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Improve Bus Service with Neighborhood Last Mile EV Shuttles

Shared EV shuttles as feeders to Bus Rapid Transit.

Photo of Benjamin Meza-Wilson
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Michigan Central Station

  • I'm not sure

Bus service leaves a lot to be desired with 30 or 60 minute wait times between vehicles being typical. Bus Rapid Transit (express buses) get riders places quickly, but only operate on arterials and other main roads. Using low-speed electric shuttles is a microtransit solution that can bridge this gap, providing final mile (first/last mile) service. Shared shuttles can also reduce the need for downtown parking. With the advent of electric buses with long ranges, a completely zero emission transportation service can be created. Using retrofit ready vehicles, like the Polaris GEM, shuttles can be automated in an incremental way.

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Photo of Christopher Craft

Hello Benjamin and thank you for your input. I'm Chris, part of the City:One facilitation team for the Michigan Central Station Challenge. Do you have any thoughts on what routes these EV shuttles would run? Would they be on-demand?

Additionally, do you believe EV shuttles could be part of a larger mobility ecosystem, including bikes and walking paths - or should the focus be on motorized transit?

Photo of Benjamin Meza-Wilson

Thanks for your comment Chris! I believe in using all available methods and modes, starting with mixed land use/zoning policy so that places people need to go, such as grocery stores and recreation centers are walkable for neighborhood residents. I think micromobility solutions like shared scooters and bikes have a place. In addition I also believe short distance, low speed electric shuttles can be a great compliment to bus rapid transit service and much more comfortable than bikes, scooters or walking during inclement weather, with small children or carrying groceries or other items. Ideally the least amount of motorized vehicles in neighborhoods is the best in my opinion. Low speed shared shuttles have great potential in that regard.

Photo of Benjamin Meza-Wilson

In terms of the topology of the microtransit routing I think that there are benefits of both fixed and on-demand. I envision a hybrid model where rides are initially custom/on-demand, but transition to quasi-fixed as routine stops are established, within 1-5 mile radius micro-districts (size depends on passenger demand levels) . After that the route is essentially fixed, but can accommodate additional stops and skip stops when appropriate. I see all this happening with human professional drivers initially, but with fixed routes it can be automated as the technology (both on the vehicle and infrastructure) is established, as well as the legal framework (State licensing rules for robotic drivers and a liability paradigm which fault lies on the manufacturers and roadway designers, instead of the users/riders). In fact the rules of the road (licensing law) as well as the system programming can be established and created by this process using professional drivers and retrofit ready vehicles.

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