Skip to main content

Micro-Transit: A New Arena for Public-Private Partnerships in the Transportation Sector

Krista D. DeCastro

Transit Concept Photo IllustrationThe world of transportation has seen significant advancements in recent years, and one such innovation is the micro-transit system. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of what a micro-transit system is, how it differs from traditional mass transit, and the benefits it brings to communities. We will also explore successful examples of micro-transit systems under public-private partnerships.

What is a Micro-Transit System?

A micro-transit system is a form of transportation that offers flexible and on-demand services to passengers within a specific area. Unlike traditional mass transit, which follows fixed routes and schedules, micro-transit systems are designed to be more responsive to the needs of individual passengers.

Micro-transit systems typically utilize smaller vehicles, such as vans or mini busses, to provide transportation services. These vehicles can be hailed through a mobile app or by phone, allowing passengers to request a ride from their current location to their desired destination. The system then optimizes the routing and scheduling to efficiently serve multiple passengers with similar origin and destination points.

Differences with Traditional Mass Transit

There are several key differences between micro-transit systems and traditional mass transit:

1. Flexibility: Micro-transit systems offer passengers the flexibility to request a ride on-demand, rather than adhering to fixed routes and schedules. This flexibility allows for more personalized and convenient transportation options.

2. Efficient Routing: Unlike traditional mass transit, which follows predetermined routes, micro-transit systems optimize routing based on passenger demand and real-time traffic conditions. This ensures that passengers are transported in the most efficient and timely manner possible.

3. Cost-Effectiveness: Micro-transit systems can be cost-effective compared to traditional mass transit, especially in areas with lower population density. By using smaller vehicles and dynamically adjusting routes based on demand, operating costs can be minimized while still providing efficient transportation services.

4. First and Last-Mile Connectivity: Micro-transit systems can address the first and last-mile connectivity challenge, where passengers struggle to access traditional mass transit stations from their origin or to their final destination. By providing convenient and flexible transportation options, micro-transit systems can seamlessly connect passengers to major transit hubs.

How Communities Benefit from Micro-Transit Systems

Micro-transit systems offer numerous benefits to communities, including:

1. Increased Accessibility: Micro-transit systems improve transportation access for underserved communities, such as those with limited access to traditional mass transit options. By providing on-demand services, micro-transit systems bridge the transportation gap and ensure that residents can easily reach essential services, such as healthcare facilities, schools, and job centers.

2. Enhanced Mobility for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities: Micro-transit systems can cater to the specific needs of seniors and persons with disabilities by offering door-to-door transportation services. This improves their mobility and independence, allowing them to participate in community activities and access essential services without relying on others.

3. Reduced Congestion and Environmental Impact: By optimizing routes and reducing empty vehicle miles, micro-transit systems contribute to reduced traffic congestion and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The use of smaller vehicles also results in less road space occupancy, further alleviating congestion in urban areas.

4. Cost Savings: Micro-transit systems can provide cost savings to both passengers and transit agencies. For passengers, micro-transit often offers more affordable options compared to ride-sharing or owning a private vehicle. For transit agencies, micro-transit can be more cost-effective to operate, especially in areas with lower demand or during off-peak hours.

5. Data-Driven Decision Making: Micro-transit systems generate large amounts of data on passenger demand, travel patterns, and service quality. This data can be leveraged by transit agencies and urban planners to make informed decisions regarding service optimization, infrastructure planning, and future expansion.

Successful Examples under Public-Private Partnerships

Several cities around the world have implemented successful micro-transit systems through public-private partnerships. Let's explore a few notable examples:

1. Bridj in Kansas City, USA

Bridj is a micro-transit service that operated in Kansas City, Missouri, in partnership with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA). The service utilized a fleet of vans equipped with Wi-Fi, charging ports, and comfortable seating. Bridj provided on-demand transportation services, allowing passengers to book rides through a mobile app. The partnership with KCATA enabled Bridj to seamlessly integrate into the existing public transit network, providing efficient and convenient transport options to residents.

2. Via in Arlington, USA

Via is a leading provider of on-demand public transit services, known for its dynamic routing and efficient operations. In collaboration with the Arlington Transit (ART) agency in Virginia, Via launched a micro-transit service that served as a first and last-mile solution for commuters traveling to and from the Arlington National Cemetery. The partnership successfully addressed the transportation needs of visitors and employees, reducing congestion and improving accessibility to the historic site.

3. Kutsuplus in Helsinki, Finland

Kutsuplus was a pioneering micro-transit system that operated in Helsinki, Finland, from 2012 to 2015. The service allowed passengers to book rides through a mobile app and dynamically optimized routes based on passenger demand. Kutsuplus utilized a fleet of minivans and effectively complemented the existing public transit network. Despite ultimately discontinuing the service due to financial challenges, Kutsuplus demonstrated the viability of micro-transit in a city with an extensive mass transit system.

These examples highlight the successful implementation of micro-transit systems under public-private partnerships, showcasing the potential for collaboration between transit agencies and private companies to provide innovative transportation solutions.

New Miami Blog March 31, 2015
On March 29, 2015, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, of which Bilzin Sumberg is a member, hosted an event that discussed infrastructure plans that would increase Miami’s walkability and bikeability. In addition to increasing modes of mobi...
New Miami Blog November 20, 2013
A recent article published in the Miami Herald reflects growing support to form a public-private partnership (P3) to save the national passenger rail system.  To some, this statement may sound puzzling, as the national passenger rail system has been controlled by Amtrak, a public-private entity, sin...
New Miami Blog February 12, 2018
We have previously written about the need for new funding solutions for public transportation, including mechanisms that capture the added value of mass transit on adjacent properties.  Last week, consistent with our recommendation, Miami-Dade County adopted an ordinance that creates a “Transp...