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The False Promise of Microtransit

Transit Union Sounds Alarm on Shortcomings of App-Based, On-Demand Service


Silver Spring, MD – Sounding the alarm on the growing use of microtransit, an app-based, on-demand service, by transit agencies, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the largest transit union in North America, has released a new paper, The False Promise of Microtransit.

“The reality of microtransit, like other technology fads, is that it’s less impressive and more expensive than proponents suggest,” said ATU International President John Costa. “It doesn’t reliably deliver cost savings, real environmental benefits, or equitable service. What microtransit does do is threaten good transit jobs – real, long-term careers – by shifting service to gig workers and setting off a race to the bottom. Nobody wants to talk about that.”

The report presents a comprehensive critique of microtransit’s operational shortcomings, citing concrete examples from cities across North America. It also offers recommendations for how the service, if implemented, could be utilized responsibly. According to the report, microtransit should not be used to replace, or compete with, fixed route and ADA paratransit services. Cannibalizing mass transit options with low-occupancy, inefficient trips is not a viable long-term strategy to grow ridership. Moreover, agencies should ensure that microtransit is operated in-house by experienced transit workers in line with existing wages, benefits, and working conditions. Microtransit drivers should not be stuck in exploitive independent contractor or gig worker employment arrangements, and should instead be allowed to have good transit jobs with highroad labor standards.

"Look at Los Angeles, where microtransit costs several times more than bus service and only about half of the trips are shared rides. Rather than throwing good money after bad with more microtransit pilots, transit agencies in the U.S. and Canada should take real steps to improve fixed route and paratransit service and address the operator shortage by investing in good careers for their employees,” Costa continued. “There’s no question that there is work to be done to get riders back on our buses, but microtransit is a lose-lose proposition for transit workers and the communities we serve.”

The report in its entirety can be read by clicking here.