Recently, I've been driving through my neighborhood in Monrovia, California, and noticing new banners popping up on light poles around the city with the word "GO" in big letters and either a logo for Lyft or Lime Bike on them.
At first, I thought the city was touting offices for each of the companies opening in the city, since it aggressively works to get companies to locate here. Trader Joe's moved their corporate headquarters here, for example.
There was a link at the bottom of the banner...gomonrovia.com...to get more info, so I checked it out.
This was something completely different and very interesting. It turns out that Monrovia (as other cities are also starting to do) is integrating the Lyft ride hailing serving into their public transit system. How this works is the city subsidizes Lyft rides within their service area and riders only pay 50 cents.
The subsidy comes from the city's share of the county's 1/2 cent sales tax that is dedicated for public transit. Instead of expanding their current system, they partner with Lyft for quick, easy...and now cheap...door-to-door service within their area. That service area includes Monrovia, the neighboring city of Bradbury, the unincorporated area south of the city that is served by their post office, and a couple of points in the neighboring city of Duarte (the Target shopping center and the City of Hope medical center).
Monrovia hopes that all able-bodied passengers will move over to Lyft, which will free up their nine mini-buses for quicker dial-a-ride paratransit services on demand for the mobility challenged. The nine buses can be hailed by phoning (626) 358-3538 Monday through Friday, 7:00am - 10:00pm and 8:30am - 6:00pm on weekends. The fare is also 50 cents, which was reduced from a dollar when this new scheme began.
So, with all that in mind, here's how my test run of the system went...I had to pick up my car from the body shop (Monrovia Collision Center) and I live inside the service area. I type in the promo code "gomonrovia" in the Lyft app on my phone.
Six minutes later, Lei drives up in a white Honda Civic. Lei speaks just enough English to say "Good morning" and hands me a piece of gum. His GPS unit (in Chinese) guides us swiftly to the body shop with Lei a very careful and competent driver.
The Lyft app says the ride was $6.99 but the text I get says I got a $5.49 credit and only 50 cents is charged to my card. Ten minutes from start to finish and it's just pennies.
Will it help increase transit mobility for everyone, including wheelchairs? That remains to be seen and, hopefully, Lyft will also increase its ability to transport special needs passengers also.
Monrovia is not alone in this type of service. Many other cities are also jumping on this particular bandwagon to provide the so called 'last mile' transit option (called that because it connects riders with that last mile service between their home and regular public transit).
For example, Dallas's DART system has also integrated Lyft into its system and a ride can be hailed within DART's app. Lyft is also aggressively recruiting other transit systems as partners. You can find out more at the company's Friends with Transit page. You might also want to check with your local municipality to see if this is coming or perhaps to suggest it to them.
Back in Monrovia, besides the dial-a-ride option for special needs passengers, the city has a station on Metro's Gold Line light rail line...which is 100% accessible...connecting it with the rest of the area's vast transit system. There are also three Foothill Transit accessible bus lines connecting with other cities along the Route 66 corridor and south to Metro's El Monte Bus station.
If you're able enough to ride a bike, the other transit option listed above - Lime Bike - is a bike sharing service with racks scattered throughout town. Download the app and you can rent a bike starting at $1 for 30 minutes.
You can leave the bike anywhere in the city when you're done with it...the back wheel locks when you're done with it and crews collect the bikes each night. The app will tell you where the nearest rental bike is located.
Yes, it does seem like it's still an imperfect system...wheelchair riders can't use service 24 hours and the transit buses will have a chore keeping up with the quick response and rides of the Lyft vehicle...but it is an interesting experiment to watch and see if this new public transit (with private help) system will increase the mobility of all the area's residents and be able to keep more cars off of the roads.
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