In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas’ Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) is expanding its on-demand transit to replace fixed-route bus services.

The additional microtransit services powered by the Spare Platform, an on-demand transportation system, allow DCTA to manage the number of riders on a vehicle, trace where riders have traveled and on which vehicles, and with whom they have come in contact while still providing crucial transit services in the community during these unprecedented times.

DCTA’s plans to introduce the new on-demand transit zones as a replacement for fixed routes with low ridership and long wait times were accelerated in the effort to align itself with government-mandated social distancing — like Dallas’s “Shelter in Place” Act.

During these unprecedented times, Spare suggests that transit providers do the following to operate safely during this public health crisis: 

  • Shift away from moving lots of people to selectively moving the right people, by scaling down mass transit and scaling up microtransit.
  • Decentralize the risk of transit and health systems collapsing due to worker absenteeism, because microtransit is more resilient to outages than fixed routes.
  • Segment microtransit riders by their risk profile, thereby reducing the social mixing that exacerbates the spread of the virus.
  • Use microtransit to rapidly screen and test riders, and to promote good hygiene and responsible behavior through educational “nudging.”
  • Use in-app technology to implement contact tracing, to better understand the spread of the virus and intervene appropriately when infections are detected.

“Moving forward, we will continue to work closely with public health officials and monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) health situation diligently in order to do what is best for our passengers, employees and the many communities we serve,” said DCTA CEO Raymond Suarez.

Within days, Spare and DCTA shifted the fixed-route bus network in Denton and Lewisville toward a mixed network that blends fixed-route and on-demand transit. The core changes include expanding DCTA’s Lewisville Lakeway on-demand microtransit service, which was well-received for its “flexible routes and on-demand scheduling,” and launching a new service in Denton that covers the Old Town, Medpark, and Downtown Denton Transit Center A-train stations. The new stop-to-stop, one-way services will provide safe last-mile evening connections and ensure access to healthcare services, grocery stores, and pharmacies for transit users.

The seven-day turnaround was possible because DCTA had access to Spare’s self-serve platform that allows transit agencies to ideate changes to their service setup and make data-driven decisions on its own.

During the launch period, Spare integrated its COVID-19 Rapid Response Strategy developed with extensive consultations with leading epidemiologists and transit agencies, including DCTA.

The data gleaned from the DCTA microtransit expansion will be evaluated and the permanency of these on-demand routes assessed. This step ties into Spare’s  “flipping transit on its head” approach of using microtransit to re-design a transit network that better serves the needs of transit agencies and their communities.

 

 

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