Mountain Line GO! flexes idle paratransit vehicles into microtransit solutions for the underserved
Maximize fleet productivity through commingling—filling empty seats in paratransit vehicles with a newly introduced microtransit system—thereby reducing fleet downtime and satisfying riders with increased service levels.
Existing transit options in the Huntington and Industrial Corridor area in Flagstaff posed barriers to riders, especially for those who may have mobility limitations. Poor transit access with railroad tracks and Interstate 40, caused physical barriers to accessing existing transit nearby; this left the area featuring essential services—like a homeless shelter, food bank, and dialysis center—underserved. Mountain Line also needed to find a way to maximize their vehicle fleet without incurring additional operations costs in the face of staff limitations and budget constraints.
Mountain Line’s targeted first mile last mile microtransit service focuses on filling an area in high need for mobility options since this area houses many non-profits, human service agencies, and clinics.
- Mountain Line
- Flagstaff, Arizona
- November, 2021
- Service Type
- Microtransit, Paratransit
- Mountain Line paratransit vehicles were idle for long periods of time between trips which resulted in high costs and decreased productivity
- Flagstaff has a high concentration of service providers but in a low density, industrial locale and is not conducive to fixed route transportation
- Existing nearby transit options are not accessible, especially for riders with mobility limitations, given large walking distances, and other barriers including freeways and railway tracks that can’t be easily crossed
- Budget constraints and limited staff restricted the number of distinctive microtransit and paratransit services Mountain Line was able to offer concurrently
To address the transportation needs of riders in the area, Mountain Line launched a microtransit service to better utilize idle paratransit vehicles. A large percentage of Mountain Line GO! Riders are individuals who may have mobility limitations but do not qualify for paratransit. By being able to manage paratransit and microtransit simultaneously on the Spare platform, Mountain Line then switched to a commingled service to overcome cost constraints, and limited staff.
Mountain Line chose Flagstaff as the primary service area as it was underserved by existing transportation offerings, and there were not many options for people to access local essential services. These services—like homeless shelters and other social services—tend to be frequented by people who don't have access to technology for trip planning, booking, or service updates. This meant Mountain Line needed to offer multiple booking options—a call center, online booking and a mobile app—to ensure that access to transit remained accessible despite perhaps not having access to a cell phone or cellular data. Employees partnered with local organizations to speak to riders face to face and drove rider adoption of the Mountain Line GO! Service through offering free rides with promo codes. Without promo codes, rides cost a dollar, fostering accessible and affordable transportation within the Flagstaff community.
With the switch to commingling, Mountain Line significantly reduced vehicle idle times, and increased boardings per hour by 10%. Most microtransit trips took place during idle times for paratransit which resulted in higher vehicle productivity.
In providing a commingled service, Mountain Line also discovered that they were able to serve riders that may not be eligible for paratransit but who may still require some assistance—63% identified as older adults and/or persons with disability.
I am 86 years old, and I go to Walmart to get 1 – 2 weeks’ worth of groceries. It is very difficult for me to maneuver my cart on the regular bus. I love the ‘$1 bus’. It is easier to get my cart on there since there is more room and the driver puts the lift down for me. The people on there are also very friendly and the drivers are wonderful. I applied for paratransit, but did not qualify, since I can still use the bus.
The Mountain Line GO! service provides a first-mile last-mile solution and connects riders to nearby grocery stores, the fixed route bus and a connection center. 87% of riders indicated that the service enabled them to access locations they would otherwise have trouble getting to. Many of these riders come from disfranchised backgrounds and require transportation to and from the homeless shelter. They felt as though they were in a forgotten part of Flagstaff, as taxi providers also didn’t tend to go there.
With 95% rider satisfaction, given overall convenience, low wait times and high connectivity, in the coming months Mountain Line is seeking to integrate the commingled service into the fixed route system. This would allow for seamless transfers when accessing fixed-route transit, at no additional cost to the rider.
- Increase in boardings per hour
- Riders identifying as older and/or with disability
- Rides using promo codes
- Overall rider satisfaction
- 4.75 out of 5