Metro Micro reaches 1 million ride milestone!

When we began creating our on-demand service Metro Micro six years ago, there was skepticism around the idea that a public agency could — or would want — to operate similar to an Uber or Lyft.  

Yet, in March 2023 Metro Micro became the first on-demand publicly operated rideshare in the nation to reach one million boardings. In the past two-plus years, Metro Micro has kept fares to $1, given essential workers another way to get around and established a presence in Equity Focused Communities — where on-demand rideshares are often in short supply. 

At last week’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors, the Board heard an evaluation of the pilot program thus far — and decided to extend Metro Micro for the next six months as we continue to evaluate and improve the program. 

We’ve learned much from the Pilot Project. We know there are plenty of riders who find the idea of riding Metro Micro attractive. We also know that Micro’s software needs an upgrade to better pool rides, for example. Overall we’re excited to continue the work to chart a path forward in this new and emerging industry. 

Let’s back up a few years. Back in 2017, services similar to Metro Micro had only been established in a few metro areas. The transit industry hadn’t really decided if rideshare was a model worth pursuing.  

However, due to leadership across Metro and our labor union partners, an unlikely coalition emerged to build an offering that met the moment. We knew there were parts of Metro’s coverage area not ideally suited to fixed bus routes — usually they’re too sprawling and getting to a bus stop too difficult. We also knew there was an appetite among riders for a more flexible service for short trips within their communities. We thought we could design a service that might work.  

We found a strong ally in SMART-TD — the union representing our frontline team members in rail and bus. We worked for months together to create new business rules as we designed Metro Micro. We also worked well with the Federal Transit Administration and King County Transit in the Seattle metro area to launch the pilot. 

Still, the launch of Micro was filled with uncertainties. The contract that supported up to three years of Metro Micro operations was approved a few weeks before COVID-19 shut down the world, impacting the daily service of public transit globally.  

Metro remained committed to the pilot project and we managed to launch Micro in Dec. 2020. The timing wasn’t ideal because of the pandemic. But Micro was a big part of NextGen Bus Plan that we began implementing in late 2020 — with Micro helping provide service in key parts of our county. We badly wanted and needed to get the program rolling. 

There have definitely been positives. Metro Micro across all seven zones has been used by essential workers. Today, 31% of Metro Micro’s footprint is serving Equity Focused Communities — another important consideration. Our $1 rides have proven popular. Adam Conover of Adam Ruins Everything posted last year, “This is an amazing example of how public transportation can make getting around accessible in ways that private businesses just can’t.” 

Across the nation, public transit agencies and cities are seeking solutions on how to use big data to optimize services and better serve riders. In the field of public transit, investments like Metro Micro offer a real-world environment to adjust service in real-time. That’s a sea change to a transit industry whose bread-and-butter for decades has been fixed bus and train routes and schedules. 

As we look toward the future of publicly operated on-demand services, it is very important we remain rooted in the questions which the industry is grappling with daily. Here are the five questions we’ll continue asking about Micro as the program goes forward: 

We appreciate everyone who has shown an interest in Metro Micro, taken a Micro ride and offered us valuable feedback. If you haven’t ridden, please give us a try. For more information on the work Metro is leading in the on-demand space, visit 

Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects

11 replies

  1. This post is silent on the answer to question 5, “Can Metro Micro function as a cost-efficient alternative to underperforming fixed route bus service?” Evidence from around the country has said no, with the limited exception of fixed subsidy systems that use existing ride companies like Uber or Lyft (like the ones that give you a coupon for a certain amount off a ride). But running a van in a large area carrying three or less passengers per hour when most of the cost is in labor and maintenance is not a recipe for success.

  2. Pff, I can rip this one a new as per usual, but I think everyone is already doing that so I’ll just simply say: You’re still late or no show about 70% of the time in my experience, so just as unreliable as the rest of the system.

  3. PLEASE bring Metro Micro to the South Bay/Beach Cities like El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, RPV. There is such a huge need from students, housekeepers, nannies, maids, seniors. The existing Beach Cities Transit & PVPTA are a joke. They run super limited hours only and run once an hour. It’s impossible to catch a ride and get from Point A to Point B. These areas are tourist-packed in the summer and congested and have very limited parking. It’s a win-win for Metro Micro to spin around these cities and offer commuters a Plan B and a 2nd option instead of the Metro 232 or Beach Cities Transit/Torrance Transit.

  4. How do we know it’s the first to reach 1 million riders? Aren’t there other microtransit that have been older? Is there a list somewhere?

  5. Problem with zones. For example in Altadena, no way to get to services in La Canada (Altadena has lost supermarkets etc which La Canada has). Metro Micro does go to JPL like bus line that was removed did. That bus line provided a link with Glendale Bee Line. So you need to look closely at having the service link things better. Getting to Glendale Community College another example…no linkage between zone in Pasadena and Glendale.

  6. Just a note– the correct link for more information is

  7. Why does Metro Micro serve a transit rich area, like El Monte Station, only while the buses are in operation, and shuts down at night, when the buses mostly shut down as well, with the exception of a few hourly owl services? Shouldn’t it be the reverse so that riders have an alternative to hourly service late at night, rather than during the day time when they have 7-minute Tier 1 NextGen service?

    • You know, I thought the same as well but: exactly how many people outside of either drunks or the employees of such establishments that serve alcohol would actually use this? And it’s not like ALL of them would want to use this. Many already would either risk it and drive, take the bus or simply take an Uber, which is actually on-demand and be home quicker even at a premium.

      Like someone else said, if you’re only serving 3 people an hour TOPS, especially after 11pm when MOST people are no longer out, then I wouldn’t call it a success.

      Also not to mention you could be waiting for 30+min after your ride is scheduled to show up only for the app to be like “no drivers, sorry, try again later.”

      The last thing I want at 3am when I’m just trying to go home is wait an extra 30 to see if I will be getting picked up or not.