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Spare Partners with National Express Transit to Launch Commingled Microtransit and Paratransit in Massachusetts

The automated on-demand service will help improve operational efficiency for the area’s transit agency, GATRA.

Kristoffer Vik Hansen

January 18, 2021 (Vancouver, Canada) - Spare, the world’s leading on-demand mobility provider, has teamed up with National Express Transit (NEXT) to launch automated microtransit and paratransit services in the southern counties outside Boston, Massachusetts.

Operated by NEXT on behalf of the Greater Attleboro-Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA), the new on-demand system replaces recently-suspended fixed route, dial-a-ride and the Miles for Health paratransit services in the towns of Norfolk, Franklin, Foxborough and Wrentham. The service, called GATRA GO United, utilizes the agency’s existing wheelchair-accessible fleet, reducing startup costs.

“NEXT and Spare are helping us to meet the financial challenges brought on by COVID-19 by allowing us to reduce operating costs while still providing the essential services our seniors and customers with disabilities rely on,” says Joanne LaFerrara, Director of Customer Relations at GATRA.

Unlike with its previous dial-a-ride and paratransit systems, riders can opt to book transit directly through the GATRA GO United smartphone app, which is powered by Spare. They can also continue to call in their booking by phone up to two weeks in advance.

Once their trip details are entered into Spare, the platform automatically matches requests to available vehicles and efficiently pools riders across categories when possible onto these same vehicles. Called commingling, this allows agencies to serve different service categories using one fleet, increasing availability for all and reducing their operational costs.

“GATRA and NEXT were ready to take the leap towards a fully-digital platform. Spare was delighted to work with NEXT and support its transition into automated microtransit,” says Spare CEO Kristoffer Vik Hansen.

With the On Demand United model, all riders are eligible to receive door-to-door pickups and dropoffs. This means GATRA can continue to offer paratransit services without having to officially qualify riders under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“It’s a win for everyone; customers get a great new service that reduces their wait times, and GATRA saves money compared to operating the traditional fixed-route services,” says Jason Beevis, director of Technology and Innovation for NEXT.