Using Technology to Improve Transit Connectivity

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) is working with WSP USA to develop an approach to mobile communication that would link multiple forms of transportation and create a seamless traveling experience.

UTA is creating an Innovative Mobility Solutions Strategic Plan designed to improve transit access through passenger engagement with innovative mobility.

“The strategic plan will help align UTA’s vision and goals with internal and external opportunities,” said Sahar Shirazi, project manager for WSP.

WSP is helping UTA develop and pilot Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) as a program to benefit new and existing transit riders, a microtransit pilot program to improve transit access, and an autonomous vehicle demonstration project in partnership with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT).

Shirazi organized and manages the project team, which is responsible for writing strategic plans, operations plans and guidance, reviewing legislation and research, and facilitating coordination amongst various partners, stakeholders and potential funders.

MaaS would create a unified portal, such as a smartphone app or website, to link travelers with transportation services from public and private providers. MaaS would organize and manage the trip, which could combine multiple transportation services to meet an individual’s specific travel needs. The trip would then be combined into one fare, which would then be debited from a personal MaaS account after the trip is completed.

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©DAVID SAILORS/WSP USA

Mobility-as-a-Service would create a unified portal, such as a smartphone app or website, to link travelers with transportation services from public and private providers.

MaaS Movement

Work on the strategic plan began last summer, and since then, WSP has helped UTA achieve several milestones.

UTA was the winner of the first round of the American Dreams Ideas Challenge, earning a $10,000 prize to form an implementation plan for the project, entitled “Maas Movement,” in Salt Lake City. MaaS Movement is a partnership with Salt Lake City, UDOT, and UTA, with support from various academic and private stakeholders.

“The goal of MaaS Movement is to reduce vehicle usage for middle class families in Salt Lake City, and reduce transportation costs while achieving multiple benefits such as increased transit ridership, environmental benefits and increased connectivity,” Shirazi said.

WSP is coordinating the project development and grant application process across stakeholders, conducting background research and writing white papers, assisting with the business and partnership models, creating a framework and methodology for metrics and evaluation, and pulling together presentation and submission materials for the grant application.

That success continued when MaaS Movement also won the second round of the American Dreams Ideas Challenge, receiving a $30,000 prize to finalize the MaaS Movement plan. WSP is currently engaged in finalizing the details for submission into the final round, for a grant prize of $1million.

WSP has been conducting background research for the innovative mobility strategic plan, including planned internal and external stakeholder coordination, and is in the process of writing a draft for the plan.

The firm is also supporting a collaborative effort between UTA and UDOT to develop autonomous vehicle shuttle demonstration projects.

“WSP has assisted in the background considerations and organization of the overall project, and continues to support the project through safety and operations plans, website development and communications, and evaluation framework and metrics,” Shirazi said.

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©DAVID SAILORS/WSP USA

UTA hopes its planned microtransit pilot program will establish a seamless door-to-door transit experience for commuters.

Microtransit Pilot

To create what UTA hopes will become a seamless door-to-door transit experience, WSP is providing support for a microtransit pilot program that would create travelling alternatives designed to improve lives through addressing first mile/last mile issues, reducing traffic congestion, increasing efficiency and improve air quality throughout the Wasatch Front region of Northcentral Utah.

Microtransit service operations would vary based upon the region served and each community’s transportation needs. Microtransit components could include on-demand service, call-ahead service, subscription service, scheduled service points, connections to fixed route transit services or popular locations, provisions for smaller or electric vehicles, shuttle services, telephone scheduling and smartphone applications for scheduling and payment.

“First/last mile solutions for transit agencies present an ideal opportunity for partnership,” Shirazi said. “Micro-mobility providers, such as bike share and scooter share services; transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft; and eventually driverless cars may increase access to destinations, increase transit ridership, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through reduced personal vehicle usage.”

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©DAVID SAILORS/WSP USA

WSP is helping UTA develop and pilot Mobility-as-a-Service as a program to benefit transit riders who use services like the UTA TRAX light rail system.

Successful Relationship

WSP has had a long and successful relationship working with UTA on transit over the past several years, and played a key role in the design of its FrontLine 2015 program that was completed in 2013, which included:

  • Mid-Jordan TRAX, a 10.6-mile, nine-station light rail line that opened in August 2011.
  • West Valley City TRAX, a five-mile, four-station light rail line that also opened in August 2011.
  • FrontRunner, a 45-mile, eight-station commuter rail line completed in December 2012, connecting the cities of Ogden and Provo to Salt Lake City.
  • Airport TRAX, a six-mile, six-station light rail line extending from downtown Salt Lake City to Salt Lake International Airport completed in April 2013.
  • The Draper TRAX light rail, a 3.8-mile extension extending the Blue Line south of Salt Lake City to Draper City.

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