Tech Enables Better On-Demand Services for Transit Agencies

 Article originally published on GovTech | BY SKIP DESCANT | JANUARY 2, 2018
A CapMetro bus before embarking on another day on the streets of Austin. Austin is experimenting with a new on-demand service, which provides free door-to-door rides within a set service area. Flickr/Van Sutherland

Taxi trips in Kansas City, Mo., have fallen to $3 for some passengers, while similar door-to-door transportation services can be arranged in Tampa, Fla., for just a few dollars. A similar transit program in Austin, Texas, has made its rides free.   

These three cities are just a few examples of transit agencies experimenting with transportation models that offer more “on-demand” services while exploring new transit options in neighborhoods with few regular bus routes.   “The millennials want transit, but they don’t want a 40-foot bus. They want other options out there, and that’s what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to do some new initiatives, and new clever ideas to get people around, to where they want to go,” said Greg Brackin, director of operations support and ADA officer with the Hillsborough Regional Transit (HART), serving Florida’s Tampa region.  

In 2016, HART rolled out HyperLINK, a pilot program offering door-to-service within set zones for $3 a ride. HART officials hoped HyperLINK would encourage riders to take the service, offered in van-type vehicles, to a bus station that would place the rider within the larger HART system. Several months later, the system was tweaked so that a HyperLINK ride only costs $1 for anyone connecting with a bus, and $3 for everyone else.  

“So we encouraged them to use it for transit, but if they want to use it to get around in the area, that seems to have worked,” said Brackin.   Since making these changes, HyperLINK ridership has doubled to more than 3,600 trips a month.