Mobility for all - Harnessing Emerging Transit Solutions for Underserved Communities

Public transportation infrastructure is an essential component in cultivating equitable communities. However, public transit agencies have historically struggled to achieve this since they are often severely stressed in terms of resources as they have to make the trade-off between concentrating service into routes that serve large numbers of people and spreading service out to ensure that people everywhere have access to at least some service. A solution that holds great promise for improving public transit systems is the integration of fixed-route services with microtransit systems: multi-passenger transportation services that serve passengers using dynamically generated routes and may expect passengers to make their way to and from common pick-up or drop-off points. However, most microtransit systems have failed in the past due to the lack of community engagement, inability to handle the uncertainty of operations when integrating the fixed transit, and inability to handle the system-level optimization challenges. The project takes a socio-relational approach to community engagement in collaboration with the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA), design a community-centric micro-transit service that augments fixed-line public transit networks (improving transit accessibility), and demonstrate its effectiveness in the representative city of Chattanooga. The outcome of the project will be a deployment-ready software system that can be used by an agency to design and operate a micro-transit service effectively. The algorithmic toolchain will be complemented by mechanisms to optimally select the parameters and sustainably manage the data required by the algorithms. In addition, this project will provide a set of exemplar case studies and a validated social methodology to engage the community and learn their requirements, which will be fed into the algorithms. This will potentially impact a wide range of cities in the U.S. that do not have well-developed transit systems as the project will not only provide a reusable operations system but also demonstrate how integrated socio-technical research and strong community engagement can provide a pattern for sustainability and expansion.