These shuttles are a cross mix of city buses and ride-hailing services, where riders can summon vehicles using an app. They are often cheaper than hailing services, whilst not constrained to timetables and fixed routes. Some of the shuttles operate door to door, whereas others pick up and drop off passengers at "virtual bus stops" near their final location.
There have also been serval cases where transit agencies use their micro-mobility shuttles to ferry passengers to and from public transportation hubs. Advocates for these types of services claim that they could possibly boost ridership in public transport (which has declined with more riders opting to call for ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft). But there are still those who are skeptical. While micro-transit can seem like the solution to first-mile/last-mile challenges, it still has some inherent limitations, according to think tank Transit Centre. For instance, micro-transit can prove to be more expensive when opting to provide door-to-door services while also drawing from funds that could have been utilized to improve pedestrian access to bus stops.
Even though there have been previous attempts to create a viable business case for shuttles that have failed (Ford’s shuttle service Chariot goes out of business), there are still people living in neighbourhoods that lack good access to public transportation. So, even if these new services face the same fate as Chariot, they still gather valuable data on which routes that are underserved, which is of huge value for the cities.
Written by Mahdere DW Amanuel, RISE.
1. 2020-01-16. On-demand shuttles a growing alternative to city buses