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Understanding Microtransit 

Matthew Risher, Project Manager, Aerotropolis Atlanta CIDs

Microtransit, also referred to as on-demand transit or flexible transit, utilizes technology to provide a more personalized transit service and fills many gaps left by traditional fixed-route services.  Microtransit’s small scale, on-demand services improve the rider experience by adding flexibility to the transit experience.1   

Generally, microtransit services utilize smaller vehicles than traditional bus services, including shuttle buses or passenger vans, and computers installed in microtransit vehicles are able to identify multiple riders traveling in the same direction to create a customized route to serve those customers’ needsAlthough many transit agencies already offer some microtransit services, such a paratransit or dial-a-ride services, improved mobile data access and more widespread adoption of smartphone technologies has made microtransit an especially viable option for today.2   

The “first and last mile problem”, or the walking trip from a formal bus stop or transit station to the riders’ final destination, is one of the main transit deficiencies that can be addressed with microtransit.2  This can be especially important for lower-income users who may have fewer transportation options available to them, and in industrial employment centers where pedestrian infrastructure is limited or nonexistent.  In addition to the last mile problem, some transit users experience other challenges that include: infrequent service, frequent stops/slow service, restricted or lack of late night service, crowding, limited seating, resulting in standing room only, weather exposure, etc. 

South Metro ATL & Airport Area 

In the South Metro area, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the largest employer and considered the state’s economic engine. On-terminal concessionaires tend to live closer to work but have longer commute times due to complex commute patterns.  This group also utilizes public transit, Uber, Lyft and taxis at higher rates than other employee groups.3  In addition, due to the limited service hours provided by MARTA, many overnight workers at the airport do not have the option to commute using public transportation. In the areas surrounding the airport, warehousing and freight-oriented business that also operate on a 24-hour basis are prevalent, presenting a similar challenge for overnight employees in those areas. Microtransit service in the airport area would make a significant impact to both of these challenges by eliminating excessive transfers and providing 24-hour transit coverage in the South Metro area. 

In the South Metro area, public transportation primarily serves high traffic corridors connecting developed commercial areas, leaving the surrounding low-density residential areas in “transit deserts.” Microtransit service also lends itself to serving these public transportation gaps, improving transit coverage for riders as needed  more efficiently than by adding additional scheduled service that will remain mostly unoccupied.  Transit access in these areas would be significantly improved with the implementation of flexible, on-demand microtransit service.

[1] Microtransit. (Accessed 3/10/2020). Retrieved from American Public Transit Association: https://www.apta.com/research-technical-resources/mobility-innovation-hub/microtransit/

[2] How the Microtransit Movement is Changing Urban Mobility. (Accessed 3/10/2020). Retrieved from CityLab: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2015/04/how-the-microtransit-movement-is-changing-urban-mobility/391565/

[3] ATL Employee Travel Survey Results. (2018) Aero: Airport Employee Ride Options. Provided by Georgia Commute Options.