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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Technology used in ride-hailing and other new mobility services could be used to make public bus networks more environmentally friendly and convenient.

Why it matters: Public buses are frequently criticized as unreliable, inefficient and alternatively near-empty or so full that they skip stops, but electric buses with next generation technology and flexible routes could help address congestion and emissions.

What's happening: Public transit ridership is down across the U.S. due in part to new mobility services like ride-hailing and scooters.

What's needed: Many municipal bus services rely on manual surveys of passengers to assess user preferences and modify routes — an expensive and unreliable practice.

  • Instead, any and all available public transit ticket data could be analyzed to understand actual demand patterns and optimize routes.
  • Fleet optimization software could match supply and demand in real time, dispatching additional vehicles on particularly busy routes, or adding flexible routes at peak hours.
  • Contactless payment could also speed boarding times and keep buses on time.
  • The design of buses could be demand-responsive, too. In Strasbourg, France, the transit agency replaced a traditional bus line with modular electric shuttles that can add or remove cabins as demand shifts throughout the day.

But, but, but: Cities across the U.S. and world-wide are struggling with adopting electric buses.

  • In places that are moving ahead with electric buses — like Shenzhen, China, which boasts the world’s only all-electric bus network — the biggest obstacle was installing and paying for the massive charging infrastructure needed to run 16,000 e-buses.
  • TransitCenter found that the seven U.S cities which grew transit ridership last year did so by either expanding bus service or completely overhauling their bus systems to improve service.

The bottom line: Integrating advanced technology and deploying next-generation vehicles with upgrades that make them demand-responsive and environmentally friendly could make bus networks more efficient, more reliable, and more popular.

Raphael Gindrat is co-founder and CEO of Bestmile, which has developed a fleet-management platform and whose clients include Strasbourg’s transit agency.

Go deeper

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters rallied outside fortified statehouses over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.