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Leveraging Data and Microtransit Mobility Options to Move People Efficiently

How open source data is revolutionizing microtransit and fixed-route transit planning

On-demand rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft are continually growing and introducing new ways for riders to affordably arrive at a destination. Uber and Lyft as e-hailing services are assisting with first-mile, last-mile transportation options which in turn have created a positive impact on public transportation.

These providers have stunned the taxi industry while simultaneously enjoying three to four times growth in many cities by helping people get from a fixed-route bus stop to their desired destination. However, features like “Uber Smart Routes,” piloted in San Francisco, offers large discounts for riders who are willing to be picked up along a predefined route, not unlike a fixed-route bus.
DoubleMap can use open source data from pickup/dropoff locations; track vehicles through CAD/AVL; and optimize the free, two-way data exchange offered by Waze.
Public transit agencies need a way to compete with the high demand and ease of companies like Uber and Lyft. To do this, agencies have been becoming more transparent and easier to access for riders.

These agencies can provide public-facing applications that show vehicles in real time, thus helping riders know the location of their buses and helping them catch the bus with more confidence. Agencies can also learn to rely more on open source data to allow for dispatchers to plan more efficient routes to better suit the needs of their riders.

By partnering with popular e-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, along with community-based GPS companies like Waze, DoubleMap collects open-source, anonymized data from riders to assist in urban transportation planning. By collecting data on riders’ start and end locations rather than at which stops they board and alight, fixed-route systems can provide service to a much larger population.

These companies understand the importance and potential of the data they collect and are beginning to allow companies to use their information for planning benefits. Uber’s “movement” allows companies like DoubleMap to leverage their anonymized location data to make informed decisions for future infrastructure and route optimization.
A user interface with third-party integration.

Currently, only six cities in North America are listed for open source data. Using this data, paired with Waze and its more than 500 partners, DoubleMap has the potential to build out a solution to use this open source data from pickup/dropoff locations; track vehicles through CAD/AVL; and optimize the free, two-way data exchange offered by Waze.

DoubleMap can integrate with third-party rideshare services like Uber and Lyft and other “best in class” transportation service providers through access to their application programming interface. DoubleMap is currently implementing this solution with Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), integrating with DART’s GoPass application and linking multiple areas of Dallas into one system.

Through the GoPass application, “TapRide” operates within the agency’s on-demand GoLink service. This allows DART to run through a single application, which allows riders to effectively plan trips using a mix of fixed-route, on-demand and other means of transportation, all under one application.

DoubleMap also can add additional buttons to its mobile application to allow riders to interact with third-party ridesharing companies. If an event increases ridership beyond the TapRide drivers’ capabilities, administrators are able to use Uber, Lyft or another agency’s drivers to complete the requested rides. Again, this lets riders make one request that allows the TapRide back end to filter through multiple modes of transportation.

This all saves the passenger time, money and worry because the DoubleMap algorithm will complete the request for passengers in the most efficient way possible so they do not have to begin multiple tasks (open the Uber app, open the Lyft app, call a cab, etc.) and attempt to figure out the most efficient way themselves.

Through DoubleMap’s algorithm and open source data sharing, public transportation systems are able to better predict the success of starting or altering a microtransit project. DoubleMap uses its on-demand planning tool at one of the largest corporate campuses in the U.S., in San Francisco, to simulate a world-renowned tech company’s on-demand and fixed-route shuttle system.

Heat map showing ridership hotspots.
This simulation tool takes into account a number of different factors such as historical and hypothetical demand, number of vehicles and hours of service to determine how successful a potential microtransit project could be for an area. For this current client, it optimizes the number of vehicles at certain hours. During these simulations, public transportation organizations can try different combinations of variables to achieve the best possible combination for a successful microtransit project.

DoubleMap is working closely to integrate with public transportation systems to offer point-to-point and schedule on-demand service. Many U.S. cities are teaming up with the company’s TapRide product to provide on-demand public transit, as well as first-mile, last-mile connections to transit services, through a single application.

Ultimately, this technology can help cities and agencies learn more about how to optimize their fleet and better meet the needs of their riders.

About ConnecTech Briefs
This series focuses on technological innovation, one of APTA’s five strategic goals, and features best practices that advance technology in public transportation.
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