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Answering the Big Microtransit Questions: How, Where, and Why On-Demand Works

Published: December 25, 2020

Moovit’s Head of Solutions in Australia and New Zealand, Juan Carbonell, recently took part in a presentation and panel discussion at UITP’s virtual IT-TRANS event. Juan highlighted the ways in which the right on-demand microtransit solutions with data-driven planning can deter many of the current risks facing public transportation agencies and riders. 

He also answered the big questions we hear from agencies considering on-demand – here they are. 

How can we shift people back from private to public transportation?

One of the best ways to win riders back is to listen to them. In our COVID Effect Rider Survey, sent to tens of thousands of our app users worldwide, we found the three most common needs for riders to return to public transit are: 

  1. emerging mobility trendsA higher frequency of vehicles to allow for social distancing and reduce the chance of crowding,
  2. Getting real-time information to reduce stress and avoid waiting in crowded areas, like bus stops, and
  3. The ability to pay with contactless means of payment, especially by mobile, to reduce handling money

Agencies are now seeking out new ways to improve their services and better meet rider demand and their evolving expectations. Here’s where on-demand microtransit fits in. 

How do on-demand services answer riders’ emerging needs?

On-demand answers the needs of today’s riders with real-time information, increased safety, and the ability to pay for rides via mobile or through other contactless methods for utmost convenience. It offers better social distancing measures with less crowded vehicles, and by using virtual stops for pickups and dropoffs to avoid crowded bus stops. And with minimal walking distances and curb-to-curb rides for increased convenience, on-demand increases accessibility for all riders. On-demand also increases equity by adding services where there are none or replacing underperforming routes to help bring more passengers into the transit network. 

By aligning transit services with the demands of riders, agencies are setting themselves up for long-term success. Further, on-demand solutions offer tighter control over and the ability to easily optimize mobility services with automated dispatching, routing, and scheduling, and granular data drive-downs to discover what’s working and what can be improved. With a robust backend system, on-demand platforms have the ability to trace riders and drivers who may have been in contact with an infected person. This offers agencies an additional way to maintain safety, allowing them to communicate directly with riders who may have been exposed to the virus.

Ultimately, using technology to pull the passenger, the driver, and of course, the service all together creates a recipe for success. 

Case Study: Reliable Transportation Alternative in the City of Haifa with Moovit On-Demand

Where does on-demand microtransit fit into the existing network?

basic on demand use case gifOn-demand has incredible potential for revamping urban (and rural and suburban) mobility, with multiple specific use cases where on-demand makes the most sense. 

The first major use case is to supplement or replace underutilized fixed-routes. Night service and day services in suburban areas see some of the lowest demand during non-peak hours, but citizens still need to travel during those periods. Instead of increasing headways and making public transit even less convenient, on-demand services can be implemented during those hours to ensure riders have a safe, reliable ride to their destination, but without wasting resources since on-demand automatically matches supply with demand.

Next, on-demand can complement micromobility for short-range feeding into the network. Micromobility is great for urban residents on sunny days who live close to a transit hub. On rainy or snowy days, or even on especially hot days, micromobility options like bike- and scooter-share are less convenient. Offering additional on-demand services in densely populated areas encourages people to use public transit instead of choosing a ride-hailing service or jumping in their private car. 

In addition, while traditional feeder-lines can bring riders into the bigger network, they are often inefficient. Some passengers end up spending more time on the feeder buses than in the mass transit network, and service is often worse in suburban and rural areas, where riders often rely on feeder services for their full commute. By replacing the current fixed-route or introducing new on-demand services in these areas, riders will be able to connect to the mass transit network more quickly and easily. 

The final use case we often see is introducing on-demand in underserved or unserved areas. Without a convenient way to get to and from bus and train stations, many would-be public transit riders in these areas turn to private cars or ride-hailing. These services end up taking would-be riders out of the public transit network because it isn’t as accommodating or easy.  Adding coverage to underserved pockets with an on-demand service gives riders the quick and convenient journey they desire while keeping them in the public transit network. 

Watch Juan’s full presentation on using data analytics to optimize on-demand transport here

As you can see, on-demand microtransit is helping change urban mobility and public transit for the better, opening new opportunities for communities around the world. Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll dive into how Moovit’s approach to on demand creates sustainable, data-driven microtransit services riders love.


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