Promising Practices: Transit Technology Adoption Types of Promising Practices Profiled

  • Date: February 16, 2022

This Guidebook includes ten profiles, nine of which profile an individual agency’s experience, while one is a composite profile featuring the experience of several agencies. Of the ten profiles, eight practice types were identified: accessibility, alternative fuels, asset management, passenger information and general transit feed specification (GTFS)/GTFS-Flex, computer-aided dispatch and automatic vehicle location (CAD/AVL), fare payment, microtransit, and mobility hubs. Although these practice types are broad, the practice profiles detail specific examples that are noteworthy in their promise, and sometimes involve new use cases and/or integration of existing technologies.


Accessible transit options impact many groups of riders, each with their own unique needs that may necessitate different types of accommodations, and the transit industry can harness technology to improve access, ease of use, and inclusion for these populations. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.” Just over 40 million Americans have a disability, and Census projections indicate an aging American populace in the coming decades.1 In addition to the disabled and aged communities, veterans with disabilities are another key population that can benefit from improvements in transit accessibility.

There are far-reaching technology solutions to maintain and improve transit accessibility that find support at the federal level. At the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Access and Mobility for All Summit in 2019, the Secretary of Transportation announced initiatives to help improve access for people with disabilities (Table 1Error! Reference source not found.).2 USDOT is also researching to improve mobility options for all travelers through its collaboration with FHWA, Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI).3 The six-year program focuses on smart wayfinding and navigation systems, pre-trip concierge and virtualization, robotics and automation, and safe intersection crossings and endeavors to understand the travel needs and barriers of disabled, veteran, and aged populations.4

1 U.S. Department of Commerce. U.S. Census Bureau. 2018 5-year American Community Survey estimates, Table S1810: Disability Characteristics; U.S. Department of Commerce. U.S. Census Bureau. Demographic Turning Points for the United States: Population Projections for 2020 to 2060, available at:, as of August 5, 2020.

2 U.S. Department of Transportation. Accessibility, available at:, as of August 5, 2020.

3 U.S. Department of Transportation. Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Programs Office. Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI), available at:, as of August 5, 2020.

4 U.S. Department of Transportation. Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Programs Office. Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI): Factsheets, available at:, as of August 5, 2020; U.S. Department of Transportation. Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Programs Office, Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI): User Needs Assessment: Stakeholder Engagement Report Final Report, May 2016, accessible at:, as of August 5, 2020.


Table 1: Selected Technology and Innovation Funding

Name Amount Summary
Complete Trip – ITS4US Deployment Program Up to $40 million Showcases “innovative business partnerships, technologies, and practices that promote independent mobility for all. “Complete Trip” means that a user can get from point A to point B seamlessly, regardless of the number of modes, transfers, and connections.”
Inclusive Design Challenge $5 million “Cash prizes available to innovators who design solutions that can enable people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities to use AVs to access jobs, healthcare, and other critical destinations.”
FY2020 Mobility for All Pilot Program $3.5 million “Seeks to improve mobility options and access to community services for older adults, individuals with disabilities, and people with low incomes. The $3.5 million initiative will fund projects that enhance transportation connections to jobs, education, and health services.”

At the local level, some agencies are experimenting with partnerships with transportation network companies (TNCs) to provide paratransit services at a lower cost, using a third-party software to improve paratransit booking and routing services, or starting on-demand paratransit services that don’t require advanced booking. Programs that improve access by using apps must comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, to ensure IT accessibility, and to comply with health information privacy requirements associated with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to ensure patient privacy.

Innovation in-vehicle technologies, such as independent wheelchair securement or wheelchair charging on buses, are other ways technology is improving accessibility. 5

Accessibility Practices Profiled

CARTA’s WayFinder SMARTA Travel System

  • Agency: Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority’s (CARTA)
  • Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Context: Large urban

CARTA serves the City of Chattanooga, Hamilton County, TN, and the surrounding areas with fixed-route bus service, paratransit service, a downtown electric shuttle system, and operates the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. CARTA, the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), the City of Chattanooga, the non-profit Orange Grove Center, and AbleLink Smart Living Technologies, LLC, formed a public-private partnership to help individuals with intellectual disabilities navigate public transit independently.

Michigan Mobility Challenge for Transit Providers to Improve Customer Service for the Visually- and Hearing-Impaired

  • Agencies: Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide); Detroit Department of Transportation; Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART)
  • Location: United States
  • Context: Large urban

TheRide serves the greater Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti region with fixed-route bus service, shared-ride accessible service, vanpools, and express buses. After receiving a Michigan Mobility Challenge Grant, TheRide selected Feonix – Mobility Rising to develop the Connect app, which helps riders with visual and hearing impairments navigate public transit using What3Words.

5 Transportation Research Board. Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 50: Use of Rear-Facing Position for Common Wheelchairs on Transit Buses, available at:, as of August 5, 2020; National Rural Transit Assistance Program. Best Practices Spotlight Article: Wheelchair Charging at Transit Stations and on the Bus, available at: Spotlight/Archive-Wheelchair-Charging, as of August 5, 2020.


Alternative Fuels

Most traditional buses operate on diesel fuel, which is burned in a combustion engine. Carbon dioxide emission from transportation is a major contributor to global climate change – approximately 28 percent of all of the United States’ carbon emissions come from transportation.6 Additional issues with diesel fuel include high cost, low energy efficiency, and limited supply. In response to these challenges, interest in alternative fuel options such as electricity, biofuel, hydrogen, and natural gas has risen in recent years. Transit agency adoption of two promising alternative fuel types, electricity and biofuel, are profiled in this Guidebook. For a closer look at particular promising alternative fuels and energy strategies, please visit the N-CATT website,

Although electric buses may look very similar to a traditional bus from the outside, they operate differently. An electric bus contains a battery that is charged before the bus begins its route. Fully charging a battery takes several hours, even with the most high-powered electric chargers. The most efficient electric buses currently on the market have a maximum range of between 150 and 300 miles on a single charge.7,8,9,10 Table 2 compares electric buses across several metrics to traditional diesel buses and biodiesel buses.

Fuel cost saving is one of the major attractors that drive agencies to adopt electric buses – it is less than half the cost to power an electric bus compared to a traditional diesel bus. Electric buses also require less maintenance due to less moving parts and do not emit tailpipe smog, which improves air quality.

Table 2: Performance Comparison Across Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Traditional Diesel Bus Electric Bus Biodiesel Bus (B20)
Energy Efficiency 3.8 miles per gallon (MPG) 16.5 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) 3.8 miles per gallon (MPG)
Fuel Cost* $2.61 per gasoline gallon equivalent $1.24 per gasoline gallon equivalent $2.36 per gasoline gallon equivalent
Environmental Impact 22.38 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted per gallon of diesel.

Additional emissions include particulate matter and nitrous oxide (NOX)

40% of the total emissions compared to diesel Reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 15% compared to pure diesel.

Comes from a renewable source (organic material such as plants)

*Based on average fuel costs for April of 2020. 11

6 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Greenhouse Gas Emissions, available at: emissions, as of Augsut 5, 2020.

7 BYD. BYD 35’ Eletric Transit Bus, available at:, as of August 21, 2020.

8 Proterra. Catalyst Electric Bus, available at:, as of August 5, 2020.

9 Volvo. New Volvo 7900 Electric offers greater range and flexibility, available at: en/news/2017/oct/new-volvo-7900-electric-offers-greater-range.html, as of August 21, 2020.

10 Mercedes Benz. Mercedes-Benz Citaro with all-electric drive system, available at: emission-free-and-almost-silent-through-the-city.xhtml?oid=33859393, as of August 21, 2020.

11 U.S. Department of Energy. Alternative Fuels Data Center. Alternative Fuel Price Report, available at:, as of August 5, 2020.


Biodiesel is a fuel source that is made from organic matter, typically cooking oil, soybean oil, or animal fat. In general, the biodiesel used in vehicles is a biodiesel blend that contains both the biofuel component and petro-diesel. The most common mixings of biodiesel are B5 and B20, which includes five and 20 percent biofuel, respectively; the remaining fuel in the mixture is petro-diesel. Retrofitting of diesel buses to operate on B20 biodiesel is typically unnecessary. Retrofitting is only necessary if the vehicle is to run on a higher biofuel concentrate such as B100, which is pure biodiesel.

Biodiesel can come from a variety of sources. Commercially produced B5 and B20 biodiesel typically come from soybeans or similarly abundant cash crops. Biodiesel can also be created from waste oil or grease from a commercial kitchen, although this requires cleaning and refining prior to use. B20 biodiesel has nearly the same energy efficiency as traditional diesel fuel but reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about 15 percent. One major limitation with biodiesel is that frigid temperatures can cause fat and oil in the fuel to coagulate, which may obstruct the use of fuel in a vehicle engine.

Alternative Fuels Practices Profiled


Blue Lake Rancheria Transit System Waste Oil to Fuel

  • Agency: Blue Lake Rancheria Transit System
  • Location: Humboldt County, California
  •  Context: Federally-recognized Tribe

Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe operates the Blue Lake Rancheria Transit System (BLRTS), which provides a deviated fixed-route bus service in the Mad River Valley Region. In 2014, the Tribe began construction of a biodiesel conversion apparatus that takes waste cooking oil from the Tribe’s hotel and casino kitchens and converts it into biodiesel. The Tribe began powering their buses using the biodiesel by 2015.

Clemson Area Transit – Electric Bus Fleet

  • Agency Name: Clemson Area Transit (CATbus)
  • Location: Seneca, South Carolina
  • Context: Small urban

Clemson Area Transit (CATbus) was founded in 1996 and serves the towns of Clemson, Central, Pendleton, and Seneca in northwest South Carolina. CATbus is the largest fare-free bus service in the Carolinas, serving around 2 million passengers per year. In 2017, with the addition of 10 Proterra buses to its electric fleet, CATbus’ electric fleet accounted for 50 percent of its total bus fleet.

Asset Management

Public transportation agencies are using asset management software solutions to optimize repair and maintenance operations, aid prioritization of repairs, allow inspectors to input findings through a mobile application, and provide open-source one-stop-shops with a suite of solutions.12 Emerging Internet-of-Things (IOT) solutions incorporate the use of sensors and predictive analytics to identify assets in need of maintenance and repair and help agencies to prioritize asset management work.13 At an organizational level, these tools provide large amounts of data that can be used across departments at an agency, facilitate data-driven decision-making, and help agencies communicate the status of their assets and their funding needs.

Asset management solutions can help agencies with their Federal Transit Administration (FTA) reporting requirements. In July 2016, the FTA published the Transit Asset Management (TAM) Final Rule.14 The TAM rule, which applies to “all recipients of Chapter 53 funds that either own, operate, or manage capital assets used in providing public transportation services,” requires agencies to develop TAM plans (TAMPs) and report asset conditions to the National Transit Database (NTD).15 The TAMPs include an inventory of capital assets, including facilities, equipment, rolling stock, and infrastructure, and details how an agency will ensure that its assets will maintain or achieve a “State of Good Repair” (SGR). A recent American Public Transportation Association report provided an overview of asset management software and guidelines for how to select the appropriate solution.16

Asset Management Practice Profiled


Mountain Line – Asset Management Solution

  • Agency Name: Mountain Line
  • Location: Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Context: Small urban

Mountain Line serves Flagstaff, Arizona, with fixed-route bus service, paratransit, seasonal service, and coordinates shuttle service with Northern Arizona University to move over 2.5 million riders a year (FY 2019). The system includes 78 bus shelters, ten of which are shared with Northern Arizona University, as well as two connection centers and one maintenance shop. Mountain Line uses an IoT-enabled Transit Asset Management (TAM) system, ThingTech, to improve the maintenance work order process by reducing manual data entry.

12 Documoto. LA Metro Implements Integrated Service Solution to Drive Maintenance Efficiency, available at:, as of August 5, 2020; BEM Systems. Asset Management, available at:, as of Augsut 5, 2020; Cambridge Systematics. Asset Performance Management Platform, available at: sheet_mar2020.pdf, as of August 5, 2020.

13 ThingTech. Moving Beyond Transit Asset Management by Leveraging IoT, available at:, as of August 5, 2020.

14 Federal Register. Transit Asset Management; National Transit Database, A Rule by the Federal Transit Administration on 07/26/2016, available at: asset-management-national-transit-database, as of August 5, 2020.

15 U.S. Department of Transportation. Federal Transit Administration. Transit Asset Management: Top 12 Frequently Asked Questions, available at:, as of August 5, 2020.

16 American Public Transportation Association. Standards Development Program Recommended Practice: Procuring Software to Support Transit Asset Management, available at: TAM-RP-008-20.pdf, as of August 5, 2020.

Passenger Information and General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS)/GTFS-Flex

Passenger information allows travelers to know not only what transportation services are available near them, but also when, where, and how they can access these services. Today, riders are often looking for passenger information via a number of devices, including computers, mobile devices (using a variety of agency-created and third-party apps), and passenger information screens at bus shelters or transit stations, in addition to traditional bus schedules. General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) is used as a standard format for making trip planning accessible for public use on interactive web- based applications as well as through third-party websites or mobile applications. Transit information providers rely on GTFS to obtain scheduled trip times and routes, and in instances where real-time vehicle location is made available, they can also provide passengers with real-time information on vehicle location and predicted arrival times. When agencies provide real-time passenger information, uncertainty around wait times is reduced, and people are more likely to choose transit for a given trip. Although most urban and many rural fixed-route transit services use GTFS to make their schedule and route information public, GTFS use is now expanding to capture multi-modal and demand-response services as well. For a closer look at GTFS and GTFS Flex, please visit the N-CATT website,

For many rural, small town, and tribal transit providers, which tend to rely heavily on demand-response or other flexible services, GTFS became a much more useful option with the rollout of GTFS-Flex. Before the introduction of GTFS-Flex, GTFS was only useful for fixed-route services that operate on a regular schedule with trips starting and ending at bus stops. GTFS-Flex adapts standard GTFS to account for a variety of flexible services, including demand-response services, deviated fixed-route services, and fixed- route services with flag stops. GTFS-Flex will enable more transit agencies to offer trip planning and transit service information solutions to their riders.17

Passenger Information and General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS)/GTFS-Flex Practice Profiled

Go Vermont! Trip Planner

  • Agency Name: Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans)
  • Location: Vermont
  • Context: Rural

In 2018, Go! Vermont launched a trip planner that incorporated both GTFS and GTFS Flex, allowing the trip planner to provide more options than private-sector counterparts. The GTFS Flex function is especially useful in the rural parts of the state, where fixed-route bus services are less common than demand- response services.

17 Trip Planning Tools for Flexible Transit Services TRB International Conference on Demand Responsive and Innovative Transportation Services. Trip Planning Tools for Flexible Transit Services, Presentation by Paul Sorensen, Cambridge Systematics, April 15, 2019, available at:, as of August 5, 2020.

Computer-Aided Dispatch and Automatic Vehicle Location (CAD/AVL)

CAD/AVL systems connect vehicles to scheduling and dispatching software. These systems collect crucial data used by dispatchers to keep bus drivers on-schedule and communicate breakdowns and emergencies from the field to office staff. AVL also provides bus global position system (GPS) locations that can feed into real-time passenger information applications.

Traditionally these CAD/AVL systems were limited to large agencies that could afford complex, bundled CAD/AVL solutions. However, innovations that reduce the need for capital investments are emerging18 that are helping to expand their use outside of their more traditional urban contexts. Vehicles equipped with off- the-shelf GPS hardware, such as smartphones or tablets and Software as a Service (SaaS) business models are among these innovations. These new technologies are allowing smaller agencies to take operation advantages of a CAD/AVL and real-time passenger information (RTPI) systems that are cheaper and more adaptable.

Computer-Aided Dispatch and Automatic Vehicle Location (CAD/AVL) Practice Profiled

Portneuf’s Smartphone CAD/AVL and Fare Collection System

  • Agency Name: Corporation de Transport Régional de Portneuf (CTRP)
  • Location: Portneuf Regional County Municipality, Canada
  • Context: Small urban, rural

CTRP provides public transportation in the municipalities of the Portneuf Regional County Municipality, a region with a population slightly above 50,000, in Quebec, Canada. CTRP operates two commuter routes to Quebec City, deviated fixed-route service within the Portneuf Regional County Municipality and to Quebec City for older adults, and paratransit service. Advanced reservations via phone are required for the deviated fixed-route and paratransit services, and trip payment can be made with cash or smartcards. For the commuter service, riders can choose to purchase monthly passes online or at over 20 physical stores in 16 cities in the region.

18 World Resources Institute. Real-Time Transit Data Is Good for People and Cities. What’s Holding This Technology Back, available at: canales/, as of August 5, 2020.

Fare Payment

The use of mobile fare payment apps has grown in the last several years. Transit agencies can choose from a wide variety of payment and validation methods, business models, and companies to implement mobile fare payment systems. With mobile fares, riders download the app from a mobile app store, enter payment information or link the app with an existing transit account, board the vehicle, and validate their fares. Mobile fare payment can improve rider satisfaction since it helps reduce waiting times for ticket purchases, doesn’t require riders to carry cash for on-board payment, and is often integrated with real-time location information and trip planning tools.

From a transit agency perspective, wide-scale mobile fare payment use has potential operational and administrative cost benefits. These include reduced driver burdens for cash payments or fare validation and reduced dwell times by eliminating on-board fare payment. Agencies can also select from a few validation methods, such as mobile tickets that can be displayed on a smartphone screen and validated by drivers, or barcodes or Quick Response (QR) codes that riders scan on their own but may require upgraded fareboxes or new scanning devices. Given the number of products and companies offering mobile fare payment systems, agencies can select a system that matches their needs and can scale it accordingly, often with few initial costs.

Mobile Fare Payment Practices Profiled


Mobile Fare Payment Technologies

  • Agency/Company Name: Numerous agencies and providers in North America Location:
  • North America
  • Context: Rural, Small urban, and Large urban


Microtransit is a technology-enabled demand-response service that provides on-demand access to transit via requests from mobile applications, as well as via phone or internet trip requests. Like other types of demand-response service, microtransit is typically operated with smaller vehicles (e.g., cutaways, minivans). However, specialized microtransit software is used to dynamically generate routes that respond to rider requests in real-time with wait times measured in minutes from trip requests. Operational models can include services operated by public agencies, services operated in whole or in part by private vendors, as well as fully private microtransit operations. Microtransit may operate within specific zones and serve any location within a zone, or operate from specific points (e.g., bus stops or transit stations) at one or both ends of a trip. Another hallmark of microtransit service is that it allows for electronic payment (typically via a mobile application) and provides real-time information to passengers on vehicle location and wait times.19

Transit agencies across the country, in rural, suburban, and urban communities, have implemented microtransit services to serve a variety of purposes. Microtransit has been used to enhance coverage and service quality in lower-density areas where transit demand is deemed too low to support fixed-route services, it has been used to facilitate access to transit (i.e., connecting areas otherwise unserved by transit to bus stops or train stations to enable access to a transit system), and as an alternative service model in lieu of fixed-route or other types of demand response service on a broad scale (i.e., full or large scale replacement of existing services with microtransit.)20

Microtransit Practice Profiled

Johnson County, Kan. Flex Service Pilot

  • Agency Name: Johnson County, Kansas
  • Location: Metro Kansas City, KS
  • Context: Large urban

In 2019, Johnson County, Kansas, located in the Kansas City metropolitan area, implemented a demand- response service to connect residents to fixed-route transit. The service quickly grew, with the number of vehicles needed to provide the service more than doubling in the space of a few months, spurring ridership growth on the county’s fixed-route services as well. In 2020, Johnson County has simultaneously had to work to ensure that the program continues to meet demand, while also navigating the constraints of COVID-19 related capacity and budget issues.

19 Shared Use Mobility Center. Learning Module, Microtransit, available at:, as of August 6, 2020.

20 Transportation Research Board. Transportation Research Board. Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Project H-56: Redesigning Public Transportation Networks for a New Mobility Future. Forthcoming.

Mobility Hubs

As micromobility options such as shared bicycles and scooters have grown in popularity over the past decade, governments and transit agencies have increasingly seen the need to integrate them into broader transportation networks, improving mobility by making it easier to use these options as a first or last-mile connection to other modes of transportation. Mobility Hubs have emerged as a potential solution to this problem, creating “focal points” that not only maximize connectivity between modes but can also serve a placemaking function, turning an ordinary intersection into a community gathering place.21

Mobility Hubs are designed to make the most of emerging technologies, taking advantage of the growth in micromobility to expand the reach of traditional transit services. For smaller transit providers, Mobility Hubs may help make the most of limited resources. Additionally, Mobility Hubs can also improve access to social services and commerce for vulnerable communities, with many governments looking at Mobility Hubs as a community gathering spot at which resources can be distributed.22

Mobility Hubs Practice Profiled

Minneapolis Mobility Hubs Pilot

  • Agency: City of Minneapolis
  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Context: Large urban

The Minneapolis Mobility Hubs Pilot increases access to convenient, low or no carbon transportation options by creating centers where riders can transfer between these modes easily. Implemented in September of 2019, the original pilot covered 12 locations marked by specially designed wayfinding signs in North, Northeast, and South Minneapolis. Mobility hubs include seating, bikeshare docks, transit stops (often on high-frequency routes), and designated parking locations for dockless shared bikes and scooters. In this year’s pilot, the City expanded the number of locations in their Mobility Hub program and is now pivoting hub usage to respond to the new needs of the community due to COVID-19 and civil unrest. The City will be working with local community partners to identify the evolving needs of the low-income neighborhoods disproportionately impacted and use the Hubs as a neighborhood level distribution point.

21 Los Angeles Department of City Planning, Urban Design Studio. Mobility Hubs: A Readers Guide, available at:, as of August 5, 2020.

22 Transit Forward Rhode Island. Transit Master Plan, Mobility Hubs:, as of August 5, 2020.