Is Microtransit the solution to fixing our public transit in Sioux Falls?

If you have done any research into the topic, the short answer would be a resounding ‘NO’.

But before we get to that, I have been saying well before PTH and the innovation crew rolled into city hall that the first priority to fixing public transit is fixing the gorilla in the room, Paratransit. The city must find a way to make it more affordable and nimble. I certainly DO NOT have all the answers on how to do that, but a few things I think we could ‘look at’ are 1) coordinate the ride shares better 2) have an advanced dispatch system the drivers can use 3) use smaller vehicles (like vans) 4) try to contract some the transports to private companies 5) have the mega-hospital systems become bigger partners in transporting patients to appointments.

I have no doubt we NEED paratransit. Keeping disabled people active and in the workforce is good for the economy and I’m sure in there somewhere the numbers add up to show that eliminating the public service would be detrimental to our community, but I do think it can be more affordable and reliable.

So let’s move onto this idea of microtransit. It’s been tried in cities across the country, and has had very little success. Don’t get me wrong, the people who use it, love it, but in the bigger picture of transit, while it makes a handful of riders very happy, it really doesn’t help the larger percentage as a whole, and, it is expensive.

There are several articles out there about it’s failures, but this one, written by a transit consultant really lays out the issues with microtransit;

In this reality, should transit agencies really focus on ways to move tiny numbers of people more expensively, to deliver them a special “customer experience”, as the microtransit idea proposes? Clearly that’s not the path to ridership.

We know how to increase ridership. It’s by offering useful, civilized, and cost-effective mobility to large numbers of people, not obsessing about the customer experience of a few. And while ridership is not the only goal of transit, it’s hard to get to microtransit from any of transit’s other common goals either.

While I encourage you to read the entire, extensive article that goes into great detail about labor costs, etc., the bigger point of the article is that cities, including Sioux Falls, who have public transit issues should concentrate on helping the masses first and making it more affordable.

I really think the city’s innovation department is missing the boat by going straight for the jugular on the microtransit idea. As I already mentioned above, Paratransit needs to be fixed first, than we can move onto regular transit, which I think the city should experiment with a grid system.

While I consider myself a progressive open to NEW ideas from YOUNG minds, I also know enough to look at what has worked and what has not. Read the multiple articles on microtransit – while it keeps a handful of people happy, it does nothing for the greater good of all the riders and makes it less affordable while costing the taxpayers more. The innovation department needs to bail on this idea before moving forward.



5 comments ↓

#1 Blasphemo on 07.02.19 at 9:53 am

Re: paratransit. Uber and/or Lyft have implemented “accessible vehicle” service in select test markets. As I understand it, this is primarily to serve the needs of persons using wheelchairs. Maybe a solution to the paratransit issues in SF would be for the COSF to look at partnering with rideshare services for paratransit.

#2 D@ily Spin on 07.02.19 at 10:28 am

I’ve not heard of any successes on this subject. Realistically, it’s more vehicles, more fuel, and more employees. I’ve noticed how many people now use the bus. What’s important is a defined reliable regular schedule. If there’s money to spend, how about more bus stop shelters?
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

#3 Warren Phear on 07.02.19 at 12:31 pm

I wonder how many people who use paratransit are originally from SF? I suspect many are here because of the close proximity to avera and sanford. Time for these two conglomerates to put some skin in the game.

#4 The Elephant In The Room on 07.03.19 at 9:58 am

If ‘The Wizard’ (IT Director, Jason Reisdorfer) and his ‘Innovations’ study group fail to make recommendations regarding ParaTransit, they will loose all credibility with the public.

#5 Fear & Loathing in Sioux Falls on 07.04.19 at 2:28 am

I heard Jason is really good with math. In fact, so good, that he enjoys a trip to Vegas every once in a while. I just hope he doesn’t gamble with our bus system though.

Say speaking of buses, maybe Biden could help us on that one, too?

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