Bay Transit, Mountain Empire Older Citizens, pilot Virginia Microtransit Deployment Initiative
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is partnering with Bay Transit and Mountain Empire Older Citizens on an initiative to bring on-demand public transportation services to rural Virginians.
The transit agencies have contracted with Via, the leader in Transit Tech, to deploy the first microtransit services in the Commonwealth. The Virginia Microtransit Deployment Initiative, which is being funded in part through the Federal Transit Administration Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI) grant and the Commonwealth’s Innovation Technology Transportation Fund, and will see the launch of two, 18-month pilot projects in Gloucester County and Wise beginning June 28.
“The Commonwealth is committed to finding multimodal solutions that diversify our transportation system, and work harder and smarter to get people where they need to go,” said Shannon Valentine, the Virginia Secretary of Transportation. “Microtransit offers flexibility and can help expand mobility options for Virginians.”
Using the transit agencies’ existing vehicles and drivers, Via’s powerful microtransit platform will handle dispatch, assigning pickup location, and routing of the vehicles – similar to other rideshare apps. The new services will take advantage of Via’s advanced algorithm, enabling multiple riders to seamlessly share a single vehicle.
The powerful technology directs passengers to a nearby corner – a virtual bus stop – for pick up and drop off, allowing for quick and efficient shared trips without lengthy detours or conventional fixed routes and schedules. The service zones were specifically targeted to provide affordable and efficient transportation for high-need and underserved communities – areas not served by other on-demand transportation services like Uber and Lyft.
“DRPT will use these pilots to test proof of concept for on-demand transportation in rural Virginia,” said Jennifer Mitchell, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. “We are hopeful that emerging transit technologies will help fill mobility gaps in the Commonwealth.”
The project will explore how microtransit technology and similar concepts can be used to improve service efficiency and rider experiences in rural areas throughout Virginia. The goal of the Virginia Microtransit Deployment Initiative is to provide a better understanding of how microtransit can be scaled and deployed in a rural setting.
This will include evaluating how effective microtransit can be at covering service gaps in rural areas.
Additionally, DRPT is partnering with Hampton Roads Transit and Blacksburg Transit on urban microtransit projects to test the concept in diverse areas with varying transportation needs. DRPT has developed a broad research and innovation package that will help monitor customer satisfaction, customer adoption rates, and service efficiency through data metrics and customer surveys. DRPT will carefully document outcomes and share lessons learned with the FTA and partner agencies.
“We are proud to partner with DRPT to expand access to public transit for residents in rural communities across Virginia,” said Daniel Ramot, CEO and co-founder of Via. “Flexible, technology-powered solutions fill critical transit gaps and provide an equitable and efficient way to reach jobs and schools, and to be an active part of the community.”
“Microtransit is a perfect example of how we can leverage technology in innovative ways to make transportation more accessible to everyone,” Transportation Research and Innovation Director Cathy McGhee said. “Combining the convenience of on-demand service with shared rides enabled by real-time routing technology, microtransit has the potential to take mobility to the next level for many Virginians.”
Riders will also have the option to schedule trips and access customer support over the phone. For riders without smartphones, dispatchers in the service area will manage telephone bookings and communicate with drivers and riders.