Draft Memorandum for the Record

Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization

Transit Working Group: Microtransit Forum Summary

January 18, 2022, Transit Working Group Forum

12:30 PM–2:30 PM, Zoom Video Conferencing Platform, link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TZxe4okoPg

Forum Agenda and Summary of Discussion

1.    Welcome—Tegin Teich, Executive Director, Central Transportation Planning Staff; Travis Pollack, Senior Transportation Planner, Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC); and Amira Patterson, Transportation Planner, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Advisory Board

T. Teich gave a brief introduction of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the panelists in the forum. T. Pollack explained MAPC’s role in regional planning and exploratory work on microtransit in the Boston region. A. Patterson gave an overview of the MBTA Advisory Board. 

2.    Panel Presentations—Angela Constantino, Mobility Manager, Greater AttleboroTaunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA); Patrick Kennedy, Partner, Space Between Design Studio; Nicole Freedman, Director of Transportation Planning, City of Newton; and Chris Van Eyken, Senior Program Associate, TransitCenter


GATRA Microtransit Service

A. Constantino gave an outline of GATRA GO, a catch-all term for microtransit service offered by GATRA. GATRA introduced microtransit to southeastern Massachusetts in 2019 as a replacement for underperforming fixed-route services, a first- and last-mile solution to underserved regions, and an alternative to Transportation Network Company (TNC) services. Currently four GATRA GO services are in operation using dial-a-ride vehicles that were repurposed for microtransit: GATRA GO Connect, GATRA GO Coastline, GATRA GO United, and GATRA GO Explore. Each serves different communities with unique goals and challenges. Riders can make same-day reservations using mobile appsTransloc and Spare Labsand by phone. 

GATRA GO Connect was launched in 2019 as a pilot and later as a replacement for a fixed route that connected commuters in Norton, Wheaton College, and Mansfield Crossing to Mansfield MBTA station. Several challenges remain that are particular to the GATRA GO Connect program: directing student riders to specific stops on campus, working with the university to balance the finances, and service overlap in Foxborough.

GATRA GO Coastline was launched in October 2020 as a complementary service to the deviated fixed route in South Plymouth. It serves predominantly seniors trying to get to the senior center and medical appointments. The large service area has been a challenge for GATRA as it tries to run the program more efficiently.

GATRA GO United was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic as a replacement for a fixed-route service to provide local and long-distance medical transportation for riders in the Franklin, Wrentham, Foxborough, and Norfolk areas. Balancing finances was complicated as several entities representing different demographic groups expressed an interest in contributing to the budget.

GATRA GO Explore is an employment shuttle for Pembroke residents that provides trips within the Town of Pembroke and select locations outside of the service area. It was launched when a commuter shuttle attracted no ridership after it got suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic and brought back. It has been difficult to provide service for all eligible riders because the program is run with one vehicle and a lot of the places that people go to work are outside of the service area.

Promise and Place of MicroTransit: Finding the Sweet Spot for On-Demand Service within a Complete Network Redesign

P. Kennedy provided background on GoLink, microtransit in Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). In recent years, Dallas has been grappling with a spatial mismatch, marked by a high concentration of low-income population in the south juxtaposed with job growth in the north towards the Oklahoma border and outside of the DART service area. In addition to highly segregated socioeconomic groups and land-use patterns, lack of state support for transit has made it challenging for DART to provide transit, despite continued population and economic growth in the region. The GoLink project was inspired by Houston’s success in its 2014 bus network redesign, which connected one million more people to one million more jobs without an increase in budget by focusing on creating a gridded network.

Completed at the inception of the network redesign project, evaluation of DART’s bus network at the time had brought to attention important issues related to service frequency. Notably, DART did not provide information on frequency or level of service in its bus route map or provide service that matches demand in the highest performing routes. Through stakeholder engagement, DART also learned that people value overall travel time, and that increasing service frequency is preferred to expanding service coverage. Conceived as part of the agency’s efforts to reallocate its resources, GoLink was introduced to very-low ridership areas in order for the agency to add frequency to high-performing routes.

Public engagement and participation was a key component in the bus network redesign; in order to maximize its benefit, the agency established two emergency fundsalpha fund and beta fund. Creation of these funds would allow people to react to system changes and the agency to remain flexible in service evaluation and adjustments. DART also created a customized interactive tool that shows overlay of two isochrones, which represents how far a rider can travel from a designated point within 60 minutes under the current operating scenario and after the overhaul of the bus network. This tool is aimed at communicating to the public about increased job access, increased service frequency, and creation of GoLink zones.

DART created an additional GoLink Zone in Inland Port, which is located outside of the service area. In order to connect the area to the bus network, the agency established a local government corporation, in partnership with the city, county, and businesses, where representatives from both the public and private sectors serve the board and contribute to funding. This corporation would allow DART to provide service in an area that is not contributing to the agency’s revenue. Since its launch, the program has been successful: DART has seen an increase in both ridership and number of unique riders, and customer satisfaction has been consistently high. P. Kennedy also admitted that with the rise in demand, it will be challenging to maintain wait times of 15 minutes or less.

GoLink currently covers 30 percent of the service area, using three percent of the operating budget. In December, DART announced 30 additional GoLink Zones and is currently working with staff on service standards to ensure that the quality of service stays in line with the agency’s objective metrics as new services continue to roll out. These objective metrics, called “Chutes and Ladders,” are a critical determinant for service changes outside of the generally planned process. Savings from service reduction are channeled to service improvements to ensure that not only operational dollars stay in the system, but the operating budget also maintains the prescribed ratio for frequency and coverage.

P. Kennedy stated that given the short history of GoLink, DART is still trying to determine a sweet spot for subsidy per rider, rides per hour, or customer satisfaction. Demand for microtransit has increased, however, prompting a new challenge of meeting the demand without letting microtransit cannibalizing from the rest of the operations system.

NewMo: Newton’s Citywide Transportation System

N. Freedman gave an overview of NewMo, Newton’s microtransit service. NewMo was first conceived as a replacement for a transportation system for seniors that had been run through the senior center. The previous transportation system, which paid a taxi company a subsidy to provide trips for seniors, was not able to provide quality service due to driver shortages. In 2019, the city partnered with Via for provision of software and operators and launched NewMo for seniors. NewMo covered all of Newton and provided transportation to select medical appointments across the border for a fare adjusted based on income. The service also allowed seniors to preschedule recurring appointments.

The initial evaluation of NewMo was met with mixed results. While NewMo was helping people to get out of single-occupancy vehicles and bringing them to destinations on time, several performance metrics indicated more challenges to be overcome. The City was paying a flat fee to provide 25,000 trips, and the low ridership caused the City to pay a high cost per trip. The service had no backup plans for driver no-shows or medical appointments scheduled for a late hour. Satisfaction rate or sharing rate was lower than desired. The meandering aspect of on-demand service made some senior riders nervous about using it for medical appointments, and seniors also required greater attention in customer service.

After initial evaluation, the City built off of NewMo to open the service to everyone and to provide travel everywhere in Newton. The service expansion was a result of several interim steps that resulted in very-low ridership. Once the City made NewMo available to all people with additional vehicles, ridership increased and all other performance metrics indicated improvements in terms of the sharing rate and satisfaction rate. Program success was also visible in user demographics: NewMo served low-income residents, single parents, people with disabilities, and school-age children, as well as commuters from neighboring cities. The City is also working with refugee sponsors to get the refugees to use the system.

Despite program success, N. Freedman stated that the City is faced with challenges. One of the biggest concerns is finances. The City has relied on largely state and MPO grants and impact fees from developers to develop and maintain the program. If the City decides to expand the program, overall cost will go up regardless of improved efficiency. Due to a lack of a regular source of funding for the operating budget, the long-term sustainability of the program is uncertain. The City has identified fundraisers as a way to secure funding. Also, ridership and population density are critical to microtransit as they relate to trip sharing, an important performance measure. The City is looking to work with Waltham, Watertown, and Wellesley in order to expand NewMo across borders. As the City seeks to improve the transportation system, however, density might be a limiting factor to maximizing NewMo’s potential.

Microtransit as Part of the Mobility Toolkit

C. Van Eyken discussed strategies to improve transit service and how microtransit could complement the effort to implement transit enhancements.

Three surveys led by TransitCenter indicate that transit riders call for reliable service, short travel times, and safe and comfortable vehicles and stations. Transit providers can meet these expectations by building a comprehensive network that is integrated and easy to navigate. However, limited resources, including street spaces, have made it challenging for transit providers to provide high-quality service to all riders and caused competition for service allocation.

There are still ways to increase transit speed and reliability by implementing improvements in an incremental fashion. For routes that are highly productive, this can be achieved by increasing the number and length of bus lanes in congested corridors, balancing bus stop distances, applying transit signal prioritization, and implementing all-door boarding. For routes that are less productive than high-performing routes, service improvements can still be made by building walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods and cities, although transit agencies may have a limited role in land-use decisions. Mictrotransit service, when complemented with Complete Streets policies, could contribute to a comprehensive bus network redesign that provides the maximum level of service to urban areas and first- and last-mile solutions in suburban neighborhoods.

C. Van Eyken raised three points to consider with regards to microtransit. First, microtransit service often comes at a high cost. It costs more to operate than fixed-route service and might cost even more than low-performing fixed-routes. Moreover, microtransit is not productive for a transit agency to run; existing projects have underperformed the fixed-route services they replaced. Second, decision-makers have to bear in mind the opportunity cost of running a microtransit program, since the money spent on microtransit could be spent differently on proven solutions in places where transit is highly utilized already. Third, given that microtransit poses issues of productivity and opportunity cost to transit agencies, many of which are faced with constrained resources today, decision-makers need to define a clear role for microtransit before implementing the service. Microtransit service is not a replacement for reliable and frequent fixed-route service, but it can be an improvement over existing paratransit services or fill gaps in areas that are topographically challenging for fixed-route service.

Another point to consider that is unique to microtransit is dispatching strategies. Dispatching can improve the responsiveness and reliability of paratransit services, which typically require customers to book in advance and send them on circuitous, time-consuming trips. Diversifying handling methods is also critical to the responsiveness and reliability of microtransit.

Existing programs have produced mixed results. LA Metro’s partnership with Via resulted in increased operating expensesdouble the amount the agency spends on the average bus trip. C. Van Eyken explained that the agency did not examine how microtransit could augment the existing fixed-route service. Similarly, AC Transit’s demand-responsive shuttle, named Flex, generated less ridership than the fixed-route bus service that it replaced; although Flex had a much lower operating cost than a fixed-route service. King County Metro’s partnership with Via, on the other hand, brought additional service to areas with topographical limitations where fixed-route service was not working well.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a dramatic reduction in transit ridership, and ridership remains below its pre-pandemic levels. While many riders have been working from home, there are riders, who are disproportionately low income and people of color, who still depend on transit for day-to-day journeys. Frequent, reliable networks are the best means of delivering service to all riders, and there are proven strategies to achieving high service standards, although they are not universally applicable to every scenario. Microtransit can play a role in a transit system, but transit providers must think carefully about where they put microtransit services so that the cost does not go out of control and so that the target population is effectively served.  

3.    Discussion

Misconceptions about microtransit

A. Constantino explained about the challenge of communicating to the public about the difference between microtransit and dial-a-ride service. She stated that a lot of the riders that used dial-a-ride did not understand that GatraGo was open to everyone, although GATRA had already done rebranding of the vehicle and public engagement to inform the public of service changes.

N. Freedman stated that microtransit service requires a minimum scale to make it viable.

Inclusionary practices for non-smartphone users  

N. Freedman stated that the 80 percent of senior riders reserve NewMo through their smartphones. All ride requests go through the mobile app, so the drivers do not see whether reservations are made through the mobile app or by phone. However, phone call reservations are disadvantageous to mobile apps because riders will not be notified of vehicle delays or changes.

P. Kennedy explained that although the GoLink service can be made available by phone calls, it has been difficult to raise awareness of different reservation options due to high mobile app usage.   

Disabilities training for microtransit operators; Coordination with the disability community

N. Freedman explained that Via provides a short, live training for drivers of the wheelchair-accessible vehicles. The transportation division is also currently working with the disability coordinator to improve the microtransit service for people that need care and support. The City began using sedans so that riders could get in and out of the vehicles easier, and the City adopted a special system where anyone who is approved for disability service could get the door-to-door service instead of the corner-to-corner service.

A. Constantino responded that all of GATRA’s operators receive disability awareness training through the Massachusetts Rural Transit Assistance Program.

P. Kennedy stated that the local provider that provides 80 percent of DART’s microtransit service is required to have disabilities training. Riders can also specify their needs through their profile or ride request.

Best practices in microtransit

C. Van Eyken explained that in Seattle, having a microtransit service allowed King County Metro to expand its network to places where a fixed-route service cannot operate due to topographic limitations. It highlights the advantage of microtransit in transithaving a smaller vehicle, which does not have to conform to the street grid, makes it possible to serve people in places where a bus cannot go.

Best operating model for microtransit

N. Freedman stated that public transportation should be public in order to hit public sector goals. But when it comes to managing operations, many cities are not set up to perform transit operations and, therefore, contract with private companies, some of which demonstrate business practices that cities do not support. She believes that ongoing operations funding should be available for microtransit programs that are correctly implemented and achieving important goals.

P. Kennedy explained that DART had decided to prioritize cost savings in order to maximize service improvements using available operation dollars. While DART is working on securing more operational dollars, DART is hoping for federal assistance on transit operations due to little support from the state.

A. Constantino responded that having a “toolbox” of various operating models is important for GATRA to serve communities with a wide range of constraints and possibilities. Being flexible is crucial as the society becomes more susceptible to change.


Transit Cooperative Research Program published Redesigning Transit Networks for the New Mobility Future, a research report on bus redesign that addresses micromobility options.

4.    Questions and Answers

Jennifer Glass (Lincoln Select Board) asked whether GATRA serves any tourist destinations. A. Constantino responded that GATRA serves the Plymouth waterfront area with GATRA GO Coastline, and the Wrentham Outlets, Patriot Place, and Plainridge Casino with GATRA GO United.

Anna Leslie (Allston Brighton Health Collaborative) asked about the trip frequency of the different GATRA GO routes. A Constantino stated that the service is set up to be on demand, so each service will travel to or from anywhere within the geographical boundary during the service hours.

P. Kennedy was asked whether DART uses a provider or provides its own service.  P. Kennedy explained that DART subcontracts with MV Transportation for demand-responsive service and DART provides vehicles. DART also partners with UberPool, which went through a request for proposal (RFP) process, to supplement the contract. That contract is supplemented with a partnership.

Josh Weiland (MBTA) asked whether the microtransit drivers are guaranteed minimum wage and actual employment, and whether the contract with Via guarantees any labor relations. P. Kennedy explained that DART writes a guaranteed minimum wage into their contract with subcontractors. However, the contract does not apply to Uber, nor does it provide the benefits that are guaranteed for the agency’s direct hires. N. Freedman stated that the NewMo drivers are treated as independent contractors and are currently paid an hourly wage of $29-$37. A. Constantino responded that the microtransit drivers are employed and trained in the same manner as GATRA’s fixed-route drivers, although they are employed by the operators contracted with GATRA to provide service in the agency’s service area. Depending on the operator, some of the drivers are unionized, while others are not.

Susan Barrett (Town of Lexington) asked how customer service agents are paid. N. Freedman responded that Via chose to handle the matter after the City discussed the low customer satisfaction rates from seniors and the decreased call volume.  

Christine Madore (Massachusetts Housing Partnership) asked about NewMo’s most significant barrier to expanding its service area beyond Newton. N. Freedman responded that a lack of funding is keeping the City from adding more vehicles to the fleet.

A question was addressed to N. Freedman about whether NewMo provides trips that can be done on transit, assuming transit is running and the riders have no mobility limitations. N. Freedman stated that the quality of transit service is often too poor: trip frequency could be too low, walking distance could be too long, or the trip might require multiple transfers. She emphasized that replacing a transit trip with a NewMo trip is different from replacing a transit trip with a private TNC trip because NewMo is a shared service and has wait times of 15 minutes or less.

Colette Aufranc (Town of Wellesley) asked how strict geofencing is applied to identifying service boundaries for microtransit. N. Freedman responded that geofencing could be limited to town lines with a few excepted addresses.

C. Aufranc asked about reporting requirements for back-end analytics and real-time accessibility of the reports and graphs. N. Freedman responded that reports are comprehensive and can be accessed at any time.

5.    Closing and Next Steps

S. Johnston discussed social media outlets for continued engagement with the forum organizers and upcoming events in the Transit Working Group.





Abigail Adams

Brockton Area Transit

Imaikalani Aiu

Town of Weston

John Alessi

City of Malden

Jessica Alvarez

Foursquare ITP

Daniel Amstutz

Town of Arlington

Alexander Anhwere-James


Colette Aufranc

Town of Wellesley

Kennedy Avery

Boston City Council

Susan Barrett

Town of Lexington

Edward Bates


Louise Baxter

Transit Riders Union

Jeff Bennett

128 Business Council

Ally Bull

Massachusetts Commission for the Blind

Brandon Burns

US Department of Transportation

Charlie Cabot


Catherine Cagle

City of Waltham

Bob Campbell


Maggie Cohn

Mission Hill Link

Martha Collins

Town of Wellesley

William Conroy

City of Boston

Angela Constantino


Saundarya Dandagawhal

City of Boston

Jacob Deck

Lawrence University

David Derrig


Tom Devine

City of Salem

Lenard Diggins

Regional Transit Advisory Council

Christopher Dilorio

Town of Hull

Karen Dumaine

Neponset Valley TMA

Wes Edwards


Rachel Fichtenbaum


Jamilee Fish

Patrick Engineering

Maria Foster

Town of Brookline

Nicole Freedman

City of Newton

Sophia Galimore

TransAction Associates

Glenn Ann Geiler

Brockton Area Transit




Jennifer Gelinas

Town of Burlington

Gail Gilliland


Jennifer Glass

Town of Lincoln

Shayna Gleason

University of Massachusetts Boston

Russell Glynn

Coalition for Reimagined Mobility

Kristine Gorman


Roberta Groch

State of Rhode Island

Perry Grossman

Brookline Bike Advisory Committee

Marah Holland


Charles Hornig


Dan Jaffe

02129 Neighbor Alliance

Andrew Jennings

Lowell Regional Transit Authority

Sam Jones

Mott McDonald

Patrick Kennedy

Space Between Design

George Kirby


Anthony Komornick

Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

David Koses

City of Newton

Ernesta Kraczkiewicz


Derek Krevat


Sujatha Krishan

Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission

Joanne LaFerrara


Aniko Laszlo


Andrea Leary

North Shore TMA

Sarah Leung

City of Boston

Anna Leslie

Allston Brighton Health Collaborative

Christine Madore

Massachusetts Housing Partnership

Erik Maki

Tetra Tech

Katie Malkin

Via Transportation

Jeff Maxtutis


Constance Mellis

Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission

James Mirras


Chase Modestow

MetroWest Regional Transit Authority

Galen Mook

Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition

Hayes Morrison


Alaa Mukahhal

City of Boston

Scott Mullen

A Better City

Joe Mulligan


Adi Nochur


Shona Norman

Cape Ann Transportation Authority

Jane Obbagy

Obbagy Consulting

Ari Ofsevit

Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

Steven Olanoff

Town of Westwood

Marc Older


Thomas O’Rourke

Neponset River Regional Chamber

Franny Osman

Town of Acton

Howard Ostroff


Boris Palchik

Foursquare ITP

Jason Palitsch

495/MetroWest Partnership

Rick Parker

Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce

Barbara Parmenter

350 Mass

Amira Patterson

MBTA Advisory Board

Peter Pelletier

Town of Medway

Robert Peters


Matthew Petersen


Travis Pollack


Natalie Raffol

McMahon Associates

Malcolm Ragan

Town of Stow

Kate Reid


Maureen Reilly Meagher


Megan Rhodes

Franklin Regional Council of Governments

Monique Richardson


Gracyn Rountree

Massachusetts House of Representatives

Thomas Rozelle


Jim Salvie


Mark Schieldrop

AAA Northeast

Lynn Schoeff

Town of Needham

Sharon Schumack


Jon Seward

Community Design Partnership

Judy Shanley


Sukanya Sharma


Bob Shay


Stephen Silveira


O. Robert Simha

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sharna Small Borsellino


Laura Smead

Town of Canton

Sonali Soneji


John Strauss

Town of Burlington

Dimitria Sullivan

Town of Dedham

Daphne Thompson

Northeast Arc

Jeremy Thompson

495/MetroWest Partnership

Daniel Toner


Steven Tyler

Howard Stein Hudson

Amber Vaillancourt


Chris Van Eyken


Matt Warfield

City of Boston

Lisa Weber


Josh Weiland


Marcus Weiss

Economic Development Assistance Consortium

Laura Wiener

City of Watertown

Stephen Winslow

City of Malden

Erin Wortman

Town of Stoneham

Darlene Wynne

City of Beverly


MPO Staff/Central Transportation Planning Staff

Tegin Teich, Executive Director

Matt Archer

Jonathan Belcher

Annette Demchur

Róisín Foley

Sandy Johnston

Heyne Kim



The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) operates its programs, services, and activities in compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, and related statutes and regulations. Title VI prohibits discrimination in federally assisted programs and requires that no person in the United States of America shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin (including limited English proficiency), be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that receives federal assistance. Related federal nondiscrimination laws administered by the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, or both, prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, sex, and disability. The Boston Region MPO considers these protected populations in its Title VI Programs, consistent with federal interpretation and administration. In addition, the Boston Region MPO provides meaningful access to its programs, services, and activities to individuals with limited English proficiency, in compliance with U.S. Department of Transportation policy and guidance on federal Executive Order 13166.

The Boston Region MPO also complies with the Massachusetts Public Accommodation Law, M.G.L. c 272 sections 92a, 98, 98a, which prohibits making any distinction, discrimination, or restriction in admission to, or treatment in a place of public accommodation based on race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or ancestry. Likewise, the Boston Region MPO complies with the Governor's Executive Order 526, section 4, which requires that all programs, activities, and services provided, performed, licensed, chartered, funded, regulated, or contracted for by the state shall be conducted without unlawful discrimination based on race, color, age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, creed, ancestry, national origin, disability, veteran's status (including Vietnam-era veterans), or background.

A complaint form and additional information can be obtained by contacting the MPO or at http://www.bostonmpo.org/mpo_non_discrimination. To request this information in a different language or in an accessible format, please contact

Title VI Specialist
Boston Region MPO
10 Park Plaza, Suite 2150
Boston, MA 02116

By Telephone:
857.702.3700 (voice)

For people with hearing or speaking difficulties, connect through the state MassRelay service:

·        Relay Using TTY or Hearing Carry-over: 800.439.2370

·        Relay Using Voice Carry-over: 866.887.6619

·        Relay Using Text to Speech: 866.645.9870

For more information, including numbers for Spanish speakers, visit https://www.mass.gov/massrelay.