Mobility on Demand Sandbox Program
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Introduction to Mobility on Demand Sandbox Program
The Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Program is a Federal Transit Administration effort to support innovation among transit agencies and cities. Through the MOD Sandbox program, FTA provides organizations grants to conduct demonstration projects experimenting with unconventional operations. To be eligible, organizations must partner with at least one other organization (such as a private mobility provider or academic research institution). MOD Sandbox grants can cover up to 80% of the cost of a project; in 2016 (the program’s first year) it awarded nearly $8 million to 11 projects.
- Mobility on demand - The core of this grant program is mobility on demand, which involves using modern technology to create better transportation networks.
- Shared mobility and public transit - While shared mobility operators are major partners in MOD programs, transit agencies often worry these companies are dangerous competition. This article looks at research into the relationship between private shared mobility and public transit.
- Public private partnership - This article looks more generally at public-private partnerships and their role in transit.
- Interagency coordination - In addition to working with the private sector, several MOD Sandbox grantees are coordinating with other agencies. This article explains how to effectively structure interagency collaborations.
- Flexible transportation services - While fixed-route service is the backbone of public transit, the MOD program is looking at flexible services as a way to reach more riders in areas where fixed-route service is impractical.
- Last mile connections - Dealing with the problem of first mile/last mile connections is a big part of several MOD Sandbox grant projects.
- Scoop - San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit was awarded one of the grants to partner with carpooling app Scoop to provide first mile/last mile service to and from stations.
- OpenTripPlanner - Two grant winners are using OpenTripPlanner software in their projects. TriMet currently uses it and will expand its functionality to include shared mobility providers and Vermont Agency of Transportation is using it to build a statewide trip planner for both fixed-route and flexible service.
FTA Mobility on Demand Sandbox Grantees
- Regional Transportation Authority of Pima County (AZ) - The authority was awarded $669,158 Adaptive Mobility with Reliability and Efficiency project, in which it will partner with subscription-based rideshare company RubyRide and the carpooling service Metropia DUO to integrate both service into its transit app.
- Valley Metro Rail, Inc. (AZ) - Valley Metro Rail was awarded $1,001,000 to build a smartphone app for mobile ticketing and multimodal trip planning. The app will open source and available to other agencies.
- City of Palo Alto (CA) - Palo Alto was awarded $1,085,000 for a program that aims to reduce single-occupancy vehicle commuting. Its Bay Area Fair Value Commuting project involves support for employer commute programs, workplace parking rebates, commute optimization analysis, increased cross-county collaboration, and a new trip planning app.
- Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CA) - Metro was awarded $1,350,000 to partner with transit agencies in Los Angeles and in Washington’s Puget Sound on a dual-region pilot using Lyft as a first mile/last mile connector for transit. The agencies will experiment with payment structures and support telephone dispatch to provide service equity to unbanked customers.
- San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (CA) - BART was awarded $358,000 to partner with the carpooling app Scoop. Riders who carpool to park-and-ride stations will be guaranteed spots in the morning and will have the option of paying with the app.
- Pinellas Suncoast Transportation Authority (FL) - PSTA was awarded $500,000 to create a central dispatch system in which taxis and rideshare vehicles can be used to provide paratransit service at a cheaper per-ride price than what the authority currently spends.
- Chicago Transit Authority (IL) - CTA was awarded $400,000 to incorporate Divvy bikeshare into Ventra, the authority’s cross-agency mobile ticketing and trip planning app.
- Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District (OR) - TriMet was awarded $678,000 to integrate shared mobility providers into its existing OpenTripPlanner app. Early partners include Lyft, Uber, and Motivate.
- Dallas Area Rapid Transit (TX) - DART was awarded $1,204,000 to integrate ridesharing into its GoPass ticketing app. The agency also plans to use ridesharing-style mobile technology to overhaul its existing public demand-responsive service.
- Vermont Agency of Transportation (VT) - Vtrans was awarded $480,000 to create a statewide trip planner covering both fixed-route and flexible transit. The software will be built on OpenTripPlanner and modified to support flexible transportation information in addition to standard GTFS.
- Pierce County Public Transportation Benefit Area Corporation (WA) - The agency was awarded $205,922 to pursue a three-pronged Limited Access Connections program. The project will involve using ridesharing for first mile/last mile connections, provided guaranteed ride home service, and providing rides to and from park-and-ride lots.
Managing a transit agency is a complicated process with an overwhelming number of moving parts. Technology is constantly changing, which makes it even harder to keep everything running smoothly. Given the constraints of limited staff and budget, it can be difficult for an agency to keep up with best practices. That’s where TransitWiki comes in. The free and open knowledge-sharing platform is a one-stop shop for everything you need to stay on top of the ever-changing world of public transportation, from summaries of the latest research from APTA and TCRP to one-pagers on the latest FTA programs.
How TransitWiki Works
While TransitWiki’s team of UCLA researchers can provide some of the information on the site, it’s professionals out in the field who really know what’s going on in the industry. Work that your agency does is likely relevant outside your area - a report assembled by the Chicago Transit Authority might contain information useful to LA Metro. Learning from peer agencies means wasting fewer resources on dead-end projects.
How to Contribute
TransitWiki is a public, user-editable website, allowing agencies to directly publish reports that they believe could be useful to others. This site is based on the MediaWiki software that powers Wikipedia and many other sites across the web. If you're familiar with how to navigate or edit Wikipedia, then TransitWiki.org should be straight forward. If not, see the MediaWiki FAQ. Once you make an account, our staff will confirm it and you can start adding articles using an intuitive web interface. You can post an entire report or pull out specific sections that you think are the most relevant to other agencies. Don’t have time to get the document formatted for the web? Send it to us and we’ll take care of the work.
Potential contributors often wonder if the have the authority to share agency documents online. Transit agencies can be competitive, and in-house reports might feel like secrets that need to be guarded. But the kind of research relevant to TransitWiki is typically covered by open records laws and is already internet-accessible. By proactively sharing documents on TransitWiki, agencies can take control of the messaging and make sure they are presented properly
Mobility on demand is a new field, but researchers are beginning to study it. The following publications can help provide an introduction to what mobility on demand and how transit agencies should think about it.
- This brief USDOT presentation provides some background into the development of the MOD program.
- This extensive FAQ explains current FTA rules on shared mobility, a major component of MOD.
- This TransitCenter report explores the relationship between public transit and private mobility providers through interviews with industry leaders.
Shaheen, S., Martin, E., Cohen, A., Musunuri, A., & Bhattacharyya, A. (2016). “Mobile Apps and Transportation: A Review of Smartphone Apps and a Survey of User Response to Multimodal Traveler Information.” California Department of Transportation.
- Prepared for Caltrans by UC Berkeley researchers, this report examines multimodal trip planners, another major tool for mobility on demand.