Microtransit, as a transportation mode, is a fairly new concept, which means agencies frequently encounter barriers to implementation: an unfamiliar service approach, difficulty identifying and conveying need, missing data, or lacking understanding of the problem being solved, among others. There is also a risk involved in procuring something new and untested, especially since it can be unclear what service solutions are available. All of this leads to difficulty getting funding approved. As such, soliciting a microtransit service can be an entirely different process compared to other services like passenger counters or third-party operators.
Be wary of the jack of all trades
With this in mind, it is important to know how to get what you want from a technology provider before going through the RFP-writing process. Frequently, agencies can get caught up in having a one-stop-shop RFP that accounts for everything from vehicles to technology. This approach can negatively impact the future success of a microtransit service before it even gets off the ground. Often, the best providers of technology don’t provide operators or vehicles, and the best third-party operators don’t have the technology needed to execute your specific service requirement. Be wary of the ‘jack of all trades’; often, they’re the master of none.
Measure twice, cut once
One way to get around this uncertainty is to test the products or service before going all-in with procurement. A short-term pilot is a great way to get to know your technology or service provider and see if your system design works in the real world. Nothing can substitute for real-world experience. Another thing to consider is running a data simulation. By gathering demographics, ridership, and other important metrics and simulating your system design (e.g. number of vehicles in use, hours of operation) ) agencies can mitigate risks before launching a short-term pilot.
Ultimately, being well-informed and knowing what’s needed ahead of time is the key to establishing a successful agency-owned microtransit service. After working with over 18 agencies nationwide, we’ve learned what the best practices are—and aren’t. Here’s our comprehensive list of the do’s and don’ts of writing a microtransit RFP:
- Ask for references from vendors for agencies who have launched similar projects
- Understand the price range for the different microtransit offerings and ask for what is within your budget
- Make sure that all of your stakeholders are in support of the project and understand the benefits before proceeding
- Seek the advice of agencies who have deployed microtransit when defining a scope of work
- Be informed by gathering as much data as possible about your service region
- Begin procurement without researching what current microtransit offerings on the market—it’s important to know what’s available to you
- Use a generic scope of work that does not fit your use case
- Lump multiple ITS/Software offerings into one bid—effectively lessening your chances of procuring from the best in each field
- Write an RFP without having an idea of who would use the service in your region and from where
- Decide on a vendor before going to RFP, especially if you have not piloted their service offerings