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Milton Transit doubles ridership by introducing a commingled on-demand transit solution while lowering operating costs

Goal

Revamp an underperforming fixed-route service by introducing an on demand transit service that combines  transit and specialized transit riders in the same vehicle to maximize fleet usage and vehicle efficiency.

Note: Specialized transit refers to paratransit in Canada

Overview

The Town of Milton is one of Canada’s fastest growing communities. Rapid development has created sprawl and an environment that makes running cost-effective fixed routes difficult. To tackle this, Milton Transit introduced on demand transit. They launched Canada’s first-technology enabled commingled microtransit and specialized transit service in Southern Ontario.  Since launching, Milton has seen ridership grow, rider satisfaction jump and operating costs diminish.  By commingling their new microtransit service with their existing specialized transit service, Milton Transit was able to serve riders better while maximizing their fleet and keeping their costs low.

Partner
Milton Transit
Location
Milton, Ontario
Launch
April 2021
Service Type
Microtransit, Paratransit

Challenges

  • Underperforming fixed routes resulted in inefficient use of financial resources
  • Many single and manually dispatched trips for specialized rides rather than pooled trips
  • Areas like the 401 Industrial Zone and the residential Boyne Zone had specific needs that were not being met with conventional transit
  • The pandemic significantly affected ridership in the summer of 2021, yielding 35% of pre-COVID numbers

Solution

In 2019/2020, to reduce costs associated with running a fixed-route service in low density areas in the Town of Milton, Milton Transit started exploring on-demand transit options. The significant change in demand caused by the pandemic lockdowns in Ontario, expedited the process and Milton Transit quickly went from exploring to adopting on demand transit.

In late 2020, Milton Transit launched “OnDemand” and replaced underperforming routes operating in the Boyne Zone, a residential area southeast of the downtown, and the 401 Industrial Zone, northeast of downtown Milton and adjacent to one of North America’s busiest highways, Highway 401.

To further maximize the OnDemand system, Milton Transit commingled rides with its specialized transit service, Access+. Those using the commingled service also now had the option to book their rides online, making it easier for these riders to commute to work.

Although the riders can book using the same mobile app and share the same vehicles, the configuration of the services is different as Access+ riders tended to need more support entering and exiting vehicles, and were often traveling with support persons to medical appointments. These riders therefore receive door-to-door service and OnDemand riders can do stop to stop. The OnDemand service is directly integrated with stops within the fixed-route system, making transfers across services seamless at no additional cost for riders. It is also linked to the local MaaS application Transit App making the rider planning and booking experience seamless.

Results

Through two fruitful years of collaboration, Milton Transit introduced a successful commingled demand response transit service. Commingling the Access+ and OnDemand services led to overall increased ridership, reduced costs, and a more inclusive rider experience.

Commuters headed to the 401 Industrial Zone experience shorter trips with fewer stops, meaning a relatively rapid commute. Riders in the Boyne Zone who almost lost transit service due to the cost of running an underutilized fixed route service are able to call an on demand trip and Milton Transit is able to continue to provide service in the area due to the cost savings.

Since launching Milton “OnDemand” in combination with “Access+” Milton has doubled its ridership in the 401 Industrial Zone and increased ridership elsewhere without adding vehicles to Milton Transit’s existing fleet, saving the agency nearly $30,000 in expenditures. Milton Transit reduced its costs while maintaining high service levels for both specialized and microtransit riders.

The new online booking system which consists of a Transit App, the Rider App and web portal made requesting rides easier and much more convenient. Greater automation when it comes to microtransit rides left capacity for the call center to be primarily used for requesting specialized rides, resulting in the extension of customer service hours for these riders.

Planning a service is much simpler, quicker, and more flexible. The turnaround time to launch a new zone or to move duties or the workforce around is a lot shorter than planning a new fixed route. Easy access to key performance indicators also allows us to monitor the service and make adjustments when needed. We’re very happy with how things are going.

Spare Logo
Marina CajicService Design Planner, Transit, Milton Transit

With the success of their current commingled service, Milton Transit will be launching a new zone in September 2022, the Derry Green Zone, which will provide shuttle service in a commercial and industrial service area.

Increase in boardings per hour
30%
Cost Savings (%)
25%
Cost Savings ($)
$27,500
OnDemand Online Booking Users Since Launch
53%