OEI wins $1.3 Million to expand the definition of transit access

By Nolan Borgman/Transportation Planner

With a major federal transit grant, Metro will seek to redefine what it means to be “near” transit.

With a major federal transit grant, Metro will seek to redefine what it means to be “near” transit.

Professor Brian D. Taylor, Director of UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies, summed up Los Angeles’s transportation dilemma nicely when he said that the region is “…too dense to disperse trips on expanded roadway facilities and too sprawling to concentrate them on rapid transit…” In other words, L.A. has no space to expand roads, but is too sprawling for most people to live near transit options. But that could change by redefining what it means to live “near” transit.

In May, in an effort to do just that, Metro partnered with UberPOOL to bring passengers to and from Metro’s new Expo Line stations without needing to drive. The two-week pilot’s success exceeded expectations and built on the growing body of data suggesting that shared and on-demand options may provide a clear benefit for our customers.

Aiming to expand the public sector’s understanding of these types of partnerships, the Federal Transit Administration created the Mobility-on-Demand (MOD) Sandbox Demonstration Program, providing $8 million in grant funding for innovative “sandbox” projects to test new on-demand mobility solutions for delivering transit services.

Metro was the proud recipient of one of the 11 grants awarded, receiving $1.35 million to test using Lyft (a transportation network company or TNC) as a first and last mile solution to and from participating pilot stations. Within this pilot, customers will be able to access Lyft’s services at a discounted rate, making it more affordable for customers to use Lyft as an option to reach their train station or get home after a long commute. The pilot will be rolled out with a variety of partners, including Foothill Transit, the city of Los Angeles and Access Services.

In designing our program we paid special attention to ensuring equitable access to this new and exciting service. Customers will have the option to dispatch wheelchair accessible vehicles and the ability to call a concierge service to dispatch a ride if they do not have access to a smartphone. We are also aiming to increase the ease for customers to transfer from a Lyft ride to a Metro operated service through integrating Lyft into our TAP fare payment. This will also provide a way for those without bank accounts to access this new service.

The goal of this program is to “learn by doing.” To ensure that our lessons are deep and far reaching, we’ve not only teamed up with local partners, but with our coastal partners in the Puget Sound. Seattle’s Sound Transit will run a parallel pilot, in partnerships with local agencies King County and Community Transit. In addition to partnerships, data and customer feedback will show where and how these models can expand mobility. To ensure that our lessons are well documented and can deliver insights useful to the entire nation, we’ve teamed up with the Eno Center for Transportation, UCLA and the University of Washington.

Our vision is to create a win-win that aligns the strengths of traditional transit (high capacity, accessible, affordable, equitable) with the strengths of on-demand options (dynamic routing, flexible, and convenient) to increase mobility, accessibility, and sustainability. If we can effectively combine building out our transit system with making people feel closer to it, the future is very bright for Los Angeles County.

 

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