Improving Mobility for Disadvantaged Communities through Innovative Transit Approaches: a Comparative Cost Evaluation

Transportation planners and policymakers need an effective and flexible method for estimating and comparing the costs of increasing transit access to more people, especially those living in disadvantaged communities located in urban peripheries or rural areas.  To increase mobility, public transportation agencies typically add a transit line, normally with a fixed route and fixed schedule. However, this approach is not economically efficient for communities outside of high-density urban areas. An alternative is to partner with private providers of mobility services, especially ride-hailing companies, a practice known as transit incorporating mobility on demand (TIMOD). This research will compare the costs of three alternative approaches to improving mobility and accessibility for residents of several representative disadvantaged communities located outside of a major metropolitan area or in a rural area. Those alternatives will be driving a car, taking a bus on a fixed route connecting directly to a destination, and using TIMOD service provided through partnership between local transit agencies and ride-hailing companies. To conduct this comparison, the research team will develop a standardized method for the state, transit agencies, cities, counties, and non-profits to use in comparing the costs and benefits of traditional and innovative public transportation solutions. This will allow them to more effectively make decisions about allocating limited funding for different transit operations challenges anywhere in the state and beyond.

Project Investigator: Qing Shen, Urban Design and Planning, UW
Sponsor: WSDOT
WSDOT Technical Monitor:  Justin Nawrocki
WSDOT Project Manager: Jon Peterson
Scheduled completion: June 2025