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Lessons Learned from Public Microtransit Pilots in North Carolina

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As public agencies consider incorporating microtransit into their jurisdictions, information is an essential tool. Microtransit remains a relatively new approach, with limited guidance available to ensure a smooth, minimal-cost adoption. This report may be of interest in developing your microtransit strategy. Written by NC State University researchers for the NCDOT, it explores the planning and operational challenges faced by ten in-state services that span three service delivery models.

Public transit systems in low density regions face known coverage challenges. A fixed route or schedule means, for many, alternate transportation must be taken to the pick-up or from the drop-off. This “first-mile” “last-mile” problem can mean more congestion, more need for parking, and less efficient travel. On-demand transit systems like microtransit offer a potential solution. Through an app or website, microtransit users can request a ride to and from destinations of their choice. This model, well known since the dawn of ridesharing, allows tracking and payment through a single interface. Public microtransit, unlike a standard Uber or Lyft, might feature a number of passengers. In some respects, it represents a hybridization of a public bus and a private rideshare.

Increasing adoption of intelligent transportation systems will allow these systems a greater operational scale. A larger fleet, better able to coordinate around demand and traffic, can better serve the real-time needs of community members. Understanding the lessons learned by earlier and ongoing systems can ensure we continue to provide the best possible service. The report highlights needs including conducting regional feasibility studies, finding sufficient funding, and winning support from community groups.

Of chief importance is taking time to cautiously, optimally select a service provider. Carefully review all bids and contracts, communicate expectations and requirements clearly, and inquire about services provided. A low cost does not mean good value-for-money, and failure to confirm a technology provider has the capacity and intent to meet expectations can cause costly, time-intensive complications. Selecting the most cost-effective bid of those with the means and intent to provide your desired services greatly increases your chances of success. You can read more lessons learned in the report, including marketing and operational challenges.

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