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Transportation Troubleshooting: Solving a Decades-Old Problem: The Commute

Nov 29, 2021   |   Informed Infrastructure

"It's no secret that commuter travel choices change traffic patterns and times. On-demand service providers such as Uber and Lyft have been very successful at adapting their service offerings and price points to travelers' needs and preferences. In the process, they sometimes generate trips that would otherwise not have been made; at other times they incentivize travelers to switch from traditional trains and buses to on-demand services; and in some cases they increase road traffic," writes Professor Vikrant Vaze in an op-ed published by Informed Infrastructure.

"But what if we flipped the script? What if scheduled transportation providers such as buses and trains were to adapt their service offerings to commuter needs, on-demand alternatives and traffic patterns to benefit the city as a whole? What if scheduled transportation service providers used commuter and traffic patterns to identify the types of commuting options that are best for each area based on rider preferences?

"New research says it could save millions of dollars daily. The work, published in the INFORMS journal Transportation Science, finds that a redistribution of public-transit resources to better align available transportation options with what passengers want will result in strong societal benefits, including financial savings.

"So how exactly can scheduled providers of buses and trains leverage the presence of on-demand ride-hailing instead of trying to fend off on-demand services? By scaling back scheduled travel at times and on routes better served by on-demand services, scheduled service can be expanded elsewhere. This can increase operator profits and consumer welfare by millions of dollars daily, making on-demand drivers happy with the extra fare revenues, and allowing scheduled providers to add frequency and increase fleet where needed.

"Some people may ask, 'what's the catch?' But our work says it really can be a win-win-win, simultaneously making commuters and service providers happy while benefiting the system as a whole."

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