Intra-neighborhood (tertiary) transit revisited because of new San Diego service
In my framework for transit planning, I define the center city transit network in terms of three subnetworks; primary; secondary; and tertiary. These are not mode specific. From past writings (but with some edits):
A framework for an all encompassing DC-MD-VA transit network
Meta (or Multi-state) Regional Transit Network: MARC and VRE service ideally combined into one multi-state compact and system, with service as far south as Norfolk and as far north as Wilmington, DE and Harrisburg, PA, and west to Charlottesville, VA (or beyond), with intermodal stations connecting to heavy and light rail transit systems; supplemented by Amtrak. This could include railroad and water-based transportation.
Washington Metropolitan Transit Network: WMATA subway system; ferry system if added; cross-jurisdictional bus rapid transit; commuter services oriented to moving people between the jurisdiction and major job centers within the region, across jurisdictional boundaries (i.e., OmniRide from Prince William County, which provides commuter-oriented service to Metro stations and job centers, with an end point in DC [and back] or the MTA Commuter buses).
Suburban Primary Transit Network: transit systems operated by Counties and Cities in the Washington region providing bus, streetcar, and light rail service within the suburbs, and connections to stations within the regional transit network. Transit service in this category is classified by speed and destination.
Suburban Secondary Transit Network: service within suburban cities (i.e., Falls Church, Alexandria) and counties (PG, Montgomery, Arlington, Fairfax) that is intra-jurisdictional.
Center City (DC) Primary Transit Network: Core of the WMATA system in DC (31 stations); streetcar system; Downtown Circulator bus service; Georgetown Connector shuttle service; foundational "main line" WMATA bus services; bus rapid/rapider transit.
Center City (DC) Secondary Transit Network: the other 9 subway stations in the city; streetcar lines; other WMATA bus service within the city; water taxi service if added, depending on the routes.
Center City (DC) Tertiary Transit Network: intra-neighborhood bus services including limited access shuttle services (i.e., Washington Hospital Center to/from Brookland Metro, university transit systems, etc.).
The Tertiary transit subnetwork is focused on intra-district mobility, getting between home and the supermarket, restaurants, transit stations, and neighborhood commercial districts. Also see "Making the case for intra-city vs. inter-city transit planning."
To do this sustainably can be tough for locations outside of the one mile catchment area of such destinations.
This map shows one mile radii from Metrorail stations on the western leg of the Red Line in Upper Northwest Washington, DC. Many parts of the community west of the stations are outside of a typical catchment areas.
So people drive. Which creates another challenge, accommodating cars ("Parking districts vs. transportation/urban management districts: Part one, Bethesda" and "Parking districts vs. transportation/urban management districts: Part two, Takoma DC/Takoma Park Maryland").
San Diego's new mobility service for Downtown. San Diego just introduced a service called FRED, which stands for "free ride everywhere downtown" ("‘FRED’:Downtown free shuttle launching Tuesday: Ad-backed service aims to ease parking panic," San Diego Union-Tribune), provides point-to-point transit between parking garages and destinations anywhere in the commercial district. From the article:
Operated by New York-based Free Ride, the all-electric, open-air vehicles will cruise downtown from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and later on weekends. You can either stand at a corner and wave down one of the distinctive blue, five-passenger cars or download an app via the company website, thefreeride.com/fred, and request a driver. The goal is to pick you up within eight minutes — and alleviate the anxiety of finding a parking place.The idea is to get people to park and move around the district on foot, with some assistance from secure transit.
Part of the reason this service can succeed is that it will be paid for in part from parking meter revenues, although the service operator seems to believe that long term, they can pay for the operation on advertising and sponsorships.
The operator, New York Free Ride, runs similar services in other tourist communities in California, New York, New Jersey, and Florida.
A service like this was attempted on Capitol Hill right around when the Washington Nationals stadium opened, in hopes that game attendees would patronize Capitol Hill businesses before or after the game, but it didn't last, in large part because it relied on sponsorships, not a dedicated funding stream. It was run by a company out of Annapolis ("Annapolis eCruisers gets new ownership, new plan," Annapolis Capital-Gazette).
Orange County funding program for intra-community transit. The Orange County Transportation Authority is a multi-faceted transportation agency, running toll roads, transit services, transportation demand management, and other programs.
One OCTA program provides funding to local communities for intra-city transit service, shuttles mostly and typically focused on tourists and employees, designed to encourage people to park and get around from place to place within the city by transit. The funding source is a county sales tax add-on earmarked for transit. Most often, these services are free.
Community Based Transit/Circulators (Project V). This program establishes a competitive program for local jurisdictions to develop local bus transit services such as community based circulators, shuttles and bus trolleys that complement regional bus and rail services, and meet needs in areas not adequately served by regional transit.The OCTA program is a good model for cities like DC in terms of modeling a funding process for the creation and maintenance of neighborhood focused "tertiary transit services," Depending on the need, it could fund either fixed route services, like how it is used in various Orange County cities to serve the tourist economy, or simpler, more flexible services designed to serve residents, not visitors, as a way to promote sustainable mobility and to manage scarce parking resources and traffic (see "Understanding why Upper Northwest DC residents don't buy into the sustainability mobility paradigm").
Note that Tempe, Arizona's Orbit system is another model, a fixed route program with flag stops, but focused on serving residents, not tourists.
Areas of DC where I could see "FRED" type services being useful would be Capitol Hill, Takoma, Cleveland Park, Brookland, and East of the River, for areas of the community outside of the typical walking distance of transit stations and services.
STM enhances collective taxi in Senneville," Metro Montreal.
Shared taxi services as another model. Note that "shared taxi services," such as the taxibus program at the outer edges of Montreal's transit system, are another example of a way to provide tertiary transit service, as are jitney type services like Bridg.
But these services involve fares--cheaper than Uber or Lyft, but more expensive than a typical bus fare--and usually require reservations.
Also see the CityLab article, "A Denver Suburb Bets Big on Free Lyft Rides to Light Rail," which discusses other tertiary network experiments in Centennial, Colorado and Kansas City.
Regularized funding is a must for community focused tertiary transit services. To succeed, these programs need regularized funding, from sources like parking meter revenues, dedicated taxes, etc. Sponsorships and advertising aren't enough, especially at the neighborhood scale, where significant funding isn't likely to be available from small businesses.
One size doesn't fit all: Fit the program to the need, not the need to a static program. Flexibility is also a necessity. Traditional fixed route services, and large or even small buses, aren't necessarily the right solution for tertiary transit service. What works depends on the nature of the trip and where the area fits within the transit framework. A solution appropriate for a center city is likely unworkable in a suburban community.