How to Choose the Right Microtransit Vehicle
Microtransit is an effective way for public transit agencies to eliminate less efficient routes without reducing overall service coverage. Public transit agencies find that microtransit is a cost-effective way for them to provide paratransit service.
Whether public transit agencies partner with private microtransit companies, or whether they form their own microtransit model, the right vehicles must be used for the program to be successful. This includes making sure that:
- The vehicles are the right size
- The vehicle’s maintenance costs are within budget
- The van can be accessed by mobility passengers
- The van can be adapted for changing rider needs
The ability to adapt as rider needs change is important to maintaining long term ridership.
Multi-passenger vans are typically used in microtransit services. When choosing the right van for microtransit services, you should consider the following:
Since microtransit is more common in urban places, microtransit vans need to be easy to manoeuvre on city streets. However, the size of the van should not compromise the passenger capacity or mobility access. Most microtransit vans have a 10-passenger capacity.
By keeping passenger capacity below 11 persons, drivers typically do not require special licensing. However, this can vary by vehicle. It’s important to check with your wheelchair van manufacturer whether additional licensing is needed to operate the van.
Vans such as the Ram Promaster mobility van are good options for microtransit vehicles. The Ram Promaster and Ford Transit can be converted into wheelchair accessible vans. This gives drivers the flexibility of taking mobility passengers as well.
When transportation providers use large cutaway buses for microtransit services, they find that drivers run half-empty buses on many routes. Nowadays, it is not common for large buses to operate at full capacity.
It is in the operator’s best interest to have a fleet of adaptable vehicles that can be used for microtransit in large and small communities.
Microtransit Van Maintenance Requirements
When choosing the right microtransit vehicle, you should consider the long-term maintenance requirements of the vehicle. This includes:
- Daily running costs such as fuel
- Vehicle repairs
- Driver licensing
Running vehicles that are too large results in high operating costs. Buses also require additional driver licensing, which can make it difficult for transit agencies to hire drivers. Therefore, transit agencies prefer mid-size vans that are fuel-efficient, easy to drive and have low maintenance needs.
By operating mid-size paratransit vehicles instead of large buses, transit operators experience more efficiencies such as reduced fuel consumption and a smaller footprint. Accessible vans like the MoveMobility P Series are light-duty vans, which retain fuel efficiency.
Large paratransit buses are heavily modified, meaning they require more fuel to operate and often need frequent repairs due to the number of aftermarket changes made to the vehicle.
When purchasing vehicles for microtransit, fleet managers should consider the mobility needs of persons who use a wheelchair or mobility device.
Depending on the demographic in the transit program’s area, mobility needs may include:
- Riders who use a cane
- Riders who use a walker
- Riders who use a wheelchair or scooter
- Riders who only need assistance using a ramp or step but are fully mobile
Vehicles should accommodate any level of mobility, otherwise, some riders will not use the service. By accommodating all levels of mobility, the microtransit service will appeal to a larger rider audience.
The most effective way for transit agencies to ensure their transportation is accessible is to use barrier-free vehicles. This means that regardless of a rider’s mobility needs, the vehicles are accessible to them.
Barrier-free vehicles are accessible vans with a specially designed door and ramp system. An example of a barrier-free wheelchair accessible vehicles design is the P Series by MoveMobility. These vans have powered doors and a ramp that wheelchair and ambulatory riders use to enter and exit.
This accessible conversion allows passengers to enter and exit the vehicle with or without assistance and does not have any steps. Steps are often seen as barriers to entry for mobility passengers, which is why they may have to choose a specialized paratransit service instead.
The concept behind microtransit is to make transportation more available to populations that may not typically be able to use public transit, including persons with disabilities. By using flexible routing, vehicles go where riders request a ride, instead of being limited to fixed routes.
This level of flexibility calls for vans that can accommodate riders from many locations and with many different needs. Some passengers may need a hand getting into the van, while others may be independent.
Flexibility also requires the ability for drivers to change seating layouts to suit their scheduled rides. For example, some routes may require seats for 5 passengers and one wheelchair. The next route may need room for 3 wheelchairs only.
By using Euro-style vans such as the Ram Promaster P Series, operators can change seating layouts and wheelchair positions on the go using the AutoFloor system.
To choose the right microtransit vehicle, fleet managers should consider the size of the vehicles required, maintenance, van accessibility, and floorplan flexibility. Mid-size accessible vans like the Ram Promaster are most used because they are adaptable and have flexible floorplans with AutoFloor.
Microtransit providers should ensure their vehicles are barrier-free for riders with all levels of mobility. For help with finding the right microtransit vehicle for your transit agency, contact MoveMobility.