MaaS Model Success: DCTA’s Lewisville Lakeway On-Demand Microtransit Service

March 12, 2020
DCTA replaced fixed route service with microtransit in January 2019 that provides flexible routes and on-demand scheduling.

With the rise in demand for customized, on-demand mobility options, transit agencies across the county are turning to non-conventional and innovative solutions to improve access and mobility for passengers. Nearly 80 percent of commuters see public transit as the backbone of a lifestyle that includes current and future technologies, such as ride-hailing (i.e. Uber and Lyft), bike and car-share, autonomous vehicles (AVs), scooters and other future emerging innovations, according to a study by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

As commuter behaviors change and congestion increases, passengers want more seamless, integrated mobility and the Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) is adapting to this change. In January 2019, DCTA launched a new on-demand, microtransit service that provides real-time travel options for those needing to access the Lakeway Business Park area in Lewisville – one of DCTA’s member cities – and surrounding businesses in the designated zone. This was one of the first times the agency  launched a service of this kind with the goal to drastically improve access to an industrial park that has long been underserved by traditional transit.

Replacing Fixed-Route Service with Real-Time Mobility Options

For the past few years, DCTA’s Lewisville Connect Route 21, which operates in a prominent business park area, had low-trending ridership and was not cost effective for the agency. DCTA’s leadership team took the innovative approach of replacing the fixed route with microtransit service – a trending mobility option that fits within the Mobility as a Service (Maas) model profile that public transit agencies across the country are quickly adapting. This mobility option offers real-time flexible routing and scheduling of vehicles.

DCTA utilizes software from Spare Labs – a company focused on building shared mobility technology – which enables the agency to provide on-demand service for passengers to request a ride in real time and the ability to optimize service. Spare Labs is one of the firms that was selected by DCTA for its new MaaS contract model, which the agency’s board of directors approved DCTA to move forward with in May 2019.

“Service innovation is a key priority for DCTA, and the expansion of our microtransit on-demand service in Lewisville is another way we can meet the changing needs of our riders by providing alternative, affordable and convenient modes of transportation that improve mobility for the many communities we serve,” said DCTA CEO Raymond Suarez.

Like Uber and Lyft, DCTA-branded vehicles carry a handful of riders at a time within the designated Lewisville Lakeway zone. The vehicles have seating for 12 passengers and are accessible to passengers with a mobility device. The driver has an iPad enabled with GPS showing the shortest route to get passengers to their individual destinations.

The agency’s Lewisville Lakeway On-Demand service costs the same as its standard fixed-route service and operates Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Riders can book a trip in the Lewisville Lakeway Zone in real time via the Spare Rider mobile app, which can be downloaded from the Apple and Google Play store or by calling 940-243-0077. Payment is proven by showing the operator a Local Day Pass, AM/PM Pass, Regional Pass or a student ID when a rider boards the vehicle.

The Spare Rider mobile app or a DCTA customer service representative directs riders to the most appropriate stop for pick up and drop off locations. Passenger wait and travel times each average less than six minutes. The service includes a mixture of current physical bus stops, as well as virtual stops within the mobile app. In addition, the Lewisville Lakeway On-Demand zone includes DCTA’s Hebron station which serves as a main rail hub to ensure seamless connectivity with the agency’s transit system.

How DCTA and Riders Benefit from Microtransit Service

DCTA’s Lewisville Lakeway On-Demand service was able to solve various challenges for passengers and the agency. One of the main advantages of the service is enhancing the passenger experience by operating a small-scale, on-demand vehicle that provides flexible routes and on-demand scheduling. Below are more ways DCTA’s microstransit service is beneficial to the agency and passengers:

Benefits to DCTA:

  • Increased ridership in the area because of the flexibility of use and the feel of individual response.
  • More cost effective to operate than traditional fixed bus route service.
  • Spare Lab software gives DCTA drivers the ability to add a walk up rider and pool trips to ensure booked trips are shared to shorten rider wait times.
  • Promo codes can be added to offer passengers free rides or discounts for marketing efforts. 

Benefits to Riders:

  • Customer-friendly mobile app and trip scheduling process.
  • Rider ability to book a trip on their on time and track their ride in real time.
  • Direct link to other DCTA bus stops and A-train stations.
  • Programmed banner announcements within the mobile app for a user to view that can be marked at priority level.

Innovative Program Leads to Successful Ridership and Positive Future Outlook

In 2019, DCTA’s Lewisville Lakeway On-Demand service carried just under 10,000 passengers in the designated zone with a monthly average ridership of 830 passengers. Within the first few months of the service, DCTA experienced an initial growth of 43 percent and waiting times went down 29 percent. In comparison, the previous Lewisville Connect Route 21 fixed route that served the area frequently showed lower ridership and was not as cost-effective per trip as the new microtransit service.

“There is a changing landscape in the public transportation industry,” Suarez said. "Riders want different options beyond traditional fixed-route services and DCTA has become more flexible to meet our community’s needs with more innovative mobility solutions.” 

Last year, DCTA conducted its biannual Passenger Satisfaction Survey in which the agency received a total of 2,629 responses, which is equal to 20 percent of the average daily ridership for April 2019. Below are positive survey highlights of customer feedback of the agency’s Lewisville Lakeway On-Demand service, including:

  • 94 percent of respondents rated DCTA’s Lewisville Lakeway On-Demand service as “excellent” or “good.”
  • 83 percent of survey respondents also said they would book a trip via a mobile app, making the possibility for growth accessible and accepted by the community.

Due to the service’s success, the agency is considering a potential expansion in the future that could include a wider zone to include more businesses and residential areas in the Lewisville area that would positively impact the community.

“Our Lewisville Lakeway On-Demand service is the next step in DCTA’s plan to explore newer, more cost-effective ways to provide service to its customers,” Suarez said.


Kayla Laird is communications coordinator for DCTA.