LA Metro Launches On-Demand Shared Ridehailing Around Three Stations
February 1, 2019
On Monday, Los Angeles Metro launched an on-demand shared ridehailing service around three transit stations as part of local and national initiatives to examine mobility and access to public transit.
The service is part of a larger project funded under the FTA MOD Sandbox program that consists of a partnership between LA Metro, King County Metro, Sound Transit, Via, and a research team of The Eno Center for Transportation, UCLA, the University of Oregon, and the University of Washington. Via Transportation Inc. is the private operator providing the service.
The ambitious level of public, private, non-profit, and academic coordination is unique in the MOD Sandbox and presents the opportunity to study the planning, policy, and operations elements of such a program, while also providing a robust research team to evaluate the transportation-related outcomes.
The LA Metro-provided Via service is free for people who are part of Metro’s low income fare subsidy program (LIFE), $1.75 for TAP card holders (the same cost as a bus ride), and $3.75 for everyone else. The fare is lower for TAP card holders than parking at all three stations (which ranges from $2 to $3), possibly encouraging mode shift to access stations from single occupancy driving to shared rides.
The program may be able to connect people to transit who otherwise wouldn’t have safe or efficient means to access the stations, or provide alternatives to people who currently drive themselves or have long travel times due to transfers. Wheelchair accessible vehicles will always be available, and rides can also be booked over the phone and in multiple languages. Riders can learn how to use the program and where the designated catchment areas through both LA Metro’sand Via’s websites.
The pilot got off to a delayed start from what was originally planned, due to challenges associated with a complex project that involved inter- and intra-regional coordination, a competitive search for service providers, changeovers in personnel, navigating local and state laws, and arranging data agreements. The Puget Sound Region will be launching their parallel program later this spring. Though the project comes long after some of the MOD Sandbox Program projects are well underway or have already closed out, ensuring that the project goals align with all the actors and that robust data collection and sharing will enable the analysis to support evaluation of those goals is worth waiting for and will contribute to the best use of the funds and staff time available.
In this project, Los Angeles and Puget Sound region transit agencies have the goal to test the viability of using on-demand technology to connect people to transit as first-mile last-mile solutions. Studying comparable service in the LA region with declining transit ridership and the Puget Sound region with growing transit ridership, and in multiple distinct communities in each region will provide the experimental design necessary for comprehensive quantitative analyses of the equity and access outcomes from the project.
Despite declining ridership and counter to the common misconception that you can’t live in Los Angeles without a car, hundreds of millions of trips are taken on public transit in LA every year. In 2016 alone Los Angeles added 18.1 miles of light rail and 24 miles of commuter rail. In the same year, LA Metro carried the third most unlinked passenger trips of any transit agency in the country, and second most unlinked passenger trips just on the bus. LA Metro also operates the most vanpool unlinked passenger trips of any agency in the country.
LA Metro has launched many initiatives in recent years to work towards regional transportation goals. The Office of Extraordinary Innovation houses many of these projects, including a not-to-be-confused MicroTransit Pilot that is currently in the feasibility stage of planning. King County Metro in the Puget Sound region is also currently running their Ride2 program,which consists of on-demand shuttles connecting people to and from transit stations within specific service areas.
Recent evidence from many pilots and studies of microtransit so far has shown that projects may help certain populations access transit, but high farebox recovery and ridership would be surprising outcomes. A 2018 report from Eno, in collaboration with LA Metro, examined earlier microtransit pilots and Eno, in collaboration with the university research team, will expand on earlier studies with the findings from the Los Angeles and Puget Sound pilots.