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Spare launches its first microtransit operation in Germany

The on-demand microtransit service will initially be used to transport elderly residents living in the Mannheim area to COVID-19 vaccination centers before expanding to the general population.

Darian Heim

Spare is teaming up with Rhine-Neckar Transport (rnv), the public transit operator in the cities of Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg, Germany to launch the region’s first on-demand microtransit operation. Set to go live this spring, the service will initially be used to transport vaccine-eligible residents living in Mannheim — mainly those over 80 — to COVID-19 vaccination centers starting on February 8.

These vaccination shuttles are intended to solve some of the transportation challenges in getting the elderly safely to-and-from these centers like keeping them isolated. rnv has developed an extensive hygiene protocol for both riders and drivers including an on-board sanitation station and regular disinfection of high-touch surfaces. On board, all will be required to wear a respiratory face mask equivalent to a KN95.

Riders must call rnv to book a spot on one of two specially-marked shuttles, which accepts up to two passengers at a time seated diagonally at a distance of almost five feet. Individual trip requests can also be pooled through Spare’s platform.

“With Spare you can get a microtransit service up-and-running within a few days, which makes it ideal for a temporary or pop-up type configuration like what we are launching in Mannheim,” says Darian Heim, Director of Growth, EMEA at Spare.

The platform also allows rnv to segment the vaccination service from the regular one once the two start running concurrently. “In other words, only those eligible for vaccination rides will be able to book them,” Heim adds.

For rnv, the decision to launch this specific configuration first made a lot of sense.

“We have less overall demand for public transit and therefore more idle resources. At the same time, we have transportation challenges around the vaccination campaign in particular for the elderly. Spare is allowing us to address those challenges head on right away while we ramp out to an expanded service for the general population,” says Julian Schrögel, rnv’s Project Manager On-demand Transit.

Vehicles used in the operation will not be branded Fips, enabling rnv to keep carrying out vaccination transportation with dedicated resources once the expanded service launches. Rnv however will use its own drivers and fleet of electric vehicles.

While the vaccination program covers the entire Mannheim metropolitan area, the on-demand microtransit service will be used in select parts of Mannheim mainly to feed rnv’s larger network of trains and buses as a first-mile-last-mile solution. Passengers using that service will be able to book door-to-door transit through a whitelabel smartphone app powered by Spare.