- A unified ecosystem makes it possible to combine the unique strengths of each mode of transit in order to create a solution that is greater than just the sum of its parts.
- Multimodal transit solves a number of common challenges facing public transit providers – while meeting the needs of the community and its diverse population
- Read on for seven advantages of multimodal transportation
A healthy mobility ecosystem is made possible when various modes of transportation work in tandem to meet the needs of a community and its diverse population. These modes can range from fixed-route buses and trains to shorter-distance shuttles and micromobility options like bikeshares and dockless scooters. While no two communities will require the same set of solutions, simply supplying a number of options for constituents can go a long way in allowing truly flexible mobility around town.
Taking this a step further, when planning for new modes of transportation, it can be helpful to consider each potential mode as a solution that connects existing services, as opposed to distinct services that connect separate origins and destinations. For example, smaller, more flexible options can provide a great way to immediately improve access to bus stops in areas where riders previously endured long walks to get to their bus. This is also known as the First-Mile/Last-Mile problem.
Establishing interconnected modes of transportation can add functionality and optimize access that fixed-route service alone can’t offer.
Because these modes are often viewed as standalone options rather than parts of a whole, they’re often thought to be in competition with one another. It’s important to remember that on-demand microtransit and micromobility can actually enhance fixed-route services by improving access and, in some cases, alleviating stress in areas where fixed-route service isn’t optimal.
A unified ecosystem makes it possible to combine the unique strengths of each mode of transit in order to create a solution that is greater than just the sum of its parts.
In this article, we’ll highlight eight example scenarios where multimodal options can work together to solve common transit challenges.
Advantages of Multimodal Transportation
Multimodal transit can solve for a number of common challenges & scenarios that public transit providers face. We’ve listed seven examples below, along with the related advantages that multimodal solutions can provide.
- Alleviating driver shortages: one advantage of on-demand microtransit is that there are fewer certification requirements for operators. While bus operators are required to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), operators of smaller on-demand vehicles are often only required to maintain a standard driver’s license. This means that there is a larger candidate pool for qualified operators in areas that are impacted by driver shortages. Additionally, e-bikes and e-scooters are operator-free!
- Easing budget constraints: fixed-route services often require large upfront investments in infrastructure & vehicles. Nimble modes of transportation, like microtransit, do not come with the same initial costs. Complementary modes of transportation can also offset operational costs of existing services by flexing services to run exclusively on microtransit during off-peak hours or in areas of low demand.
- Expanding door-to-door service: 35% of transit riders must travel a minimum of 15 minutes to get to the nearest bus stop*. Creating first-mile/last-mile services with combinations of multimodal services can connect more people to the places they need to go by removing the barriers between home and transit access points.
- Reducing Carbon emissions: while buses are becoming increasingly sustainable, electric shuttles, e-bikes, and e-scooters also provide great options for eco-friendly transportation.
- Increasing service accessibility: 72% of riders say they would ride fixed-route transit more frequently if routes expanded outside of metro areas*. On-Demand microtransit can expand service zones & increase accessibility without over stretching existing fixed-route services. Simulating microtransit services can also provide an excellent way to “test the waters” when considering a coverage area expansion.
- Minimizing Rider wait times: Schedule-restricted routes can lead to longer headways. Expanding the number of available modes of transportation can provide an exponential increase in possible combinations of services to give riders the most direct route to their destination.
- Controlling surges in service demand: The ability to switch between modes during peak and base periods can provide greater flexibility for both riders and agencies. With on-demand or micromobility options available, it’s possible to reduce the number of empty buses that are running during periods of lower service demand.
*according to the 2021 Transit Value Index Survey
Improving Accessibility with Multimodal Transportation
Below are just a couple examples of transit providers who have turned to multimodal solutions in order to serve more riders with reliable mobility in their communities.
Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA) is tasked with providing transit services for a whopping 29 communities across Massachusetts. Historically, GATRA has provided traditional fixed-route and Dial-A-Ride services for its constituents. However, as coverage area expanded, they found that their current transportation system did not reach pockets of suburban communities, so they opted to run an on-demand pilot program in areas with little-to-no transportation options. The new service, which featured smaller shuttles to connect riders to more popular corridors, quickly became a staple within their mobility portfolio and has provided flexible mobility to 63,000 residents and counting.
With its educational facilities and healthcare system, Emory University is the second largest employer in Atlanta, Georgia and provides more than 3 million trips to 55,000 healthcare workers, students, and university employees each year. However, due to regular fluctuations in service demand, buses were operating at times with little or no riders aboard. To address this problem, they supplemented their fixed-route service with microtransit at key times, reducing operational costs without sacrificing service hours.