The Innovation & Knowledge Accelerator workshop kicked off with a session of public sector practitioners describing their experience launching and operating Mobility On Demand (MOD) projects and working with private partners. The discussion was moderated by Billy Hwang of WSP.

Penny Grellier, from Pierce Transit in Washington State, was first to speak and discussed their MOD first/last-mile partnership with Lyft. The goal of the project is to provide mobility options in areas or times of limited or no transit service. The program launched on May 15, 2018, and serves zones created around Tacoma Dome station and peripheral areas that are outside a reasonable walking distance. The program uses the Lyft app and a call center, and wheelchair trips are provided through the existing paratransit provider. Rides are free in the zones during the times the service is available. Pierce Transit receives monthly trip reports from Lyft, with trip data aggregated by time and length.

Penny emphasized that the relationship should be thought of as collaborative rather than adversarial, despite the inherent differences in culture and objectives between the public and private sectors. Marketing is important, she emphasized, so people are aware of the service.

As next steps, Pierce Transit is looking to share their knowledge with the industry, conduct an independent evaluation, receive customer feedback, and continue exploring innovative solutions.

Jumana Nabti, from Bay Area Rapid Transit, described their Scoop to BART program, a ride-matching service to entice people to carpool to BART stations by providing guaranteed parking. The program is designed to address the high demand for parking at BART stations, the low efficiency of parking, and the high fraud rates of the current carpool permit system. Passengers request a ride the evening before for the morning commute or by 3 pm for the afternoon commute, and they are notified of their pickup time and driver if they are matched.

The program has been largely successful, with increased carpooling to BART stations, evidenced by more people using the Scoop app to get to BART and by an increase in vehicle occupancy. Marketing the program was key. BART expanded to 17 stations, with the highest use on the outskirts of the system.

Despite these successes, BART faces an important decision point. Their contract ended in June, and BART has continued a short-term relationship with Scoop. Scoop is adding fees of about $20k every month, which BART is paying through the remainder of the project. While Scoop is open to sharing information, they are not providing information that alludes to the total number of users. Again, we see an agency trying to strike a balance between the motives of the public and private sectors. Key interests from BART’s perspective include program stability, minimizing financial risk, data accuracy, outreach, and program evaluation.

Tony Lynch, from Capital Metro, the regional transit agency in the Austin, Texas areae thenxt described the Pick-Up program, a pilot partnership with Via to provide microtransit service in select areas. The program was created in specific zones as a response to a lack of transit, a high level of paratransit use, and a mix of retail and residential use. The goals of the pilot project were to determine Capital Metro’s ability to operate an on-demand service and examine if it could scale.

The program used Capital Metro’s drivers and vehicles but with Via’s routing and dispatching software. Via handled marketing and branding and was otherwise intimately involved in the program, including driver training. Via was very responsive to data sharing and providing what was needed. This included daily shift reports, tableau summaries, and NTD reporting. Drivers were not used following a map for directions, which was necessary for picking up more passengers, but this was addressed through more training.

The average ridership was 3.65 per hour, with over 20,000 rides provided. About 75% of conditional paratransit customers in the service area used Pick-Up, and 40% of the trips were shared. Costs fell to about $17 per passenger by the end of the program. Customers rated the service highly. The algorithm required periodic review and adjustment to maximize ridership per vehicle. The agency is issuing two RFPs for the continuation of the program and is also determining locations for future pilots.