Spectrum of Public Transit Operations: From Fixed Route to Microtransit


With advances in emerging technologies, options for operating public transit services have broadened from conventional fixed route service through semi-flexible service to on-demand microtransit. Guidelines for deciding between these services remain limited. This study serves two primary objectives. The first is to provide an up-to-date literature overview of the spectrum of public transit operations from fixed route service to real-time, on-demand microtransit. This objective considers recent developments, trends, and technologies paint a picture of trade-offs between strategic planning and operational control to design the provision of public transit. They are further expanded from isolated to multimodal operations in a Mobility-as-a-Service context, considering issues like passenger first/last mile problem, real time control, interoperability, data privacy, and institutional barriers to effective governance. The second objective is to create a replicable data set and simulation that can be used to evaluate a transit line under different operating policies. Both objectives combine to provide a toolset for readers to help them transfer these technologies to their localities. This study points to the need for a knowledge base in the U.S. for demand-responsive transit operations. While there are centers that cover shared use mobility and transit, they tend to focus on policy. There needs to be an institution for the study of the spectrum of transit operations from fixed route to microtransit, and all their related impacts. 

Metro North Railroad Trains on viaduct in New Rochelle
Princeton NJ Transit Shuttle Arriving at Princeton Junction station


  • A broad overview of state-of-the-art public transit tactical and operational methods that consider both fixed and demand-responsive approaches; it also includes the dimensions of service operations in a MaaS setting, whether or not to have operators collaborate, and what technological and institutional barriers need to be addressed, to make this happen.
  • A simulation evaluation tool constructed by the researchers to allow reader hands-on practice to make comparisons between state-of-the-art methods. This is available online as on https://github.com/BUILTNYU/FTA_TransitSystems. The tool allows users to modify the inputs of the transit system, it then evaluates the performance of the system under three major classes of transit operations i.e., fixed route, flexible route, and on-demand transit services. The report includes an in-depth case study using a common dataset and the simulation tool, along with guidelines for requirements to use the tool for different scenarios. 
    • The simulator can be applied en-masse to all transit lines in the U.S. to output performance metrics throughout so that relationships can be established between different local built environments, their regulatory and institutional settings, and investment levels with performance metrics under different types of operating policies.
    • The simulator would also benefit many communities in which no transit service exists to help design an appropriate service. This requires a combination of surveying the public and making use of any forecast model that can be derived/calibrated from the existing line data.
    • The simulator can be extended to cover more policies, especially with electrification and automation. The line-level evaluation can be extended to a network level evaluation.

Linked Open Data

Simulation code used for Case Study: https://github.com/BUILTNYU/FTA_TransitSystems
Generated Use Case Study Data Set: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3672151

NJ Transit Light Rail pulls into a station
Photo of New York City S51 Grant City bus discharging passengers
Final Report

Final Report


[ult_team img_hover_eft=”” link_switch=”on” staff_link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fc2smart.engineering.nyu.edu%2Fbio-joseph-chow%2F||target:%20_blank|” name=”Joseph Chow” pos_in_org=”Principal Investigator”][/ult_team]
Professor Joseph Chow


[ult_team img_hover_eft=”” name=”Srushti Rath” pos_in_org=”PhD Student”][/ult_team]


[ult_team img_hover_eft=”” name=”Sara Alanis Saenz” pos_in_org=”NYU Abu Dhabi Student”][/ult_team]


[ult_team img_hover_eft=”” name=”Gyugeun Yoon” pos_in_org=”PhD Student”][/ult_team]


[ult_team img_hover_eft=”” name=”Patrick Scalise” pos_in_org=”Master Student”][/ult_team]


Project Details

Principal Investigator Joseph Chow, New York University
Funding Source Federal Transit Administration
Total Project Cost $59,202
FTA Award # NY-2019-069-01-00
Start and End Dates Sept 19-Mar 20

Leave a Reply