The transformative potential of real-time transportation coordination, helping cities to rethink how they manage road space, address transport equity, and approach public-private collaborations

For all the heavy partisanship of this election season, the one area of near agreement was over the need to improve America’s transportation infrastructure. Whether or not President-elect Trump’s infrastructure ideas see the light of day, the subject remains front and center on the policy stage. Even in the wake of a $305 billion infrastructure bill passed in late 2015, it’s become clear over the years that there’s not enough money to fix all of America’s crumbling roads and rails while also building new ones.

The phrase “transportation infrastructure” conjures up visions of concrete and steel structures: roads, bridges, runways, rails. But infrastructure isn’t just something we build. At its core, it is a form of coordination. Think of early civilizations traveling through thick woods, clearing paths as they went. These paths made the journey easier for everyone. In modern transportation systems, we pool our money to lay paths between important places in the form of roads and rails — an act of social coordination that improves our collective travel experience.

New technologies reduce the reliance on physical infrastructure in coordinating how we travel. Instead, transportation technologies built around wireless communications, and location technologies like GPS, are forming the basis of an entirely new type of coordination. Data is replacing concrete as we shift from the often-glacial process of coordinating people through the design and construction of new physical infrastructure, to people coordinating the use of existing physical infrastructure in real-time.

Let me offer some examples. Vehicle routing with real-time traffic data is already changing the way we use roads. Digital co-pilots like Google Maps and Waze help drivers coordinate the use of primary and secondary roads in real-time, and shave seconds or minutes off of journeys by discovering bottlenecks and underutilized routes (though sometimes to the detriment of those who live along once-sleepy side streets).

Just as maps coordinate roads, ride-hail services like Uber and Lyft allow us to rethink how we coordinate the use of vehicles. These services move us from today’s status quo where we buy and drive — or more accurately, buy and park — our own vehicles, to a world where we buy access to shared vehicles when needed. We’re still in the early stages of developing the business models for shared transport, but already we see signs that this kind of coordination can reduce dependence on personal vehicles. That trend only stands to accelerate with autonomous vehicle technologies.

The transformative potential of digitally mediated, real-time coordination is hard to overstate. These technologies expand the toolbox available to address longstanding transportation challenges. Better coordination could potentially help governments make the most out of existing roads instead of building new ones, expand access to jobs through more effective transit service, and reduce the need for vehicle ownership.

At the same time, reimagining the way we coordinate transportation is fundamentally reshaping the political and economic underpinnings of our transport system. These technologies are forcing us to rethink how we manage road space, address longstanding questions about transport equity, and develop new approaches to public-private collaboration. Despite the potential benefits of new coordination technologies, we lack the appropriate policy and analytical frameworks to understand and successfully manage this transition.

Transportation sticks and carrots

The mechanics of transport coordination fall into three general categories: information, incentives, and enforcement.

We’re already well on our way to exploring the potential of communications technology to provide new forms of information-based coordination, which includes everything from digital maps to carpooling. The value of real-time traffic or transit information is already an becoming an integral part of most journeys. And we can now facilitate shared rides more easily than ever, with companies like BlaBlaCar, Lyft, and Waze reinventing carpooling for the digital age.

But information isn’t enough to ensure more coordinated use of transport infrastructure, particularly when the quickest choice for an individual (often driving) is at odds with what’s most efficient for everyone else. We need other mechanisms to resolve conflicts and contention for limited resources. That’s where incentives and enforcement come into play.

Today, incentives are limited mostly to commuter benefits, like tax-advantaged parking and transit passes, and subsidies to specific groups of travelers, most often seniors and people with disabilities. Some communities offer real-time monetary incentives for shifting travelers away from driving alone; others have offered dynamic tolling, with fares that rise or fall based on roadway conditions. While the early results have been promising, there’s still substantial unexplored potential.

Enforcement includes things like compulsory tolls, usage-based road and parking fees, and regulated access to things like HOV lanes, bus-rapid transit lanes, and parking spots. Construction of “managed lanes” and per-mile roadway pricing pilots are already underway in many states, too. The U.S. can expect to see an expanded focus on enforcement mechanisms if Trump’s stated infrastructure policy goes through, as it depends on pricing to support privately financed transport investments.

With further refinement, it’s possible that well-designed real-time coordination systems could have a significant positive impact on how we travel. In combination with information tools, real-time incentives or enforcement for roads could help shift trips onto more space-efficient transit services, rather than squeezing more cars down already crowded streets or overbuilding physical infrastructure to support rush-hour travel needs.

But what’s exciting about these opportunities for coordinating travel should also give us pause. These changes represent a dramatic shift in how we fund and operate our transportation system. Without thoughtful execution there is a risk of further exacerbating the already serious problem of affordable access to transportation.

Pricing, subsidies, and transport equity

The economic rationalists among us immediately see the elegance of establishing market prices for infrastructure, with its potential to address over-consumption of scarce roadway space. But there are equally obvious and serious downsides to this approach. Because we don’t all have the same financial standing, or flexibility in when and how we travel, we don’t all respond the same way to pricing signals — and that’s before we consider the impact of pricing on those who simply can’t afford to pay.

The social implications of using pricing to coordinate travel are significant. This realization played a role in the decision not to charge drivers to use the U.S. highway system when it was first built. The 1939 report “Toll Roads and Free Roads” recognized that tolling could reinforce existing inequity between rural and urban communities, whereas a “free road” system — funded through national fuel taxes — could bring roads to lower-income rural communities that otherwise might not be able to afford the tolls required to support them.

The 1939 report “Toll Roads and Free Roads” recognized that tolling could reinforce existing inequity between rural and urban communities; above, the 14,300-mile interstate system outlined in that report.(Eric Fischer / Flickr)

This approach to building a unified national highway system skillfully avoided the question of individual entitlement to transportation by obscuring both the beneficiary and the per-traveler cost carried by society. Today, as we consider new approaches to pricing our roadways, we are forced to confront once again these same equity questions. If we change how we charge for road use, how do we manage the economic consequences for rural and exurban communities built around subsidized infrastructure? Are communities that depend on expensive, perhaps financially unsustainable roads still entitled to redistributive forms of support?

Developing new pricing structures for roads will be challenging. The question of how we fund and charge for mass transit in the emerging world of digital coordination is even more complex.

As cars gained in popularity, and transit (particularly buses) transitioned from a private (and once-profitable) business to public-sector control, subsidies ensured essential services for people unable to afford or otherwise meet their transport needs using personal vehicles. New forms of dynamic coordination may enable us to vastly expand the reach and timeliness of shared transit services, particularly in locations that even subsidized forms of scheduled transit struggle to connect. But the shift to on-demand transport upends the model through which we subsidize travel, and requires that we confront the question of individual entitlement to affordable transportation.

Today, we embed operating subsidies into transit systems by essentially placing money onto buses and trains. If you board a bus with too few passengers to cover the cost of the trip, you effectively receive a portion of that operating subsidy. Just like rural and urban road users, we pool money and distribute the cost of transit across our communities. We attempt to ensure the equitable distribution of those funds through the design of transit routes.

In the U.S., “Title VI,” the non-discrimination clause of the Civil Rights Act, prevents the design of federally funded transit service from placing “disproportionate burdens on minority or low-income populations.” As a result, high-performing routes often provide a cross-subsidy to less productive and more costly ones to ensure equitable transit access. Even with this reallocation of fare revenue, nearly all transit systems require additional subsidies from non-fare sources to cover the total cost of operation — just as roads often require injections from the general taxpayer fund.

Point-to-point, on-demand transit services work differently. There are no buses arriving with embedded subsidies, and no timetables or route maps to determine where and when service is available. This distinction forces us to fundamentally rethink subsidy delivery. If we replace or augment fixed-route transit with dynamic systems, we are confronted by the question of what right each rider has to transportation. When I press the request button on my phone or call for a ride, am I personally entitled to travel? If so, at what price?

The technical solutions to these questions are easy to imagine: the same systems that allow us to dynamically dispatch transit or charge for road use can target subsidies to individual travelers. Put another way, whereas the current system subsidizes every rider regardless of need, on-demand systems can provide subsidies to people who need help most. That’s potentially a great tool for improving the fairness of our transport system.

The political implications of this shift are far less clear. No existing policy framework for allocating transport funding provides an answer to an individual’s entitlement to mobility. Even policies that currently attempt to ensure access, as Title VI does for low-income and minority communities, don’t provide answers as to how much subsidy an individual traveler receives, or the source of funding. Those conversations happen community by community, and what we’ve allocated to date falls far short of the need.

Smarter and more responsive institutions

By forcing us to rethink existing policy frameworks, emerging coordination technologies should be viewed as an opportunity to reinvent public institutions — not only to include new modes of travel but also new ways of distributing the cost of travel.

To successfully manage this transformation, these institutions—many of which began as “public works” or “highway departments,” or as attempts to support ailing urban transit systems—must develop a more holistic view of transportation need, and a greater understanding and authority over emerging services and technologies. This change is especially important as new business models for transport services cause us to revisit the line between public and private responsibility.

Cities like LondonVancouver, and Los Angeles are already building integrated mobility authorities capable of managing the impact and opportunity of current and future modes of transport. Broadly speaking, these institutions are moving from being road builders and transit operators to orchestrators of transportation outcomes. And places like Mexico City are laying the foundation for new ways of thinking about transport equity by declaring affordable access to transportation as a fundamental right that guides how they manage and fund their transport system.

Creating an integrated authority to manage transport depends on developing an integrated understanding of how it works. Yet we’re entering this moment of significant opportunity and change with a frighteningly weak set of tools to navigate the political and technological challenges ahead. Recent attempts to integrate privately operated shared services into public transit system have been stymied by lack of data and analysis methods. As the pace of change and private-sector investment has accelerated, the “insight gap” has only grown between innovators and the public institutions responsible for managing their impact.

Fields like public health invest substantial resources into understanding the social and behavioral dimensions of things like disease transmission and treatment response. They also require that experimentation be grounded in rigorous understanding of impact, and guided by monitoring of known risks and unintended consequences. Despite the profound impact that transportation has on society, as a field it has not developed the same kind of tools for understanding the impact that policy and technology decisions have on actual people. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve not yet developed strategies to ensure transparency and accountability for the data created by private companies, particularly those with a vested interest in the derived insights.

Overcoming this challenge requires building new capacity within public-sector institutions to understand and manage data about our transport system. It also requires building new types of partnerships with private-sector entities collecting increasingly important and sensitive data, often in the context of consumer applications and services. The World Bank’s OpenTraffic initiative, a project I helped create, collects and anonymizes data from millions of vehicles operated by taxi companies and other fleets to help government better understand and manage their roadways. Such partnerships demonstrate that it’s possible for public and private entities to work together in creating a shared understanding of our transport system, while at the same time managing very real concerns about business and customer privacy. (Uber announced its own traffic analysis platform this week.)

The details are crucial as public and private entities work together to understand what’s happening on our streets, because the data produced by digital coordination platforms are transforming how we govern our transport system. Traffic data doesn’t just help alleviate traffic jams, it is the foundation for future transport policies like road pricing. Travel demand data enables thoughtful integration of public and private transit services, and smarter allocation of subsidy dollars. As private-sector responsibility in transport expands, data is key to ensuring actions and incentives are aligned with the public interest — especially when questions of equity and affordability are concerned.

Realizing the unprecedented opportunities ahead depends on innovation, both in developing new technologies and business models, and on creating new policy and governance structures for our transportation system. Armed with better data, clear mandates, and transparent and accountable private-sector collaborators, public institutions will play a critical role in helping us realize the benefits and manage the risks of emerging technologies. If we get this balance right, new forms of digital coordination could go a long way toward creating a transport system that works for everyone.

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Open Traffic Data to Revolutionize Transport

December 19, 2016


Inside a taxi in Manila, Philippines. Photo: Trish/Flickr

  • Congestion is a major problem for many metropolitan areas. For example, in Manila, the economic cost alone is estimated at $60 million a day.
  • Yet, because of cost and weaknesses of traditional data collection methods, transport agencies have little access to basic data, such as traffic speeds and patterns.
  • The World Bank has partnered with major rideshare and navigation services companies to combine and make public their traffic data, providing governments with the latest, high-quality information to help with infrastructure and traffic management decisions.

The problem

Congestion in metropolitan Manila costs the economy more than $60 million per day, and it is not atypical to spend more than 2 hours to travel 8 km during the evening commute there. But beyond these statistics, until recently, very little was actually known about Manila’s congestion, because the equipment and manpower required to collect traffic data has far exceeded available resources. Most cities in developing countries face similar issues.

Traditional methods of collecting traffic data rely either on labor-intensive fieldwork or capital-intensive sensor data networks. The former is slow and results in low-quality data, and the latter requires substantial capital and maintenance outlays, while only covering a small portion of a metropolitan area. In the era of big data, shouldn’t we be able to do better?

Responding to this need, Easy Taxi, Grab, and Le.Taxi, three ridesharing  companies—which, combined, cover more than 30 countries and millions of customers—are working with the World Bank and partners to make traffic data derived from their drivers’ GPS streams available to public through an open data license. Through the new Open Transport Partnership, these companies, along with founding members Mapzen, the World Resources Institute, Miovision, and NDrive, will empower resource-constrained transport agencies to make better, evidence-based decisions that previously had been out of reach.

Issues that this data will help address include, among others, traffic signal timing plans, public transit provision, roadway infrastructure needs, emergency traffic management, and travel demand management. According to Alyssa Wright, president of the US Open Street Map Foundation, the partnership “seeks to improve the efficiency and efficacy of global transportation use and provision through open data and capacity building.”  

Project Leapfrog

The idea of the Open Traffic Partnership started in the Philippines, when the government approached the World Bank with the request to help them identify, implement, and iterate solutions to traffic challenges. To allocate scarce resources towards solutions that would have the greatest impact, the Philippine cities would need better, more timely data about accidents and traffic flows, as well as low-cost tools to analyze and make sense of this data.

In collaboration with the leading taxi hailing app company in Southeast Asia, Grab, the Bank team developed a pilot open-source platform, for using anonymized GPS data generated by more than 500,000 Grab drivers to analyze traffic congestion peak patterns and travel times, with an ease and level of detail that was previously inconceivable. Using this platform and road incident data, city governments in the Philippines could, for the first time, answer the fundamental questions necessary to address safety and congestion—Where and when is congestion most acute? Where and when are our citizens most vulnerable to road incidents? And most fundamentally, when we invested in interventions to mitigate accidents or congestion, did these investments work? What was their impact? Could we have done better?

The open-source platform leverages open-source software and big data partnerships to substantially reduce the cost of traditional traffic data collection and analysis, while simultaneously improving quality. This is the first scalable open-source program of its kind, empowering less-advanced economies to leapfrog a stage in their intelligence transportation systems development.

Open Transport Partnership

Building on the success of the Philippines pilot program, the World Bank along with a number of  rideshare companies and  mapping and navigation services companies has launched the Open Traffic Partnership (OTP) to develop the global architecture for combining anonymized traffic data. “The beauty of the initiative is that we can integrate anonymized data from multiple sources—vehicle and taxi fleets, yes, but also companies and cities collecting vehicle counts, public transit GPS data, goods movement data, and others—to create a comprehensive picture of cities’ and countries’ transportation networks,” said Kevin Webb, Open Traffic Program Advisor with the World Bank.

The US-based National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the World Resources Institute are also working with the OTP to build government partnerships, helping transport agencies use these new data to support better traffic management and planning. Through these global public data goods, governments, together with the private sector, will be able to effectively shape their transportation futures, ensuring equitable and safe access for all. World Bank Senior Transportation Economist Holly Krambeck said, “We want to prove that it is possible to have a world, where private companies that contribute data as public goods not only make society better off, but themselves as well.”

 Further information about the Bank’s Open Traffic platform project may be found here.

(Davide D’Amico / Flickr)

Improving urban mobility starts with better travel data

New digital tools can help us gain better insights into how people move around cities, and ask better questions about what we want our transportation systems to achieve.

It might come as a surprise to anyone who doesn’t work in transportation, but cities have a pretty limited understanding of where, when, why, and how people travel. For the most part, they have no idea where entire neighborhoods of people go when they leave home (let alone specific individuals). And they know even less about the trips people aren’t taking but might take if they had more affordable or convenient transportation options.

This information gap matters a lot for our cities on the move. For transportation agencies, greater insight into travel behavior helps design roads, manage transit service, and plan capital projects to meet people’s daily needs. It also helps them adapt to the times as residential patterns changework geographies shift, and new mobility services emerge. Maybe it’s time to change a bus route, or add a bike lane, or partner with an on-demand ride service. And for people like you and me, better information helps us decide how to get around, whether that means carpooling with someone who has a similar commute schedule or avoiding congested roads.

In fact, big advances in travel data have powered many of the recent innovations in urban transportation. Ride-hail companies (like Uber and Lyft) and demand-responsive transit services (like Bridj) require direct access to individual travel needs. Successful bike-share networks depend on knowing which docks are popular at which times. This precise, real-time understanding of who wants to travel where and when enables coordination with available services.

These are big steps forward. But there’s still a long way to go when it comes to understanding how people move around cities. Fortunately, recent advances can help us gain more complete insights, form stronger public-private collaborations, and answer the hard questions about what we want our transportation systems to achieve.

Better insights

For most of the last century, any understanding of travel demand has been founded on surveys. People document details like starting points, destinations, modes, and estimated travel times over a 24-hour period, in addition to their demographic information. Transportation planners and engineers use these data to model and predict transportation patterns across a whole region.

The shortcomings of travel surveys are widely acknowledged. They can’t always capture changes in our day-to-day travel behavior, nor do they reflect people’s tendency to under-report certain trips, especially non-commutes (such as that quick trip to the corner store). They cost a lot to administer with a large, representative sample. In short, travel surveys can’t provide a full picture of how people actually move around our cities and regions.


Automatic counters for cars, bikes, and pedestrians have become more common along key corridors in many citiesNew technology has started to introduce more granular, wide-reaching, and low-cost ways to capture travel behavior. Automatic counters and cameras deployed on highways and city streets can count cars, bikes, and pedestrian volumes at key intersections or along key corridors. Onboard telematics record detailed data on vehicle location. Transit farecard data and taxi trip logs offer a good picture of when and where people use public transportation. Some researchers have used anonymized call detail records, collected by telecommunication companies, to infer travel patterns within a region.

While a step up from surveys, none of these methods can provide comprehensive, continuous, and multi-modal insights into how people move. But as smartphones become ever more ubiquitous, smartphone-collected data hold the potential to yield increasingly rich mobility insights.

Of course, there are plenty of challenges that come with smartphone data, both technical and social. The raw data are usually large and messy. Sensitive personal data require anonymization and aggregation methods to protect privacy. And smartphone data have blind spots, too; they might miss underserved populations most in need of better transportation options. Calibrating smartphone data towards representative insights will take thoughtful understanding of such biases, and will mean leveraging complementary data sources, new and old.

Better partnerships

Traditionally, one of the biggest barriers to better travel insights has been poor collaboration between the private and public sectors.

Cities and local agencies tend to collect traffic and public transit data, and private companies often develop their own data sources about travel demand, but the two sides struggle to share what they learn. For the most part, government agencies either procure data from companies, or they mandate that private transportation providers report their operational metrics and customer demand. In the case of data procurement, the two sides miss the chance to work together and explore each other’s data methods. In the case of reporting mandates, the result is sometimes antagonism between local governments and companies.

Improving these relationships means aligning value propositions and lowering barriers for exchange. Two concerns commonly cited are user privacy and business competition. Some partnerships, such as Google’s urban mobility work with cities, have explored using statistical methods, such as differential privacy, to protect user privacy while making meaningful use of new data. Admittedly, there is no clear path to resolving the competition challenge, which includes protecting proprietary forms of data-collection. But this should motivate further explorations for a digital and institutional framework that enables data-sharing while reducing a company’s competitive risk.

Better decision-making

It’s critical for both city agencies and tech companies to focus these new data capabilities on pressing urban mobility challenges. Here are some of the biggest ones:

Providing mobility and access for those who need it most. As it turns out, neighborhoods that rely most on public transportation often tend to lack good transit services. As housing costs increase in urban core locations near mass transit, many people with few means have moved to the inner suburbs. Owning a car is an excessive financial burden, and the alternative (or, for some, the only option) is public transit. But due to a mix of political, fiscal, and geographical factors, fixed-route transit services in these lower-density areas are often infrequent and indirect. A 30-minute trip by car can easily taket wo hours and two transfers by public transit.

Whereas people who work midnight shifts would likely never be part of conventional onboard bus surveys, their phone signals capture their travels any time of day. As cities and transportation agencies re-examine their service policies and routes, mobile phone data might provide valuable insight into where and when these populations travel.

Understanding mobility outcomes. Equally important to making data-driven transportation decisions is conducting data-supported evaluations of policies, programs, and infrastructure projects. But cities have traditionally lacked the tools to understand the impact of transportation interventions on mobility outcomes. This applies to individuals (e.g., how the project impacts personal travel time), infrastructure (e.g., how travelers respond to a road closure), and city networks (e.g., overall congestion patterns).  With sufficient data, these analyses could enrich existing transportation planning and simulation tools. They could also help businesses and residents better envision what a policy, program, or physical change would mean for their daily experiences in the city.


Taxis and ride-hail services can complement fixed-route transit; above, cabs queue up outside the JR Ueno Station in Tokyo. Flickr

Adapting to new mobility optionsA big change is underway in the way cities conceive, manage, and deliver mobility services. Instead of taking ridership and traffic volume as a given, cities and agencies are placing unprecedented focus on understanding users and their behaviors. Some are enhancing multimodal first- and last-mile services to complement fixed routes (via bike-shareTNCs, and taxis), or enabling door-to-door mobility through in-house efforts or partnership with private providers.

Real-world travel data are the starting point to designing such efforts. Want to know where to bolster first/last-mile access? Look into areas that are farther from transit stops but have high automobile travel demand along major corridors. More importantly, we should re-examine travel data during and after any changes, so we can evaluate their impact on mobility outcomes.

Better tools

If you combine all these advances — better insights into how people move around cities, better public-private data collaborations, and better ways to measure mobility outcomes — you can imagine tools that help cities model and manage their transportation networks more efficiently and equitably. Maybe that means starting a new vanpool service or transitioning to a demand-responsive transit service in a low-density corridor. Maybe it’s managing curb space on high-volume streets more dynamically. Or maybe it’s rethinking and reprioritizing funding across various modes and geographies.

Of course, the reality is that transportation decisions result from many factors beyond data: political priorities and constraints, equity considerations, public agency resources, among them. For these reasons, the aspiration should not be blind pursuit of illusory “perfect” data, but rather a push for data that empower and guide us to ask critical questions about quality of life in our cities, and that inspire public and private sides to work together on potential answers.

If you’re a city official working on this problem, we’d love to hear what tools might help you. And if you’re an entrepreneur interested in solving these types of urban challenges, we’d love to hear what you’re working on, too. Contact us.

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Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
Transportation Coordination Enabled by
Technology and Innovative Design
This publication, profiling service coordination through the use of technology, is part of the “Promising Practices in Mobility Management” series, created by the National Center for Mobility Management (NCMM). The series has been created for mobility management practitioners to help advance the adoption of transportation coordination and other strategies that lead to responsive, customer-centered transportation services. All publications in the series—covering the topics of coordinated transportation planning, technology in coordination, one-call/one-click services, mobility management, and performance measurement— are available at
Technology solutions that enable coordination among different agencies and programs result in long-term efficiencies that cannot be reached manually. The technologies used to achieve improved outcomes for agencies and customers have been innovatively adapted to address specific coordination activities. The technologies used are not necessarily new, but they have become more affordable and easier to customize, enabling transit providers to design platforms that support coordination in new and innovative ways. Coordinating service provision through the use of technology strengthens transit providers’ ability to meet agency and customer needs on many levels:
1) Technology can assuages barriers to coordination through elimination of turf and institutional differences, jurisdictional boundaries and varying means of data collection;
2) Technology improves information management capabilities, allowing easier customer access and reducing staff time and costs; and
3) Technology links transportation and human service assistance, presenting a unified service to customers, without diminishing system autonomy.
The practices profiled in this document were informed by a committee of experts, including transit and public agency directors and an expert in transit technology, all of whom were familiar with promising programs designed and implemented by their colleagues nationwide. Committee members were asked to rank programs based on how technology facilitated more efficient service delivery, improved communication between providers, expanded services to customers, streamlined reporting and billing and more efficiently used staff time. Final selection of practices was based on the input of this committee, as well as knowledge gained by NCMM program staff about other exemplary practices meeting quality indicators.
The programs profiled below are listed below (hyperlinked to their place in the document for quick reference):
Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
o Via Mobility Services, Boulder, Colo.: Technology to Enable Trip Sharing Among Providers
o Polk County Transit and ElderPoint Ministries, Fla.: Partnering with Volunteer Drivers to Expand Capacity
o Lane Transit District, Ore.: Using Technology to Schedule, Track, and Allocate Trip Costs
o GoLive, North Carolina: Providing Real-Time Travel Information to Customers
o Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MART), Mass.: Web-Based Bidding System for Brokering Lowest-Cost Trip
Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
Via Mobility Services, Colorado
Technology to Enable Trip Sharing Among Providers
Formerly known as Special Transit, nonprofit Via Mobility Services in Boulder, Colorado provides approximately 140,000 demand-response trips. Via provides accessible, driver-assisted, door-through-door transportation and mobility options for older adults and people with disabilities of any age, as well as for lower wage earners. Via’s primary service area includes Boulder County, with limited service provided in the nearby counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Larimer, and Weld. Travel training, information and referral, and one-on-one individual trip planning enhance the agency’s customer-focused approach to service provision.
Via has also developed coordination agreements with CareConnect (formerly RSVP), a volunteer driver program in Boulder County, and with Yellow Cab. Yellow Cab provides the equivalent of one full route in Longmont each day, with trips scheduled through Via’s call center. CareConnect provides escorted medical trips, where a companion is needed to stay with the passenger, that Via is unable to provide. Through another agreement with the Longmont Housing Authority (LHA), Via provides regular group shopping trips for residents of four Section 8 housing facilities in the community. LHA pays Via what they previously spent for staff to provide those trips with a dedicated vehicle. This agreement allowed Via to incorporate the trips into its regular paratransit routes, while allowing LHA to get out of the transportation business.
Trip Sharing in Longmont
Via has provided demand-response transportation service in the city of Longmont since 1985, coordinating a variety of funding sources and co-mingling trips for various populations. In addition to its own service, Via operates two contracted services for the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) in Longmont and other parts of Boulder County: Call-n-Ride and Access-a-Ride. Access-a-Ride is RTD’s ADA paratransit service. Call-n-Ride is a general public service that connects to bus routes, park-n-rides, and light rail services. It is primarily focused on mostly suburban lower density communities, operating within defined boundaries. Call-n-Ride vehicles have scheduled checkpoints and zones and operate flex routes as well. Service includes on-demand rides anywhere within the service area.
Over the years, increased demand due to Longmont’s burgeoning low-income older adult population has led Via to expand its capacity from three to six paratransit vehicles and to add a brokered route with a taxi company. With demand still growing faster than funding for service expansion, Via has also explored every opportunity to expand services through coordination. One such opportunity was to better coordinate the Call-n-Ride and paratransit services operated by Via. To do so, Via, RTD, and their scheduling software providers embarked on a pilot program in 2010 to determine how Via’s dispatch center could access both systems’ scheduling software systems and share trips between the two systems.
First Steps
An advisory committee with representation from Longmont City, Colorado DOT, RTD, and Via staff developed an initial work plan and recruited a mobility coordinator to oversee the project. The committee continues to meet on a monthly basis, tracking work assignments and provider
Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
responsibilities. Via’s new mobility coordinator’s initial charge was to determine which Longmont trips were most appropriate to share between the Via and RTD services.
One of the first challenges to facilitating coordination between the paratransit and Call-n-Ride systems was finding a way to build capacity for cross-talk between the different scheduling/dispatching software used by the two systems: Via paratransit uses RouteMatch scheduling system, while Call-n-Ride uses a customized software system (MobilityDR) developed by DemandTrans Solutions. Via’s mobility coordinator worked with both software providers to develop the technology needed to exchange data between the two proprietary software systems. Eventually bridging software was created to allow this flow of data between the systems.
On the operations side, the mobility coordinator is able to view both screens simultaneously, identify existing gaps and excess capacity, and fill empty seats where appropriate. Because the coordinator is able to simultaneously view both screens and trip data can be automatically transferred between the systems, the need to rekey information from one system to another has been eliminated. Updated scheduling information is then relayed to drivers’ in-vehicle tablets and via cell phone using voice-over Internet protocol. Call-n-Ride and paratransit riders were informed about the project, and some standing rides were transferred between the two services based on the most efficient option.
Implementation of the program effectively doubled Via’s fleet, making Via vehicles available to Call-n-Ride passengers and Call-n-Ride’s vehicles available to Via passengers. By combining service populations, Via freed paratransit seats for those riders with a higher level of need. Since the pilot was launched, the number of trip denials has decreased, and there has been a 36 percent increase in ridership, accomplished without an increase in cost. Riders in Longmont now account for 35 percent of Via’s ridership.
The expansion was supported with grant money from the New Freedom program (initially a two-year grant through 2011, twice extended) with the local share provided by RTD, the City of Longmont, and Via.
Pilot in Practice
Currently, Via and RTD have dedicated two vehicles each to the Longmont coordination project. Seats resulting from any cancellations on either service are filled with same-day requests. As a result of the coordination, the average number of boardings on the coordinated service has increased from 2.7/hour to 3.6/hour, a 34 percent increase in productivity. Routes have become more efficient because peak periods between the two services have been leveled out and unused capacity has been filled.
Call-n-Ride customers can book trips online or directly with the driver. Rides on Via can be booked automatically, with callers receiving voice or email verifications of acceptance. Dispatchers use a map-based, visual console, real-time data on operational status and computer-assisted mobile dispatching. Via drivers communicate with the dispatching system through in-vehicle tablets, cellphones with voice-over Internet protocol, and radio. With this technology, the mobility coordinator to monitor trip lengths and arrival times can track both successful and unsuccessful bookings.
One example of how the coordination has improved efficiency is in trips to Longmont’s three dialysis centers. Similar to many other transit providers across the nation, the increasing number of dialysis
Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
trips constrains the ability to provide access to other destinations. In many cases because transit resources are devoted to meeting the life-sustaining needs of dialysis patients, traveling to treatment at least three times weekly, the ability of transit providers to meet trip requests to other human service destinations is constrained. In Longmont, the new use of technology is improving coordination and the ability to provide transportation to multiple destinations. Previously, it was not uncommon to see multiple vehicles, each carrying only one passenger, arriving at these facilities. The new technology Identifies empty seats, allowing for more riders to be assigned to each, so fewer vehicles are completing dialysis trips, expanding opportunities for non-dialysis riders to access other necessary destinations. Via does not prioritize by trip purpose, other than dialysis, and riders are able to access employment, education, recreation and social opportunities as well as medical and nutrition-related trips.
Innovative Features
Adapting two different booking systems previously unable to communicate helps to coordinate client trips on both transit services. The software allows the user to simultaneously compare RouteMatch and DemandTrans data, significantly reducing the number of empty seats due to cancellations. As a result of freeing up spots on paratransit vehicles by assigning those who are able to ride on Call-n-Ride vehicles, Via is better able to serve individuals who are dependent on paratransit. Another innovative feature is the ability to adjust the service protocols of both Via and Call-n-Ride services without diminishing the essential aspects of each. Technology also enabled the agency to meld eligibility criteria for paratransit, identifying riders and referring riders who are able to use RTD Call-n-Ride.
The use of onboard mobile electronic manifests and the capacity to communicate between vehicles improved scheduling flexibility, resulting in optimal use of vehicles. Because Call-n-Ride drivers can track boarding and deboarding times, service has become more efficient. More realistic boarding and de-boarding times have resulted in fewer late pick-ups and drop offs on Call-n-Ride. Drivers have less “down” time and riders are more evenly distributed throughout the day. Fewer trip denials have also resulted in reduced travel costs for riders, who would otherwise have to depend on more expensive private transportation options.
Monitoring and Evaluating the Service
Project results are being measured with anecdotal and quantitative measures. Anecdotal information is gleaned from customer surveys. Quantitative measures include total number of trips, total vehicle hours, the number of trips per hour, cost per trip and the number of service denials. Reports are shared with the Boards of Directors for both Via Mobility Services and the Regional Transportation District (RTD). The Advisory Committee continues to meet to monitor the service and to refine and improve the coordination model.
Moving Forward
Via is currently working with both RouteMatch and DemandTrans to further automate data exchange between the two systems, requiring less oversight and intervention by the mobility coordinator. Via recently applied for an MSAA grant, hoping to expand trip sharing services to other Denver communities in Adams and Bloomfield counties where RTD provides Call-n-Ride services (operated by Via) and other providers offer paratransit services to seniors and people with disabilities. Via plans to use similar technology enhancements to maximize ridership between ADA paratransit (Access-a-Ride) and other
Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
demand-response services. The agency is also moving toward the use of a single tablet by both paratransit and Call-n-Ride drivers.
For more information on this project, contact Lenna Kottke, Executive Director;
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Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
Polk Co. Transit and ElderPoint Ministries, Florida
Partnering with Volunteer Drivers to Expand Capacity
In partnership since 2008, Polk County Transit Services and the nonprofit ElderPoint Ministries, have shared technology to expand transportation services for seniors and individuals with disabilities in the Lakeland, Florida area. Polk partners with ElderPoint to provide paratransit through the use of shared scheduling technology when the transit agency is unable to meet customer requests. The door-to-door service is available Monday–Friday between 8:00 am and 3:00 pm. Although rides cannot be guaranteed because of the volunteer nature of the program, sharing technology has enabled ElderPoint to improve access to quality of life destinations for local residents and veterans.
Coordinating Transit and Volunteer Driver Services
The idea of a coordinated, cohesive volunteer transportation network grew out of a 2008 transit summit, where participants recognized the need for more options to serve Polk’s growing population of seniors. Following the summit, and under the direction of a consultant, Polk Transit sponsored a series of community meetings with numerous stakeholders, resulting in the formation of the Polk County Volunteer Transportation Coalition. The Executive Director of ElderPoint, Jane Hammond, was selected as the coalition chairperson.
In 2010, ElderPoint received a New Freedom grant and eventually garnered state DOT funds and in-kind support to help launch the volunteer driver initiative. Polk County and ElderPoint held meetings with other participating nonprofit organizations to develop a marketing vision of the program and put legal agreements in place between the partners. The program, known as the Bluebird Mobility Network, began operating in 2011.
As the lead agency, ElderPoint coordinates the volunteer transportation efforts of the local nonprofits and human service agencies in the county. To facilitate program development, ElderPoint and Polk Transit entered into a coordination agreement, allowing participating agencies to operate independently while continuing to maintain services at a lower cost to each.
The Bluebird Mobility Network provides rides through volunteer drivers using their own vehicles. Bluebird also has one lift equipped minivan that is assigned to volunteer drivers to perform trips. Service is free to riders, and drivers of their own vehicles are reimbursed at the federal mileage reimbursement rate to assist with fuel costs.
Sharing Scheduling Software/Trip Tracking
To most efficiently leverage the extra capacity provided through Bluebird’s volunteer drivers, and expand the capacity of Polk County’s demand-response service, the county and ElderPoint coordinate volunteer trips using the county’s scheduling software, Trapeze. When requests for rides are received, ElderPoint staff assess whether or not a client is registered to receive transportation assistance through Polk Transit demand-response service. If the county service is unable to meet the caller’s ride request,
Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
ElderPoint responds if a volunteer driver is available. If a volunteer driver is not from ElderPoint, referrals are made to other social service agency providers.
Thus in addition to trip requests that come directly to ElderPoint, the volunteer network is able to respond when the county’s services are at capacity. By tapping into Polk Transit’s scheduling software, ElderPoint is better able to schedule routes and track its network of customers and drivers. The system records rider and volunteer data, allowing ElderPoint staff book rides for any client and to provide referrals to partner programs to complete the ride, if necessary. It also provides users with daily schedules and tracks both cancellations and completed rides. Currently, ElderPoint provides about 3,000 rides a year.
When ElderPoint and the county first began collaborating in mid-2012, written procedures for system use and trip documentation were established, helping the county to capture the total number of volunteer miles driven. Trips performed by ElderPoint are included in the county’s performance measures for the percentage of the transportation disadvantaged population being served. Completed rides are also captured in the county’s annual reporting to the National Transit Database, thus increasing the total number of rides offered through the county.
In addition, a standardized invoicing format was implemented. As trips are entered into the Trapeze database, they are coded according to the funding source that was applied to the trip (BB-Bluebird Volunteer, Medicaid, ADA, etc.). Reports are generated by service provider and funding source, which includes the distance computations at the mileage reimbursement rate, and requires no additional sorting or manual calculations for reporting and documentation purposes. Source documents are easily accessed from the database to support invoicing for New Freedom drawdowns.
Using Trapeze also helps the Polk/ElderPoint partnership eliminate duplicate bookings. This is a common practice for some older adults as they worry about their rides. Using Trapeze ensures those double bookings are caught and resolved.
Moving Forward
ElderPoint currently has one wheelchair accessible vehicle available, which was acquired through the Federal Transit Administration Section 5310 program, and will soon add a second. The organization continues to partner with other community-based agencies to provide services and is sponsoring a number of community events to help increase its base of volunteer drivers.
For additional information, contact Jane Hammond, ElderPoint Ministries, or Gwen Johnson, Polk County Transit Services,
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Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
Lane Transit District, Oregon
Using Technology to Schedule, Track, and Allocate Trip Costs
Lane Transit District (LTD) has provided public transportation services in the Eugene, Springfield and surrounding rural communities since the 1970s. LTD also coordinates human service transportation and manages the Medicaid transportation brokerage for the region. LTD’s RideSource call center, opened in 2008, serves as the one-call center for information, scheduling and dispatching for multiple transportation services.
Steps to Coordinating Services
Lane has a long history in coordinated human service transportation provision. Contracts and intergovernmental agreements with various social service agencies have formalized those working relationships. For example, in 1980, LTD contracted out a Dial-a-Ride to Special Mobility Services (SMS) for the provision of paratransit services, and created a consortium with other human service transportation providers to pool resources and centralize operations. That partnership laid the foundation for the RideSource Center, which is currently supported through a collaborative effort, including partnerships with 23 different private transportation providers.
In 1992, the Lane Council of Governments (LCOG) partnered with consultants to develop a full cost-allocation analysis model for transportation. The analysis identified actual costs of each component of the RideSource program, and guided LCOG’s work with state Department of Human Resources agencies to establish cost-sharing agreements, whereby the State and LCOG shared the cost of providing transportation. When Lane expanded to include NEMT services, it was with full state support.
Complexities of a Call Center for Multiple Programs
Prior to the opening of the RideSource call center, nonemergency medical transportation (NEMT) and paratransit calls were handled separately by call takers. With the implementation of the call center, customers call the same number for any of the transportation services available. Currently, the RideSource call center receives calls for eight different programs. One of RideSource’s largest programs is transportation for Medicaid patients served through coordinated care organizations (CCOs), which are required to provide the most appropriate transportation at the lowest cost for all CCO members. RideSource is the broker for these services as well as the call center. Other programs served through RideSource are two non-medical transportation programs provided under a Medicaid waiver, two volunteer driver programs, a shuttle service, a shopper service, work trips, and service to a pre-school.
Eligibility assessments for customers are done in-person by Area Agency on Aging case workers and others, trained by LTD, in conjunction with an online process developed by LTD. Assessments of the NEMT population have been added to assist LTD in determining the most appropriate mode of transportation for those riders. If during the assessment it is decided the rider needs additional support services, case workers can refer them to other social services.
Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
Using Technology to Schedule, Track, and Allocate Trip Costs
Over the years as LTD has added transportation programs to its RideSource call center, it has had to respond with an increasingly sophisticated trip and cost tracking and allocation software program. The resulting cost-allocation model, developed by LTD, in partnership with Special Mobility Services and the consulting firm Nelson Nygaard Associates in 2006–2007, allows for the distribution of direct services and administrative/overhead costs to sponsoring agencies. Once RideSource began brokering Medicaid trips, its cost-allocation model also had to meet the strict federal guidelines set by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. This innovative model ensures that appropriate charges are made to each program, allowing participating agencies to pay based on the cost of providing services.
One tough challenge the new cost-allocation software took on was how to allocate call center staff time to the different projects. It was completely unrealistic given the complexity of the environment in which RideSource operates to have call center staff record time sheets to reflect the different programs they worked on. In addition, because the staff had become more like case managers than call-takers, there were more tasks to capture. The sheer volume of calls coming into the center meant the new system had to be automated. RideSource had to justify its costs to Medicaid and also show our board that administrative costs were covered. The end product thus incorporated a random-moment sampling engine, sampling active work hours and then rolling that as a cost factor distributed across all the different programs.
The multimillion-dollar program expansion includes technological solutions that aid in brokering rides to the lowest-cost provider, and in combining trips in the most efficient manner. The call center’s database consolidates all information relevant to passenger vehicle entry and exit, vehicle hours, mileage, administration time, volunteer time, vehicle maintenance, and cost and dispatch time. Also included is information from in-home client eligibility assessments. The database generates reservations, and provides scheduling and dispatching information. Providers receive assignments and payments for any trip. The software also facilitates eligibility determination for all programs at one time. The software program also tracks miles per trip, flags questionable mileage submissions, and separates out subscription and ongoing service requests.
This system allows Lane to serve a larger number of people than it would have been able to serve otherwise. Rides previously scheduled on paratransit vehicles are referred to more affordable human service providers or taxis, cutting costs to the customer and saving staff time and expense. Individuals who are eligible and able to travel under several programs are directed to the most appropriate mode, resulting in an increased volume of rides, decreasing duplication of services. Rides are assigned based on the specific agency’s ability to respond.
Monitoring and Evaluating the Service
A series of performance measures are currently under development. Service provider quality assurance is spot checked at the community level.
Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
Moving Forward
In 2012, LTD was awarded a $1.1 million Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative grant to upgrade its software systems. The new technology will provide information exchange between LTD and subcontractors and between LTD and its assessment partners. As the number of rides provided by CCOs continues to grow, Lane is working to further integrate health care and transportation entities into a model that can easily incorporate both. The update will help LTD to cope with the drastic increase in ridership it experienced in 2014, which rose from 12,000 riders per month to nearly 20,000, primarily serving previously uninsured individuals who now qualify for service with implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act.
For additional information, contact Kris Lyon, Human Services Transportation Coordinator, Lane Transit District,
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Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
GoLive, North Carolina
Providing Real-Time Travel Information to Customers
The approximately 5,600-square-mile “Triangle” (originally, Research Triangle) region encompasses three major universities (North Carolina State University, Duke University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), the cities of Raleigh and Durham, and the towns of Cary and Chapel Hill. GoTriangle is a partnership of seven public transportation agencies in the Triangle region of North Carolina:
― Capital Area Transit (CAT; city of Raleigh)
― Cary Transit
― Chapel Hill Transit
― Durham Area Transportation Authority (DATA)
― Duke Transit
― NCSU Wolfline
― Triangle Transit
The public face of GoTriangle is the partnership’s website and call center, which provide information on transit and other modes of travel, such as ridesharing, cycling, and walking. In 2011, the GoTriangle partnership collaborated to create GoLive, a smartphone app and web-based program providing real-time travel information to transit customers across the region.
Regional Coordination Efforts
The seven transit agencies in the Triangle region had been exploring different levels of coordination for several years, and in 2003 adopted the Triangle Region Consolidation-Implementation Plan, which outlined steps toward consolidation over the next four years. For example, in 2004 the region’s providers committed to making improvements in several areas, such as marketing, customer information, procurement, service planning, and fare policy structure. And in 2005, Triangle Transit agreed to carry paratransit passengers on trips originating in Capital Area Transit’s service area and ending in Triangle Transit’s service area, eliminating the need for an intersystem transfer. This was later broadened to include Durham’s transit service area.
To improve customer access to transportation information, in 2004 Triangle Transit, and the Raleigh, Cary, Durham, and Chapel Hill transit systems created GoTriangle as a common brand for promoting an on-line regional trip planner. One important step taken prior to launching a common trip planner was to create unique identifiers for each bus stop in each system. Thus each of the 3,500+ stops has its own identifier; the approximately 100 shared stops served by two or more agencies have their own identifier. All regional systems then agreed to translate their stop and schedule data into a format usable in the trip planner. In 2006, Triangle Transit, Raleigh, and Durham agreed to consolidate their call center functions providing information on their fixed route services. The GoTriangle Transit Information Center began operation in March 2007. The transit services provided by the towns of Cary and Chapel Hill joined over the next several years. In 2010, Triangle Transit worked with the other agencies to develop general transit feed specification (GTFS) files so that the trip planning function could be accessed via the
Promising Practices in Mobility Management:
Technology in Transportation Coordination
Google Maps trip planner as well as on the GoTriangle site. GoTriangle now hosts trip planning for CAT, Cary Transit, Chapel Hill Transit, Duke University Transit, DATA, NCSU Wolfline, and Triangle Transit.
Real-Time Arrival Information
The next customer service tool the region invested in was regionwide, real-time arrival information to use in both scheduling/tracking vehicles and to provide region-wide, real-time arrival information for customers. In 2005, Chapel Hill Transit took the first step when it received state DOT funds to implement real-time automated vehicle location (AVL) technology. Their system, using NextBus technology, went live in 2010. NCSU Wolfline purchased a scheduling system and AVL technology from TransLoc, a software company created by former NC State graduate students. In 2009, CAT procured a third AVL system. In 2010, Triangle Transit and DATA began a process to procure AVL technology for their systems.
As part of that process in 2010, Triangle Transit separated the procurement for the AVL hardware and software for processing the data for supervisors from the public interface of the real-time arrival data. A Raleigh-based vendor, TransLoc, was hired to take the feeds from all providers and integrate the data into a single mobile app, website app and text messaging information system. The earlier work on developing a common bus stop identification system made this project much easier.
GoLive tracks information on bus locations and arrivals for five municipal transit agencies—Triangle, Cary, Capital Area, Chapel Hill, and Durham Area Transit—as well as for Duke University and the NCSU Wolfline, at one easily accessible location. The service uses GPS technology to provide maps for locating bus routes and stops, allowing customers to identify how the various systems connect and to effectively plan cross-jurisdictional travel. Customers access information via the web, mobile web, smartphone, or SMS text message.
Passengers can access real-time information in four different ways: 1) access the mobile website “” for real-time bus information; 2) download the GoLive TransLoc app to their smart phone, which using GPS technology, will locate stops near the customer and provide real-time information; 3) text the route number and stop ID to 41411, and then receive an automated text back with the real-time arrival information; and 4) visit the full GoLive website (, choose the transit system and route they are interested in, and view the bus move in real-time as well as receive estimated times of arrival.
Monitoring and Evaluating the Service
Staff from the GoTriangle agencies have seen several benefits to providing real-time information to customers: 1) it provides customers with a time-saving option for arriving at the bus stop just before the bus arrives; 2) by tracking the bus’ location, it gives them peace of mind and confidence in the bus’ arrival; 3) helps them time transfers between systems at shared bus stops; and 4) helps them schedule their appointments throughout the day. Staff have heard anecdotally from customers that the system has indeed provided these benefits for them.
The first full year in which GoLive was implemented, in 2012, saw a significant decrease in the growth of customer calls into the GoTriangle call center, although ridership continued to grow by about 15 percent. This pattern was a marked departure from the double-digit growth in call center volume in the

As GoLive develops this real-time customer information tool further, it plans to will allow users to obtain route and arrival information via touch-tone phone, eliminating the need for after-hour call-center staff. Staff are also planning how to integrate the information services into the regional 511 system. Triangle is also exploring the use of interactive voice response (IVR) technology to provide real-time information for demand-response service. Integrated fare payment via mobile app is also being considered.

For additional information, contact John Tallmadge, Director of Regional Development, Triangle Transit:

Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, Massachusetts

Web-Based Bidding System for Brokering Lowest-Cost Trip

The Montachusett Regional Transit Authority (MART), with central offices in Fitchburg, is one of Massachusetts’ 15 regional transit authorities. MART is located in North Central Massachusetts and provides public transportation to 22 area cities and towns. MART has been brokering human service transportation since 1990, using technology to optimize competition for service and keeping prices affordable. What makes MART’s brokerage system unique is its real-time, competitive, market-based approach.

Regional Coordination Efforts

MART’s Brokerage “Bid” System

Through its brokerage, MART provides approximately 4.5 million trips annually, and has contracts covering approximately 73 percent of the human service transportation in the state, generating nearly $110 million in annual expenditures.  As a broker, MART is responsible for
o Subcontracting with providers
o Monitoring and maintaining contract compliance
o Ensuring the provision of quality customer service delivery
o Accuracy in billing and cost effectiveness rates
o Resolving any conflicts or concerns relating to service

Using Technology to Secure Lowest-Cost, Coordinated Trips

To provide trips at the lowest cost possible, MART has implemented a web-based bidding system that allows providers to bid on trips and review the bids of others. Currently, 235 private operators participate in the brokerage, including private, nonprofit transportation providers; private for-profit providers; private livery services; and taxis. Providers can apply to enroll in the MART system at any time. Vendors are contracted with on a five-year basis and can bid on new contracts as they arise. Subscription trips (e.g., day programs, trips to critical appointments such as dialysis and chemotherapy) can be bid on for a three-month contract.

Available trips for bidding are posted on an open-data-exchange platform allows all vendors to view competing bids for service and counter-bid on trips. Providers may decide to lower their rate to be more competitive, and are permitted to do so during the first five business days of each month. Once all the bids are in, MART automatically assigns trips to the lowest bidder, ensuring transparency and competitive rates. MART’s software program sorts all bids every two hours based on location (who is nearest) and cost (whose is lowest). The automatically assigns a trip ID number and generates invoices for all completed trips on a daily basis, deducting the cost of cancellations and other changes. Assignments are made until all seats are filled; when possible, customers are scheduled to share trips to achieve cost-efficiencies. Almost 20 percent of MART’s Medicaid trips are shared rides; an average of 2.5 percent of the brokerage passengers make their connections on its fixed route. At the end of each day, all the trips for the following day are distributed.

A database maintains requests for service, the majority of which are pre-scheduled, and manages billing and invoicing. Samsung mobile data terminals on vehicles record trip origins and destinations, and use of GPS devices optimizes shared ride possibilities. MART manages multiple funding sources and has the capability to schedule rides across all sources and service areas.

The portal used to provide vendor services includes these features:

o Auto assignment of trips, maximizing vehicle capacity
o Reconciliation of trips postings and attendance
o Vendor rates management
o Vendor vehicle and driver management
o Automated scheduling and dispatching, with requests sent directly to the vehicle
o Shared ride scheduling
o Automatic invoice preparation and reconciliation, and
o Incident management, which logs and reviews customer complaints, allowing for a high level of quality service

MART’s system updates client information continually, and has structured the system to automatically determine a customer’s eligibility for services. Having this eligibility verified for each trip means the number of denied rides can be reduced.

MART has also reduced trip costs through innovative accounting software. Invoices from and payments to providers are automatically generated by the system twice monthly. This process has served to reduce vendor administrative costs, improve vendor cash flow, and given providers increased borrowing power to expand their business, all of which also leads to lower prices. MART also assists some vendors with vehicle purchases. Many small providers that began service with one or two vehicles are now operating with 20–25, strengthening the state’s network of non-emergency medical transportation.

Innovative Features

MART’s system, developed by HB Software Systems, is designed to interact with other scheduling/dispatching systems and can be used by any region or program, while MART maintains system oversight. From a state perspective, this system has the potential to enable distribution of funding across a wider spectrum of providers through one centralized broker, and at the same time reduce state expenditures. The system could be adapted for other programs, such as ADA paratransit service.

Participation in the brokerage has also significantly improved small business development by making it easier for providers to fill seats, reduce operating costs, and transport riders for programs funded by multiple agencies. By guaranteeing a quick cash turn-around, the system increases public borrowing power, creating better opportunities for transportation providers to offer better services.

The 2012 Human Service Transportation Annual Report issued by the Human Service Transportation Office noted an 8 percent increase in consumer trips through the MART system, with an increase in average cost per trip of only 2.6 percent. In that year, MART provided over 4,300,000 brokered trips throughout the four of the nine service areas statewide. MART’s achievements noted in the report include streamlined scheduling of recurring appointments, improved training for inspectors and brokerage staff, and system upgrades.

While the state budget benefits from MART’s efficiency, so do passengers. More non-emergency medical transportation providers improves flexibility and service. As always, the focus will remain on reducing total trip costs in order to expand service and connect more people with the healthcare they need.

Monitoring and Evaluating the Service

Customer complaints are logged into a dedicated web-based complaint management system, to which transportation providers have access. Complaint reports are continually monitored to ensure timely management, satisfactory resolution, and appropriate disciplinary action/penalty assessment. Complaints of a serious nature are immediately brought to the attention of the appropriate manager for review. In addition, MART provides a consumer satisfaction survey to programs and consumers to assess overall satisfaction and address any deficiencies noted.

As highlighted in the 2010 annual report, fines assessed by the brokers represented 0.1 percent of total service expenditures; drivers and monitors removed represented 2 percent of the total driver/monitor workforce; and vendor contracts terminated for cause represented 0.5 percent of the total vendor base.

MART Inspectors are required to perform at minimum the appropriate number of inspections for the year required by MART’s contract with the Human Services Transportation Office. Inspectors observe the transportation provider’s pick up and/or drop off at the residence or facility and note and/or address the following: time violations, driver/monitor interaction with the consumer as well as the driver/monitor interaction with the residence or facility staff. Inspectors also perform a full vehicle inspection.

Moving Forward

MART plans to enhance its brokerage software to include a vehicle manpower portal. The portal will store vehicle and driver information, generating training and licensing renewal alerts to drivers and alerts when inspections are due. MART also plans to expand the administrative functions managed via the portal, with no further increase in manpower.

For additional information, contact Bruno Fisher, Chief Operations Officer,
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The National Center for Mobility Management (NCMM; is a national technical assistance center created to facilitate communities in adopting mobility management strategies. The NCMM is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and is operated through a consortium of three national organizations – the American Public Transportation Association, the Community Transportation Association of America, and the Easter Seals Transportation Group. Content in this document is disseminated by NCMM in the interest of information exchange. Neither the NCMM nor the U.S. DOT, FTA assumes liability for its contents or use. 2014.



his chapter describes “Ridesharing,” which refers to carpooling and vanpooling. Rideshare programs include ridematching services (which help travelers find travel partners), and rideshare encouragement incentives.


Ridesharing refers to carpooling and vanpooling, in which a vehicle carries additional passengers when making a trip, with minimal additional mileage. Dynamic ridesharing refers to apps and services that match travellers for individual trips. This does not include chauffeured trips in which a driver makes a special trip to carry a passenger, or commercial ridehailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Carpooling generally uses participants’ own automobiles. Vanpooling generally uses rented vans (often supplied by employers, non-profit organizations or government agencies). Most vanpools are self-supporting – operating costs are divided among members. Vanpooling is particularly suitable for longer commutes (10 miles or more each way). Ridesharing has minimal incremental costs because it makes use of vehicle seats that would otherwise be unoccupied. It tends to have lower costs per vehicle-mile than public transit because it does not require a paid driver and avoids empty backhauls.

Table 1            Comparing Travel Modes

  Driver Vehicle Ownership Vehicle Size User Schedule Flexibility
Conventional Public Transit Paid Public Large Flexible
Paratransit Paid Public Medium Some flexibility
Vanpool Unpaid Group Rental Medium Inflexible
Carpool Unpaid Personal Small Inflexible
Taxi Paid Business Small Flexible

Different modes have different attributes. Modes with paid drivers tend to have relatively high operating costs. Vanpooling and carpooling have low cost per passenger-mile, but are only suitable for prescheduled trips, such as commuting.

Ridesharing is one of the most common and cost effective alternative modes, particularly in areas that are not well served by public transit. Many commuters rideshare part-time, for example, twice a week. Ridematching is a common component of Commute Trip Reduction programs intended to reduce urban traffic problems. Ridesharing is also an important mobility option for non-drivers, particularly in small towns and rural areas, where notices are often posted on bulletin boards and travel needs are shared through informal networks. Transportation Management Associations, transit agencies and community transportation organizations often provide ridematching services.

Ridesharing tends to experience economies of scale: as more people use the service the chances of finding a suitable carpool or vanpool increase significantly. As a result, success depends on promotion programs that encourage a significant portion of potential users to register for possible participation. According to market research by York and Fabricatore (2001), a variety of improvements and incentives can increase Ridesharing:

  • Increased flexibility, for example,
    • allowing commuters to vanpool two or three days a week, rather than every day
    • allowing unscheduled use as long as a van has extra space, such as allowing a commuter who misses their regular 5:30 vanpool to use a later van.

  • Empty seat subsidies (temporarily paying a share of costs if a vanpool has less than six riders).

  • Fare subsidies by employers or transit agencies (currently, transit commuting is often subsidized, but similar trips by vanpools are not).

  • Targeted, direct Marketing, for example, calling households in a particular suburb with an offer of one month’s free vanpooling to encourage area commuters to try the service.

  • Rent cars for carpools the same as vans are rented for vanpool use. This provides an option for groups of two to five who want to rideshare if none have a suitable vehicle, including vanpools that lose members.

  • Premium quality service options, such as extra high-quality vans with bucket seats, workstations (fold-down tables with electric power so vanpoolers can work while commuting), and complementary newspapers and drinks for vanpoolers who pay an extra fee.

  • Vanpools scheduled to transfer to transit service or other vanpools.

Rideshare programs typically provide carpool matching, vanpool sponsorship, marketing programs, and incentives to reduce driving. Rideshare incentives may include HOV Priority (e.g., HOV highway lanes), preferential parking spaces, and awards. Some employers offer Commute Financial Incentives such as a cash payment to employees who carpool, or a voucher that covers vanpool fees, provided as an alternative to a free parking space. Because they have significant economies of scale (the more people who register, the more effective they are at successfully matching riders), it is helpful if one well-publicized ridematching program serves an entire geographic region.

Some innovative ridesharing programs have been proposed to encourage motorists to share rides for individual trips, creating a cross between hitchhiking and taxi service. Some involve pre-registering motorists and riders to increase security, and establishing standard reimbursement rates. In a few locations, casual carpooling has developed, in which motorists pick up riders at established stops in order to take advantage of HOV lanes. Dynamic ridesharing means that an independent organization matches passengers with drivers for individual trips (as opposed to regularly scheduled trips), using telephone and computer technologies (SST, 1997). King County Metro has incorporated special event ridematching into its regional rideshare program (

How It Is Implemented

Rideshare programs can be implemented by an individual employer as part of a Commute Trip Reduction program, by a Transportation Management Association or a Campus Trip Management program, a transit agency, or by a regional transportation agency. Marketing can inform potential ridesharers about the service. Vanpooling requires more organizational structure to address vehicle ownership, expense recovery and liability issues. Taxi Improvements can include regulatory changes that allow shared taxi ridesharing.

Larger ridematching programs use computerized partner matching systems that take into account each commuter’s origin, destination, schedule, and special needs. Smaller programs may simply match potential partners by hand, or use ride notice boards.

Travel Impacts

Vanpooling tends to be most common for longer (more than 10-mile) commutes. Ridesharing programs typically attract 5-15% of commute trips if they offer only information and encouragement, and 10-30% if they also offer incentives such as HOV Priority and Parking Cash Out, and 5-20% of workers rideshare at many worksties (Evans and Pratt 2005). Ewing (1993) concludes that ridesharing programs can reduce daily vehicle commute trips to specific worksites by 5-15%, and up to 20% or more if implemented with Parking Pricing.

Concas, Winters and Wambalaba (2005) find the elasticity of vanpool ridership with respect to fees ranges from -2.6% to -14.8%, so a one dollar decrease (increase) in vanpool fares is associated with a 2.6% to 14.8% increase (decrease) in the predicted odds of choosing vanpool rather than driving alone. The same study found that the elasticity of vanpooling with respect to price to be -0.61 to -1.34, meaning that for each 10% increase (decrease) in vanpool price, there is a 6% to 13% decrease (increase) in vanpool choice with respect to auto. Another study estimated the price elasticity of vanpooling at about 1.5, meaning that a 10% reduction in vanpool fares increases ridership by about 15% (York and Fabricatore, 2001). For example, if vanpool fares that are currently $50 per month are reduced to $40 (a 20% reduction), ridership is likely to increase by about 30% (20% x 1.5). Of course, exact impacts will vary depending on the specific market and whether other ridesharing incentives are also provided.

Because rideshare passengers tend to have relatively long commutes, mileage reductions can be relatively large. For example, if ridesharing reduces 5% of commute trips it may reduce 10% of vehicle miles because the trips that are reduced are twice as long as average. Rideshare programs can typically reduce up to 8.3% of commute VMT, up to 3.6% of total regional VMT, and up to 1.8% of regional vehicle trips (TDM Resource Center 1996). See Trip Reduction Tables for more information on the travel reductions that are predicted to occur from financial incentives for ridesharing under various circumstances.

Critics argue that rideshare programs are ineffective because, for many years, vehicle occupancy rates declined (Orski 2001), but their analysis only considered overall trends and ignored the much higher vehicle occupancy rates among employees who have comprehensive rideshare programs, particularly if they include both financial incentives and HOV Priority highway lanes.

Table 2            Travel Impact Summary

Travel Impact Rating Comments
Reduces total traffic. 2 Reduces vehicle travel.
Reduces peak period traffic. 3 Effective at reducing commute auto trips.
Shifts peak to off-peak periods. 0  
Shifts automobile travel to alternative modes. 3  
Improves access, reduces the need for travel. -1 May encourage sprawl.
Increased ridesharing. 3  
Increased public transit. 0  
Increased cycling. 0  
Increased walking. 0  
Increased Telework. 0  
Reduced freight traffic. 0  

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.

Benefits And Costs

Ridesharing can reduce peak-period vehicle trips and increase commuters travel choices. It reduces congestion, road and parking facility costs, crash risk and pollution emissions. Ridesharing tends to have the lowest cost per passenger-mile of any motorized mode of transportation, since it makes use of a vehicle seat that would otherwise be empty. Ridesharing provides consumer financial savings (as estimated in the table below), and time savings if there are HOV Priority facilities. Crash risk declines due to fewer vehicles on the road (TDM Safety Benefits). Rideshare programs improve Transportation Options, and are particularly helpful to commuters who cannot drive or lack a reliable automobile. The SMART Trip Reduction Manual published by Pollution Probe (2001) provides information on calculating the benefits of ridesharing to employers and employees.

Table 3            Estimated Monthly Commuting Costs (2011 dollars)

Round Trip Miles
Drive Alone 3-Rider Car Pool 10-Rider Van Pool
30 $193 $64 $31
40 $257 $86 $37
50 $321 $107 $43
60 $386 $129 $50
70 $450 $150 $56
80 $514 $171 $63

Vanpooling is one of the most resource efficient and cost effective motorized modes, and so can provide significant net benefits (Evans and Pratt, 2005). Wambalaba, Concas and Chavarria (2004) summarize average operating costs, revenues, subsidies and ridership for various transit agencies, indicating that a typical vanpool van costs $1,000 to $1,250 per month to operate.

Rideshare program costs consist primarily of administration expenses. One ridematch system pilot project was estimated to incur $150,000 in setup and marketing expenses, and an average about $3 per user (i.e., per phone call received) in operating costs (Guiliano, Hall and Golob 1995). Costs to participants may include additional travel and time needed to meet rideshare partners, schedule constraints needed to match commuting times, loss of privacy, and restrictions on stops for errands.

Ridesharing may encourage urban sprawl by making longer-distance commutes more Affordable. Transit agencies sometimes consider rideshare as competition that reduces transit ridership. For this reason it is important to track the travel alternative that rideshare passengers would otherwise use.

Table 4            Benefit Summary

Objective Rating Comments
Congestion Reduction 3 Reduces peak-period automobile travel.
Road & Parking Savings 3 Reduces peak-period automobile travel.
Consumer Savings 3 Provides consumer savings.
Transport Choice 3 Increases travel choice.
Road Safety 2 Reduces vehicle mileage, but increases vehicle occupancy, so crashes that do occur may have more casualties.
Environmental Protection 2 Reduces automobile travel.
Efficient Land Use -1 May encourage longer-distance commutes and urban sprawl.
Community Livability 2 Reduces automobile trips.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.

Equity Impacts

Rideshare matching services are usually open to anyone in a particular geographic area. Ridesharing services are mostly self-supporting or receive a small subsidy, usually for administrative and marketing activities. Most rideshare program subsidies are modest, usually smaller than the social cost of accommodating automobile travel. For example, if a ridematching service is effective at reducing just a few percent of automobile trips, its expenses can be paid through reduced road and parking facility costs. Rideshare programs generally increase vertical equity by improving Transportation Options for non-drivers and making commuting more Affordable.

Table 5            Equity Summary

Criteria Rating Comments
Treats everybody equally. 3 Rideshare services are generally available to anybody.
Individuals bear the costs they impose. 2 Most rideshare travel is self-supporting. Although ridematching services require subsides, these are usually less than the social costs of automobile travel.
Progressive with respect to income. 3 Improves travel options for lower-income people.
Benefits transportation disadvantaged. 3 Improves travel options for non-drivers.
Improves basic mobility. 2 Improves access to education and employment.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.


Rideshare programs can be appropriate in most geographic areas, and tend to be particularly effective at serving relatively dispersed, suburban destinations. They can be implemented by businesses, Transportation Management Associations and other business organizations, local and regional governments. Regional programs are best, because they create a larger pool of potential users than ridematching at a worksite or local level.

Table 6            Application Summary

Geographic Rating Organization Rating
Large urban region. 3 Federal government. 1
High-density, urban. 2 State/provincial government. 2
Medium-density, urban/suburban. 3 Regional government. 3
Town. 3 Municipal/local government. 3
Low-density, rural. 3 Business Associations/TMA. 3
Commercial center. 3 Individual business. 2
Residential neighborhood. 2 Developer. 1
Resort/recreation area. 3 Neighborhood association. 1
    Campus. 3

Ratings range from 0 (not appropriate) to 3 (very appropriate).


Improved Transport Options.

Relationships With Other TDM Strategies

Ridesharing supports and is supported by many other TDM programs, including HOV PriorityCommute Trip ReductionParking ManagementCommute Financial IncentivesFlextime (which makes it easier for employees to match schedules), Guaranteed Ride Home services, and Pedestrian Improvements at worksites. In some cases ridesharing competes with transit or non-motorized commute modes.


Rideshare programs require support by transportation and sometimes transit agencies, by Transportation Management Associations, or by individual employers. It may involve adoptions of special policies by employees and labor organizations to accommodate and support ridesharing and flextime.

Barriers To Implementation

Rideshare programs require sufficient funding to provide efficient matching services. Effectiveness depends on appropriate incentives: HOV facilities, financial subsidies, parking management, and marketing. Marketing efforts may be needed to inform potential ridesharers about this option.

Wit and Humor

I was hitchhiking the other day and a hearse stopped. I said, “No thanks-I’m not going that far.”

Best Practices

Organizations such as the Association for Commuter Transportation and Commuter Connections can provide advice and resources for developing an effective ridesharing program. York and Fabricatore (2003) identify several ways of improving and increasing vanpooling. Some best practices include:

  • Ridesharing should be implemented as part of a comprehensive TDM Program.
  • Ridesharing programs should include ridematching services, HOV priority, and other Commute Trip Reduction strategies, such as Commute Financial Incentives.
  • Ridematching services should cover a large geographic area (such as an entire region) in order to create the largest possible pool of users.
  • Transportation agencies, businesses and employees should all be involved in planning Rideshare Programs.
  • Provide incentives to attract and retain rideshare users, such as mileage-points and Vehicle Insurance Discounts.

Carpooling Hints (

Here are some helpful tips to get the most out of carpooling


• Determine a route and schedule. Establish the morning pickup point(s) and designate a place(s) to meet for the trip home.


• Be punctual. Decide as a group how long the pool will wait for a passenger. The usual waiting time is 2 to 3 minutes.


• Establish a cost sharing arrangement. If the members of your carpool do not share the driving equally, come to an understanding of how the costs will be shared and agree on payment dates.


• Establish some ground rules. Smoking, music, food, drinks etc. Discuss possible irritants among group, ie, some people may be sensitive to strong perfumes or colognes, some may like quiet time in the morning.


• Draw up a schedule for driving responsibilities. If all members of your carpool alternate driving, decide among yourselves if you want to alternate on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.


• Drive carefully and keep the car clean, in good repair and filled with enough gas for each trip. There should be no excuses for excessive speed, use of alcohol, or reckless maneuvers.


• Set up a line of communication. If a driver is ill, or will not be going to work one day, an alternate driver should be notified to ensure that other members or the carpool will have a ride. If a rider is ill or will not be working, the driver must be contracted as soon as possible. Ensure everyone has a copy of home, work or cell phone numbers. Don’t forget to give notice of vacation, personal or overtime plans.


• Avoid side trips on the way home. If it is for commuting to and from work, save your trips to the grocery store for the weekend. Or, you may choose not to carpool on the days you must run an errand.


• Make sure you are covered by your insurance company. Some policies may offer rate reductions for ridesharing.


• Check for preferential, free or reduced-rate parking.


• Give your carpool some time to work. It usually takes a few weeks to arrange everyone’s routine into a harmonious pattern. Most carpoolers discover they really enjoy the company of their fellow carpoolers and find it a benefit they had not anticipated.

Case Studies and Examples

Ridehailing Impacts on Vehicle Travel and Emissions

The report, The Effects of Ride Hailing Services on Travel and Associated Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Rodier 2018) used current research to evaluate how ridehailing services are likely to affect travel and pollution emissions. She

Category Possible Outcomes Change/Direction
Auto ownership Reduce auto ownership because ride-hailing allows users to meet their travel needs at a lower cost. – VMT/GHG
Trip Generation Increase auto ride-hailing trips by people who cannot drive due to physical and cognitive limitations, no driver’s license, no private vehicle, and alcohol consumption. + VMT/GHG
Mode Choice Increase auto mode share when ride-hailing has an overall lower time and money costs than transit, carpooling, walk, and bike modes. + VMT/GHG
Increase transit mode share when ride-hailing bridges the first and last mile gap to rail and bus transit. – VMT/GHG
Network Travel Relocation travel (i.e., ride-hailing vehicle travel without passenger to pick up new passenger). + VMT/GHG
Destination Choice and Land Use If overall travel time and cost for all modes is reduced to central areas relative to outlying, then demand for travel to central areas and residential and employment space in central areas may be greater. – VMT/GHG
If overall travel time and cost for all modes is reduced to outlying areas relative to central, then demand for travel to outlying areas and residential and employment space in outlying areas may be greater. + VMT/GHG

Ridehailing can have a variety of impacts on travel, including some that increase and others that reduce total vehicle travel and emissions.

The results indicate that ride-hailing will tend to produce modest reductions in auto ownership and increase vehicle trip generation, vehicle mode share, and network vehicle travel necessary to pick up new passengers. Overall, these effects would tend to increase VMT and associated GHG emissions. In two case studies they estimate that in San Francisco ridehailing is predicted to increase VMT 6.5% on a typical weekday and 10% on the weekend, and in Austin it increases VMT 8% to 11% for a typical weekday.

To maximize community benefits and minimize costs the researchers recommend that public policies support the use of ride-hailing services for first and last mile service to transit and for disadvantaged populations (low income, disabled, and without vehicles) to access basic services and opportunities, for example, through subsidized fares, and outside denser urban areas, consider restrictions on ride-hailing services or distance-based pricing policies to minimize empty vehicle travel and support transit use. Inside dense city areas, curb-based pricing policies for pick-up and drop-off access may offset lost parking revenues and continued use of transit. Policies should also be considered that encourage ride-hailing drivers to use electric vehicles.

Commute Trip Reduction Rideshare Programs

Evans and Pratt (2005) describe several successful rideshare programs, including the Commuter Transportation Services, which provides ridematching services in Southern California, an employment center ridematching service supported by businesses, a residential ridematching service provided to residents of a suburban community funded by a developer, and various vanpool programs.

Vanpool Marketing Plan (York and David Fabricatore, 2003)

The Puget Sound region has some of the most successful vanpool programs in North America. Vanpooling represents about 2% of total commute trips and 7% of commute trips over 20 miles in length. Several factors contribute to this success: a Commute Trip Reduction law requires large employers in the region to help employees use alternative modes, vanpooling services are provided by transit agencies which insures quality and integrated services; and HOV Priority provides travel time savings for vanpools on some routes. Market research by York and Fabricatore (2001) indicates that this ridership could double or triple if supported by a variety of improvements and incentives:

  • Increased flexibility, for example,
    • allow commuters to vanpool two or three days a week, rather than every day
    • allow unscheduled use as long as a van has extra space, such as a commuter who misses their regular 5:30 van may ride in a later van.

  • Empty seat subsidies (temporarily paying a share of costs if a vanpool has less than six riders).

  • Fare subsidies by employers or transit agencies (currently, transit commuting is often subsidized, but similar trips by vanpools are not).

  • Targeted, direct Marketing, for example, calling households in a particular suburb with an offer of one month’s free vanpooling to encourage area commuters to try the service.

  • HOV Priority measures, such as HOV lanes and preferred parking spaces.

  • Premium service options, such as extra high-quality vans with bucket seats, workstations (fold-down tables with electric power so vanpoolers can work while commuting), and complementary newspapers and drinks for vanpoolers who pay an extra fee.

  • Vanpools scheduled to transfer to transit service or other vanpools.

  • Rent cars for carpools the same as vans are rented for vanpool use. This provides an option for groups of two to five who want to rideshare if none have a suitable vehicle, including vanpools that lose members.

Metro Vanpooling Program (

Seattle’s Metro transportation agency provides ridematching services throughout the region and operates dozens of self-financing vanpools. It has more than 1,000 active vanpools. Vanpool programs are a division of transit agencies. About 90% of vanpools are driven to worksites with mandatory commute trip reduction programs, which are required by state law. It is one of the most successful programs in North America, serving 2% of commute trips and 7% of 20-mile-plus commute trips in the region (York and Fabricatore 2003). Below are their instructions for organizing one:

  • You need four other people, in addition to yourself — or as many as 14 — to organize a vanpool. The more people, the lower your fare.
  • Once your pool is together, you need to decide on a route, pick-up points and schedule.
  • Choose a primary driver and at least one back-up.
  • Primary drivers, who meet Metro requirements, ride free and may receive 40 free personal miles each month. Additional miles are available to drivers for a low mileage fee.

Community Ridesharing (Kishi and Satoh 2007)

A survey of residents in Naganuma Town, Japan finds relatively high willingness to provide rides to senior non-drivers in areas not served by public transit, particularly if drivers are financially compensated. Concerns about accident risk liability is a deterrent.

Carpool Program Incentives and Rules

Below are examples of carpool program incentives and regulations, based on a survey of Rideshare program managers:

  • Rideshare users get free and preferred parking facilities (e.g., closer to buildings and weather protected).
  • Carpools register online. Each carpool member is identified along with their vehicular information.
  • Each carpool group is assigned a carpool number and is issued one hangtag for the group. Each hangtag is coded. This hangtag must be displayed on the vehicle used by the carpool that particular day. Use of the carpool parking spaces is restricted to only those days that the occupants carpool.
  • Underground, weather-protected, carpool parking garage doors are coded to allow entry only by registered carpoolers.
  • Vehicles are monitored on a regular basis for adherence to the carpool parking policy indicating that vehicles must display a valid hangtag. Those vehicles parked in carpool parking without a valid hangtag or with a deactivated hangtag are given a warning or are issued a City ticket (presently at $50 for unauthorized parking).
  • Vehicles are randomly visually monitored for a minimum two person occupancy. Visual monitoring is followed up by personal contact, where warranted.
  • Each year a full audit (again online) is undertaken whereby each carpool member must validate that they are carpooling and are in the registered group.
  • The University in Melbourne uses a boom-gate whereby carpoolers need to swipe each of their individual ID cards for the boom gate to open.
  • The Bay Area Rapid Transit system offers dedicated parking spaces to carpoolers who register and obtain a permit
  • Metro King County (greater Seattle) has a program called “Park and Shop” where commuters could park at underused parking lots at supermarkets, etc. in exchange for spending a certain amount of money at that store/shopping area. Proof of frequent shopping was provided by a punch card displayed in the car.
  • Carpool members sign an agreement that they will follow the rules of the program. The agreement states that they will carpool no less than 3 days per week. Special parking permits hang from the rearview mirror and look different from the other standard issue parking permits, with a different color and shape, and a carpool permit number.
  • Carpool parking spaces are located near building entrances, with “Carpool permit only” signs. This serves two purposes; it gives positive visibility and also is a marketing tool for people to join the program, and it allows for policing of the parking spaces.

Rideshare Online (

RideShare Online is the first self-serve, regional public Internet ridematching service in the nation. instantly matches commuters with carpool or vanpool partners with a similar daily commute in nine Puget Sound area counties, including King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Thurston, Island, Mason, Skagit and Whatcom counties.

“This new service puts the power into the hands of commuters,” said King County Executive Ron Sims. “Instead of sending in applications and information and waiting for a reply, you can go online anytime day or night to find names in our database of 9,000 registered commuters, e-mail them directly yourself, and within minutes you could be hearing back from a potential rideshare partner.”

Online registration is simple. After typing in their e-mail address and choosing a password, users enter their work location and the starting point of their commute — either a home address or a nearby intersection. To preserve privacy, home addresses are not displayed publicly. They enter their weekly work schedule and any daily variations. By return e-mail they receive a confirmation code to complete their registration. They can instantly see a list of rideshare matches to whom they may e-mail a rideshare request.

RideQuest (

RideQuest is a ridematching Internet site provided by the Greater Redmond Transportation Management Association. Users enter a street address or intersection, and the software produces a map showing that location. If the location is correct, it is entered into the database along with information on the users travel needs and preferences. They can send an automatic email to other registered commuters who may be able to rideshare.

Los Angles SmartTraveler (

This test was a public/private partnership between the California Department of Transportation, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the State of California Health and Welfare Data Center, Commuter Transportation Services, Inc., Pacific Bell and Pacific Bell Information Services, IBM Corporation, and North Communications.

The ridesharing service allows users to obtain lists of potential ride matches via touch-tone telephone. Users must pre-register, which entails giving some personal information, including their usual commute times and preferred pick-up and drop-off locations. Upon request, the system can call the people in the list and deliver a user-recorded message. The ridesharing materials were distributed to 68,000 people.

Users of the Los Angeles SmartTraveler ridesharing service tended to have longer trips to work than the average Los Angeles County commuter, and were less likely to drive alone. Of all users, 18% used alternative modes to get to work about once or twice a week. Users stated that circumstances for which their regular commuting mode was not available are rare, suggesting that demand for occasional carpooling is likely to be low. Other factors that may lower the demand for carpooling are that half of those surveyed said they sometimes work a schedule different from their regular one, and that sometimes their work takes them to places other than their office. About half of all users felt they have access to good transit service. Most felt they needed transit and carpool information, yet at the same time most refused to ride with strangers.

Special Event Ridesharing

King County Metro has incorporated special event ridematching into its regional rideshare program ( Seattle Center and the University of Washington are helping to promote the service in King County, hoping it will attract more attendees to events at their venues.

To use the service, visit the website and select an event from a list that currently features more than 30 picks. Then, enter some basic information, including your name and home address or a nearby intersection. If others who live near you are also looking for a buddy for that event, their e-mail addresses will pop up. You can even check a map to see who’s attending and lives closest to your home. People then e-mail one another privately, screening potential buddies for the right match.

In coming months Metro plans to launch a similar effort organizing rides to private events. In a region where traffic worsens by the year, the ability to go online and find a car pool fast can revolutionize the way people get around, according to Metro Planner Park Woodworth, or helped establish the program. The possibilities are endless, including business meetings, little League games, industry events, weddings. Neighbors on their way to the grocery could even get online to check whether a nearby senior citizen needs a lift, producing social benefits in addition to environmental and cost-saving benefits.

Dynamic Ridematching (

Dynamic Ridematching refers to rideshare programs that match riders for individual trips, rather than a series of regularly scheduled trips, and provides information quickly and conveniently to help drivers and riders connect. Below are descriptions of some Dynamic Ridesharing pilot projects.

Los Angeles SmartTraveler

This test was a public/private partnership between the California Department of Transportation, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the State of California Health and Welfare Data Center, Commuter Transportation Services, Inc., Pacific Bell and Pacific Bell Information Services, IBM Corporation, and North Communications. Funding for the field test was provided by the State of California, through the California Advanced Public Transit System Program, and by the Federal Highway Administration, through earthquake relief funds. In addition to ridesharing services, the field test included pre-trip information services.

The ridesharing service allows users to obtain lists of potential ride matches, via touch-tone telephone. Users must pre-register, which entails giving some personal information, including their usual commute times and preferred pick-up and drop-off locations. Upon request, the system can call the people in the list and deliver a user-recorded message. The ridesharing materials were distributed to 68,000 people.

Bellevue Smart Traveler:

The BST project was led by researchers from the University of Washington, in partnership with TransManage and with participation from PacTel. The demonstration phase of the project took place between November 1993 and April 1994. The project was funded by the Washington State Department of Transportation and by the Federal Highway Administration. The main purpose of the Bellevue Smart Traveler (BST) is to facilitate ridesharing (carpooling), but it also provides traffic and transit information. The ridesharing service operates by subscription: once registered, a participant is entitled to offer rides, and to accept rides offered by other subscribers. The system is available via telephones and pagers.

The field test tracked the supply and demand for rides over a five-month period. Test participants were selected based on their residence location (all participants worked in the same office complex). Three ridesharing groups were formed, with membership varying from 8 people in the smallest group to 27 people in the largest.

Seattle Smart Traveler (

The Seattle Smart Traveler (SST) tested a dynamic ridematching system using the Internet and electronic mail (e-mail) at the University of Washington in Seattle. The project was part of the Seattle Wide-Area Information for Travelers (SWIFT), a larger Intelligent Transportation System Field Operational Test conducted by the Washington State Department of Transportation, the University of Washington, King County Metro, and five private sector partners, with funding from the Federal Highway Administration. The system was developed and operated at the University of Washington from 1995 to 1997. It was designed to help users form ongoing carpooling arrangements, as well as those interested in offering or obtaining a ride for a single trip. The system was designed by researchers in the Department of Electrical Engineering using an Internet interface. This system provided information on trip origins, destinations and travel times. It was available on a 24-hour basis to students, faculty, and staff at the University.

To provide flexibility in the matching of trips, a time range or window was used for both the requested departure and arrival times. A search structure was developed using a series of pull-down menus allowing users to easily identify their desired origins and destinations from a search tree containing four levels of detail. Although the design of the SST was relatively complex, the system was easy for participants to access and use. A potential participant first accessed the Web site by entering either their student or staff identification number or user password. The individual then completed an SST application form, which included their telephone number and e-mail address, but not their home address. The participant could request a trip at the time they registered and on an ongoing basis. Three types of potential matches could be requested. These were regular commute trips, additional regular trips, and occasional trips. A user entered the origin, destination, day of week, departure time, and arrival time for each trip type they would like to check for a rideshare match.

Microsoft CTR and Connector Bus System (

The Microsoft Corporation has approximately 40 thousand workers (employees and contractors) in 13 million square feet of office space dispersed around the Puget Sound (Seattle, Washington) region, including its 500 acre Redmond campus which contains 94 buildings, with 23 cafes, and various employee services and retail outlets. Employee parking is generally unpriced at these worksites. In order to reduce commuting costs for both employees and their communities, since 1995 Microsoft has implemented an extensive Commute Trip Reduction program that encourages employees to use efficient travel options. This includes the following incentives:

  • Flex Pass (all FTE and Vendors)
  • Rideshare matching and Preferred Carpool parking (2,100 stalls)
  • Vanpools (more than 1,150)
  • Telework
  • Bike Parking (1,800 stalls)
  • Technology
    • Commute website
    • “Real Time” ride matching
    • Active Parking Management

In addition, starting September 2007 Micorsoft began offering its employees free Connector Bus services between residential areas where large numbers of employees live and their major employment centers. Coaches provide premium-quality features such as guaranteed, reclining seats with generous legroom, 110 volt power at each seat, on-board wireless Internet and GPS services. These buses made use of the region’s extensive HOV Priority lanes, making them time competitive with automobile travel. By 2009 this service had:

  • 55 buses on 19 routes making 85 total daily round trips.
  • 94% on time performance
  • 5,642/capacity/day
  • Average 3,650 riders/day

Ridership increased significantly as fuel prices increased during 2008, indicating that even relatively high-income professionals will respond to financial incentives such as increased fuel, parking and insurance pricing, provided that they have high quality alternatives that save time and increase productivity. Rider surveys have determined that over 60% of Connector riders were former SOV drivers and had not previously commuted by public transit.

Los Angeles Vanpool Program (MTA 2010)

The Metro Vanpool Program was launched May 2007 providing lease and fare incentives to new and existing public vanpools. Eligible vanpools enrolled in the program receive a fare incentive amounting to 25-50% of the vanpool’s lease cost or up to $400 per month. In order to be eligible for the program, vanpools must operate their service with vehicles leased from Metro contracted service providers, commute to Los Angeles County employer worksites, be open to any fare paying commuter regardless of employer affiliation (i.e. public), and report specific operating data to Metro. All vanpool operating and expense data are reported to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as part of Metro’s annual National Transit Database (NTD) report. The NTD is the system through which FTA collects uniform data needed by the Secretary of Transportation to administer department programs. The data reported is used to calculate federal grant apportionments to the region.

Table 7            Vanpool Program Performance (

Year Vanpools Vehicle-miles Passenger-miles
Projected 626 4,225,585 34,204,680
Actual 327 1,066,177 7,171,055
Projected 758 16,226,730 129,813,480
Actual 621 13,065,208 90,702,354
Projected 834 17,849,403 142,795,224
Actual 813 17,949,029 111,907,711
Projected 917 19,637,883 157,103,064
Actual 923 20,581,652 124,379,567

Fred Meyer Vanpools: One-Stop Commuting

When the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River closed for repair in 1997, the Fred Meyers corporation established a vanpool program to help their employees get to work in Portland. The company leases 15-person vans, and pays all expenses (fuel, parking, etc.). Employees organize their own routes, schedules and drivers. There are currently 11 vanpools with 10 riders. The vans pick up riders at a central meeting spot, usually a Park & Ride. Drivers may use the vans for personal errands after work, and vans are available during working hours for business meetings. The program coordinator reports “Vanpoolers have told me they love the program! It relieves their stress. They learn more about the company by riding with people in their departments. They relax before they get home. It’s reduced their [vehicle] insurance rates and cut their commute time in half.”

San Francisco, CA

Approximately 8,000 to 10,000 people, or nine percent of total carpoolers, participate in casual carpooling in the San Francisco area. During the morning commute periods, pick-up points are in Oakland near Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations and in Alameda-Contra County near Costa Transit bus stops. These sites serve as loading zones, provide users with a back-up choice if a ride is unavailable, and guarantee users a ride home in the evening. Drop-off points usually are near the Transbay bus terminal in downtown San Francisco, although other destinations are also common. These sites are centrally located and provide passengers with other means to continue their trip if needed. Carpoolers gain the benefit of a 10 to 20 minute timesavings while avoiding a $1.00 toll by using the HOV toll bypass lane; passengers save money. Until recently, there was no market for evening casual carpooling since there were no HOV lanes heading out of San Francisco. In 1999, a 20-mile HOV lane was constructed and, with support from Environmental Defense organizing and securing destination signs in downtown San Francisco, limited evening casual carpooling has begun.

CarPool.CA is Canada’s fastest growing rideshare program with over 7,000 registered participants in 6 provinces and territories. The program was created by and is managed by Commuter Connections, a BC non-profit organization dedicated to the reduction of single occupancy vehicle use through the implementation and promotion of rideshare programs. Commuter Connections has been delivering rideshare programs across Canada for over 12 years. In addition to performing on-line ridematching, the application provides carpool/parking management functions, built-in survey features, and a variety of administrative and statistical reports including greenhouse gas savings. The system is fast, secure and user-friendly. Information provided by participants is used for rideshare management purposes only and complies with federal and provincial privacy legislation. is used by employers, post-secondary institutions, transportation management associations, and regional districts who pay an annual subscription fee. These fees are essential to the long-term support of the program. All subscriptions include promotional materials, marketing support, and database management.

Transit Agency Ridesharing Programs (Murray, et al. 2012)

Public transit agencies can implement ridesharing programs for various reasons including cost-effective service on corridors unsuited to conventional transit, as a feeder service to conventional urban transit, and to generate additional federal funding. There is significant potential for transit agencies to expand support for car- and vanpooling and integrate it with other transportation services and programs.

Washington, DC

Casual carpooling in the Washington, DC area is well organized with approximately 3000 people, or 11% of carpoolers, doing it. Northern Virginia commuters, who want a ride to the Pentagon or Washington DC, stand at specific suburban locations, usually near parking lots or bus stops. Drivers wanting to legally use the HOV lane system pick them up. Destinations are usually announced, except in certain places where drivers stand in queues according to which bridge they want to cross. A similar arrangement is used for the return trip from DC, but rides are harder to find causing some passengers to take transit home in the evenings. Drivers save up to an hour or more on their commute time and commute times may be more reliable; passengers find that casual carpooling is normally faster and more flexible than bus or subway service because of the ease and speed in which a ride is obtained and cheaper because they are not paying fares. ( is a world-wide, self-service commuter carpooling system that uses latitude and longitude coordinates for precise automatic carpool matching. Their automated, online trip matcher calculates and ranks proximities to a precision of inches for maximum ride sharing efficiency and ultimate convenience.

References and Resources For More Information

Association for Commuter Transportation ( is a non-profit organization supporting TDM programs.

Best Workplaces for Commuters ( is a program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation to recognizes employers that provide outstanding commuter benefits.

Cambridge Systematics (2013), Effects of Travel Reduction and Efficient Driving on Transportation: Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (; at

Commuter Choice Program ( provides various commuter transport management services, including ridesharing support.

Sisinnio Concas, Philip L. Winters and Francis W. Wambalaba (2005), “Fare Pricing Elasticity, Subsidies and the Demand for Vanpool Services,” Transportation Research Record 1924, Transportation Research Board (, pp. 215-223.

CTA (2009), Rural Transportation, Community Transportation Association (;  at Provides information on various programs that provide transportation services in rural areas.

Michael Ennis (2010), Vanpools in the Puget Sound Region: The Case for Expanding Vanpool Programs to Move the Most People for the Least Cost, Washington Policy Center for Transportation (; at

John E. Evans and Richard H. Pratt (2005), Vanpools and Buspools; Traveler Response to Transportation System Changes, Chapter 5, TCRP Report 95, Transportation Research Board (; at

Reid Ewing (1993), “TDM, Growth Management, and the Other Four Out of Five Trips,” Transportation Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 343-366.

  1. Guiliano, R.W. Hall and J.M Golob (1995),Los Angeles Smart Traveler Field Operational Test Evaluation, PATH Draft Research Report No. D95-35, University of California, Institute of Transportation Studies (, 1995.

Kunihiro Kishi and Keiichi Satoh (2007), “Attitudinal Study on a Reciprocal Community Transport System in Japan,” International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, Vol. 1, No. 3 (, July-Sept 2007, pp. 161-171.

Michael Kodransky and Gabriel Lewenstein (2014), Connecting Low-Income People to Opportunity with Shared Mobility, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy ( and Living Cities (; at

Jaimyoung Kwon and Pravin Varaiya (2008), “Effectiveness of California’s High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) System,” Transportation Research C, Vol. 18, pp. 98-115; at

Mike Mangan (2018), “The Value of Vanpooling as a Strategic, Cost-effective, and Sustainable Transportation Option,” ITE Journal, Vol. 88, Iss. 2, pp. 36-39; at

MTA (2010), METRO Vanpool Program Update, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (; at

Gail Murray, Mark E. Chase, Eunice Kim and Markie McBrayer (2012), Ridesharing as a Complement to Transit, Synthesis 98, Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP), Transportation Research Board (; at

Kenneth Orski (2001), “Carpool Lanes – An Idea Whose Time Has Come and Gone,” TR News 214 (Special HOV Issue), Transportation Research Board (, May-June 2001, pp. 24-26.

Pollution Probe (2001), SMART Trip Reduction Manual, Pollution Probe (

Weimer Pursell (1943), When You Ride Alone You Ride With Hitler!, World War Two Poster by the US Government Printing Office for the Office of Price Administration, NWDNS-188-PP-42, (

Rideshare.Com ( connect drivers and riders to work, school and events in British Columbia.

Rideshare Online ( provides you an easy way to find others who are interested in sharing their commute in a carpool or vanpool in the Puget Sound area.

Caroline Rodier (2018), The Effects of Ride Hailing Services on Travel and Associated Greenhouse Gas Emissions, A National Center for Sustainable Transportation White Paper, Institute for Transportation Studies, UC Davis (; at

Dan Ryan (2015), Vanpools are a Success Story, Seattle Transit Blog (; at

SlugLines ( provides information on slugging (also called Instant Carpooling or Casual Carpooling), which refers to the practices of highway travelers picking up passengers at the roadside in order to quality to use HOV Priority lanes.

Katherine F. Turnbull, Herbert S. Levinson and Richard H. Pratt (2006), HOV Facilities – Traveler Response to Transportation System Changes, TCRB Report 95, Transportation Research Board (; at


TDM Resource Center (1996), Transportation Demand Management; A Guide to Including TDM Strategies in Major Investment Studies and in Planning for Other Transportation Projects, Office of Urban Mobility, WSDOT (; at

Francis Wambalaba, Sisinnio Concas and Marlo Chavarria (2004), Price Elasticity of Rideshare: Commuter Fringe Benefits for Vanpools, National Center for Transportation Research, Center for Urban Transportation Research (; at

Bryon York and David Fabricatore (2003), Puget Sound Vanpool Market Action Plan, Draft, Office of Urban Mobility, WSDOT (; at

This Encyclopedia is produced by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute to help improve understanding of Transportation Demand Management. It is an ongoing project. Please send us your comments and suggestions for improvement.



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