Customer story

Microtransit in response to COVID-19

Goal

Launch a microtransit service that provides safe and convenient transportation for Palma’s residents in times of COVID-19.

Overview

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.

Challenges

  • 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.

Solution

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.

"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."
Manel Rivera BennàssarTransportation Engineer, EMT

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.”
Camila Gonzalez ArangoGrowth Representative, Spare

Results

Within less than two days, EMT Palma and Spare successfully replaced 2 low-occupancy fixed-route bus lines with a fully operational on-demand mobility service. Four months later, a total of 14 fixed lines have been replaced to On-demand, reaching an average of 1000 trips per week. There are currently 123 taxi drivers registered on the platform, which represents 10% of Palma’s taxi fleet. This has liberated 14 buses to support the regular operation in the main corridors.

Users now experience an overall 30 % time savings in both waiting and riding time, according to EMT calculations.