How to Use Remix to Design Mobility Programs that Complement Your Fixed Route Network

Courtney Sung

Head of Strategy and Business Development

Planning with Via data in Remix can help ensure that flexible mobility programs complement fixed route ridership.

The future is bright for public transportation. In the US, a new federal administration is celebrating public transportation’s role in improving equity, safety, and environmental outcomes by creating new funding opportunities aimed to increase ridership and improve service quality for historically underserved neighborhoods. And across the globe, transit agencies are building recovery plans that serve their communities more flexibly than before.

But for many transit systems, fixed route service is still the heart and soul. That’s why it’s important to use Remix to ensure that flexible mobility programs complement, rather than replace, fixed route ridership. 

Why agencies consider flexible mobility programs

Flexible mobility programs, like paratransit, demand response, shared on-demand, or microtransit services, can support broader city goals of increasing access and decreasing congestion. According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, conducted in partnership with Via, microtransit can increase access while reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled. The study looked at four cities: Arlington, Texas; Seattle, Washington; Berlin, Germany; and West Sacramento; California and summarized three benefits to microtransit:

  • Reducing traffic congestion: Microtransit reduces the use of private vehicles and services like Uber, Lyft, and taxi cabs. The study found that “massive expansion” of microtransit in large cities could help reduce traffic by 15% to 30%.
  • Reducing pollution: In Arlington, researchers found that microtransit was nearly twice as effective as other emissions-reduction efforts in the region, even when using gas-powered vehicles.
  • Creating economic opportunity and increasing equity: First and last-mile on-demand microtransit gives people in underserved neighborhoods access to the city's public transit system. That, in turn, provides them access to jobs and resources they couldn’t otherwise reach.

Los Angeles, California and Dallas, Texas have also partnered with transportation technology companies to offer some form of on-demand to fill first mile-last mile gaps in existing public transit systems, provide as-needed coverage for less densely populated areas, and offer essential services, such as taking seniors to pharmacies, which may be difficult to implement with fixed bus routes.

How Remix Enables Flexible Mobility Planning

Once a project and goal are clearly identified — whether that is augmenting evening service, increasing ridership during off-peak hours, or providing additional commuter benefits — flexible mobility planning can be done in Remix by leveraging the platform’s powerful data visualization and analysis capabilities. Here are five ways to use Remix for mobility planning. 

1. Identify areas with limited transportation resources

With Remix’s out-of-the-box data layers, you can easily identify transit deserts: places with high population density, but limited transit service. The image below shows the interaction between two datasets: population density, and 1/2 mile buffers around bus stops. Watsonville and Canby (highlighted with turquoise boundaries) show a population of people who have limited or no access to the transit network. These two communities are contenders for flexible mobility options.

Population density is overlaid with the transit network to identify communities with higher population but little or no access to the transit network.

2. Use Jane for accessibility analysis

Jane, Remix’s travel time isochrone, provides powerful visuals for what access looks like across the network. In the image below, “Reverse Jane” tells the story of how long it takes transit riders to get to Jane’s location on the map (placed near downtown Portland). The area highlighted with the pink boundary (south of Maplewood) shows a potential gap in access since riders starting there would have to travel 2 hours to get to downtown Portland, whereas riders originating from neighboring areas will only need to travel 1.5 hours.

“Reverse Jane” shows that riders originating from the island of purple (marked by the pink rectangle) will need to carve out 120 minutes of travel to get to Downtown Portland. Riders originating from neighboring areas can travel to Downtown Portland in 90 minutes.

3. Identify critical places of interest and gain insight about your fixed-route needs

Understanding key destinations — like grocery stores, schools, and health centers — is an important element of transportation planning, and an opportunity for on-demand programs to complement fixed route.

Remix creates origin-destination visuals with dropoff/pickup data for Miami GoConnect. When paired with common points of interest (provided by Via data), agencies better understand the travel behavior of the people in their community.

On-demand ridership statistics from Via can also help cities and transit agencies load-balance fixed-route bus services. If data indicates riders are using microtransit instead of fixed route because buses are at capacity, or not coming frequently enough, transit agencies can add additional buses to the same route, or adjust timing to accommodate more passengers. On-demand vehicles can then be automatically rebalanced throughout the microtransit zone based on demand.

Ridership data for flexible mobility programs (as seen here in the ¼ mile squares) helps inform planners on the types of improvements needed in the fixed route system.

4. Draw and export on-demand zones with Remix 

Once analysis for flexible mobility potential is conducted in Remix, you can draw custom areas in Remix Explore and export the custom polygon with its corresponding statistics.  

The data affiliated with the polygon, along with other Remix analysis outlined above, helps transit agencies make informed, data-driven decisions when implementing flexible mobility projects.

The cluster of red squares identifies an area where on-demand rides are common. Draw a custom shape in Remix to dig into demographic details for this community.

5. Use multiple solutions to focus on first- and last-mile challenges 

First- and last- mile problems are not new. However, with renewed federal interest in increasing ridership, we’re optimistic about the possibility for new first/last mile programs. 

When faced with declining ridership in addition to difficulty in connecting riders to transit hubs, universities, medical centers, Miami-Dade County leveraged Via’s services to provide shared, first- and last-mile rides to and from Metrorail station, providing an additional 350,000 residents access to a frequent fixed-route route. 

Rider pick-up or drop-offs of Miami’s shared on-demand GoConnect program are clustered around Metrorail stops. 

The Takeaway

The next few years might just be the golden era for public transportation. To get there, we must rely on the expertise of transportation professionals who understand their community intimately, and support their ability to design mobility services flexibly and nimbly. If you’d like to learn how Remix’s platform provides this support, reach out at remix.com/demo to learn more.