Rural public transportation is getting a software update.
Starting in March 2019 a California transit agency will be working with a technology startup to help route its buses in a new way. Kings County’s transit agency signed an agreement with Toronto-based Pantonium this week to provide technology that enables transit agencies to let riders hail buses on-demand via smartphone or by calling a dispatcher.
Kings County Area Public Transit Agency (KART) is a typical rural transit agency in North America. It has 70,000 people in its service area, which is 13 square miles (33.6 km²) in size. KART has a total of 21 vehicles that provide over 700,000 trips per year. KART like many other rural agencies struggles to be productive, their demand response service averages 3 riders per service hour and their fixed route bus service carriers an average of 14 riders per service hour. While these numbers are standard fare for a public transit in this type of area, KART was looking for a new approach.
For these low-density areas and time periods an on-demand bus system can be far more productive and helpful than fixed routes. As only sending vehicles to where the riders actually are can save time and money for the transit agency. It can also be a better user experience, by letting riders choose when they actually want to arrive at their destination and building the routes and schedules of buses based on that data. This means there is a unique, optimized public transit network created everyday, in real-time, as demand and road conditions change.
The technology that enables this new type of service is Pantonium’s on-demand transit technology. It is a mixture of mobile applications, web-based portals and artificial intelligence algorithms. This system was deployed recently in the City of Belleville, Ontario to provide a flexible night bus service. So far the new service has seen ridership growth of 300%. Buses can be ordered by riders for pick-up as soon as possible or riders can schedule requests into the future. This type of service has been able to move over 30 riders per vehicle service hour, with an on-time percentage of 94%.
KART is Pantonium’s first contract with a U.S. transit agency to be signed in 2019. By giving control of routes and schedules to the needs of riders and AI Pantonium hopes to revolutionize public transit around the world.