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Breaking Ground on Existing Roads

Sean Long (CEP ’20) shares updates on his senior project

Written by Matthew Bauman (CEP ’21)

Is it possible we’ve overlooked the most responsive, precise way to provide transit to urbanizing areas? CEP senior Sean Long has devoted his senior project to “micro-transit.” These systems use ride-sharing minivans or similar vehicles, often summoned by riders similarly to Uber, to make connections between people’s homes and distant transit stops.

“My parents happen to live in South Seattle, and I saw a flyer for a new small-scale micro-transit pilot project,” Sean explains. “I decided to do my senior project on it because it has been piloted in many other cities, and would help people take shorter trips and connect to transit without using their cars.”

Sean’s project will analyze hard data from case studies of similar pilots in other cities, especially those run by King County’s “Via to Transit,” the micro-transit pilot currently operating in South Seattle. He sees the most useful application of these services as reducing the number of transfers taken between buses and the Link light rail, as well as reducing walking times and bus-stopping times during these transfers. The system could also provide ride sharing to historically car-dominant areas that do not have as many bus routes.

When asked about the low ridership and high costs of the similar “Via to Transit” services and how Seattle’s can be more successful, Sean explains that Seattle is a very dense city, and South Seattle has been unjustly under-served. King County Metro is pushing for “Via to Transit” to be integrated into the city’s main transit system to help residents reach existing bus stops, cost-benefit analyses permitting. “It’s a matter of whether [King County] Metro is getting the relative value for the money,” he summarizes.

The town of Innisfil, Ontario, a case study for Sean’s project, uniquely partnered with Uber and Barrie-Innisfil Taxi to replace traditional bus services for its 37,000 residents. During their 2016 Budget Deliberations, they found this micro-transit arrangement to be more feasible and suitable to their needs than the operation of two city buses annually, although fares did rise in 2019.

Sean is passionate about the community-oriented nature of the major and the closeness offered by the CEP cohort system. He finds these aspects of the program unique on a campus known for large majors in even larger departments. He looks forward to obtaining and diving into the data from “Via to Transit,” Innisfil’s system and other sources, and hopes to break ground using the roads we already have.

Additional Links:

  • Ride with Via
  • King County’s Via to Transit
  • Innisfil Transit FAQs