Amid changing mobility landscape, transit agencies carve out crucial role
- As commuters increasingly rely on different mobility opportunities, more than three quarters see public transit as the "backbone" of a multi-modal lifestyle, according to a new survey commissioned by the American Public Transit Association (APTA).
- According to the survey, 56% of millennials say access to public transit is important for their lifestyle, and 65% say they would use transit more if it was accessible. That’s true even as 69% of younger commuters in a previous APTA survey said they used multiple modes to reach a destination several times a week.
- As more mobility options like scooters, ride-hailing and car-share services come online, transit agencies are looking at how to integrate themselves into a multi-modal city. To that end, 74% of millennials surveyed said they would use a Mobility as a Service (MaaS) app that compiled multiple transit options in one place, and 28% said such an app would make them more likely to use public transportation.
The survey reflects a tumultuous time for transit agencies — even as younger people are living in cities and car ownership is down, the plethora of mobility options means that commuters aren’t necessarily relying on transit. On a conference call with reporters, APTA president Paul Skoutelas acknowledged that the “American commuting landscape is transforming.” According to 2017 data released by the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey this fall, public transit actually saw slightly lower ridership (a loss of nearly 12,000 commuters compared to the previous year). Driving remained the dominant mode of commuting, with 85.3% of respondents driving to work.
That’s forced transit agencies to re-examine their role, and adapt services to fit into a multi-modal lifestyle. For example, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is investing in an overhaul of its bus routes to respond to current demand, and has started a partnership with ride-hailing service Via to offer a first/last mile solution. The goal, said the system's Chief Innovation Officer Joshua Schank, is to create “customer-focused services that more accurately reflect where people want to go.”
Especially important was APTA’s finding of interest in a MaaS app that offers a clearinghouse for several services. That’s something some agencies and private companies are already exploring — Lyft notably started including public transit information in its app in the spring and also offers its own scooter offerings through the app in some cities. A possible model could be the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which is set to roll out a new integrated app that includes fare and timing information for bus and transit service alongside scooters, car-sharing and micro-transit solutions like Uber Pool.
The APTA survey found that 80% of millennials use either Google Maps or Apple Maps for transportation planning, which could indicate that a partnership with one or both could be “fiscally and practically the easiest path,” the group said. Already, Google Maps has started adding real-time commute information — including train and bus times — to its app. The involvement of transit agencies themselves in building similar apps could help them remain primary players in a multi-modal city.
- American Public Transportation Association The Transformation of the American Commuter
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