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Last updated: March 30, 2023

Microtransit: The Next Big Transportation Trend?

Learn about the future of public and private mass transit.

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Have you ever rushed to catch a train, coffee mug in hand, only to arrive at the platform just as the train was leaving? Maybe worse, made it in time but couldn’t get through the crowd and still had to wait for the next one?

What if there was a more comfortable and convenient way to get to work? Learn about microtransit, the transportation trend that doesn’t require owning a car or paying for expensive rideshare services.

What Is Microtransit?

Microtransit is a distinct form of shared transportation that utilizes smaller vehicles, such as minibuses, shuttles and vans, to offer riders flexible, on-demand transit services they can order through mobile apps.1 Both public transit agencies and private companies offer microtransit services and provide more flexibility than the fixed schedules and routes typical of mass public transit. The way you would order a microtransit ride mirrors how you request rides from rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber: through a mobile app.


Many people credit Finland with offering the first microtransit service, as the company Kutsuplus launched in 2013.2

Here are the key differences between mass transportation services, rideshare and an on-demand microtransit service:

Type of transit Mass transit Rideshare Microtransit
Routes Fixed Flexible Flexible
Average wait time 13 to 15 minutes3 On-demand, 2 to 5 minutes On-demand; wait times vary by agency
Vehicle types City buses, trains and trams Small to midsize sedans, SUVs and minivans Minibuses, shuttle buses and large vans
Average passenger capacity 40 to 80 per car 1 to 4 7 to 20
Hours of operation Varies by agency and station; typically 7 days a week with early morning and late night service or 24/7 24/7 (dependent on driver availability) Varies, typically Monday through Friday, from early morning to evening, such as 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., some have weekend availability


Many microtransit services have more limited hours of operation compared to mass transit and rideshares. Some microtransit agencies only run on weekdays, whereas others may offer weekend hours.

Where Is Microtransit Becoming Popular?

See below for the availability of some of the most popular microtransit options across various regions.

State Service area Companies
Arizona Phoenix and Glendale WeRIDE and OnBoard
California Los Angeles, Sacramento and Contra Costa Metro Micro, SacRT SmaRT Ride and Tri MyRide
Illinois Bloomington-Normal Connect Transit
Kansas Johnson City RideKC
New Jersey Jersey City JCVia
Ohio Columbus and Toledo COTA Plus and TARTA
Texas Houston and Austin RideCo, CapMetro
Vermont Montpelier MyRide

Why Is Microtransit Growing in Popularity?

Microtransit started to gain traction in many states in the United States around 2014, with small start-up companies like Bridj, based in Massachusetts, and Chariot, based in California. However, it wasn’t until recent years, following the COVID-19 pandemic, that public transit and private companies began expanding and prioritizing microtransit options.

Many cities saw a massive ridership decline within public transportation during the pandemic and in the following years. Ridership of the Los Angeles Metro, for example, fell by approximately 70 percent in March 2020.4 Between mandatory stay-at-home orders and changes to our lifestyles and work schedules, mass transit seemed to present more safety risks than benefits, specifically surrounding the spread of transmittable diseases. Even many of those who had to travel often during the pandemic often took rideshares instead of mass transit to avoid contracting COVID-19.

In the years following the peak of the pandemic (when COVID-19 hospitalization rates for all age groups in the U.S. reached all-time highs), mass transit ridership was still low.5 Specifically, as of 2022, public transportation ridership across U.S. transit agencies only recovered to around 70 percent of its level before the pandemic.6

Microtransit’s on-demand request system eliminates the crowded spaces and long waiting periods associated with mass transit, allowing its vehicles to control the spread of diseases more effectively. And in addition to its ability to cater to passengers’ schedules, microtransit fills gaps that mass public transit could not fill, such as reaching more remote and rural communities that lack public transportation systems.

Benefits of Microtransit

Accessibility to Transportation

A long-standing problem with mass transit has been the lack of transit services in certain areas, specifically more rural areas, compared to urban settings. Microtransit caters to places that lack public transit, creating more equity in transportation.

Arlington, Texas, for example, began providing microtransit through a partnership with Via in 2017 to mitigate the city’s lack of public transport, despite its population of over 400,000 people.7 As of November 2022, Arlington’s city council agreed to extend Via’s citywide service, ensuring equitable transportation for Arlington residents for another two years.

Environmental Advantages

Microtransit’s rising popularity and expanding availability present various opportunities for environmental sustainability. These services fill in transportation accessibility gaps for those who live in communities without mass transit systems. In turn, there is a lesser need for individuals to own their own vehicles, working to reduce overall gas emissions.

Additionally, there are economic incentives for microtransit companies and transit systems to utilize electric vehicles. Namely, many cities award federal funding to transit agencies that switch from gas to electric vehicles, such as Connect Transit in Illinois.8 Because electric vehicles emit far fewer pollutants than gas vehicles, a transition toward electric vehicles supports a gradual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.9


The cost of microtransit services varies by agency and location but falls between $1 to $5 per ride, generally. Many agencies offer discounts for seniors, veterans and students and many charge an average of $2 per ride. This is lower than the cost of mass transit in many cities, which ranges from $2.50 up to around $6 per ride.

Rideshare prices, in comparison, increase depending on demand, location and time of day, resulting in significantly higher costs per ride compared to microtransit. The 15-mile Uber ride from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens to Midtown Manhattan, for example, could cost between $90 to nearly $154.10


The defining feature of microtransit is its use of flexible and dynamic routes, meaning vehicles can pick up and drop off riders anywhere within the agency’s service zone. This kind of door-to-door service promotes microtransit’s level of efficiency and overall convenience for riders. Furthermore, the ability for riders to order rides right from their phones and track their rides in real-time makes these services much easier to utilize.

Top Microtransit Companies

Below, we’ve provided some information on the most prominent microtransit companies, their mobile apps and where they’re based.

Top microtransit mobile apps Areas serviced in the U.S. Apple Store rating (out of 5 stars) Google Play rating (out of 5 stars)
Via 100-plus U.S. cities, including New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Seattle 4.7 3.5
TransLoc Los Angeles, Tampa, Denver, Austin, Washington D.C., and more; college campuses, including Duke University, Georgetown University, University of Colorado Boulder, Georgia Tech, and more 2.8 3.2
Slidr Bozeman, Montana; Colorado Springs and Summit County, Colorado; South Lake Tahoe, California region; and Teton Village, Wyoming; College campuses, including Auburn University, Montana State University, Texas Christian University, Saint Leo University, and more 4.8 4.4

The Future of Microtransit

It’s unlikely that the rise of microtransit will lead to the fall of mass transit altogether. However, if our world continues to advance and expand microtransit services, it could further decrease ridership of other forms of public transportation, such as trains and buses, personal vehicle ownership and rideshares.

In any case, the advantages of microtransit have encouraged public transportation systems across the country to expand their services. Hopefully, the future of transit will incorporate microtransit services to offer improved access to transportation and a wider range of transit choices.


  1. On-Demand Microtransit: A Rural Solution to Public Transit? American Planning Association. (2022, Nov 10).

  2. Kutsuplus – Final Report. Helsinki Regional Transport Authority. (2016, May).

  3. An approach towards estimating critical value of waiting time at transit stops. Journal of Traffic and Transportation Engineering via ScienceDirect. (2021, Apr).

  4. L.A. Metro to pursue four-phase plan to restore bus and rail service. Mass Transit. (2020, May 15).

  5. Federal Financial Support for Public Transportation. Congressional Budget Office. (2022, Mar).

  6. Public Transportation Ridership Rises to More than 70 Percent of Pre-Pandemic Levels. American Public Transportation Association. (2022, Sep 28).

  7. ARLINGTON VIA RIDESHARE. Arlington Texas Government. (2023).

  8. Durbin Visit Bloomington-Normal Connect Transit To Celebrate %15.8 Million In Federal Funding For Electric Vehicles. Dick Durbin United States Senator of Illinois. (2023, Jan 18).

  9. Electric Vehicle Benefits and Considerations. Alternative Fuels Data Center. (2023).

  10. How much does a ride with Uber cost? Uber. (2023).