With microtransit, speed is not everything

Microtransit will offer an alternative mode of public transit, but what kind of riders will be in those seats? By Freddie Holmes

On-demand microtransit promises to connect communities that have long been underserved by existing public transportation networks. These are shuttles that can be summoned at whim like an Uber or Lyft, only with a few more seats and in some cases, without a human driver. Buses, trams and trains already run set routes and schedules, and so the aim is to provide greater flexibility. Microtransit also plans to improve accessibility to those without a driver’s license, creating a new link with larger transit hubs and places of interest.

Special report: microtransit

The microtransit space has been shaped almost entirely by the emergence of start-ups. At first, it was not immediately clear which kind of riders they planned to attract. Would they cannibalise existing bus and rail services, or would they target travellers who might otherwise drive or ride-hail? The answer remains a little hazy, but one thing is clear: these shuttles are more than likely to be fully autonomous, avoiding a major operating expense in driver wages.

Given the infancy of autonomous driving technology, most shuttles are only designed to operate at low speeds today. This naturally limits their deployment to

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