Pilot: new hub and shuttle system designed to deliver riders to their destinations in as little as half the time of the existing bus system at a lower cost

November 19th, 2016 by , cross-posted from Clean Technica

A new “hub-and-shuttle urban mobility system” test deployment will be taking place at the University of Michigan’s North Campus, according to recent reports.

What that means is that there will be testing of a proposed system whereby riders would have access to a transportation network combining high-frequency buses and on-demand shared shuttles (~50). These on-demand shuttles would be used to transport riders to and from the high-frequency bus arteries — hence the moniker “hub-and-shuttle system.”

An initial version of the “Reinventing Public Urban Transportation and Mobility” (RITMO) system is expected to be up and running by early 2017. Following possible success, the system would be expanded to include all of the U-M campus, Ann Arbor, and possibly Detroit as well. The project is being supported by a $1.4 million grant from the Michigan Institute for Data Science.

Notably, those behind the proposed system claim that it “could deliver riders to their destinations in as little as half the time of the existing bus system at a lower cost.”

The plan is reportedly for the on-demand shuttles to eventually be made autonomous — thus further slashing operating costs.

The system would be based around a smartphone app that would determine the best combination of shuttles and buses to use for a trip — with every passenger and vehicle in the system being tracked and data then fed back into a backend system working to maximize efficient and reduce traffic congestion.

Lead researcher Pascal Van Hentenryck, the Seth Bonder Collegiate Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at U-M, commented: “It’s similar in some ways to the ride sharing that’s available now, but much more sophisticated. Obviously you can’t have everyone using something like Uber because that would cause massive congestion. But on-demand hub-and-shuttle can provide some of the convenience of point-to-point travel along with the efficiency of a high-frequency transit system.”

Sounds interesting. Though, who knows whether those involved will be able to make it work. The researchers have reportedly already begun collecting relevant data via volunteers using the existing U-M smartphone app.