Customer story

Commingling paratransit and microtransit in Lincoln

Goal

Commingle paratransit and microtransit to provide a vastly improved paratransit rider experience and propel StarTran’s operations into the future.

Overview

StarTran, the public transit operator in Lincoln, Nebraska, was seeking to improve the quality of its paratransit service and efficiency of its fixed-route transit network. With the outbreak of COVID-19, StarTran quickly reduced the timeline for its planned implementation of Spare’s on-demand technology and launched a mixed on-demand transit system that combines paratransit and microtransit in days to cope with the fluctuating demand.


Through the use of Spare’s technology, StarTran has supplemented its reduced fixed-route bus service and replaced its underperforming paratransit solution with Spare’s state-of-the-art commingling approach. To be precise, StarTran has launched one new on-demand microtransit service and updated the ADA-compliant paratransit service - both services now share the same fleet. This configuration allows greater scalability and has significantly improved the rider experience.

Challenges

  • StarTran's paratransit service, Handi-Van, hasn't been scalable due to manual booking and scheduling processes.
  • Handi-Van hasn't provided a great experience for riders due to missing real-time information and a complicated advance booking setup.
  • With COVID-19, Lincoln's paratransit community became hesitant to use the service, and more and more no-shows and cancellations occurred, mainly because of 24+ hours in advance booking.
  • During the pandemic, StarTran wanted to provide an easier booking experience and transit option for essential travel while also providing continuous employment for its agency staff.
"When we looked to replace our underperforming paratransit software, we were impressed by Spare’s innovative approach. Spare’s software is more user friendly than other solutions and reduces or eliminates many manual processes. So far we are extremely happy with Spare.”
Michael DavisTransit Manager, StarTran

Solution

StarTran and Spare's solution has a unique operational service model, which allows commingling of different rider groups and fleet sharing of vehicles. To emphasize the impact of this model, two different services were launched in the same zone. Using the same set of drivers and vehicles for all, StarTran essentially combines all its demand-response services into one efficient operation. These services are an on-demand microtransit service for the public and a scheduled or on-demand ADA paratransit service.

This is the result of Spare’s commingling approach, which means that one vehicle can carry passengers from a microtransit service, a paratransit service, and any other specialized transit service. The pooled ridership brings together a diverse group of people, ultimately bringing the community closer together while maximizing operational efficiencies and rider experiences.

Microtransit is available for $5 per ride and can be booked and paid via an app, and is open to the public. The Handi-Van paratransit service is free of charge and can be booked via a phone call or via the app.

Results

Since the two services share the same drivers and vehicles, they are significantly more cost-effective. This efficiency gain will also become more apparent with the projected increase from 1.5-2 paratransit/ADA passengers to 3-4 passengers per vehicle hour after the 2-person per vehicle COVID restriction is eliminated.


By commingling microtransit with paratransit, StarTran has eliminated the need for 3 extra vehicles on the road, which means operational cost savings of up to 33%. Commingling has also saved 25%, or 40 hours of staff time per week, on scheduling and dispatch because of Spare’s automated solution.