Public transit plays an important role in transportation systems by providing basic and essential mobility services to people, as well as help reduce traffic congestion, energy consumption, air pollution, and carbon emissions. However, barriers such as unpredictable wait times, inconvenient transfers, and set schedules discourage people from adoption, compounded due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. While traditional transit services are struggling with the virus, microtransit, an on-demand and technology-enabled transit fills the gap quickly. At present, growing interest in microtransit has led to pilot programs, including that of the Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT), the largest microtransit provider in the US. SmaRT Ride allows passengers to book in app or online to set locations for their request. The microtransit platform automatically assigns the closest bus to pick up passengers along the flexible route.
Given the novelty of this service, the size of its potential market, the service's relationship to alternative modes, and its effectiveness during the pandemic are largely unknown. To fill the gap, this study will explore its consumer market, impacts on alternatives, environmental benefits, and the role it plays in the COVID-19 pandemic through interviews, focus groups, and large-scale surveys conducted in Sacramento and Citrus Heights, California. This study will enable the evaluation of the competitiveness of microtransit in the market in terms of cost and efficiency. The results will help transportation planners better understand the level of demand for such a service and its social and environmental impacts, thereby make well-informed decisions to encourage this new business model in the future.