Shuttle Services

Shuttle Buses, Jitneys and Free Transit Zones


TDM Encyclopedia

Victoria Transport Policy Institute


Updated 29 May 2015

This chapter describes various types of shuttle services, including circulating shuttle buses, demand response and other special mobility services, jitneys and free transit zones.




Shuttle Services include a variety of transportation services that use small buses or vans to provide public mobility. They are a type of Public Transit. Shuttle Services include:


·         Circulating Shuttles carry passengers for short trips along busy corridors, including business districts, employment and education campuses, and parks or recreation areas. They may connect major activity centers, such as a transit station and a commercial center. Shuttle Services may be provided during periods of unusually high demand, during Special Events and as an overflow Parking Solution. Such Shuttles may be free or require a small fare.


·         Demand-Response paratransit includes various types of flexible route transit service using small buses, vans or shared taxis. These are more appropriate than fixed transit service for some applications, such as off-peak service, or service in lower-density areas. Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) consists of small, automated vehicles that provide door-to-door transit service on demand.


·         Special Mobility Services are demand response paratransit to provide mobility to people with disabilities. They use vans and small buses designed to accommodate people in wheelchairs, or who have other special needs (Universal Design). Such services can be provided by transit agencies or non-profit organizations.


·         Jitney services use vans or small buses to provide self-financing, privately operated transit service. Jitneys ply busier corridors. Riders are charged a modest fare. In developing countries these are often a primary type of public transit. In North America they often augment conventional public transit.


·         Mobility-to-Work programs often involving special reverse-commute Shuttle Services between low-income neighborhoods and suburban employment centers. These services may be operated by transit agencies, social service agencies, or private contractors funded through government grants.


·         Some major commercial centers have a free transit service zone.


·         Some colleges offer special late night Shuttle Services after regular transit service ends (Campus Transport Management).


·         Businesses, such as hotels, offer Shuttle Services for customers who arrive without a car. This can be part of Tourist Transportation Management.



How it is Implemented

Shuttle Services are usually implemented by a transit agency, downtown business association, developer, campus administration, or businesses. There are many possible funding sources, including transit budgets, local improvement districts, grants and revenues. Taxi Improvements can help implement Shuttle Services. Regulatory Reforms may be needed to eliminate restrictions private jitney service and other types of innovative Shuttle Services that could be provided by private companies.



Travel Impacts

Travel impacts vary depending on circumstances. Shuttles can substitute for part or all of a vehicle trip, and can support many other TDM strategies. For example, circulation Shuttles in commercial centers or resort areas may allow more people to use alternative transportation rather than a car or taxi. Shuttle buses often increase use of public transit, ridesharing and non-motorized transport. Spielberg and Pratt (2004) describe various factors affecting the travel impacts of demand response transit services, including feeder service to main transit routes, and special mobility services. They find that where such service is provided, demand typically averages 2 to 3 annual trips per capita, with higher rates in more urbanized areas. Demand for special mobility services for people with significant disabilities averages about 0.25 annual rides per capita.


Table 1          Travel Impact Summary

Travel Impact



Reduces total traffic.


Helps reduce automobile travel.

Reduces peak period traffic.



Shifts peak to off-peak periods.



Shifts automobile travel to alternative modes.



Improves access, reduces the need for travel.



Increased ridesharing.


Includes some types of vanpooling.

Increased public transit.


Is a form of public transit.

Increased cycling.



Increased walking.


Support pedestrian-oriented land use.

Increased Telework.



Reduced freight traffic.



Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.



Benefits And Costs

Shuttle service benefits depend on the type of service, the type of users, and other factors (Social Benefits of Public Transit). Shuttle Services can provide mobility for non-drivers and people who use alternative modes, substitute for automobile trips, support other TDM strategies, and allow the use of off-site parking spaces. Since Shuttles are most often provided at times and in places where demand is high, they can provide significant congestion reduction benefits. They can reduce parking demand when they substitute for entire car trips, or they can shift parking to less expensive locations. They usually provide consumer savings and increase Transport Choice. They provide safety and environmental benefits to the degree that they reduce total motor vehicle travel. Some Shuttles, such as paratransit service for people with disabilities, cause little or no reduction in automobile travel, their benefits consist primarily of improved mobility for people who are transportation disadvantaged.


Costs are primarily the expenses of operating the Shuttle Services. Spielberg and Pratt (2004) discuss the costs of these services. Since Shuttle vehicles themselves impose externalities (roadway costs, accident risk, pollution, etc.) they may provide little benefit if they fail to attract riders and do not reduce overall motor vehicle use.


Table 2          Benefit Summary




Congestion Reduction


Reduces car travel and supports other TDM.

Road & Parking Savings


Reduces car travel and supports other TDM.

Consumer Savings


Reduces users’ car and parking expenses.

Transport Choice


Increases transport choice.

Road Safety


Reduces car travel and supports other TDM.

Environmental Protection


Reduces car travel and supports other TDM.

Efficient Land Use


Reduces car travel and supports other TDM.

Community Livability


Reduces car traffic and supports other TDM.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.



Equity Impacts

Equity impacts vary depending on the type of service. Most Shuttles serve the general public (i.e., anybody can use them), although they usually benefit some groups more than others. Shuttle Services often require subsidies, although some are self-financing. Some Shuttles provide affordable mobility to lower-income and transportation disadvantaged people. Many improve basic mobility by providing transport to education, employment and medical services.


Table 3          Equity Summary




Treats everybody equally.


Usually benefits most groups.

Individuals bear the costs they impose.


Often requires subsidies.

Progressive with respect to income.


Increase mobility options for lower income people.

Benefits transportation disadvantaged.


Increase mobility options for nondrivers.

Improves basic mobility.


Increases basic mobility options.

Rating from 3 (very beneficial) to –3 (very harmful). A 0 indicates no impact or mixed impacts.




Circulation Shuttles are most appropriate in activity centers during periods of heavy demand, particularly if there are significant traffic or parking problems, including large commercial and employment centers, college campuses, and resort communities. Paratransit services are appropriate in almost any community.


Table 4          Application Summary





Large urban region.


Federal government.


High-density, urban.


State/provincial government.


Medium-density, urban/suburban.


Regional government.




Municipal/local government.


Low-density, rural.


Business Associations/TMA.


Commercial center.


Individual business.


Residential neighborhood.




Resort/recreation area.


Neighborhood association.






Ratings range from 0 (not appropriate) to 3 (very appropriate).




Improved Transport Choice



Relationships With Other TDM Strategies

Shuttle Services can be an important part of Transportation Demand Management program, and Parking Management efforts. They can support various other TDM strategies, including Commute Trip Reduction, Campus Trip Management, Transit Service Improvements, HOV Priority, Taxi Improvements and Special Event Transportation Management. Regulatory Reforms may be needed for some Shuttle Services.




Shuttle Services require support of a lead organization, such as a transit agency or downtown association, and a funding source. Merchant groups, employers, and user groups may be involved in planning and supporting the service.



Barriers To Implementation

Shuttle Services require support and funding. There is sometimes opposition from transit drivers’ organizations who oppose the use of lower-wage drivers. Motor carrier regulations limit development of Shuttle Services in many jurisdictions.



Best Practices


·         Shuttles should be implemented as part of an overall TDM program that includes pedestrian and transit service improvements, marketing, parking management and pricing, and other appropriate strategies.


·         Shuttle Services should be considered when planning events or centers that will generate heavy traffic, and as a way to deal with transportation problems during special times or events.


·         Motor Vehicle Carrier regulations should be reformed to allow private companies to provide jitney service, particularly where such service does not complete directly for curbspace with existing scheduled transit services.



Wit and Humor

After completing one room, a carpet installer takes a cigarette break. Finding them missing from his pocket he begins searching, only to notice a small lump in the just-installed carpet. Not wanting to rip up his work for a lousy pack of cigarettes he simply walks over and pounds the lump flat. He decides to forgo the break continues on to the next rooms to be carpeted.


At the end of the day he’s completed his work and loading his tools into his trucks when two events occur almost simultaneously: he spies his pack of cigarettes on the dashboard of the truck, and the lady of the house calls out, “Have you seen my parakeet?”



Examples and Case Studies

Chattanooga's Downtown Electric Shuttle (

The Chattanooga Electric Shuttle was introduced in 1992, by the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority as part of a downtown redevelopment and air quality program. Shuttle service is free. The electric buses used in Chattanooga’s Downtown Electric Shuttle are low-floor buses by design, making them easy to access for individuals in wheelchairs. With free five minute service between the Tennessee Aquarium and the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel, the Electric Shuttle provides the transportation link identified as one of the top goals for community development. It represents the largest operation of electric buses in the United States. Today, Chattanooga is one of America’s most livable cities due, in part, to downtown redevelopment and investments in transit and pedestrian improvements.



Urban Jitney Services

Private companies provide “jitney” shuttle van services in several major U.S. cities, including New York, Miami and Pittsburgh (Poole and Griffin, 1994; Klein, Moore and Reja, 1996). Some jitney services are approved by regulators, others are technically illegal but ignored by local officials because they provide useful services.



Mobility to Work Shuttle Services (

Several federal and state programs provide special Shuttle Services between lower-income neighborhoods and employment centers. The U.S. federal government offers grants to help establish and support such services.



Shuttles to Suburban Centers

Comsis (1993) describes examples of successful Shuttle Service provided by suburban developers between Metrorail stations and nearby suburban retail/office/residential centers (Tyson’s II and Fair Lakes). Twenty-five passenger buses carry residents to the station, and employees from the station to the malls. One system charged a 50¢ per trip fare that covered about 40% of total operating costs. Another Shuttle Service is free.



Hop and Skip Shuttles (

Shuttle bus service is provided in Boulder, Colorado to facilitate downtown shopping and non-automobile commuting. The “Hop” bus is a circulator Shuttle that makes a loop through central Boulder. The “Skip” bus makes regular runs on a major north/south arterial.



Atlantic City Jitney

The 190 members of the Atlantic City Jitney Association (ACJA) each owns and operates a 13-seat van that provides public transit service for $1.50 per trip along a 3-1/2 mile route through Atlantic City, New Jersey. Buying into the ACJA costs $180,000, which includes the price of a bus and a share of the franchise. The ACJA jitneys provide 8.5 million trips per year. The ACJA is the last continuously-operating jitney service in the U.S., out of 435 that existed in the 1920s.



Shared Taxi Services

Trudel (1999) describes how shared and subsidized taxi services provide affordable mobility in rural areas. Freund (2000) describes a demand-response service that provides mobility for elderly residents.



Microsoft CTR and Connector Bus System (

The Microsoft Corporation has approximately 40 thousand workers (employees and contractors) in 13 million square feet of office space dispersed around the Puget Sound (Seattle, Washington) region, including its 500 acre Redmond campus which contains 94 buildings, with 23 cafes, and various employee services and retail outlets. Employee parking is generally unpriced at these worksites. In order to reduce commuting costs for both employees and their communities, since 1995 Microsoft has implemented an extensive Commute Trip Reduction program that encourages employees to use efficient travel options. This includes the following incentives:



In addition, starting September 2007 Micorsoft began offering its employees free Connector Bus services between residential areas where large numbers of employees live and their major employment centers. Coaches provide premium-quality features such as guaranteed, reclining seats with generous legroom, 110 volt power at each seat, on-board wireless Internet and GPS services. These buses made use of the region’s extensive HOV Priority lanes, making them time competitive with automobile travel. By 2009 this service had:


Ridership increased significantly as fuel prices increased during 2008, indicating that even relatively high-income professionals will respond to financial incentives such as increased fuel, parking and insurance pricing, provided that they have high quality alternatives that save time and increase productivity. Rider surveys have determined that over 60% of Connector riders were former SOV drivers and had not previously commuted by public transit.



Fred Meyer Vanpools: One-Stop Commuting

When the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River closed for repair in 1997, the Fred Meyers corporation established a vanpool program to help their employees get to work in Portland. The company leases 15-person vans, and pays all expenses (fuel, parking, etc.). Employees organize their own routes, schedules and drivers. There are currently 11 vanpools with 10 riders. The vans pick up riders at a central meeting spot, usually a Park & Ride. Drivers may use the vans for personal errands after work, and vans are available during working hours for business meetings. The program coordinator reports “Vanpoolers have told me they love the program! It relieves their stress. They learn more about the company by riding with people in their departments. They relax before they get home. It’s reduced their [vehicle] insurance rates and cut their commute time in half.”



Rural Public Transit Service Options In New Zealand (Cheyne and Imran 2010)

Research sponsored by the New Zealand Transport Agency gathered data to identify the scope for shared transport in non-metropolitan areas. It investigated the potential of demand response public transport to increase transport options for non-metropolitan residents, and help overcome transport disadvantage for non-drivers. It analyzed rural community demographics to estimate demand for public transit travel, particularly latent demand by mobility disadvantaged people (e.g., the elderly, women, youth and the disabled). This research highlighted opportunities for increased use of shared transport between small towns and provincial cities by creating appropriate demand response services. It concludes that there is significant potential for shared transport to expand the transport choices for people throughout non-metropolitan New Zealand, and for this new mode to enhance land use transport integration.



Pedestrian-Extending Transit (PEX)

Pedestrian-Extending Transit is a Shuttle bus service designed to extend "pedestrian access distance - the distance a pedestrian is able and willing to move in a downtown commercial setting." A PEX system called SMRTram 7, designed by Village Technology, supports five "convenience characteristics" essential for high ridership: Short, consistent headways (period between trams) similar to elevators; sidewalk orientation immediately adjacent to and level with the sidewalk; quick and easy boarding, just as in an elevator; standing-passenger design (because of relatively short trips; and easy-to-visualize route. PEX systems are explained at



Peripheral Parking With Shuttles (K.T. Analytics, 1995)

Hospitals in San Francisco, Portland, Syracuse and San Jose provide Shuttle buses to remote parking areas. The University of Maryland has operated 25 Shuttle buses serving parking areas, residential areas, campus and regional public transit stations. Hartford, CT has a policy allowing parking requirements for new development to be reduced up to 30% if Shuttle Service is provided from off-site parking. City planners had hoped developers would provide peripheral parking and Shuttles, but instead several developers lease nearby surface parking where available and provide it to tenants. In Orlando, FL developers can reduce parking requirements up to 20% in exchange for contributing toward a transportation management fund. The city has constructed 8,000 spaces at the periphery of downtown.



Taxibus: Home Pickup At A Reasonable Cost

Sarah Dougherty, Montreal Gazette October 6, 2001


Jacques Gregoire doesn't drive and, at 64, he doesn't want to start. Living on the outskirts of Victoriaville, Gregoire long relied on a friend with a car to get around. When that friend passed away recently, Gregoire was stuck. But Gregoire is out and about again, getting errands done and staying in contact with friends, thanks to a taxi service that doubles as public transportation. Known as TaxiBus, the service groups together passengers throughout the city, picking them up and delivering them at more than 434 stops, using cars and drivers belonging to a local taxi company.


Inspired by a model set up in Rimouski seven years ago, taxi-bus services are catching on in Quebec cities that are too small to support a full-fledged public transportation network. The subsidized service is an affordable alternative that has allowed many in smaller centres to cut down on the use of a car for work, school and shopping, or do without a car altogether.


In Victoriaville, a city of 40,000 just east of Drummondville, the year-old service has so far been a smashing success. Ridership has well exceeded projections. “It is an excellent service,” Gregoire said. “I used to pay about $20 for a regular taxi. Now I pay just $2.50 each time, no matter where I'm going.” Now retired, Gregoire uses the service at least three times a week, mostly to run errands. His only complaint is that the service is not offered during weekends. (City officials are considering adding a restricted weekend schedule.)


And unlike the former bus service in Victoriaville, run by a private company that eventually went out of business, TaxiBus routes are not restricted to main arteries. Gregoire said he never used the bus because the nearest stop was too far away. TaxiBus cars go right to the door of important city facilities such as the hospital, CeGEP, libraries, arenas and shopping centres, and right around the corner from major employers.


TaxiBus Inc. was incorporated by Victoriaville's city council to oversee the service. It signed a contract with the sole taxi company in town, Taxi Veterans, which put its 25 owner-drivers and their cars at the disposal of TaxiBus. An extra five drivers were hired. Taxi Veterans, in turn, formed a company to run the dispatch operations. The tricky task of coordinating the doubling up of passengers is made easier by a software developed by the Quebec Ministry of Transport for organizing transportation for the handicapped, which was adapted for taxi-bus services.


Emeric Bergeron, president of Taxi Veterans in Victoriaville, says that although the company must occasionally delay service to its regular taxi clientele to take TaxiBus customers, his drivers like the arrangement. “Because of the large number of passengers, drivers can work fewer hours and make the same amount of money as before,” Bergeron said.


Meter stops at last dropoff

Under the current contract, the city pays Taxi Veterans the amount on the meter for each trip, with the meter starting when the first passenger is picked up and stopping when the last is dropped off. The shortfall between the price paid by the passenger and the amount on the meter is made up by the city and a subsidy from the Quebec government. The provincial subsidy is calculated at 40 per cent of passenger revenues. The provincial government's budgeted contribution for 2001 is $88,900.


The city expects its share for 2001 to be about $150,000, higher than predicted. Marcel Laliberte, Victoriaville's assistant director-general, says the overrun in the total cost of running the service - $400,000 instead of a budgeted $363,244 - is in part because of a slightly lower-than-expected number of passengers per car - 2.46 instead of 2.7. He hopes to improve that ratio with time.


Passengers must buy an annual $5 membership card. In the first year of operation, Victoriaville has sold just over 3,000. And instead of paying $2.50 for each trip, users can buy an unlimited monthly pass for $70. Children under 5 accompanied by an adult ride free.


TaxiBus riders must reserve at least one hour in advance. Cars are not equipped to handle wheelchairs; that service is offered through a separate company. If TaxiBus in Victoriaville has had relatively few wrinkles to iron out in its first year of operation, it might be thanks to the groundbreaking work done by Rimouski, the first city in Quebec to have taxi-buses.


Private bus company failed

Sitting near the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on the river's south shore, Rimouski is home to 32,000. Like Victoriaville, Rimouski had a privately run bus service that went out of business in the 1980s. Rimouski and neighbouring towns commissioned a study looking at various public-transportation options. The researchers concluded that a conventional bus service would run a deficit of several hundred thousand dollars, well beyond Rimouski's means, according to city official Jean Tisdel.


The city settled on a taxi-bus service, which started in 1991. In 2000, 42 taxis made 22,000 trips and carried close to 63,000 passengers. A service also now connects with neighbouring towns. Passenger revenues paid for 45 per cent of the total cost of $337,894 in 2000. Provincial subsidies covered 21 per cent of the expenses, with the city of Rimouski picking up 31 per cent, or $103,148. Sponsorships made up the balance. Starting in 1998, the taxi company granted the city a discount of 4 per cent on the meter rate.


Rimouski has had more than 30 inquiries about its system from as far away as British Columbia, Tisdel said. In Quebec, Sorel/Tracy has a similar system and Salaberry-de-Valleyfield hopes to inaugurate its service very shortly.


Michael Roschlau, president of the Canadian Urban Transit Association, which represents public-transportation service providers and private manufacturers and suppliers of equipment, said taxi-bus systems are ideal for smaller cities with low-density populated areas. He said municipalities in Ontario and western Canada use variations on the Rimouski model, often to supplement fixed-route bus systems.


Luc Cote, president of the Quebec branch of Transport 2000, a citizens lobby group, sums up the many advantages of the taxi-bus model. “It's ecological, the service can be run locally by the city, the equipment already exists, you don't have to deal with a union and it generates business and jobs for the taxi company,'' Cote said. “And of course it gives users significant savings over owning a car.”



References And Resources For More Information


Access To Jobs Task Force (1999), 1999 Access-To-Work Best Practices Survey, American Public Transit Association (


Gary Barnes and Heather Dolphin (2006), An Exploratory Survey of Potential Community Transportation Providers and Users, University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies (


Robert Cervero (1996), Commercial Paratransit in the United States: Service Options, Markets and Performance, Working Paper 299, University of California Transportation Center (


C. Cheyne and M. Imran (2010), Attitudes And Behaviour In Relation To Public Transport In New Zealand’s Non-Metropolitan Regions, Research Report 419, New Zealand Transport Agency (; at


Community Transportation Association of America ( is a non-profit organization that provides support for local transportation service organizations.


CTAA (1999), Linking People to the Workplace: Toolkit, Community Transportation Association of America (


Comsis Corporation (1993), Implementing Effective Travel Demand Management Measures: Inventory of Measures and Synthesis of Experience, USDOT and Institute of Transportation Engineers (


Go Boulder ( is an innovative community transportation program with a variety of programs that include shuttle services, conventional transit, ridesharing, walking and cycling improvements.


Daniel Klein, Adrian Moore and Binyam Reja (1996), “Free to Cruise: Creating Curb Space for Jitneys,” Access, No. 8 (, Spring 1996, pp. 2-6.


Daniel Klein, Adrian Moore and Binyam Reja (1997), Curb Rights: A Foundation for Free Enterprise Urban Transit, Brookings Institution Press (, 1997.


Katherine Freund (2000), “Independent Transportation Network; Alternative Transportation for the Elderly,” TR News, 206, Jan/Feb. 2000, pp. 3-12.


K.T. Analytics, Inc. (1995), Parking Management Strategies: A Handbook For Implementation, Regional Transportation Authority (Chicago).


Rebecca Laws, Marcus Enoch, Stephen Ison and Stephen Potter (2009), “ Demand Responsive Transport: A Review of Schemes in England and Wales,” Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 19-37; at


Victor Minerva, David Sampson, and Herbert Levinson (1996), “Employer Shuttles – Concepts and Case Studies,” Transportation Research Record 1557, TRB (


Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) Website ( provides information on PRT.


Robert W. Poole, Jr., and Michael Griffin (1994), Shuttle Vans: The Overlooked Transit Alternative, #176, Reason Public Policy Institute (


Frank Spielberg and Richard H. Pratt (2004), “Demand Responsive/ADA,” Traveler Response to Transportation System Changes, TCRP Report 95, Chapter 6  (


Nada D. Trout and Gerald L. Ullman (1997), “A Special Event Park-and-Ride Shuttle Bus Success Story,” ITE Journal, December 1997, pp. 38-43.


Michel Trudel (1999), “The Taxi as a Transit Mode,” Transportation Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 4, Fall 1999, pp. 121-130.

This Encyclopedia is produced by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute to help improve understanding of Transportation Demand Management. It is an ongoing project. Please send us your comments and suggestions for improvement.




Encyclopedia Homepage

Send Comments


Victoria Transport Policy Institute

1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC,  V8V 3R7,  CANADA

Phone & Fax 250-360-1560

“Efficiency - Equity - Clarity”