Portal:FTA Mobility on Demand Sandbox

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FTA Mobility on Demand Sandbox Program Portal
Scoop's BART integration hopes to encourage carpooling to transit. Source: Scoop
The Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Program is a Federal Transit Administration effort to support innovation among transit agencies and cities. Through the MOD Sandbox program, FTA provides organizations grants to conduct demonstration projects experimenting with unconventional operations. To be eligible, organizations must partner with at least one other organization (such as a private mobility provider or academic research institution). MOD Sandbox grants can cover up to 80% of the cost of a project; in 2016 (the program’s first year) it awarded nearly $8 million to 11 projects.

The ITS Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Research started developing the MOD Program in 2015 to support applied research to better understand partnerships between emerging mobility providers and local transportation agencies, and to explore the federal role in supporting such partnerships. ITS JPO and FTA launched the $8 million MOD Sandbox grant program in May 2016, with eleven projects approved for funding in October of the same year.

Mobility on Demand articles on TransitWiki MOD Grant Recipients
  • Mobility on demand - The core of this grant program is mobility on demand, which involves using modern technology to create better transportation networks.
  • Shared mobility and public transit - While shared mobility operators are major partners in MOD programs, transit agencies often worry these companies are dangerous competition. This article looks at research into the relationship between private shared mobility and public transit.
  • Public private partnership - This article looks more generally at public-private partnerships and their role in transit.
  • Interagency coordination - In addition to working with the private sector, several MOD Sandbox grantees are coordinating with other agencies. This article explains how to effectively structure interagency collaborations.
  • Flexible transportation services - While fixed-route service is the backbone of public transit, the MOD program is looking at flexible services as a way to reach more riders in areas where fixed-route service is impractical.
  • Last mile connections - Dealing with the problem of first mile/last mile connections is a big part of several MOD Sandbox grant projects.
  • Scoop - San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit was awarded one of the grants to partner with carpooling app Scoop to provide first mile/last mile service to and from stations.
  • OpenTripPlanner - Two grant winners are using OpenTripPlanner software in their projects. TriMet currently uses it and will expand its functionality to include shared mobility providers. Vermont Agency of Transportation has built a statewide trip planner for both fixed-route and flexible service based on GTFS-flex.
TriMet is using MOD Sandbox grant funds to integrate shared mobility into its trip planning app. Source: Federal Transit Administration
  • Regional Transportation Authority of Pima County (AZ) - The authority was awarded $669,158 Adaptive Mobility with Reliability and Efficiency project, in which it will partner with subscription-based rideshare company RubyRide and the carpooling service Metropia DUO to integrate both service into its transit app.
  • Valley Metro Rail, Inc. (AZ) - Valley Metro Rail was awarded $1,001,000 to build a smartphone app for mobile ticketing and multimodal trip planning. The app will open source and available to other agencies.
  • City of Palo Alto (CA) - Palo Alto was awarded $1,085,000 for a program that aims to reduce single-occupancy vehicle commuting. Its Bay Area Fair Value Commuting project involves support for employer commute programs, workplace parking rebates, commute optimization analysis, increased cross-county collaboration, and a new trip planning app.
  • Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CA) - Metro was awarded $1,350,000 to partner with transit agencies in Washington’s Puget Sound on a dual-region pilot using Lyft as a first mile/last mile connector for transit. The agencies will experiment with payment structures and support telephone dispatch to serve unbanked customers.
  • San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (CA) - BART was awarded $358,000 to partner with the carpooling app Scoop. Riders who carpool to park-and-ride stations will be guaranteed spots in the morning and will have the option of paying with the app.
  • Pinellas Suncoast Transportation Authority (FL) - PSTA was awarded $500,000 to create a central dispatch system in which taxis and rideshare vehicles can be used to provide paratransit service at a cheaper per-ride price than what the authority currently spends.
  • Chicago Transit Authority (IL) - CTA was awarded $400,000 to incorporate Divvy bikeshare into Ventra, the authority’s cross-agency mobile ticketing and trip planning app.
  • Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District (OR) - TriMet was awarded $678,000 to integrate shared mobility providers into its existing OpenTripPlanner app. Early partners include Lyft, Uber, and Motivate.
  • Dallas Area Rapid Transit (TX) - DART was awarded $1,204,000 to integrate ridesharing into its GoPass ticketing app. The agency also plans to use ridesharing-style mobile technology to overhaul its existing public demand-responsive service.
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation (VT) - Vtrans was awarded $480,000 to create a statewide trip planner covering both fixed-route and flexible transit. The software will be built on OpenTripPlanner and modified to support flexible transportation information in addition to standard GTFS.
  • Pierce County Public Transportation Benefit Area Corporation (WA) - The agency was awarded $205,922 to pursue a three-pronged Limited Access Connections program. The project will involve using ridesharing for first mile/last mile connections, provided guaranteed ride home service, and providing rides to and from park-and-ride lots.
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Additional Reading and Resources

Mobility on demand is a new field, but researchers are beginning to study it. The following publications can help provide an introduction to what mobility on demand and how transit agencies should think about it.

Sheehan, R. (2015). “Mobility on Demand.” US Department of Transportation.

This brief USDOT presentation provides some background into the development of the MOD program.

Federal Transit Administration. “Shared Mobility Frequently Asked Questions.”

This extensive FAQ explains current FTA rules on shared mobility, a major component of MOD.

TransitCenter. (2016). “Private Mobility, Public Interest."

This TransitCenter report explores the relationship between public transit and private mobility providers through interviews with industry leaders.

Shaheen, S., Martin, E., Cohen, A., Musunuri, A., & Bhattacharyya, A. (2016). “Mobile Apps and Transportation: A Review of Smartphone Apps and a Survey of User Response to Multimodal Traveler Information.” California Department of Transportation.

Prepared for Caltrans by UC Berkeley researchers, this report examines multimodal trip planners, another major tool for mobility on demand.

TriMet. "MOD Sandbox Grant 2017 ‐ 2019."

This dashboard tracks the progress on TriMet's MOD Sandbox pilot.

Craig, T. "Flexible Trip Planner Update: Project Kick-Off!" Trillium Solutions, Inc.

This page provides an introduction to the flexible trip planner being developed by Trillium and the Vermont Agency of Transportation with MOD Sandbox funding.

Shared Use Mobility Center Research

Includes updates on Shared Use Mobility Center projects currently underway.

FTA Mobility on Demand Sandbox Program

The Federal Transit Administration's page for this program.