When considering the development and deployment of publicly operated microtransit services, identify specific challenges and use cases up front that prioritize customers’ needs over the novelty of new technology.

Lessons learned and best practices from three microtransit case studies in the United States.

Date Posted

UpRouted: Exploring Microtransit in the United States

Summary Information

Cities and public transportation agencies are experimenting with on-demand, shared, and dynamic models to augment traditional fixed-route transit services. These services—referred to as microtransit—are enabled by technology like the mobile smartphone applications pioneered by privately operated transportation network companies. The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) defines microtransit as "a privately owned and operated shared transportation system that can offer fixed routes and schedules, as well as flexible routes and on-demand scheduling. The vehicles generally include vans and buses." As interest in this technology grows, it is critical for public transportation agencies and departments of transportation to understand the benefits and challenges of microtransit services.

Lessons Learned

  • Identify specific challenges to be addressed up front. When considering the development and deployment of publicly operated microtransit services, agencies should prioritize customers’ needs over the novelty of new technology and think critically about how to design, develop, and deliver a pilot that puts the customer first.
  • Establish performance metrics not just for ridership, but improved mobility, increased safety, and enhanced customer experience. Transportation agencies should consider defining performance more broadly than ridership and farebox recovery metrics and should structure the service contract around continuously improving these metrics.
  • Incorporate increased flexibility in the procurement process. 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.
  • Conduct robust vendor and design research prior to RFP development to better understand capabilities and set achievable goals. Transportation agencies should establish their goals or define hypotheses up-front and work with potential technology vendors to design a microtransit project within those parameters.
  • Ensure the public is educated and prepared to engage with the service through on the ground marketing and outreach. Transportation agencies should prioritize local, on the ground marketing and outreach upon launch of a new microtransit service.