked in distant, less urban environments. For example, dockless operators in San Diego use geofencing to prohibit cyclists from parking and leaving their bicycles on Coronado island. Similarly JUMP, recently acquired by Uber, has geofenced Union Square in San Francisco to discourage bicycle parking in the busy pedestrian plaza.

 

In the event that dockless bicycles do end up in prohibited locations, a number of public agencies have developed fees and impounding policies to address these situations. For example, Seattle requires dockless bikesharing companies to move improperly parked bicycles and to correct parking violations within two hours of a problem being reported during normal business hours. In Washington D.C., the National Park Service prohibits parking dockless bicycles in the National Mall and impounds illegally parked bicycles.

 

Cities can support dockless bikesharing and minimize disruption by proactively developing policies to guide:

1. Identifying locations where bicycles can be parked;

2. Developing agreements with private operators that indemnifies the public agency from liability for any loss or injury that could result from a dockless cycle operating or parked on the public rights-of-way;

3. Enumerating the enforcement procedures for illegally parked bicycles, such as fines or impoundment;

4. Developing a process for requesting access to the use the public rights-of-way (i.e., curb space);

5. Identifying fees that should be charged or permits should be issued for dockless bikesharing to operate within a municipality;

6. Establishing standards for dockless parking signage and/or markings to identify proper parking areas; and

7. Developing data sharing requirements and/or impact studies as a condition to allowing dockless bicycles to be parked on public rights-of-way.

 

This article was co-authored with Adam Cohen. Cohen and Shaheen are co-authors of Planning for Shared Mobility, a primer to guide local governments on incorporating shared mobility into their communities. Shaheen and Cohenare members of the UC Berkeley/Booz Allen Hamilton Independent Evaluation team for the Federal Transit Administration’s Mobility on Demand Sandbox program.

 

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

 

Works Cited:

Featured Image – TriMet. Online image. BIKETOWN picture album. July 19, 2016.

Who’s Really Inventing the Future of Public Transportation?

By Timothy Lane

 

Every age feels like it’s poised on the edge of the future. The glimmering possibilities of our fantasies are always just about to be reached and realized. Your father, your grandfather, and his grandfather before him could all safely say that they lived in unprecedented times.

 

Public transportation is no different. And lately there have been splashy headlines prophesying the coming of supersonic trains, self-driving cars, and of course, the Hyperloop. Investor/celebrities like Elon Musk and Richard Branson promise advancements like an underground web of tunnels for getting around L.A. and supersonic jets to shrink the world even further. With visionaries and private companies invested in mass transit on an unprecedented scale, perhaps now is the time when we step into the future. Perhaps now is when the seemingly impossible becomes every day.

 

However, should the public be wary of charging headlong into funding dramatic moonshots in transportation? After all, many of the most futuristic and ambitious concepts—three-hour supersonic flights across the Pacific, 30-minute Hyperloop commuting between L.A. and San Francisco, and South Korean trains that approach the sound barrier—are announced with sexy mock-ups that are intended to capture and rouse the public imagination, in order to win its much needed support.

 

“When you’re spending billions of dollars, sexy is a really bad objective,” says Jarrett Walker, Ph.D., who is president of transit consultancy Jarrett Walker & Associates. “Sexy, by definition, is ephemeral, and yet what’s needed is permanence. Sexy is over fast and that’s not what we’re after when we spend billions of dollars.”

 

Public transit, a necessity in any metropolis where high densities of people live and work in a small amount of space, operates on simple principles: systems need to be designed and built to move people without taking up too much additional space. Which is why cars, most typically carrying one person, are less desirable than buses, which can carry many. Problems arise, however, when this basic equation is addled with too many unnecessary variables. When it’s also charged, for example, with being sexy.

 

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P3s could pave the way (or lay the track, so to speak)

Of course Walker is referring above to the spending of public dollars, raised through taxes and municipal bonds. But what if much of the up-front funding for designing, building, operating and maintaining is coming from private sources? Much has been written about public-private partnerships (P3s), in which public transit agencies establish financial partnerships with private entities, such as investors and commercial developers, in deals in which both short-term risks and long-term rewards are shared among the partners.

 

The P3 concept seems like a no-brainer for financing big mass transit infrastructure projects like commuter rail. The practice is fairly common in Europe, yet there’s been only one P3 that included design-build, financing and long-term operation in the U.S. to date. With the Eagle P3 Project in Denver, a consortium of private companies called Denver Transit Partners (DTP) serves as the design-build, financing and operations concessionaire for a major expansion of the Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) light rail network. The innovative P3 arrangement allowed the RTD to spread out what would have been large upfront costs over a longer period of time, and resulted in the winning bid coming in some $300 million below original internal budget estimates.

 

The $2.1 billion Eagle P3 Project was completed and went into operation in 2016. And while there have been several service hiccups since service commenced, passenger fares enable RTD to pay back DTP $3 million per month. So RTD passengers are literally paying for construction while they’re using the finished product.

 

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Swing for the Fences, or Try to Get on Base?

While expansion of a regional light rail network may seem rather mundane, it’s the moonshot initiatives—like Hyperloop—that can play a larger role than simply moving people from place to place. Some would argue that by thinking, acting, and spending bigger, it energizes the public around the possibilities of public transportation, and helps pave the way for a better future.

 

Walker doesn’t buy it.

 

“Lots of money gets spent on big fantasies,” he says. “Either the project collapses or sometimes, even worse, the project gets built and then turns out to not be as useful as people thought. And those sorts of failures do not lead to greater support for transit.”

 

Also, a danger in following the dreams of the Musks and Bransons of the world is confusing what’s best for their private businesses with what serves the greater good. Walker calls this ‘elite projection,’ and defines it as ‘the belief, among relatively fortunate and influential people, that what those people find convenient or attractive is good for the society as a whole’. Last year he caused a Twitter stir by directly challenging Musk for this kind of thinking. Musk responded by calling him an idiot.

 

However, the core of Walker’s point is sound. The elite, by definition, are the few. Public transit, by contrast, is for the many. It’s crucial for a robust public transit system that the former prioritizes the latter.

 

To start, what Walker proposes is making better use of what’s already built unless absolutely necessary. This means using existing infrastructure in more efficient ways. By doing things like expanding light rail systems, increasing bike lanes, and improving the information technology around travel, public transit can reach and serve more of the public without burdening them with enormous cost.

 

“It cannot just be all about grand, expensive gestures,” Walker says. “It’s also about being sensible and working with what works.”

Creation of New Bicycle Commuting Lanes Stirs Up Long-Standing Gentrification Anxieties

In a city that loves bicycling, within a state that loves bicycling, the creation of new bike lanes within an already established, high-volume bicycle commuting corridor should be viewed favorably, right?

Portland’s North Williams Avenue, once the center of the city’s largest African-American community, has for decades been a high-use bicycling corridor. In fact, it’s long been one of Portland’s busiest bicycle commuting routes. But the creation, in 2015, of new bicycle-only lanes stirred up a lot of once-dormant controversy.

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Bicycle commuting, despite being an economical and environmentally responsible choice, has become synonymous with gentrification in Portland. The past two decades’ massive influx of new residents in inner Northeast Portland, with its close proximity to the city’s downtown core, created a commuting bottleneck, where bicycle riding turned from being environmentally-friendly to hazardous.
Over the course of 16 months in 2011 and 2012, the Portland Bureau of Transportation convened a Stakeholder Advisory Committee, and surveyed North Williams area residents and community representatives to identify and prioritize safety and traffic management issues. Those concerns became the impetus behind the PBOT’s $1.5 million “Traffic Safety Project,” which was ultimately funded by grants.

Yet, despite traffic and safety improvements – upgraded pedestrian crossings, speed reduction measures and enhanced bicycle lanes – the project has become highly representative of the ills of gentrification.

With all those new residents to inner Northeast Portland have come ever-more bicycle commuters; and with the newly-created bicycle lanes have come new shops, cafés, and even chain establishments. The community’s long-time merchants and patrons, many of whom are African American, experiencing both physical and emotional displacement, raised alarms. As Ishaan Mohamed, himself a young Portland writer, student and bicyclist put it,“the new bike lanes are just another notch on Portland’s belt of selfishness.”

Mohamed, along with many others, feels that carving out street space for bicycle lanes without giving the community members a say on the issue was a purely exploitative move to benefit those who are new to the community. It’s felt that everything ‘new’ – residents, bike lanes, shops, chains – have undermined the community’s identity. Yet since the 1970s, when a proposed expansion of Emanuel Hospital caused the Portland Development Commission to push out about 300 community residents, the community’s identity was already changing. And although PBOT did due diligence by inviting community input, the anxieties of gentrification have persisted.

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One final element of the Traffic Safety Project was the installation of new public art honoring the neighborhood’s rich history as a center for Portland’s African American community. The ‘Historic Black Williams’ project, as it’s known, was driven by a subcommittee of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee, working in partnership with the Regional Arts & Culture Council. The art installation, designed by local husband-wife team Cleo Davis and Kayin Talton Davis, is comprised of 30 mounted signs and ten sidewalk tiles representing the history and values of Black Portland, and providing education about the historical changes occurring in the area along the North Williams corridor.

Fortunately, the ‘Historic Black Williams Project’ received positive public reception when it was unveiled in June. It’s hoped that travelers through the area – whether on bike, on foot, or in cars – will slow down long enough to share in honoring North Williams as not only a commuting corridor, but as a true symbol of progress.

 

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moovel as a transportation innovator, Japan moving forward, AV DOT green light, and data

Welcome to Move Forward’s weekly news wrap-up, featuring the mobility stories you don’t want to miss. This week we are sharing a report that analyzes moovel and Daimler’s continued expansion into different areas of transportation technology. We’re also sharing news of AV developments in Japan, new guidelines from the U.S. DOT, the importance of data for the future of mobility, and more.

 

Innovatives On-Demand Ride-Sharing-Angebot startet in Europa: Mercedes-Benz Vans gründet Joint Venture mit US-Startup Via Innovative on-demand shared ride service to launch in Europe: Mercedes-Benz Vans sets up joint venture with US start-up Via

 

moovel as transportation innovator:

CB Insights published a research brief analyzing Daimler and moovel’s continued expansion into different areas of transportation innovation and technology. In particular, the brief includes a graphic tracking Daimler’s startup and accelerator activity since 2014 to “visualize the rapid pace of its moves as auto tech investment has rocketed upwards.”

CB Insights: “Daimler Chases Startups In Autonomy, Ride-Hailing, And More” by Staff, September 7, 2017.

 

Does multi-modal transit need P3 support?:

A recent article in City Metric argues that public-private partnerships that coordinate multi-modal transportation are unnecessary. According to the author, data shows that a vast majority of transit users are capable of coordinating multi-modal transit on their own.

City Metric: “Forget Public-Private Partnerships. Share data and transport innovation will follow” by Alfie Shaw, September 7, 2017.

 

Detroit vs. SV:

Tim Higgins, of The Wall Street Journal, explores the differences between automotive makers in Detroit and tech companies in Silicon Valley. Higgins argues that cooperation and strong leadership between these two industries is crucial for determining the future of autonomous vehicles.

The Wall Street Journal: “Google Plots to Conquer Self-Driving Cars—by Making Peace With Detroit” by Tim Higgins, September 11, 2017.

 

Japan keeps it moving:

Japan has started an experimental autonomous shuttle service in rural parts of the country to provide elderly citizens with more mobility options. Organizers are hoping that if the trials prove to be successful, they will be able to provide these shuttle services in all rural communities by 2020.

Reuters: “Japan trials driverless cars in bid to keep rural elderly on the move” by Naomi Tajitsu, September 12, 2017.

 

smart vision EQ fortwo smart vision EQ fortwo

 

AVs get green light from the DOT:

This week, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced updates to voluntary federal guidelines regulating autonomous vehicle development. The new guidelines are said to offer industry-friendly changes to past regulations, which the auto industry criticized for slowing down innovation.

Curbed: “New U.S. autonomous vehicle guidelines have lighter regulatory touch” by Patrick Sisson, September 12, 2017.

 

Amsterdam – mobility’s future:

Politico Europe highlights Amsterdam as the mobility city of the future, praising the city-government’s willingness to participate in transportation experiments. Coined “a mobility lab for others,” Amsterdam has become a hub for Europe’s transportation innovators.

Politico Europe: “Test driving Amsterdam” by Joshua Posaner, September 12, 2017.

 

Data is the new oil:

Fast Company’s T.M. Brown describes the importance of data in the development of autonomous vehicles and cites various companies who are already tracking data from vehicles on the road. Brown also explains the importance of open-source data in AV initiatives.

Fast Company: “Data Will Be Oil For Robot Cars So These Humans Are Hoarding It Now” by T.M. Brown, September 13, 2017.

 

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Regulators’ debate new mobility options:

An article from the Harvard Business Review states that urban mobility will become easier, faster and safer as the public increasingly adopts transportation technologies, including self-driving cars, ride-sharing apps, and electric vehicles. However, experts caution that these next-generation mobility systems may be difficult for cities to manage, as they often include a mix of public and private mobility options.

Harvard Business Review: “Technology Is Changing Transportation, and Cities Should Adapt” by Stefan M. Knupfer, Eric Hannon, and Shannon Bouton, September 13, 2017.

 

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.