Mobility-on-demand versus fixed-route transit systems: an evaluation of traveler preferences in low-income communities

February 1, 2019

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Xiang Yan
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan

Xilei Zhao
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Yuan Han
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan

Pascal Van Hentenryck
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Tawanna Dillahunt
School of Information, University of Michigan
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan

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Abstract

Emerging transportation technologies, such as ride-hailing and autonomous vehicles, are disrupting the transportation sector and transforming public transit. Some transit observers envision future public transit to be integrated transit systems with fixed-route services running along major corridors and on-demand ridesharing services covering lower-density areas. A switch from a conventional fixed-route service model to this kind of integrated mobility-on-demand transit system, however, may elicit varied responses from local residents. This paper evaluates traveler preferences for a proposed integrated mobility-on-demand transit system versus the existing fixed-route system, with a particular focus on disadvantaged travelers. We conducted a survey in two low-resource communities in the United States, namely, Detroit and Ypsilanti, Michigan. A majority of survey respondents preferred a mobility-on-demand transit system over a fixed-route one. Based on ordered logit model outputs, we found a stronger preference for mobility-on-demand transit among males, college graduates, individuals who have never heard of or used ride-hailing before, and individuals who currently receive inferior transit services. By contrast, preferences varied little by age, income, race, or disability status. The most important benefit of a mobility-on-demand transit system perceived by the survey respondents is enhanced transit accessibility to different destinations, whereas their major concerns include the need to actively request rides, possible transit-fare increases, and potential technological failures. Addressing the concerns of female riders and accommodating the needs of less technology-proficient individuals should be major priorities for transit agencies that are considering mobility-on-demand initiatives.

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