Late-Night Transportation: How Two Public Agencies Are Filling Service Gaps Through Mobility on Demand

By Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen

 

Late-night transportation options are critical to meeting the travel needs of late-night/early-morning commuters, particularly those without an automobile who need employment access and other services. In some cases, riders may have access to public transit services for the start of their shift, but service may be unavailable at the end of it. Late-night transportation services can serve an important equity role, particularly since those who benefit most from late-night services are households working second-and third-shift jobs, many of whom are low-wage earners and for whom these services are a mobility lifeline to employment. As such, late-night transportation can represent a critical economic ladder of opportunity for low-income households.

Yet, in many communities, access to public transit during late-night or early-morning hours is limited. Many public transit agencies stop running at or before midnight. While some agencies have implemented late-night services designed to meet the transportation needs of night-time commuters, these are usually much more limited than during the day and may have notably higher operating costs due to lower ridership and route productivity.

There are a variety of options available to public transit agencies looking to employ late-night services. A few of these include:

Fixed-Route Bus or Rail Service along defined routes where transit vehicles stop at a designated stop or on demand. Some public transit agencies have extended hours of service on select routes to accommodate the needs of late-night riders;

Shuttle or Microtransit Services (publicly or privately operated) that can provide late night first- /last-mile connections and fixed route or demand responsive services;

Stop Requested Bus Service allows late-night riders to request to be dropped off at a location that is not a bus stop;

Demand-Response Service providing door-to-door transportation throughout a neighborhood providing passenger mobility based on their specific pick-up and drop-off requests; and

For-Hire Vehicle Services (i.e., taxis and ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs)) can be used to provide and/or replace late night transit services where ridership is not sufficient enough to support public transit service. A variety of partnerships and subsidies can be employed to make these options more affordable for late-night workers.

In recent years, a variety of public-private partnerships have emerged between public transit and on-demand mobility service providers to offer late-night transportation (and other use cases such as facilitating first- and last- mile connections, replacing low-ridership or underperforming public transit routes, serving paratransit, etc.). We feature two such late-night services below.

Pinellas County, Florida – Transportation Disadvantaged Late Shift

For example, in St. Petersburg and Clearwater Florida, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has implemented the Pinellas County Transportation Disadvantaged (TD) Program, providing reduced cost transportation services for households that have incomes less than 150 percent of the poverty level. The U.S. federal poverty definition consists of a series of income thresholds based on family size and composition. To qualify in 2018, monthly income must be less than $1,518 for a one-person household, $2,058 for a two-person household, and up to $5,298 for eight people. In addition to reduced cost bus passes and door-to-door service, the program has a special TD Late Shift component. TD Late Shift provides late-night and early-morning free rides to low-income households as part of a public-private partnership with Uber, United Taxi, or Care Ride. The program is intended to help low-income workers who have jobs that require late-night transportation by providing free rides on demand between the hours of 10PM and 6AM, when regular bus service is not available. The program is funded through grant a from the Florida Department of Transportation’s Florida Commission for Transportation Disadvantaged.

Detroit, Michigan – Woodward 2 Work

Earlier this year, the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) launched the Woodward 2 Work (W2W), a 2,000-ride pilot program using Lyft to augment late-night transit services. The pilot program is being offered along the 53 Woodward route between 12AM and 5AM. To participate in this pilot program, users must have a Lyft account, debit or credit card, or a prepaid card with a $25 minimum balance available to book a trip. Travelers who do not have access to a smartphone can request rides using a telephone with Lyft Concierge.

Late-night partnerships with on-demand mobility services have a number of potential opportunities and challenges. By partnering with a third-party service provider, public agencies may be able to facilitate late-night, on-demand mobility services at a lower cost than infrequent and low-ridership transit services at that time. However, if a public agency does not currently offer late-night transportation, off-peak subsidies could represent an additional cost instead of saving money by replacing high-cost routes or encouraging transit connections. Public transit agencies considering late-night transit partnerships should carefully weigh the opportunities (e.g., benefits and costs); challenges (e.g., labor issues); and potential equity issues (e.g., access for vulnerable populations) associated with developing a late-night transportation program.

Identifying and understanding late-night service gaps is the first step for public agencies to help enhance mobility for these workers. Public transit partnerships that provide late-night, on demand service can help shift workers to overcome temporal and spatial barriers that can inhibit job access due to infrequent or no transit service at these hours.

Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen are co-authors of the U.S. Department of Transportation report Travel Behavior: Shared Mobility and Transportation Equity examining the Spatial, Temporal, Economic, Physiological, and Social aspects of transportation access.

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

 

Convergence of Sharing and Automation: Need for Proactive Public Policy and Research Understanding

By Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen

In recent years, on-demand passenger and courier services – known as Mobility on Demand (MOD) – have grown rapidly due to technology advancements; changing consumer patterns (both mobility and retail consumption); and a combination of economic, environmental, and social forces. MOD is an innovative concept based on the principle that transportation is a commodity where modes have economic values that are distinguishable in terms of cost, journey time, wait time, number of connections, convenience, and other attributes. Earlier this month, we wrote about innovations in goods delivery that are transforming transportation and consumer behavior as travelers increasingly turn to MOD. In this blog, we discuss four potential impacts of driverless vehicles and the need for proactive public policy to maximize the potential benefits and minimize potential adverse impacts.

Potential Impacts of Vehicle Automation

In the near future, automation could be the most transformative change transportation has seen since the advent of the automobile. While MOD is already impacting many cities, it has the potential to have even more notable impacts, particularly in four key areas:

Travel Behavior: It should be emphasized that the impacts of automation on travel behavior are uncertain and difficult to forecast due to a number of highly variable factors, most importantly societal acceptance and use. One potential outcome is that existing roadway capacity may increase due to more efficient operations associated with technology (e.g., closer vehicle spacing known as platooning, etc.). Additionally, operators could “right-size fleets,” providing consumers with vehicles sized based on the number of passengers and trip length. However, there is a possibility that automated vehicles (AVs) and shared AVs (SAVs) could induce demand by making motorized travel more convenient and affordable than personal driving. This could adversely impact congestion. Additionally, automation has the potential to fundamentally change historic relationships between public transportation and private vehicle use, which could support or detract from public transit ridership (we will discuss the future of public transportation in our next blog). In summary, the impacts of AVs on congestion will likely depend on whether the vehicles are predominantly shared or privately owned as well as public policy, such as pricing and restrictions on zero occupant vehicles.

Land Use and the Built Environment: AVs could result in reduced parking demand, particularly in urban centers that can create opportunities to repurpose urban parking with infill development. Infill development has the potential to increase urban densities and could in turn support higher-occupancy transportation modes. However, vehicle automation and telecommuting growth could also make longer commutes less burdensome, which could encourage suburban and exurban lifestyles.

Labor: Automation has the potential to reduce labor costs. However, automation is not likely to completely eliminate transportation jobs. With an aging population, we may likely need attendants to assist people with disabilities and older adults, security personnel, and a high-tech workforce to maintain an automated fleet.

Social Equity: While AVs have the potential to enhance access and economic opportunities for underserved communities, there are numerous challenges that could impact the equitable deployment of AVs. A few challenges could include: 1) affordability/payability (the services are simply too expensive for low-income households or require banking access); 2) availability (the services are not available equally in all neighborhoods); 3) accessibility (the services are not accessible to people with disabilities); and 4) digital poverty (the services require a smartphone or data plan to access). Additionally, AVs may employ machine learning and artificial intelligence that could create other equity concerns. While machine learning – if designed well — can help minimize human bias in decision making, it is also possible that such systems can also reinforce historic bias and discrimination in the transportation network. Just as humans learn to drive through experience, many perception algorithms use machine learning that is trained by events based on past experience. In a driverless vehicle future, machine learning may also impact where vehicles are pre-positioned, roam, charge, and other defining operational characteristics. Learning biases could create notable equity challenges in the future. There is a risk for discrimination when designing transportation algorithms for machine learning systems, including the potential for exclusionary transportation.

Need for Proactive Policy in a Driverless Vehicle Future

Public policy can have a notable influence on the success or potential challenges of driverless vehicles. Public agencies should consider proactively guiding public policy in four key areas to maximize the potential benefits of AVs:

Pricing: Public agencies should consider employing pricing based on occupancy, time of day, and congestion to encourage higher occupancy SAVs and discourage single- and zero-occupant vehicles.

Incentivizing Urban Growth and Urban Growth Boundaries: Metropolitan Planning Organizations, local governments, and other public agencies may want to consider policies that limit outward growth and encourage urban in-fill development to discourage the potential suburban and exurban growth pressure that AVs could create.

Workforce Development Programs: Local and state governments should develop workforce development programs designed to prepare for and respond to a driverless future. This should include a broad program encompassing job training/re-training and job placement resources to minimize the potential adverse labor impacts of vehicle automation.

A Comprehensive Equity Policy: Public agencies at all levels of government should consider a comprehensive equity policy to ensure SAVs are equally accessible and available to everyone. This should include policies that ensure access for people with disabilities, un- and under-banked households, low-income communities, households without access to smartphones or mobile data, and others. Additionally, this should include policies that prevent discrimination and bias from machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other systems that impact or guide the operations of AVs.

The public and private sectors, along with key stakeholders (e.g., non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, and foundations) should partner to develop proactive policies to prevent and overcome these challenges. Proactive policy and research understanding will be critical to balance public goals with commercial interests and to harness and maximize the social and environmental effects of driverless vehicles.

Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen are currently studying the impacts of connected and automated vehicles on state and local transportation agencies as part of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) study 20-102(11).

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

 

Prioritizing People, Public Transport, and Pooling: Transitioning to Shared Automated Vehicles

Technology is reshaping cities and societies and changing the way we travel. Real-time information coupled with on-demand mobility are redefining ‘auto mobility.’ Rather than rendering cars obsolete, the convergence of on-demand shared, electric, and automated technology will make the autos more cost effective, efficient, and convenient – especially when shared. But the convergence of sharing, electrification, and automation in itself is not a silver bullet to solve our transportation challenges. To maximize the potential opportunity and minimize the challenges associated with shared automated vehicles (SAVs), we should consider 5 key issues in managing the transition toward an automated future.

 

1. Equity Challenges and Opportunities – Earlier this year, we wrote about common equity challenges impacting our transportation network. Suburbanization has been one of the great underlying trends impacting transportation in the Western hemisphere during the 20th century. While early suburbs were often built around railroad and streetcar lines, post–World War II suburbanization has become primarily an auto-driven phenomenon. In many cities, our urban centers declined as development patterns focused on mass personal vehicle ownership; the marketing of suburbia as a residential location; and the building of highways that manifested in strip malls, suburban retail and employment centers, and very low-density housing. This development pattern has resulted in an overreliance on private vehicles that has come at a high cost to household budgets, public health, and the environment. It is not uncommon for low-income households to spend upwards of 30% of their income on transportation. For those without a private vehicle, limited access to jobs, education, and health care can be a barrier to upward mobility.

 

A shared, electric, and automated mobility future has the opportunity to enhance access and mobility for underserved communities, but it could also exacerbate existing barriers and increase inequality. SAVs may be able to address spatial inequality in areas with limited alternatives to private vehicle ownership by providing additional mobility options for an entire trip or first- and last-mile connections to public transportation. The strategic placement of SAVs in communities underserved by public transportation could reduce inequities by providing innovative mobility options that have greater coverage and service availability than existing options. However, not all users may have access to a smartphone or debit/credit cards that are commonly required for payment as part of app-based and on-demand mobility services. In the future, it will be critical that policymakers ensure equitable access of SAVs for all neighborhoods and users with special needs, including access options for digitally impoverished and underbanked communities.

 

2. Environmental and Travel Behavior Impacts of Automation – While SAV impacts remain uncertain, many practitioners and researchers predict higher efficiency, affordability, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. However, the number of personally owned automated vehicles may determine to some extent SAV demand. More importantly, SAV impacts will also depend on sharing levels (concurrent or sequential) and the future modal split among public transit, SAVs, and pooled rides. It is possible that SAV fleets could become widely used without very many pooled rides. Thus, single-occupant vehicles will continue to dominate the majority of vehicle trips (e.g., users could access a shared fleet without pooling). It is also feasible that pooled rides could become more common, if automation makes route deviation more efficient, cost effective, and convenient. While the environmental and travel behavior impacts of SAVs are unknown, proactive public policy is key to guiding how SAV adoption unfolds.

 

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3. Urban Planning (Rights-of-Way Management and Zoning) – With the growth of on-demand and flexible transportation options (e.g., ridesourcing or transportation network companies, e-Hail, microtransit, etc.), public agencies should consider policies to guide shared mobility and SAV development through the allocation of public rights-of-ways (e.g., parking, curb space, and loading zones). The allocation of public rights-of-way for shared mobility today can support the development of intermodal mobility hubs today, which can be transitioned for SAVs in the future.

 

In the longer term, automation will likely result in fundamental changes to our built environment. Reduced vehicle ownership due to SAVs could impact parking needs, particularly in urban centers. The repurposing of urban parking has the potential to create some opportunities for infill development and increased densities. While SAVs may compete with public transit, infill development could create higher densities to support more public transit ridership in urban core locations.

 

4. Public Transportation in an Automated Future – Concerns that the introduction of SAVs could reduce demand for public transportation and may encourage increased vehicle use are real. However, just as SAVs have the potential to reduce driving costs, automated transit vehicles have the opportunity to reduce operational costs and pass these savings onto riders through lower fares. Reduced operational costs and lower fares could allow public transit agencies to increase the number of routes or service frequency, making public transit more competitive than other modes. While the impacts of automation on public transportation are uncertain, leveraging it to reduce overhead costs and improve public transportation efficiency is an important consideration.

 

In addition, vehicle automation could further change the nature of traditional notions of public and private transportation services. In the future, public transit agencies may opt to provide more flexible demand-responsive service in smaller vehicles, while others may opt to pursue such systems through partnerships. The emergence of SAVs could give rise to the development of hybrid quasi-public-private transportation systems that could result in a range of partnerships that vary by region.

 

5. Occupancy Pricing – Underpriced and overcrowded roadways create a “tragedy of the commons” where individual users acting independently and rationally, according to their own self-interest, behave contrary to the common good of maximizing road efficiency. In the future, single-occupant SAVs could continue to dominate the majority of vehicle trips, if users access SAVs without pooling. To minimize the risk associated with this scenario, policymakers should consider pricing policies that adjust prices based on vehicle occupancies. Public agencies may be able to improve roadway performance by providing discounts for pooling and varying prices by the time-of-day, roadway demand, and congestion.

 

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SAVs will not inherently solve today’s transportation challenges. To solve these challenges, AVs require prudent planning and public policies that balance societal goals with commercial interests. To harness and maximize the social and environmental benefits of highly automated vehicles, we need to prepare for the transition today. This includes focusing on social inequities (the digital and income divide), public transit declines, land use barriers, and pricing strategies.

 

Susan Shaheen and Adam Cohen recently co-authored the article “Is It Time for a Public Transit Renaissance? Navigating Travel Behavior, Technology, and Business Model Shifts in a Brave New World” and the U.S. Department of Transportation Mobility on Demand Operational Concept.

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

Microtransit: Mining the Potentials of a Public Transit Disruptor

By Edmund Sandoval

Over the course of the past several years, the issues plaguing urban mass transit have received a lot of attention in the press. From ridership declines on a national level to cost overages and inefficiencies, to insufficient options and poorly planned routes, the hits just keep coming. And while ambitious projects to overhaul entire transit systems have come down the pipeline, there have also been a number of smaller, more nimble potential solutions have joined the flow.

 

One such possibility is that of microtransit, a coming together of on-demand ride-hailing and public transportation. This kind of partnership would hypothetically leverage the smart usage of data and a fleet of smaller, more agile vehicles deployed to riders in need of service.

 

Yet, with just a few small-scale pilot programs having been launched to date in a handful of cities, some question whether this potential could become an actual reality. To provide some insight, we spoke with Jeff Owen, Senior Planner for Active Transportation for TriMet, provider of bus, light rail and commuter rail transit services in the Portland, Oregon metro area.

 

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Trial and Error

On-demand ride-hailing service providers like Uber and Lyft have, in a very short time, fundamentally changed the way people get around when it comes to urban transportation. Rather than being reliant on a personal vehicle or having to fit one’s transport around a transit schedule, commuters can now, with a couple of quick taps, summon a car to any location within the service boundary of a ride-hail provider.

 

Seeking to build off the success of these companies, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) and Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) kicked off app-based public transportation pilots named Bridj and FLEX, respectively. Consisting of 14-person vans and converted 26-passenger buses, the aim was to provide flexible options for daily commuters.

 

Unfortunately, neither program lasted more than a year. Owing to high costs, low ridership, and a constricted service area, both were forced to fold. In Bridj’s case, rides were limited to only morning and rush-hour periods; FLEX, while offering rides within seven-and-a-half minutes, failed to provide connecting rides to the area’s light rail stop. The cause for low rider turnout was assumed to be a lack of promotion and marketing.

 

Still, transit agencies are working hard to examine every piece of the puzzle.

 

Money Problems

Currently, microtransit seems to be judged on its profitability while providing a low-cost public service to everyday commuters. The necessity of promotion and marketing often comes up in conversation, as does the need for more advanced tech, as well as partnerships with private companies. This begs the question: would those things actually make a difference?

 

At such an early stage, it’s hard to say definitively, but the evidence so far says probably not. For example, a Bay Area microtransit pilot, Leap Transit, folded after raising $2.5 million. As did Loup, which received $1.5 million in additional funding from Obvious Ventures (a capital investment fund founded by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams). Chariot, operating in San Francisco, was purchased by Ford Smart Mobility.

 

Part of the problem, then, is the focus on achieving returns on initial investments over fairly short trial runs. There have been calls for public subsidization, but this puts an additional onus on transportation agencies and municipalities whose budgets, in many cases, are already stretched thin.

 

“The reason we really take a careful approach is because we’re spending public dollars, and we really have to make sure we’re being good stewards of this money and not simply trying something because someone called us up and wants us to try it,” says Owen. “There’s a whole range of different things that go into the cost structure, the customer service, and the expertise of the driver and the operator.”

 

The average cost of microtransit rides is more expensive than bus or subway fares — hard numbers are difficult to come by but research points to roughly $3-5 per ride. Subsidization pushed Bridj costs down to $1.50 per seat, but that price turned out to mask an estimated cost of $1,000 per ride when compared to actual ridership stats.

 

In addition, increased visibility of these services runs the risk of increasing the appeal to riders who are able to afford the luxury of a Lyft or Uber, while failing to serve the communities who depend on a dynamic public transportation system.

 

“A lot of the micro transit pilots promise better customer service,” says Owen, “and sometimes it appears that you might get better public service but for a smaller number of people. How does that relate to equity concerns throughout the region? How does that relate to any number of related cases?”

 

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Just One Piece of the Puzzle

In many ways, one could question whether microtransit is getting a fair shake when it comes to reporting its apparent failures. Should microtransit be measured against the same standards?

 

“The question of the day that everyone is struggling with is, what happens when you start to compare some of the numbers of these pilots for cost or boardings per hour?” asks Owen. “When you begin to break it down, they don’t compare very well to what agencies currently run. Even the numbers on lower performing bus routes usually come out looking better than those with microtransit pilots,” says Owen.

 

What it’s really going to take is a combination of time, research and continued investment … and the acknowledgment that microtransit isn’t a panacea for the issues currently bedeviling public transit systems. It should be viewed as one of several tools that can be implemented within a multi-modal transportation plan. Rather than casting a wide net, it will require focused and nuanced planning.

 

As Owen neatly sums it up, “Emerging technologies may change what we do as agencies. Microtransit is one of the things that has gained a lot of traction and headlines, as well as new ventures, around the country. We’re now are in the process of working together with a lot of our peers and agencies across the country — sharing approaches, lessons learned, strategies — to continue improving what we do and how we do it.”

 

Public Transit in the City of Tomorrow

By Tim Lane

 

The next 15 years promises to bring a sea change in how we commute as a society. We may very well look back on this moment in history as the transition point between static and fluid public transit. Today, under the established, static model, the public largely adheres to set schedules to commute around our cities. We travel within the constraints of the system. Tomorrow’s fluid model may look drastically different. Traditional modes like buses and light rail will be partnered with new advancements like autonomous car fleets and the Hyperloop. Stitched together, the transportation experience will be catered to the individual’s commuting needs.

 

“Broadly speaking it’s exciting that the mix is happening,” said Brooks Rainwater, senior executive and director of the National League of Cities’ Center for City Solutions. “These things that for so long were science fiction are now becoming fact.”

New Technologies

Perhaps one of the most exciting developments is the fast-approaching reality of autonomous car fleets. A recent report from the independent think tank ReThinkX found that by the year 2030, 95% of passenger miles in the US will be serviced by fleets of autonomous, electric vehicles. The biggest question, perhaps, is whether this advancement will progress in the public or private sector.

 

“Uber is pretty clearly reducing public transit use,” said Dave Chandler, Director of Economic Development at the Center for Neighborhood Technology. “The trend of public transport went up from 2008 until two years ago and has declined since. People look at it and think it’s probably Uber. It’s a competing model currently.”

 

This competing model could only become more formative if private companies perfect and invest in autonomous fleets that don’t value their public transport counterparts. However, there is a brighter possibility. One where cities step in with fleets of their own.

 

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“I think there could be autonomous fleets at the municipal level,” Rainwater said. “It might be hard to conceptualize right now, but London is already trying to create a co-op. It is a model where cities act much like car rental agencies. They already have a ton of experience with fleet management. It’s a skill that could be used.”

 

Another alternative to protecting and promoting public transit would be to forge tight, reciprocal relationships between cities and public transportation. This could improve the overall commuting experience and ensure ridership equity.
“I think as we move to autonomous models we are starting to see some of those private/public partnerships pop up,” Rainwater said. “I think we’ll only see that relationship deepen.”

 

With increased sharing of transit and rider information, commuters will be able to depend on accurate travel times. Meanwhile, if approached correctly, private companies could be pressured to be a complement, not a competitor, to public transportation as a whole.
“I have some optimism about things like Uber building in more equity that could change the equation,” Chandler said.

 

Hyperloop, though grander in scale and seemingly further out than autonomous cars, could also instigate a huge change in public transportation. By slashing commute times and freeing up highway space, the Hyperloop would be a boon on multiple fronts.

 

“Hyperloop could be a game changer for places like Baltimore and D.C.,” Rainwater said. “I think that if the private sector can prove the concept, then the public municipalities could follow.”

 

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Smart City Planning

Even with all of the exciting technological advancements around transportation, without a considered, encompassing vision by cities, public transit won’t advance to its full potential.

 

“I think there are two basic paths that we could go down,” Chandler said. “The bright path is based on the consideration that more and more people are living in cities. Public transit is the most efficient way to move around in a compressed, compact environment. And the really neat thing is what has happened in last 20 years. There have been examples of people — combinations of architects, developers, and local government — designing transit-oriented developments.”

 

By planning cities around basic public transit needs, people can be easily connected with jobs in the city. With more and more manufacturing and information-based jobs created each year, the demand for flexible, creative workspaces will only rise. The importance of getting people to and from these dense, urban environments quickly and efficiently will be huge.

 

“The interactive nature of urban design and transit is underappreciated,” Chandler said. “Transit needs that design in order to function well.”

 

There have also recently been encouraging advancements in cities with historically low-functioning public transit systems.

 

“It’s really cool to see Denver and LA, which were built as very different cities, now trying to stitch it together,” Rainwater said. “It’s exciting to see the cultural pressures pushing people in this direction.”

The Morning Commute in 15 Years

A typical morning commute might begin by leaving your apartment located in the new development by the river. This and other areas are now designed with efficient transportation in mind, as well as the usual amenities.

 

From there, you hop into an autonomous transit car that’s been pre-scheduled, via your phone, to arrive at your doorstep at 7:30 AM. On any given morning, different neighbors might also share the ride, depending on time, day, route, and destination. The city’s transit system will take into account traffic patterns, commute time, and overall system efficiencies to decide the next stage in your journey.

 

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The car drops you at a bus stop along a main thoroughfare, and a minute later the bus arrives. There’s no need to pay to board — your progress is tracked anonymously using the latest in blockchain tech, and your account debited automatically. The bus glides down streets in a dedicated lane, making great time thanks to less congestion. But also, thanks to the city’s convenient new on-demand services, which means bus stops can now be spread farther apart, requiring fewer stops.

 

Then maybe you realize you’re running late for a meeting you forgot — across town from the office. You tap the new coordinates into your phone and are given new options in real time: Either pay for a private service to meet you at the next stop (unfortunately, all on-demand city cars are tied up in rush hour traffic), or have the city’s transit app reroute your commute. You’re instantly given an exact time of arrival and can alert your coworkers if you’ll be late, or rest assured knowing that you’ll make it on time.

 

While there may be big technological jumps in the next 15 years, the biggest change will be to the overall experience as a whole. We’ll still rely on modes of transit like buses and light and heavy rail, but utilized in concert with newer advancements like autonomous fleets and the hyperloop. The city of tomorrow will feature a fluid transit menu of options, working together for quick, efficient travel.

 

Will we still hate our daily commutes? Maybe. It will always be more difficult to rewire human nature than technology. But with the right planning, tracking and mix of smart systems, we’ll have to work a lot harder to complain about such an easy ride.