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Woman sitting at a bus stop in the dark looking at her phone with a bicyclist approaching

The cost of transportation is a barrier to economic success 

For shift workers with schedules that don’t align with regular transit schedules, on-demand transit meets them where and when they need it. Imagine walking miles in the dark to get to or from work because you don’t have a car and buses aren’t running. Imagine having to give up a good-paying job because you can’t get to the shifts you’re scheduled. 

These aren’t made-up examples; these are real-world stories from shift workers. Our economy runs 24 hours a day, and many jobs must be done in the middle of the night, starting early or working late. We know some obvious ones: medical professionals, police, firefighters, and public transit workers. Still, there are hundreds of other jobs that fall under the category of “shift work” that don’t follow a standard 9 to 5 schedule. Even jobs we don’t think of as that kind of shift work, like retail and food service, operate on the fringes of what many of us think of as a “normal workday.” 

And the problem is, often, transit systems just aren’t built for people who need to get to work at 4 AM or leave work at 5 AM. For people who rely on public transit, those schedule gaps can mean getting rides from friends or paying for rides from taxis or ride share. And we know neither of those two options is 100% reliable. 

Disconnected schedules between work and transit 

Many transit systems, even some of the larger ones, are geared towards people needing to get to work or school around a 7 AM to 7 PM kind of schedule. While the post-pandemic changes have flattened rush hour peaks to some extent, and there is more frequent service in what would have been low times, the beginning and end of service days have stayed roughly the same. 

And it’s not just schedules in the macro sense either; it’s the smaller feeder routes that might start later or stop earlier than more popular routes that make a big difference. Those small feeder routes often connect people from transport hubs to neighborhoods. You might be able to get to a sizeable park-and-ride hub at midnight when your shift is done, but if the route that gets you the last 5 miles home doesn’t run again until 6 AM, you’re stuck. 

This isn’t the fault of transit agencies either. It costs a lot of money to run a bus route, and if there aren’t enough people riding in the middle of the night or early in the morning, it doesn’t make economic sense to keep it going. Transit agencies are, especially today, in a constant budget battle, trying to offer the most service from a decreasing pool of money. 

Transportation costs add up when you don’t have a car 

Cars are expensive to buy, own, and maintain. We all know this. For many people, owning a car isn’t an option, so transit is how they get around. Sure, sometimes you can get a ride from someone now and then, but you can’t always count on that. For those times when transit doesn’t work, taxis or ride shares can fill in the gaps, but these are expensive, too. You can pay for a ride sometimes, but every day to get to and from work? Even if it’s just half of the journey, that money adds up, and that extra money spent to get to work eats into the money you have to live. Transit-insecure shift workers who rely on taxis and ride-share can pay hundreds of dollars a month to get to and from work. That money adds up, and this issue disproportionately affects the people who can afford it least. 

Shift work jobs are disproportionately lower-paying 

When you look at this issue in the big picture, most jobs aren’t high-paying ones where someone can afford a car to get to and from work. The majority of shift work jobs are low-paying, sometimes only at or just above minimum wage. This means the working poor bear the brunt of this, and these workers are often the glue that keeps the economy running. The people who make sure grocery stores are stocked. Who makes sure places are clean? Who cooks the quick meal you grab on your way to work? 

Low-wage workers can’t afford to take a taxi five times a week or more if shift work falls on a weekend when service might be less available. Shift workers have to make hard choices to make ends meet, and sometimes, that choice is to leave an excellent job because they can’t afford to get there. 

On-demand transit bridges the gaps between people, work, and transportation 

There is a potential solution to this challenge that is working in several cities around North America: flexible on-demand transit. The premise is simple: have smaller vehicles work in well-defined zones to bridge the gap when transit schedules don’t line up with work schedules. 

On-demand transit can run more efficiently because the vehicles are smaller, and you don’t need as many of them as you would buses to keep a route running. You can have a few vehicles in each zone pick up people and drop them off at places closer to home or a transit hub that will take them the rest of the way. 

On-demand transit can seamlessly integrate into your transit network through apps and centralized payments. For example, you use an app to pay for your trip, starting with the last train out of downtown, then, as part of the same trip, request an on-demand ride when you get to your station. If done well, you can ask the on-demand ride when you get on the train and have it waiting for you when you arrive. Since the on-demand system could know you’re on a particular train that will come at a specific time, the on-demand driver could be dispatched just in time to meet you. 

On-demand transit makes a lot of sense for closing these first-mile-last-mile gaps and improving the lives of people in your city. Students can get to school when they need to. Women especially can feel safer knowing they can get a safe ride when required instead of standing alone at a dark stop in the middle of the night. 

TransLoc puts the pieces of the transportation puzzle together 

Transit has always been about connecting people to opportunities. As our world has gotten more complicated, our transit system is adapting with services like on-demand transit to fill in the gaps and keep getting people where they need to go. TransLoc’s fixed-route and on-demand solutions can help your riders find the necessary services to fill those transportation gaps.

Contact our team to find out how, with just one app, you can offer better rides for everyone.