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There is no fixed schedule for safety

Campus safety has improved significantly over the past ten years, but there still are still thousands of rapes, assaults, thefts, and other crimes reported every year. Perhaps most concerning are the increased incidents of hate-based incidents, which grew 3600% between 2005 and 2021. While campuses are generally safe, it’s important to not become complacent; we have to keep finding new ways to ensure the safety of students, faculty, and staff.

Tools like call boxes, panic buttons, better lighting, and education are essential, but sometimes what people really need is a safe ride. When you need to get across campus, to the parking lots, or even connect to the larger transit system, knowing you can get a ride when you need it and going where you need to go is essential.

Fixed-route shuttles are great during the day when there are a lot of people who all need to get to the same places at once. Getting from the parking lots to main campus centers in the morning or after most classes are over makes sense. There are enough people to run a shuttle on a regular route on a regular schedule, but what about later at night when there aren’t as many classes and students around? It doesn’t make sense to run an empty shuttle around in circles for hours and only pick up a few people.

On demand transit lets campuses put vehicles where people are and take them where they need to go—even if it isn’t somewhere the fixed-route shuttle usually goes.

Safety doesn’t follow a set schedule

You can’t predict when someone needs a safe ride. It could be early in the morning, the middle of the day, or late at night. Sometimes it works out, and the regular shuttle is in the right place at the right time for someone, but most fixed route services only cover the most popular places on campus. It might travel a few main roads, but it can’t realistically be everywhere for everyone.

Which is where on demand transit comes in.

On demand transit, especially when supported by a mobile app (like TransLoc), lets someone request a ride when and where they need it. They don’t need to walk to the closest bus stop and wait for the next shuttle to come by. If someone doesn’t feel safe and needs to get from A to B, making them walk and wait doesn’t promote a safe campus.

From a mobile app people can request rides when the shuttle isn’t running or they are far from the regular route. On demand transit isn’t just a convenience thing, it’s part of making your campus safe, welcoming, inclusive, and accessible for everyone.

On demand transit augments everything colleges already do to promote safety, by making sure people always feel safe getting to, from, and around campus.

Take people exactly where they need to go

On demand transit is much more flexible than any fixed route shuttle could ever be. You can take someone right to their car in a massive parking lot when a shuttle might only drop people off at set spots. You can go from one part of campus to another that doesn’t usually have that many people. You can pick late-night staff up at a transit hub and bring them to campus. Because no one is expecting the shuttle to be at a certain place at a certain time, it’s free to roam where it needs to.

Reduce call center demands with an app

When people think of on demand transit, often services like paratransit come to mind. You call a number, you tell them where you need to go, and they dispatch the bus. The problem with this model is staffing a call center for something as unpredictable as when someone might call for a ride is hard. Chances are you’ll have too many people answering phones most of the time and then have peak times when the phone won’t stop ringing.

Then there is the human element.

Routing and dispatching drivers, even if software tells you which driver to contact, takes extra time. Some of it can be automated, but the entire process of call-answer-take down information-dispatch takes several minutes.

Today, on demand transit is more like ride share services. You have an app on your phone. It knows where you are already, so all you need to do is tell it where you want to go and when. Then algorithms take care of finding the right driver and dispatching them to the rider. There is no back and forth on the phone confirming all the details, everything is captured in the app. Of course, you need a person in your transportation center to answer the phone if someone has a question or a problem, but most of the time your app will do the heavy lifting for you.

And your app doesn’t work in isolation, it’s paired with advanced software to make the most of your on demand service efficiently routing drivers around your campus.

String together stops efficiently

One of the misconceptions about on demand transit is that it’s like a taxi service. You request a ride, a car shows up, and you’re the only passenger traveling. Having one passenger in each vehicle isn’t a good use of time or fuel, so an on demand system dynamically strings trips and people together for the most efficient route possible.

If you have several vans circulating around campus and nearby public transit hubs, there is a good chance at any given time you can have pick ups and drop offs along the way. People are pretty smart, but it’s really hard to dynamically reroute yourself while driving to pick up and drop off people. Deciding who should be first or next or even the route to take is complicated when you also have to make sure you keep your eyes on the road.

On demand systems take this burden off drivers. As a driver is going from place to place, the system can automatically let the driver know they have a new pick up request and route them in the best way possible. Because the system knows where each shuttle is at all times, your dispatch center doesn’t have to call around to find out who is closest, the trip planning algorithm picks the right driver to make the pick up. And even if you only have a few drivers, the system still keeps things running smoothly.

Develop a hybrid system combining shuttles, public transit, and on demand

On demand transit doesn’t exist in a vacuum. This isn’t an all or nothing solution. On demand transit is about using your resources more efficiently. Let’s say you have a fleet of 20 shuttle buses. You have five main circulating routes that go around the campus. At one time each route might have two or three buses in operation. But what if it’s a slow time? How many buses do you really need out on the road? What if you could create a better transportation network by increasing frequency on your key routes, augmenting with on demand elsewhere, and build stronger connections to your larger public transit network.

This same model is used by transit agencies around the world. They reallocate scarce bus resources to the most popular routes, and use on demand to link up to hubs from areas where routes weren’t close to capacity.

This hybrid model also works well to handle sudden surges like concerts or sporting events, or anything else that draws a crowd. The same systems that let you optimize for day-to-day ridership, let you quickly pivot when you need additional capacity for large events.

Improve safety, but also access and the environment

One big reason people still drive private cars is convenience. Your car takes you exactly where you want to go, exactly when you want to go there. But it’s also deeper than that, parents who are taking classes need to make sure they can get to and from school quickly and efficiently. Often public transit is neither fast nor efficient. You might be able to get to a main transit hub quickly, but getting to campus at off hours could mean a lot of waiting. Worse, you might be able to get to campus for the start of class easily, but have no options to get home in the evening. And this means the only solution is a car. Drive the car, pay for parking, and walk to your class.

On demand transit fills this gap. It augments all the other options to give people who travel at off peak times know they can get to campus and back safely and easily. And when you can get more people to leave cars at home, or at least use park and ride lots, you have fewer cars on the road and reduce emissions overall. It’s much better to have one shuttle picking people up than have 20 cars all on the road at the same time.

TransLoc Gets It

TransLoc understands the needs of university, corporate, and airport campuses. With a blend of solutions for fixed route and on demand transit, you can tailor solutions to exactly meet your needs. TransLoc provides everything you need to deploy fixed route and on demand transit and a team who knows how to move people.

TransLoc is part of the Modaxo family of companies so it has access to experts in every facet of transit operations and getting people from place to place. Get in touch with us to talk about how TransLoc can give your campus community transportation solutions that improve safety, save money, and help the environment.