Work Program

Flexible Fixed-Route Bus Service

MARCH 2, 2023

Proposed Motion

The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) votes to approve this work program.

Project Identification

Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) Classification

Boston Region MPO Planning Studies and Technical Analyses

Project Number 13804


Boston Region MPO

Project Supervisors

Principal: Paul Christner
Manager: Blake Acton

Funding Source

MPO Planning and MPO §5303 Contract 13804


Schedule and Budget

Schedule: 7 of months after work commences

Budget: $20,000

Schedule and budget details are shown in Exhibits 1 and 2, respectively.


Relationship to MPO Goals

The Boston Region MPO elected to fund this study with its federally allocated metropolitan planning funds during federal fiscal year (FFY) 2023. The work completed through this study will address the following goal areas established in the MPO’s Long-Range Transportation Plan: safety, capacity management and mobility, clean air and clean communities, transportation equity.


Flexible bus routes are designed to better meet rider demand by providing service that deviates from defined stops and routes to pick up and drop off eligible customers who request trips within a defined area. In contrast, traditional fixed routes operate on pre-planned routes that make stops at predefined locations according to a published schedule. Flexible routes can be more efficient in low-density areas or when passenger demand is low, while fixed routes are typically more efficient in areas with higher demand density. Flexible transit services can also provide significant benefits for older adults, those with limited mobility, and people who cannot drive, particularly in lower density suburban areas where fixed-route transit services may not adequately meet their needs.

An ongoing challenge for transit providers is knowing which routes would provide better service by operating as a flexible service. Transit providers must determine the optimal degree of flexibility while considering impacts to riders’ experience and operation costs. The goal of this study is to assist transit providers in the Boston region by measuring these impacts so they can decide if particular transit corridors would be best served by a flexible service. Central Transportation Planning Staff (CTPS) will accomplish this goal by employing an analytical model developed in a recent Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) study that evaluates the performance of flexible transit service.1

CTPS will collaborate with the authors of the MassDOT study and officials at regional transit authorities (RTAs) to select and evaluate the impacts on riders’ experience and the costs of converting a route in a transit corridor to a flexible service. Staff will use the model results to recommend whether the corridor would benefit from switching to a flexible service. Finally, staff will evaluate the potential for the analytical model to be used by transit providers in the Boston region to guide their decision-making about implementing flexible transit services in other corridors.



Identify a fixed transit route and evaluate its suitability for conversion to a flexible service.

Work Description

CTPS will undertake a multi-step process to evaluate the feasibility of implementing flexible transit services in the Boston region. The first task involves selecting a transit corridor for analysis through collaboration with RTAs and reviewing ridership and schedule data. In the second task, CTPS will collect and prepare the data for input to the analytical model. Finally, in the third task, CTPS will use the analytical model to perform an analysis of the suitability of converting the selected RTA route into a flexible service, considering factors such as agency goals, community characteristics, and existing infrastructure. The results of this process will be provided in the form of a memorandum.

Task 1  Select Transit Corridor for Analysis

CTPS will contact RTAs in the Boston region to request ideas for potential transit routes or corridors that may be suitable for conversion into a flexible service. Staff will review ridership and schedule data of the routes and select one for evaluation. A suitable option will be a fixed route or multiple fixed routes through a corridor with low-to-moderate passenger demand, but with demand too high to consider demand-responsive service.

Products of Task 1

Selection of an RTA route or corridor for analysis

Task 2  Collect and Prepare Data for Modeling

CTPS will collaborate with authors of the MassDOT study and RTA officials to collect and prepare the data for the analytical model. The required data can be broadly categorized into three main categories: service area characteristics, demand characteristics, and mode characteristics. For example, data on the service area include the size of the service area and the operational hours of the transit service, while data on demand characteristics include the density of demand and the distribution of demand within the service area. Finally, mode characteristics include the transit vehicle speed and the cost of vehicles.

Products of Task 2

All data needed to conduct analytical model

Task 3  Perform Analysis

With assistance from the MassDOT study authors, CTPS will use the data from Task 2 to analyze the potential impacts of converting the selected corridor from Task 1 to a flexible transit service. CTPS will use the results of the analytical model along with factors such as agency goals, community characteristics, and existing infrastructure to recommend flexible transit options for the corridor. Finally, CTPS will recommend whether the corridor should be converted to flexible transit following a review of the overall costs, benefits, and potential challenges associated with implementing a flexible fixed-route transit service.

Products of Task 3

Evaluation of the suitability of converting an RTA route into a flexible service


Results provided in the form of a technical memorandum


Exhibit 1
Flexible Fixed-Route Bus Service

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Select Transit Corridor for Analysis
From Month 1, Week 1 to Month 1, Week 4.
Delivered by Month 1, Week 4.
Collect and Prepare Data for Modeling
From Month 2, Week 1 to Month 3, Week 4.
Delivered by Month 3, Week 4.
Perform Analysis
From Month 4, Week 1 to Month 7, Week 4.
Delivered by Month 7, Week 4.
A: Selection of an RTA route or corridor for analysis
B: All data needed to conduct analytical model
C: Evaluation of the suitability of converting an RTA route into a flexible service. Results provided in the form of a technical memorandum.


Exhibit 2
Flexible Fixed-Route Bus Service

Direct Salary and Overhead


Person-Weeks Direct
M-1 P-2 Total
Select Transit Corridor for Analysis
0.1 1.0 1.1 $1,473 $1,757 $3,230
Collect and Prepare Data for Modeling
0.1 2.0 2.1 $2,761 $3,295 $6,056
Perform Analysis
0.4 3.1 3.5 $4,885 $5,829 $10,714
0.6 6.1 6.7 $9,118 $10,882 $20,000

Other Direct Costs



MPO §5303 Planning Contract #13804


1 Gonzales, Eric, and Eleni Christofa, “Flexible Transit Services,” Report No. 21-020, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (2021).



The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) operates its programs, services, and activities in compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, and related statutes and regulations. Title VI prohibits discrimination in federally assisted programs and requires that no person in the United States of America shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin (including limited English proficiency), be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that receives federal assistance. Related federal nondiscrimination laws administered by the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, or both, prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, sex, and disability. The Boston Region MPO considers these protected populations in its Title VI Programs, consistent with federal interpretation and administration. In addition, the Boston Region MPO provides meaningful access to its programs, services, and activities to individuals with limited English proficiency, in compliance with U.S. Department of Transportation policy and guidance on federal Executive Order 13166.

The Boston Region MPO also complies with the Massachusetts Public Accommodation Law, M.G.L. c 272 sections 92a, 98, 98a, which prohibits making any distinction, discrimination, or restriction in admission to, or treatment in a place of public accommodation based on race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or ancestry. Likewise, the Boston Region MPO complies with the Governor's Executive Order 526, section 4, which requires that all programs, activities, and services provided, performed, licensed, chartered, funded, regulated, or contracted for by the state shall be conducted without unlawful discrimination based on race, color, age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, creed, ancestry, national origin, disability, veteran's status (including Vietnam-era veterans), or background.

A complaint form and additional information can be obtained by contacting the MPO or at To request this information in a different language or in an accessible format, please contact

Title VI Specialist
Boston Region MPO
10 Park Plaza, Suite 2150
Boston, MA 02116

By Telephone:
857.702.3700 (voice)

For people with hearing or speaking difficulties, connect through the state MassRelay service:

For more information, including numbers for Spanish speakers, visit