To hear the start-up world tell it, “micro transit” is the next big urban transportation breakthrough. But out in the real world, the results haven’t lived up to the hype.
“Micro transit” refers to services that function like UberPool or LyftLine but with large vans or minibuses instead of sedans and SUVs, using mobile apps and algorithms to match passengers making similar trips in a single vehicle. The pitch to public agencies is that micro transit can be a more cost-effective way to provide service in some travel markets than fixed-route buses.
Years after micro transit started grabbing attention — CityLab reported on the crowded start-up scene back in 2015 — we’re still waiting for the first significant success story. Despite a string of failures, a growing number of transit agencies are contracting with firms like Via and Transloc to give micro transit a try, and the press coverage remains credulous, almost fawning.