City Planning For Public Transport vs. Private Transport and Where They Intersect


In your job as a planner, we know you're often fielding basic questions about public transit. We hope this Remix Primer blog series offers another resource as you educate your constituents.

Did you know that 56.2% of the world’s population now lives in cities? An efficient, affordable, intelligently designed infrastructure that can accommodate a high density in urban populations is likely to be a necessity for cities to operate as the globe-impacting organisms they’ve become.

The formation of such an infrastructure will require cooperation between multiple players. An ecosystem of both public and private transport systems will be necessary to meet the diverse mobility needs of urban residents. Those involved in designing effective transit routes will need an updated toolkit if they are to get the job done.

Public modes of transport alone are not able to serve citizens within all areas of a city’s boundaries. Private transport will lead to costly delays and traffic jams when relied upon exclusively. Hybrid solutions — whereby cities collaborate with on-demand services to expand transit systems beyond what’s conventional to meet the needs of users with special needs — are proof that cooperation between the public and private transport sectors can be successful.

To show the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors, we’ll evaluate each and talk about how Remix can help leverage the strengths of both to build cities fit for tomorrow.

What Is Public Transport?

City planners will need to rethink their definition of what modes of transport constitute public transit. Historically, public transport has been defined as any government-owned and operated means of transportation available for public use. This definition includes the following:

  • Buses
  • Ferries
  • Subways
  • Trains
  • Trolleys

Although these conventional systems offer a cost-effective, efficient, environmentally friendly means of getting around, many of them are fixed-point solutions to commuting — resulting in a limited reach in accessing the populations they serve. The result of this limitation is reduced reliance upon public transport systems when a choice is available, contributing to the increased congestion associated with private commuting.

As evidence of this, a case study conducted by the World Bank showed that commuting time alone is an inadequate metric for determining the quality of mass transit systems. Their usage drops greatly when catch points exceed a 20-minute walk from areas with the greatest commercial activity. In other words, accessibility, not just mobility, must be considered if public transport is to continue to thrive.

City planners must design transit networks that are nearest to areas with the highest population density. They should implement solutions that decentralize the public transport grid. Emerging trends — such as ride-sharing stations and electric scooters — help to accomplish this and should be incorporated into the solutions that seek to optimize public transport ecosystems.

What Is Private Transport?

Private transport is any mode of transportation delivered by the private sector. A few of these include:

  • Private cars
  • Private rides companies — Uber, Lyft, etc.
  • Rental vehicle agencies
  • Scooter rental businesses
  • Taxis

Because of their unique ability to meet customers where they are, private transport solutions deliver on accessibility and convenience in ways that public transport systems cannot — but they are not without limitations.

Frequently, though not always, private transport carries with it a one-to-one correspondence between the commuter and the vehicle. While this is often desirable for commuters, the result is more vehicles on the road. This leads to more traffic jams, a greater likelihood of wrecks, and an increase in harmful emissions.

Add all of that to the continued restrictions policymakers are implementing to reduce the number of vehicles on the road — odd-even rationing and license plate auctions are being used in multiple Asian countries to curb traffic saturation, and ownership of a parking space is a prerequisite for vehicle ownership in Japan — and it seems that the feasibility of private transport is limited in some areas.

Private transport systems have many benefits. However, the harmful effects of solely relying on these nearly one-to-one solutions require that their scope be limited. City planners should use private transport networks as a means of complementing their public transport core.

What Does a Case Study Teach Us About Hybrid Solutions?

Accessibility is a key factor in a commuter’s decision to use public transport systems. Those who are elderly or physically disabled are often in need of public transport services, but their limited mobility makes accessing fixed-point transit systems difficult. To complicate their transportation needs further, many find the cost of private transport solutions to be too much. For those using wheelchairs or mobility devices, they may also be physically inaccessible.

The solution for these demographics is found in ADA–compliant complementary paratransit. With the latter, public transport systems may take a private transport approach to reach their customers outside fixed-point routes. Customers may meet their transit systems within a 3/4 mile radius of the fixed-point and may negotiate pickup and drop-off times within one hour of their regularly scheduled route. Other solutions are also allowed by ADA regulations, including:

  • Contracting of on-demand services to access commuters with disabilities
  • Requiring taxi companies to have a given percentage of their fleet fitted with handicap accessible modifications

Through these examples, we see how it’s not about public transport vs. private transport. The collaboration of public and private transport may be used to meet the needs of underserved commuters.

How Remix Can Help With Planning City Transit?

The continued influx of citizens into urban environments is forcing designers to deal with the implications of a shifting global landscape.

As the trend continues, public transport will play an increasingly vital role in enabling cities to function, but it cannot meet all of a population’s needs alone. Conscious and data-driven integration of public and private transport systems — not a simple public transport vs. private transport outlook — will be essential to meet all the commuting needs of city inhabitants without stifling urban mobility.

At Remix, we understand this need. Our transportation platforms can facilitate the merging of public and private transport networks into a single ecosystem. Our analytics systems gather data to deliver information about the impact their decisions will have on the broader transportation picture. Our cutting-edge software equips planners with the tools they need to explain the importance of effective transport systems to policymakers and citizens alike.

By empowering designers to plan more efficient routes, local governments may save time and resources while harmonizing the public and private transport systems. Get a demo of Remix today and see how Remix can help your city.