Next Generation Transit:
Integrating and capitalizing on new forms of mobility including micro-transit and TNCs in existing and future transit networks to optimally meet evolving travel demands and user expectations and minimize impacts
In the last three years, nine in ten US transit systems have lost ridership for reasons including the growth of transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, lower gas prices, and urbanization pushing lower income residents to areas with traditionally lower transit service levels. Studies in cities such as San Francisco and Denver indicate that 20% to 40% of TNC users previously traveled by transit. At the same time, the convergence of technology, demographics and private investment has led to the strong growth in TNCs, microtransit and bicycle and scooter sharing; all becoming linked within integrated platforms providing trip planning, payment and travel information, while providing a much improved travel experience at relatively low cost to the user.
Exceptions to the declining ridership trend such as Seattle and Houston have substantially restructured their routing and investment toward customer-oriented accessibility improvements with higher reliable frequencies and seamless fares and services. Several transit agencies are also experimenting with pilot programs that engage TNCs in providing subsidized demand responsive service in areas where fixed-route coverage or disabled and on-demand services carry high public costs per rider.
Traditional Transit & Technology-Enabled Transportation Services
Public fixed-route, high-frequency rail and bus services operating in exclusive or managed rights-of-way. Examples include commuter rail, metro rail, light rail, streetcar, rapid bus, express and HOV-lane bus, and fixed-route buses in high demand corridors.
Rail: High density, limited linear corridors.
Hi Cap Bus and BRT: High/moderate demand density corridor trunks.
Public or private shuttles and microtransit operating smaller vehicles in route deviation, demand-responsive services. Examples include casual carpool, university and employer shuttles, and TNC services like Chariot, Via, Lyft Shuttle, Uber Express Pool.
Coverage Bus and Shuttles: Moderate demand corridors and branches.
Private and public door-to-door services following completely flexible routes and guaranteed travel times while attempting to pool several traveler groups. Examples include vanpool, casual carpool, Lyft Line, Waze, and carpool.
Pooling: Low moderate many-many demand landscape.
Drive: Low demand landscape.
Our Planning & Advisory Approach
Next generation transit will involve integrating and capitalizing on new forms of mobility including micro-transit and TNCs in existing and future transit networks to optimally meet evolving travel demands and user expectations and minimize impacts. Fehr & Peers is working with regional planning organizations, local governments, transit agencies, and TNCs to formulate long-range plans and short-term actions to coordinate the sizing and deployment of public and private services. Strategies consider the potential for autonomous vehicles (AVs) to redefine the costs and capabilities of transit in terms of vehicle size mix, service efficiencies, and use of infrastructure.
Key elements of next generation transit include:
Area and service corridor suitability for backbone transit vs crowd-sourced or door-to-door services based on demand densities, demographics, and relative modal accessibilities.
Pilot service level and subsidy tests, cooperative agreements among public agencies, TNCs, and technology and data providers.
Costs, benefits, and necessary accommodations for autonomous transit and TNC vehicles.
In all three contexts, we consider the opportunity to reallocate public investment toward the most productive and beneficial corridors while retaining or improving public and private service in lower demand areas or certain times of day and justification for additional transit investment to move traditional transit service forms to next generation.
We also understand that jurisdictions need to inventory, assess, enhance, and prioritize curbspaces to meet the multimodal demands at the curb in a safe and efficient way. The challenge of resolving curbside conflicts will only grow as modal options and preferences change. Thus, curbside management is also about anticipating future trends – like how autonomous vehicles, in particular, will further disrupt the transportation landscape. Fehr & Peers is actively working in this area with key efforts such as:
SPUR Regional Strategy
Fehr & Peers provided insights to the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) on the likely respective successes of backbone transit, microtransit, pooled ridehailing, and first/last mile services to transit stations for a set of eight local areas and regional travel corridors. We used GPS travel pattern data in conjunction with travel behavior data and mode choice modeling to account for differing demand densities, socio-demographics, and the relative accessibility offered by auto travel and individual tiers of potential transit service. Our analysis was sensitive to nuanced pricing structures and responsive to policy levers such as tolling and HOT lanes to enable it to help evolve SPUR’s thinking on policy positions to support their Regional Strategy 2050 effort.
Cincinnati Transit and TNC Integration Study
This precedent-setting collaboration between a TNC (Uber) and regional transit agencies on service integration strategies involves the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, and the Cincinnati Regional Chamber. The study addresses these questions:
- What are the differences in traveler characteristics between TNC users and transit users?
- To what degree is ridership affected by strategies such as integrated ticketing and easier first/last mile connections for suburban rail transit?
- Where are there gaps in service coverage for the TNC and the transit agencies, and which service(s) could best be employed to fill this need?
- What is the best tiering of services for integrating the TNC and its AV equivalents into transit?
San Diego Urban Area Transportation Study
Foundational considerations in planning the long-range transit system for the San Diego region include the roles transit agencies, micro transit providers, and TNCs will play in providing multi-tiered transit services. The 2050 strategic plan for the San Diego Association of Governments considers next generation transit the system concurrent with the emergence of AVs and determines the effects on the region’s transportation and livability goals. The study evaluates modal performance based on corridor and subarea trip density, socioeconomic markets, and accessibility. It determines which areas could be more cost-effectively served with flexible crowd-sourced and door-to-door services, allowing the re-direction of transit funds to fixed-route backbone service and system expansions where their benefits are greatest. The conclusions take into account the emergence of AVs and other innovative technologies, as they affect the comprehensive regional strategy.
Fehr & Peers, in partnership with the City of Centennial, CO Innovation Team and Lyft, led the launch of the Go Centennial Pilot Program—the first program in the nation to provide a fully subsidized on-demand rideshare service including wheelchair-accessible transportation that connected to a transit station. Fehr & Peers played a key role in the successful launch and operations of the program through:
- Developing the program’s Operations Plan.
- Return on Investment (ROI) analysis for Centennial.
- Presenting at City Council meetings to secure funding.
- Developing a service area expansion model.
- Writing a survey for existing and potential users.
- Completing an Evaluation Report for the pilot including a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the program.
TNC Transit Collaboration Pilot
Fehr & Peers performed an evaluation of a pilot program that deployed TNC and taxi services in support of intra-community and rail station access transit for a fast-growing community of 60,000 residents and 30,000 jobs. Pilot objectives were to assess the relative effectiveness of the local transit agency’s fixed-route bus service and possible elimination of low-productivity bus lines and subsidized service by two rideshare TNCs and a local taxi company. The study’s surveys and provider data indicated that the private services succeeded in providing point-to-point transportation service 24 hours a day, seven days a week with acceptable wait times and a 60% reduction in cost per rider compared with fixed-route service.
Josephine County On-Demand Transportation Service
Fehr & Peers worked with Josephine County, Oregon on an Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) grant to assess the feasibility of an on-demand transportation service to pilot for other Oregon communities. We performed an existing conditions assessment including travel patterns through big data, demographics analysis, a literature review, and interviews of peer pilots. We developed an Operations Plan for first/last mile and point-to-point services that considered provider models, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) service, fare structure, service areas, booking, enforcement, funding, ridership forecasts, an estimated budget as well as a cost/benefit analysis, Marketing Plan, and Evaluation Plan. These recommendations led to implementation-ready proposed services that will provide a cost-effective and equitable transportation option that increases access to transit, jobs, and services and provides a positive return on investment.
Curb Use Productivity Study
Fehr & Peers prepared an assessment of curbspace productivity drawing upon survey data from a major US city. We collected traffic and parking data, video, photo and field observations for five commercial streets with different activity types and intensities. Data included location and lengths of bus stops and dedicated bus lane, and curbspace use allocation to parking, commercial loading, passenger loading and bus stops. Observations and video data also quantified: type of vehicle (TNC, bus, commercial, taxi, private vehicle, shuttle), availability of loading zone at the time of the loading event, duration of the loading event, number of people loading/unloading. The study found that, depending on activity level and peaking characteristics, TNC pickup and dropoff productivity in terms of passengers per space were similar to bus productivity levels.
Autonomous Rapid Transit
We published a position paper in the Urban Land Institute’s Urban Land journal on Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) operating with variable vehicle sizes in dedicated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes. The article offers the viewpoint based on research by ourselves and others that autonomous cars are likely to have significant adverse effects on urban traffic conditions and public transit and that autonomous transit would provide the opportunity to counterbalance that trend. ART could form a feasible, smooth transition from the existing conditions and vehicle ownership patterns to complete shared-AV environments moving toward more frequent, fast, flexible, and lower cost service resulting and:
- Building efficiency as demand grows.
- Increasing the potential to attract choice riders.
- Reducing the role of private autos in the city, if solo AVs are reasonably regulated based on impact.
ART Corridor Simulation
Fehr & Peers conducted an operational simulation of the potential benefits of substituting ART in a planned San Francisco BRT corridor. The analysis maintained the same lane configuration and exclusivity proposals at the BRT concept but substituted ART vehicles of various sizes capable of more directly serving trip origins and destinations; thereby, offering the potential to attract more choice riders and reducing stops and delays along the dedicated bus lanes. ART would also offer the opportunity for the smaller vehicles to leapfrog buses stopped at every station for loading/unloading. The VISSIM simulations indicated that the ART concept would reduce delay for bus travelers by 45-50% relative to BRT and by 35% relative to cars traveling in the same corridor.
ART Visioning Study
Fehr & Peers supported a visioning study for land use and transit intensification along El Camino Real, a significant transit corridor connecting the Silicon Valley with San Francisco. Already planned for the corridor are upgrades to Caltrain commuter rail, a managed lane with added express bus service on US 101, and proposed high speed rail service. The area is substantially under-provided with housing and growth of corridor employers like Google, Facebook, and Apple without additional housing are major regional and sub-regional concerns. The visioning proposal by Urban Footprint identified the potential to triple corridor residential densities producing a 33% reduction in vehicle miles per capita. Our research also found that adding next generation ART to the corridor would further increase transit ridership by more than 100% and, aside from vehicle purchase costs, reduce capital and operating costs significantly.