With folks drifting away from Metro’s buses (and older train lines), the agency is trying some new tricks. Two new innovations were announced this week—mobile tolling technology to reduce costs and inconveniences associated with ExpressLanes, which allow solo drivers to pay for use of carpool lanes. The second pilot will be an “Uber-like service.”
Details are scant right now, but Metro is currently asking for proposals from potential operators. The agency envisions the pilot will offer “smaller vehicles that carry fewer passengers and may be a good way to offer services in lower density areas.” It’s likely vans or mini-buses will be utilized, where riders headed in the same general direction travel together. This sounds similar to the UberHop proposal—now only utilized in Manila—where riders meet up at a central spot and are then whisked away (which itself sounds a lot like a bus that makes on-demand stops).
Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus operates a similar on-demand rideshare option, called the Blue@night service. Riders request a Blue at Night cab in a designated location near the 17th Street/SMC Expo Line station and are dropped off at anywhere in Santa Monica for three bucks (it works in reverse too, where people can order a $3 cab from Santa Monica to the train station).
Metro hopes the rideshare service helps with the “first-mile, last-mile” issue; basically, getting riders to train stations and bus stops that aren’t within close walking distance to homes or offices. If people feel they won’t be marooned once they get off a train or bus, or have to walk too far to get to transit, they’re more likely to get onboard—that’s the hope, at least.