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Swiftly and Spare Partner to Unite Fixed-Route and On-Demand Transit

Transit agencies can now provide the optimal mix of fixed-route and on-demand service for their local communities.

Luke Friesen

How do transit agencies build back better after the pandemic? Farebox recovery and ridership have plummeted by as much as 90 percent in some cities and budgets are being slashed at a time when costs are soaring due to increased safety and cleaning measures. In some markets, agencies have been forced to increase frequency on high-traffic routes in order to provide socially-distanced travel, while in others, they’ve cut service, leaving customers with fewer transit options. In other words: they are doing more with a lot less.

At both Swiftly and Spare, we use real-time data to help transit agencies make informed decisions about their service. Swiftly, which works with 90+ agencies, focuses on providing scalable data solutions for fixed-route bus networks, while Spare’s platform allows transit agencies to run any kind of automated on-demand transit operation.

Combining these two approaches is essential to creating comprehensive, user-friendly public transportation that balances the tension between supplying high-frequency transit in densely populated areas and delivering equitable access for sparsely populated ones.

With this new partnership, we will be able to help authorities answer some of the most pressing questions facing the transit community today, such as:

  • How do we deliver safe, equitable, reliable and on-time transit in the COVID and post-COVID context?
  • How do we dynamically manage service? (i.e. adding more vehicles to accommodate overcrowding and adjusting schedules more frequently to reflect rapidly changing traffic patterns)
  • How do we deliver the most cost-effective service across the transit network?

Putting riders first

“The need for more dynamic on-demand transportation services is growing. While fixed-route networks are incredibly efficient they cannot easily cover broad service areas. On-demand helps bridge the first-last mile gap,” says Swiftly CEO, Jonny Simkin.

Included in the partnership is the ability for riders to use multimodal platforms like the Transit app to plan and book their end-to-end journeys. This ensures a seamless front-end experience that encourages transit use.

We've already put this into practice at transit agencies across North America. Now, instead of running fixed-route service on underperforming routes, riders can take microtransit to connect with high-frequency transit corridors.  This allows agencies to tackle operational challenges while still providing an essential service for all. With Transit combining fixed-route and on-demand services in one app, riders can plan complete trips and evaluate their different options, which might include an on-demand ride to a high-frequency bus route line or direct to their final destination.

“The partnership with Swiftly means we can offer transit agencies and riders a holistic service that efficiently combines both fixed-route and on-demand,” adds Spare CEO Kristoffer Vik Hansen.

Technology, the great facilitator

We believe fixed-route will continue to be the backbone of public transit in cities. In busy corridors, it is the most effective and efficient mode of transportation.

Microtransit and other on-demand configurations like paratransit, NEMT (Non-Emergency Medical Transportation) and on-demand microtransit have the power to complement and maximize the use of these fixed routes. Enabled by mobile ticketing and payments, and multi-modal trip planning/booking, these services can provide transit to riders in areas where fixed routes aren’t feasible.

By using Spare and Swiftly together, agencies can flip between on-demand configurations and fixed-route based on real-time data usage and efficiency thresholds. This ensures that agencies are making the best decisions for their riders, operations and budgets.

The challenges facing public transit are vast and diverse, but not insurmountable. The convergence of fixed-route and on-demand mobility shows incredible promise and we’re keen to explore the possibilities with you.

To learn more, tune in to our on-demand webinar “How cloud-based technology is shaping the future of public transit” or drop us a line at