Flexible public transportation services show great promise in meeting the mobility needs of many individuals nationwide as public transportation agencies face increasing demands to serve ever more diverse markets that may require cost-effective non-conventional solutions. Flexible public transportation services may be especially valuable to those communities trying to address ADA service requirements and those classified as suburban, small urban, and rural where mobility markets are often defined by low or irregular demand. In addition to offering new flexible services, the potential conversion of traditional fixed-route and paratransit services to flexible services is being considered by some communities. A broader, more comprehensive look at planning and operating flexible public transportation services as part of an array of options in a variety of settings is needed to answer the questions of whether, and under what circumstances, the introduction of flexible services may be feasible.
The objective of this research is to develop a guide for public transportation providers, decision makers, policymakers, planners, and others interested in considering flexible public transportation services. This research should determine what types of flexible public transportation service strategies are appropriate for small, medium, and large urban and rural transit agencies. Areas investigated should include financial and political realities, operational issues, and institutional mechanisms appropriate for implementing and sustaining flexible public transportation services. For the purposes of this research, flexible public transportation services should encompass a wide range of hybrid service types that are not fully demand-responsive or fixed-route services. Examples of these hybrid service types include flexible-route segments, route deviation, point deviation, zone routes, and demand-responsive connector service.