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Efficiency in Motion: CATA's Microtransit Solution for Titusville Residents

Goal

Replacing underperforming fixed route and costly paratransit service with a community centered microtransit service.

By the numbers

Average wait time 7 months after launching
8 minutes
On time performance
90%
Increase in boardings per hour
155.8%
Dedicated vehicles in Operation
3

Overview

Titusville, known as the birthplace of the American oil industry, is a small, rural city within Crawford County and is home to just over five thousand residents. Crawford Area Transportation Authority (CATA) provides public transportation services in both Crawford and Venango counties in Pennsylvania, catering to a ridership composed of 22% seniors. CATA operates fixed route services in a large number of communities while also offering door-to-door paratransit services across both counties.

Prior to working with Spare, CATA operated a long standing fixed route service in the City of Titusville, using a single bus that provided an hourly headway service for 10 hours a day throughout two thirds of the city.

The fixed route service was not meeting the needs of the community and proved to be inefficient means of transportation for the residents because they were left waiting for at least an hour if they missed the bus. CATA sought to replace this service with a microtransit offering that would better meet the needs of the community while making more efficient use of the agency’s resources.

Partner
Crawford Area Transportation Authority (CATA)
Service Type
Microtransit
Location
Titusville, PA, USA
Launch
July 2023

Challenges

  • Outdated existing service: The community’s fixed route service was underperforming and hadn’t been adjusted in 10 to 12 years to reflect the changing community demographics and their needs.
  • Low ridership due to lack of frequency: the fixed route system was inconvenient for riders as it operated on an hourly basis, leading to high wait times and diminishing ridership.
  • Increasing paratransit costs: Paratransit costs continue to rise as the agency hasn’t yet bounced back from the paratransit ridership lost during the pandemic. Other factors like a lack of dedicated grants and inflation also exasperated the financial strain on the agency.

Solution

  • Shifting fixed route operations to microtransit with Spare: CATA replaced its fixed route service in Titusville by launching a microtransit service, CATA GO, in its place. The CATA GO service runs Monday through Friday and riders are able to schedule trips on demand rather than having to wait sometimes up to an hour at the bus stop. Riders can schedule rides either by calling in, or through the CATA GO app. The agency also retained the model of pick-ups and drop offs at bus stops.
  • Maximizing resources through data-driven decisions: With the ability to now analyze data through the Spare Platform, CATA was able to more efficiently reallocate hours and driver resources to expand service without adding additional vehicles to the fleet. Because of this, CATA Go expanded to include service offerings until 7:30PM Monday - Friday with the addition of 5 hours of service on Saturdays, two services that were previously discontinued.
  • Supplementing paratransit route with accessible microtransit: To address soaring paratransit costs, CATA discontinued paratransit in the agency’s microtransit zone. The CATA GO microtransit service operates with three ADA accessible vans and is actively working with the twenty members of the community that use paratransit to educate them on the benefits of using the ADA accessible microtransit service. In addition, the Pennsylvania Lottery funds transportation for seniors over the age of 65. This renders the microtransit service free for these individuals, allowing them to save the $3.00 roundtrip fare of riding the paratransit service. Shifting to accessible microtransit in these zones is mutually beneficial as it comes at a lower operating cost for the agency and is free for riders.

Our overall transit network has vastly improved. I was down at the Walmart in Titusville and I saw one of our vehicles come in with a couple passengers; I spoke with one of the passengers and she was raving about how great it was and how much it's improving her ability just to get around town so she can access her physical therapy appointment, so it's vastly improved our network. Our experience with Spare has been very positive, I would say that when we were vetting the proposals for the software we identified Spare as a Partner that wanted to work with us. There's a number of companies that are doing on demand microtransit, But there's not that many that are trying to pursue a true rural market. And we felt that Spare had a very good platform, had a very easy user app experience, and they just demonstrated to us that they wanted to work with a rural community. And that was definitely something that we’re excited about.

Tim Geibel
Tim GeibelExecutive Director, Crawford Area Transportation Authority

Results

  • Increased rider convenience: With the shift to microtransit, riders that were left waiting upwards of an hour for a fixed route bus now face wait times of less than six minutes.
  • Rebounded ridership: CATA Go’s ridership surpassed fixed route levels and is currently operating at over 70% trip increase from prior services.
  • Effective use of resources: Using the rider data available to them, CATA pinpointed rider trends to determine how to maximize vehicle hours and driver resources to increase service coverage, without needing to add additional vehicles to the fleet.
  • Community Impact: Independent community hospitals, like the Titusville Area Hospital, are at risk of closing or getting absorbed by larger hospitals and it was extremely important to the community of Titusville to keep their hospital. CATA worked with the hospital to ensure that the bus stops were placed near clinics, pharmacies and in the general hospital area to promote healthy living and give the residents of Titusville better access to healthcare services.