Use Cases

What Is Microtransit?


Misha Dautovich


4 min. read

Misha Dautovich
4 min. read

Public transit has long been synonymous with the fixed-route model. In other words, large-format vehicles running in circuits that passengers can access at specific stops or stations is how most people have historically interacted with transit services. While effective for densely populated areas and places near main arterial routes, fixed-route transit comes with significant limitations when holistically evaluating an agency’s transit system.

The Low-Density Mobility Challenge

Providing good quality transit in areas with low population density, or where a particular agency is trying to service sprawling suburban regions, has been a consistent challenge for municipalities the world over. In cases like these, running a fixed-route service can mean:

  • Long walks to stops or stations
  • Time-consuming transfers
  • Service frequency that is too low to rely on
  • Operating mostly empty vehicles

Additionally, in terms of cost per ride, a fixed-route vehicle will always be an expensive proposition in these cases. They burn through operating costs whether the moment-to-moment ridership justifies it or not.

It's a Big City Problem Too

Even in big, densely populated cities or regions that invest heavily in public transit, some citizens can be left out. Those who live far from main arterial routes or who need to travel to outlying areas may face many of the same challenges as those living in low-density areas. This can be a large barrier to everyday use for many people, especially if physical limitations make long walking distances prohibitive.

RideCo’s Microtransit Solution

These challenges create barriers to usage, making a service that ought to be a universal public good only truly accessible to some. Luckily, there’s a solution.

Microtransit offers agencies the option to dispatch small-format vehicles to underserved or low-density areas only when a ride is needed. It closes a mobility gap with greater efficiency, putting transit resources exactly where they should be. The result is people getting where they need to go faster and easier, whether in a stop-to-stop model or to connect to other modes of public transit. Indeed, fleets of smaller vehicles, dynamically routed to respond to demand in real time, can be an invaluable part of a larger transit system.

RideCo’s industry-leading microtransit software delivers greater efficiency through continuous optimization. Also known as Solver, our patented routing algorithm optimizes each ride every 20 seconds, regardless of whether it was booked on the same day or weeks in advance. It analyzes the guaranteed pick-up and drop-off times of each ride, the location of each vehicle, traffic conditions, and many other factors to determine the most efficient way to transport each passenger from their origin to their destination.

Solver is the optimization engine behind RideCo’s comprehensive product suite:

  • The Passenger App is a user-facing smartphone app, web portal, and concierge tool for trip reservation and management that provides a seamless passenger experience.
  • The Driver App offers an in-vehicle driver-facing application that provides automated dispatching, route navigation and real-time optimization, vehicle tracking, and mobile data communication.
  • The Operations Center is a dashboard suite providing dispatch centers streamlined operations and service monitoring.
  • The Profile Manager is a centralized space to store all your passenger information including ride preferences, emergency contacts, standing orders, user group applications, and more.
  • Data Insights enhances all of this, offering standardized and custom reporting to provide the operational and business intelligence required to monitor service and enable data-driven decision making.

RideCo On-Demand Transit Software Product Suite

A Growth Trend

It should be no surprise then that cities across the world are adding a microtransit component to their service offering. As populations grow and urban sprawl continues, this is top of mind for many transit agencies. The global market for on-demand transportation is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 19% between 2022 and 2032.

The result? Dramatically improved service without a commensurate increase in costs. Take our success stories in in Calgary, where the agency has achieved industry-best productivity with an average 9.3 passengers per vehicle hour, and San Antonio, in which residents see improved mobility under a microtransit solution that is cost effective for the respective agency at a best-in-class $10-14 cost per trip depending on the zone. The two cities of Goodyear and Avondale (which operate a shared microtransit service under the brand WeRIDE) paint a similar picture, offering a door-to-door microtransit service with an average 4.9/5 star trip rating.

Making a Good Thing Better

So, what is microtransit? Arguably, it’s an important part of the mix for almost any transit agency. Whether in a big city with suburban areas, or a small municipality where a fixed-route solution would be cost prohibitive, it makes getting from place to place more accessible, convenient, and reliable.

The fact is that public transportation is good for communities. It cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions, it makes a society more equitable, and from a purely fiduciary perspective it’s a good investment. Microtransit, where appropriate, can make a good thing even better.

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