Transit Agency Launches Demand-Response Microtransit System, Sarasota County, FL, 2021
5 minutes Date Launched: Jun 5, 2021
Credit: Sarasota County
The Sarasota County Transit Agency (SCAT) in Florida is launching a new demand-response, point-to-point rideshare system. Called OnDemand by Sarasota County, customers can request shared minivan rides by app, supported by Via, or telephone within four unique zones: Siesta Key, Lido and Longboat Key, the Venice and Englewood neighborhoods, and North Port. OnDemand fares amount to $1.25, the same as a single ride on a fixed-route bus on SCAT, and can be paid through the app, online, or by cash. For the first two weeks of operation, rides are available for free to customers. Rides are typically expected to arrive for pickup within 30 minutes after a request and can hold different passenger parties within a given time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks are required and fewer passengers are allowed on an OnDemand vehicle to allow for social distancing. All passengers must complete a wellness check upon requesting their ride to screen for virus symptoms. Wheelchair accessible rides are available upon request. OnDemand rides are available from 5 AM to 10 PM, Monday through Saturday, and 6 AM to 9 PM on Sundays.
SCAT has created OnDemand by Sarasota County as a direct replacement for several fixed-bus routes. Eleven routes are seeing significant changes to their routing and schedules while another eleven are being eliminated due to low ridership. A consultant estimated that Sarasota County was losing about $4 million per year due to poor ridership and projected that ridership can increase by nearly 10% with the new demand-response system. Microtransit and new demand-response technologies have made the time opportune for many transit agencies to experiment with providing alternative mobility options to fixed-route transit. In areas with low transit-usage, like Sarasota County, demand-responsive transit can potentially serve customers more efficiently, especially if the fixed-bus routes they replace were low-frequency.