National Express Transit (NEXT), in conjunction with the Greater Attleboro-Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA) and Spare, launched a new on-demand microtransit service in the tri-town area of Franklin, Foxboro, and Norfolk, Mass.
The new service, GATRA On Demand United, is powered by NEXT Connect, a software solution that allows customers to book and pay for rides via an app, as well as track their vehicle and rate their driver. Customers can also continue to call in to book and pay for rides if they prefer that method.
“By leveraging our existing infrastructure, it meant that the on-demand service could be introduced without the usual associated operational set-up costs,” said Jason Beevis, director, technology and innovation, for NEXT. “It’s a win for everyone; most importantly, our customers have a great new service that reduces their wait times, and the transit authority saves money compared to operating the traditional fixed-route services.”
Following restrictions imposed in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership on the region’s fixed-route transit buses dropped dramatically, forcing GATRA to suspend the services. Thanks to this innovative technology, GATRA is once again able to serve the customers who used the fixed-route services by utilizing the existing dial-a-ride vehicles that operate in the same area.
NEXT Connect, utilizes Spare’s technology to optimize passenger pick-ups, vehicle matching, and routing, making the most efficient use of vehicles and providing an equitable and high level of service to all those who need it. This “commingling” system, as it is referred to, is built around strict customer service rules. For example, if the system identifies that a customer may have to wait more than 15 minutes for a ride, another vehicle nearby will be directed to pick-up that customer to reduce wait times and provide a higher level of customer service.
GATRA On Demand United service is set to begin Dec. 15. For the first month, customers will be able to try the system for free.