Google It: Microtransit Pilot Via2G and the Future of Commuting

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MTI researchers evaluate Google’s microtransit pilot program Via2G to discover a possible solution to the Bay Area’s traffic problem
June 15, 2021

Although commuting alone may have some benefits, it also incurs costs for individuals, their employers, and the environment. Incentivizing commuters to shift to shared transportation could yield many potential benefits, including decreasing congestion and emissions, saving on fuel costs, and reducing parking infrastructure costs for employers. New Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, Via2G Microtransit Program Evaluation, evaluates Google’s Via2G free, on-demand microtransit program for potential benefits and maybe even a solution to Bay Area traffic.

The pilot operated between January 1 and March 5, 2020 before it was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Via2G microtransit ride services were rolled out gradually across seven zones in Sunnyvale and Mountain View. Rides were available free to employees from 7am to 10am and from 4pm to 7pm Monday through Friday. During pilot hours, users could request a ride between either campus or anywhere in the pilot zone.

The evaluation of this program data revealed that:

  • The large majority (92%) of surveyed employees (n=2,306) expressed interest in participating in the Via2G pilot.
  • In sum, 595 employees completed 7,537 rides between January 1 and March 5, 2020. The average trip distance was 3.4 miles, average wait time about 11 minutes, and average trip duration was 18 minutes.
  • While the pilot was cut short due to COVID-19, it grew steadily during operation. The average number of riders per day grew from 79 riders in January to 123 and 121 riders per day in February and March, respectively.
  • Of total trip requests, 87.8% resulted in a ride offer, 76.6% resulted in a completed trip. Most unfulfilled requests were outside of pilot operating times; other unmet ride requests were likely because demand exceeded supply when the requests were made.

“Prior to the Via2G pilot program, two-thirds (66%) of survey respondents drove to work at least one day per week, while a plurality (42%) drove five days per week. Compared to employees who did not participate in the pilot, pilot users were more likely to take shared ride-hail (14 vs 22 percent) or the Google Bus (24 vs 30 percent) at least once a week,” explained the authors.

The evaluation suggests that future microtransit pilots should provide flexible service hours, seek to understand the travel needs of employees who trip chain on their commutes, examine ways to minimize deadheading and increase the vehicle occupancy, and monitor patterns and create context-sensitive performance indicators that can evaluate shifting priorities for commuting in a post-pandemic world. Further pilots and research could lay the groundwork for commuting options that are better for individuals, employers, and society as a whole.

 

ABOUT THE MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE

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. Founded in 1991, MTI is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants, including those made available by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB1). MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Anne Brown is an MTI Research Associate and Assistant Professor at the University of Oregon and researches issues of transportation equity, shared mobility, and travel behavior. Alice Grossman holds a PhD in Transportation and is an expert in planning and evaluating new mobility interventions to increase mobility and accessibility through sustainable and equitable means. Lucy Noble is the TDM Program Manager at Google, responsible for designing and implementing innovative commute solutions using behavioral science to reduce traffic congestion and parking demand.

 

Media Contact:

Irma Garcia

MTI Communications and Operations Manager

O: 408-924-7560

E: Irma.garcia@sjsu.edu

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