Microtransit in response to COVID-19
Launch a microtransit service that provides safe and convenient transportation for Palma’s residents in times of COVID-19.
The outbreak of COVID-19 on the Balearic Island of Mallorca forced a difficult decision on Empresa Municipal de Transportes Palma (EMT): should it maintain its fixed-route bus lines to ensure coverage across the community, or suspend the lines to minimize its financial losses?
By partnering with Spare, EMT transformed these seemingly bleak options into an opportunity to innovate. Spare helped EMT identify specific fixed routes that had become financially unviable, and to immediately replace them with three new on-demand zones.
Not only does the new microtransit service provide much-needed transportation options to vulnerable residents, it also propels EMT into the future thanks to Spare’s adaptable and dependable technology.
Connecting residents to hospitals and essential services
Three new on-demand zones ensure safe and sustainable public transit across half the Bay of Palma.
EMT’s bus lines were no longer appropriate for the new mobility patterns created by the pandemic, but access to public transportation had to be maintained for critical workers and transit-dependent residents.
It was essential that the impact of COVID-19 was not exacerbated by public transit, so social distancing had to be guaranteed.
Local taxi drivers and associations had to be part of the transit solution, which required a uniquely sophisticated service configuration.
Given the urgency of the pandemic, an immediate service launch was necessary. However, Spare’s apps and training resources had not previously been available in Spanish.
Combining buses and taxis was the hope we had when we reached out to Spare – and it works great. We are excited to finally see an on-demand service in Palma. We had this in mind for a long time, and we implemented it in record time."
To our knowledge, EMT's on-demand service was launched faster than any before it: in less than 48 hours, a fully operational mixed-supply transit solution was off the ground, helping Palma to tackle the outbreak.
Spare and EMT worked in record time to configure the on-demand zones, set up and test a new stop-to-stop service, fully translate apps and resources into Spanish, and train EMT’s frontline staff.
Thanks to the sophisticated algorithms underpinning Spare Platform, riders can now request trips via phone or a mobile app, and their requests are instantly matched with an available driver. Once the pandemic recedes, rider pooling will be enabled in the platform, which will help to improve the overall efficiency of EMT’s service.
An exciting aspect of this new service is how it blends multiple fleets to cater to peaks in demand, using the innovative Spare Fleets feature. EMT invited local taxi companies to provide non-dedicated vehicles when needed, to complement EMT’s dedicated buses. Working directly with the taxi network ensured that taxi drivers (who are key stakeholders in Palma) feel part of EMT’s solution, rather than in competition with it.
"This is a beacon of hope. I feel grateful for Spare’s ability to help communities. Solidarity and cooperation are key watchwords right now, and they are perfectly encapsulated by this partnership in Palma.”
Within less than two days, EMT and Spare successfully replaced two low-occupancy fixed-route bus lines with a fully operational microtransit service. Involving over 40 drivers from dedicated and non-dedicated fleets has allowed EMT to drastically improve transit coverage in Palma. Daily ridership hit 25 riders overnight, and this continues to climb.
In the difficult times of the pandemic, this is a tremendous success story for transit.
Did you know?
The Balearic Island of Mallorca is the most visited island in Europe, receiving over 10 million tourists each year.
After the crisis, this service will completely replace low-occupancy fixed routes in suburban areas.
White Label App
A customized EMT app will soon be released in Palma, powered by Spare’s flexible white label app.