The cost-effectiveness of transit service in rural areas is challenging and may lead to infrequent and slow service for people who rely on public transportation. The San Joaquin Valley Metropolitan Planning Organizations partnered with University of California, Davis to develop pilots of three innovative mobility concepts for the San Joaquin Valley region:
- An electric vehicle (EV) car sharing service tested in Tulare and Kern counties for trip makers residing in affordable housing complexes in eight rural communities
- A volunteer ridesharing service aimed to provide a transportation alternative to individuals who have limited access to transit, do not have access to personal vehicle, or are unable to drive in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties
- A Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platform that allowed the planning and payment for on-demand or fixed transit services in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties
A survey was distributed among pilot participants to assess each program, beginning with their launch in 2019-2020, until the end of the study in November 2021. There were 1,971 reservations for the EV car sharing service, 1,899 reservations for the volunteer ridesharing service, and 281 unique users for the MaaS platform during the study period. The main method used to analyze the improvements in transportation was a comparison of the survey data collected from before, during, and after participating in the pilots. For the EV sharing project, addresses were related to census blocks to calculate metrics such as the number of members by census block, the distance to the closest EV sharing hub, and distance to other hubs and major cities. Utilization data was also collected, specifically time and distance data for each shared EV, reservation duration in hours, and the identifier of the enrolled app user. The data sets collected for the volunteer ridesharing and MaaS platform pilots included member information, utilization data, and survey responses.
Electric vehicle car sharing service:
- The EV car sharing service increased mobility miles by approximately a factor of two. Fifty-four percent (25,761 miles) of miles traveled for the service reservations would not have occurred in the absence of the service.
- The EV car sharing service reduced the usage of personal internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Of the total miles traveled, 24 percent (11,578 miles) would have been traveled using an ICE vehicle in the absence of the EV car sharing service.
- The EV car sharing service provided improved mobility to lower-income households who traditionally had fewer transportation alternatives. For example, households in the extremely low-Income category accounted for 57 percent of reservations and the largest group of users (35 percent).
Volunteer ridesharing service:
- In the survey results, 76 percent of respondents stated that the volunteer ridesharing service had assisted them in taking more trips. The majority of respondents (80 percent in the before survey and 79 percent in the after survey) reported that they could take more medical trips with this service.
- During the study period, 62 percent of members reported that they would not have made any of their trips in the previous month had the service been unavailable.
- Survey respondents reported that they are “usually” or “always” able to travel to where they need to go at a higher rate (96 percent) after the pilot as compared to before joining the volunteer ridesharing service (63 percent).
- Based on the results of the member survey, most active user respondents (67 percent) who had made purchases or route searches through the MaaS platform agreed that the application had made it easier to pay for transit trips. However, the impacts of this MaaS platform on transit use overall were unclear.
- Approximately 59 percent of respondents reported that they expected to use transit “more often” or “much more often” because of the MaaS platform, but 21 percent of active user respondents indicated that they used transit “about the same” amount as they had before.
- The feedback on this pilot was limited because out of the 281 users who interacted with the application, only 78 survey respondents were identified as members who used the service, and only 12 respondents had engaged with the service for long enough (more than one month) to provide perspectives.