Customer story

Fleet-sharing for paratransit and microtransit in Lubbock

Goal

To provide a convenient, on-demand public transit solution that improves operational efficiency, helps bring down costs and addresses COVID-19 challenges.

Overview

Before partnering with Spare, Citibus operated it's paratransit and non-emergency medicaid transportation (NEMT) services through a legacy system. The agency wanted to adopt automation, on-duty optimization and data-driven planning to improve efficiency and the passenger experience. It also had a limited, nighttime-only demand-response service called Citibus NiteRide, which ran as a stand-alone service from its paratransit.


With COVID-19, Citibus had to reevaluate its operations. With Spare’s technology, it upgraded its paratransit operations and introduced a microtransit service that allows passengers to book trips on-demand without increasing the fleet or operational costs. Spare’s automated platform allowed the agency to commingle these two services. Now both paratransit and microtransit passengers share the same fleet. Commingling has enabled Citibus to offer paratransit riders a truly on-demand, scalable service, and microtransit passengers a real public transit alternative that encourages social mixing.

Challenges

  • Services weren’t scalable: it was impossible to adjust trip details in real-time due to manual booking and scheduling processes.
  • Poor and outdated passenger experience: no real-time notifications or ability to book using a smartphone app.
  • Parallel (vs. interconnected) microtransit and paratransit operations impacted by driver shortage.
  • Insufficient planning tools to understand the potential impact of changes to the transit system.

Solution

Citibus used commingling, delayed matching and rider groups to address its challenges.

First, it chose to use the extra capacity on its CitiAccess fleet for microtransit. Called commingling, this approach allows transit agencies to use their existing fleet to expand service. By segmenting passengers into different rider groups and assigning properties to each group in Spare, Citibus was able to ensure that CitiAccess passengers continue to receive specific paratransit services even though their vehicle was shared with microtransit riders. Commingling directly addressed the agency’s driver shortage.

It also switched from manual booking and processes to an automated approach. Riders can now book their transit either ahead of time or the same-day through a smartphone app. They can also continue to call Citibus dispatch and still book real-time on-demand transportation.

“It’s extremely easy to get started with Spare. We signed the contract and three weeks later were up-and-running. Our drivers went home one day working out of Trapeze and the next morning working out of Spare. The transition was super simple.”
Chris MandrellGeneral Manager

With delayed matching, Citibus passengers always receive the most cost and time-effective ride because scheduled trips are only matched to a vehicle just before the trip is set to take place. This guarantees that trip assignments are optimized based on real-time demand.

Citibus was able to be confident in its decision to expand Citibus On-Demand by leveraging ridership data and simulating the impact of replacing fixed-route service with microtransit.

Results

After it relaunched paratransit and microtransit with Spare, Citibus witnessed a 200% increase in ridership at the peak, with a swift ramp-up in the first 4 weeks despite of COVID-19.

Through commingling, the agency also realised a return on investment (ROI) of 3.8 and is forecasted to save approximately $3 per trip versus the legacy parallel system. This approach allowed Citibus to expand microtransit, filling in gaps caused by cuts to fixed-route timetables due to COVID-19.