Featured Research: Mobility-on-Demand for Smart, Sustainable Cities

Micromobility includes shared mobility options such as these e-bikes.

Dr. Xilei Zhao of the University of Florida is leading a STRIDE-funded project that is looking at how Mobility-on-Demand (MOD) transit systems can contribute to building smart, sustainable, and equitable cities in the U.S. The project includes a large groups of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University, Florida International University, and the Ford Motor Company.

With the rapid rise of shared mobility options such as ridehailing and micromobility (shared dockless e-bikes and e-scooters) transportation agencies at the federal, state, and local levels have mobilized to develop Mobility-on-Demand (MOD) initiatives. MOD means an integrated and connected multi-modal network of safe, affordable, and reliable transportation options that are available and accessible to all travelers.

As a competitive alternative to the use of personal cars, MOD transit systems can significantly reduce traffic congestion in major roadways. The key to the success of MOD initiatives is the integration among various publicly accessible travel options including conventional transit services, ridehailing, and micromobility.

“Given the short history of these shared mobility options, little is known about their spatiotemporal usage patterns (how people use these services across space and time), how they shape individual travel behavior and attitudes, and under what conditions these new mobility options can be effectively integrated into the existing transit network,” Dr. Zhao said.

To fill these knowledge gaps, Dr. Zhao and her team of researchers propose two research thrusts: 1) to understand people’s preferences and adoption of a MOD transit system that integrates public transit and micromobility; and 2) to assess the service characteristics of ridehailing and traditional demand-responsive transit for hospital trips in rural and urban settings in the Southeastern U.S. region.

Dr. Zhao expects to find that micromobility can serve as an essential first-/last-mile feeder to the fixed route public transit service that could improve the overall system’s efficiency and coverage.

“Compared to a traditional demand-responsive transit system, an ‘Uber-like’ on-demand transit system may significantly improve user experience and operations efficiency for health care travel,” she said.

The products generated from this research will include survey tools, data analytics methods, tools for modeling micromobility usage, and optimization models to evaluate the operations of an “Uber-like” services for healthcare trips. Policy recommendations will also be generated to assist transit agencies and cities in their planning and operations for MOD transit systems that are enhanced by the emerging shared mobility services.