Fort Erie Case Study - Transition from Fixed-Route to On-Demand Transit

Bonnie Powell, Colin Endsley, Stan Young, Andy Duvall, Josh Sperling, Rick Grahn

Research output: NRELPresentation


Rural and smaller-sized communities in North America face unique mobility challenges due to their low population density, lower public transit spending per capita compared to major cities, and a high reliance on private vehicles. In recent years, communities such as Fort Erie, Ontario, have restructured or advanced their public transit systems using on-demand services. Fort Erie is a relatively sparsely populated region of 32,901 residents, spread across a land area of 166 square kilometers (64 square miles), for an average population density of 193 residents per square kilometer (500 per square mile). In October 2021, the town implemented a mobility-on-demand system integrated with smartphone software to replace its fixed-route community bus system, which consisted of four buses with three routes, each with a roughly 1-hour, one-way loop. The new service utilizes a fleet of six minivans, two of which are retrofitted with wheelchair-accessible ramps. The system may require that a passenger requesting a standard van walk up to 400 meters (a quarter mile) to their pickup location to optimize vehicle routing while providing origin-to-destination service. The on-demand system proved effective in providing service, eclipsing pre-pandemic ridership by 40%, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions per ride by 63%, and decreasing the cost to the town per ride by 29%. This report documents both the previous system and the new system in terms of routes, ridership, costs, fuel, and other notable system parameters. This work is part of an ongoing series of case studies on providing small communities with on-demand, right-sized vehicle service coupled with a smartphone application.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages24
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 102nd Annual Meeting, 8-12 January 2023, Washington, D.C.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5400-83229


  • decarbonization
  • emerging technology
  • energy efficiency
  • equity
  • mobility services
  • on-demand transit
  • public transportation
  • resiliency
  • rural mobility
  • smart infrastructure
  • sustainability


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