Electric First/Last Mile on Demand Shuttle Service for Rural Communities

In 2019 researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) began working with selected small towns across America to collect data from projects designed to expand affordable, convenient, and energy-efficient transportation choices. This array of DOE-funded projects examined mobility options for rural populations.


Lone Star Clean Fuels Alliance (LSCFA) and its project partners were selected to undertake their Bastrop Rural Mobility project and began work in 2019. Many rural communities including Bastrop, Texas, have limited mobility services available to connect rural residents and visitors to destinations within their communities and existing transit. They do not have the suite of mobility options typically found in urban areas, and this project was an opportunity to use Low Speed Electric Vehicles (LSEVs) in an on-demand application to provide a cleaner, affordable, practical, and efficient way to enhance access. LSEVs use a fraction of the energy of a conventional vehicle and are capable of providing the same service. For the purposes of encouraging ridership to collect data, the eCab service was free.

eCab in downtown Bastrop
Image courtesy of eCab

Project Goals

  • Develop, demonstrate and refine LSEV first / last mile (FLM) shuttle applications in a rural environment.

  • Collect ridership and operational data 

  • Identify barriers to LSEV usage, best practices and insights to support usage from qualitative and qualitative data collected.

This service is exceptional. I finally feel free to go around town for shopping or a scheduled appointment.  The drivers feel like part of my family.


In-kind Partners

The helpfulness of the drivers is so much appreciated by this 86 year old woman.  I really enjoy using this service- the drivers are pleasant and made the ride a good time.

Location: City of Bastrop, Texas

  • City of Bastrop – county seat, Population ~ 10,120  
  • Bastrop County – rural community, Population ~ 89,000 
  • Population ^ 40% since 2010, growing fast, surrounded by rural areas
  • Destination spot for tourists and Austinites
  • Served by CARTS with a Country Bus” line which operates on demand via phone and fixed intercity routes within the region as well as the CARTS NOW on-demand downtown-area service discussed on this page.    Limited evening service.

Bastrop, TX
Image courtesy of OnTheWorldMap


LSEV Characteristics

Introduction to Community

Bastrop Chamber of Commerce "wrap"
Image courtesy of eCab

Although early on LSCFA met with and regularly communicated with representatives from Bastrop County and Visit Bastrop, our partnership with CARTS was instrumental in introducing the eCabs to the City, the chamber of commerce and the community.

CARTS included eCab in its social media promotions, and set up an eCab and CARTS van ride-along to introduce the CARTS NOW on-demand concept to officials within the City and County of Bastrop and the Bastrop Chamber. Both Visit Bastrop and the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce “wrapped” eCabs, demonstrating their embrace and promotion of the eCab concept in addition to distributing information about the service and promoting it with local hotels. Later survey results showed that both vehicle visibility and service information provided during survey administration were also key to awareness.


eCab started operations under the CARTS NOW banner in December, 2020 with 3 cabs, one of which was ADA compliant. eCab staff was trained on the CARTS dispatch app and phone-in systems and used the CARTS depot for staging and charging.

The CARTS NOW vans started operating in January 2021. Both eCab and the CARTS's vans operated from 7am to 7pm, Monday through Friday. One eCab operated from 7am to 2pm, the second eCab from 1pm to 7pm with the paratransit used when requested.

While eCab rides were free, CARTS's vans' rides were $2 each way, with discounts for veterans for medical trips and half rates for seniors 65 and older, persons with disabilities and children under 12.

In September 2021 with the growth in customers returning to downtown, CARTS suggested the two services separate and operate independently. eCab began using their existing dispatch app and were able to adjust their hours of operation to include evenings and weekends which previously had no coverage. eCab provided a new dispatch number and accepted texts and street hails from their riders.

In February 2022, eCab changed Sunday hours to 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. to better align with customer demand, resulting in increased ridership.

Image courtesy of CARTS


CARTS NOW service zone (eCab zone is indicated with stripes)
Image courtesy of CARTS


This CARTS on-demand service was available in the downtown and greater Bastrop areas as shown on the map. The eCab service area is noted with the grey-lined area, with the CARTS NOW vans covering the wider gray area. The eCab service area was built around roadways with lower speed limits appropriate for a vehicle operating at 25 mph or less. The overall service area is sized so that all on-demand vehicles respond in a timely fashion. eCabs trips averaged between 1-2 miles.


Monthly passengers with service hours
Image courtesy of NREL

Drivers as Ambassadors

eCab drivers are trained to be more than just drivers – they are “ambassadors”, for eCab and for the community.

Upon picking up a passenger the driver manually enters general, non-personally identifiable information: pick up location, a best guess for age and gender while determining actual destination and if/when they may need a return ride.

The friendliness and helpfulness of the drivers has been consistently noted during survey collection.

The current eCab driver and back-up driver have been driving in Bastrop since the beginning of the grant, and know the customers and area.

I think many people don’t have easy and affordable access to transportation, in most places, so this offers that option to everyone!


Event surveying
Image courtesy of CARTS


Surveying was conducted in the City of Bastrop at different events and venues over the course of two years. In total 614 surveys were collected from Bastrop residents, local employers and businesses, people who worked in or visited Bastrop and tourists. Both eCab users and non-users were included. This data captured people’s feelings about LSEVs, electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and usage patterns of the eCabs.

On-board Data

In addition to the passenger information collected by the driver, the eCab is equipped with Gadzoop telematic software which uses the latitude and longitude of a vehicle’s position, reporting approximately every five seconds, for all trips with GPS data from September 27, 2021 to November 30, 2022. While the Gadzoop software was in use only for the 12 months after the eCabs moved to their independent mode of dispatch, data collected by the eCab drivers was recorded for the full 24 months of the project.


Image courtesy of NREL

Image courtesy of NREL

Age & Gender

Data shows passengers are mostly female (62.2%), with the majority older than 55 years of age (35%). In particular, older passengers noted their reliance on the service for accessing basic needs and getting out in the community.


A total of 2,934 passengers were noted by the driver that could be considered ADA mobility-challenged in some way (e.g., physical disability, blindness, hard of hearing, etc), although most of these trips did not require the use of the ADA compliant vehicle, but may have precluded the rider from driving.

Day of week & time of day

Passengers by time of day by gender
Image courtesy of Wheels & Water

Riders by day of weeks
Image courtesy of NREL

Ridership is strongest from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., with Friday being the day of heaviest ridership. It should be noted that for the first 10 months of service (December 2020 - November 2021 ), the eCabs did not operate on weekends, potentially causing the weekend ridership to be underrepresented. Given that there is no CARTS downtown service on weekends, Saturday and Sunday would likely have ridership near or exceeding Friday ridership.

Top 5 Passenger Pickup/Drop-off Locations

eCab top trip origins
Image courtesy of NREL

eCab top trip destinations
Image courtesy of NREL

The top five locations are apartments; downtown Bastrop, which includes restaurants, food, post office, library, government buildings, entertainment, and the food bank; WalMart and H-E-B. H-E-B is a Texas-based grocery chain which also carries home goods, office supplies, and houses a pharmacy.

In these heat maps, red indicates maximum number of trips to the same latitude/longitude while blue indicates minimum trips, and green, yellow, and orange are in-between. The top five most requested passenger pick-ups and drop-offs are noted.

Replacement Transportation

Mode to reach destination if not eCab
Image courtesy of Wheels & Water

What mode of transportation would have taken the place of the eCab? In the community survey a similar proportion of respondents who had never taken eCab (42.6%) selected taking a car to reach the destination (either drive alone or in a car with others) as those that had taken eCab (46.7%). In other words, regardless of if they had taken eCab, the percentage of those replacing a car trip was about the same. In contrast, for those that took the passenger survey, only 12.2% of the respondents indicated they would have taken a car to the destination instead. Most of the passenger survey respondents indicated they would have walked (28.9%) or not have taken the trip (31.1%).

Those results offer two of eCab’s potential impacts. One where eCab mostly functions to increase community accessibility and the other to increase replacement of the car for local trips. Either way, the community benefits.


Bastrop city leaders and organizations were very supportive of the project throughout its term and have funded continuation of the service for their community. eCab has been approached by other small towns in Central Texas regarding starting the a similar service in their community.

Convenience, little hassle, no parking to worry about.


May 2021

Bastrop Intersection of Rural Transportation

Filmed and produced by in-kind partner MTM, Transportation.

May 2022

MotorWeek Auto World – EVs in Rural Communities

July 2021

Preparing Your Hometown for Electric Transit

January 2022

Department of Energy Rural Mobility Podcast

They are very handy, specially because I don’t drive.

Additional Rural Mobility Resources

Fort Erie On-Demand Transit Case Study

Bonnie Powell, Colin Endsley, Stanley E. Young, Andrew Duvall, Josh Sperling, and Rick Grahn


View/download this study

Sustainability, Scalability and Resiliency of the Town of Innisfil Mobility-on-Demand Experiment: Preliminary Results, Analyses, and Lessons Learned

Dustin Weigl, Josh Sperling, Alejandro Henao, Andrew Duvall, and Stanley Young


View/download this presentation

Mobility Rising Presentation

Valerie Lefler


View/download this presentation

eCab Bastrop Technical Issue Log


View/download this presentation

eCab North America

Visit eCab's website