AV Fleets for First and Last Mile Solutions

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MTI research finds little demand for transit access services when fare rises above $6 in a San Francisco case study
January 7, 2021
San José, CA

The first-mile, last-mile problem is a significant deterrent for potential transit riders. New Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, Cost Benefit Analysis of Transit Access Modes: A Case Study in the San Francisco Bay Area, assesses the ability of automated vehicle (AV) fleets to expand on the ongoing efforts of transit agencies to identify a cost-effective solution to this issue.

Transit agencies, which have already demonstrated a willingness to embrace new mobility services such as ridehailing, ridesharing, and door-to-door shared microtransit, are vying for any means to offer fast and reliable connections to and from transit stations.

The research team examined three types of access services to transit stations and stops in the San Francisco Bay Area: a fleet of automated vehicles to provide home-based drop-off and pick-up for single passenger service (e.g., Uber and Lyft); door-to-door shared microtransit (e.g., vans, buses); and meeting point multi-passenger service (e.g., Via). They also assessed a range of fares (from as little as two dollars to ten dollars).

Case study findings include:

  • Transit access services may increase ridership and reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT), especially when fares for these services are relatively low (less than approximately $6 per trip) to generate ridership.
  • Pooled access service trips have lower VMT and travel time, including wait times, relative to single passenger services. And pool services with a group pick-up point provide even greater reductions in VMT and travel times.
  • Pooled service models may be more likely to create profits.
  • The estimated lower operation costs for automated vehicles may enable lower fares.

“A growing interest in the future of automated vehicles (AVs) and their potential to better address the first-mile problem means enabling easier access to transit,” explains Principal Investigator Dr. Caroline Rodier.

Results of this study reveal that transit access services may effectively increase ridership, accessibility, and profit. Pooled models offer the most significant profit margins, as do services utilizing automated vehicles. Transit planners can focus on prioritizing these services to obtain superior results for agencies and to enable efficient, accessible travel for riders.


At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

Dr. Caroline Rodier is a Research Associate at and the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, focusing on research related to transport, land use, and environmental policy analysis; Dr. Andrea Broaddus is an MTI Research Associate and expert in transportation policy; Dr. Migues Jaller is an Associate Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Davis; Dr. Jeffrey Song is a postdoctoral researcher in the 3 Revolutions Future Mobility Program at UC Davis; Dr. Joschka Bischoff is a simulation expert at the Swiss Federal Railways as part of the business development team; and Yunwan Zhang is a research data analyst at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis.


Media Contact:

Irma Garcia,

MTI Communications and Operations Manager

O: 408-924-7560

E: Irma.garcia@sjsu.edu


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