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Capital District, N.Y., Offers Ride-Hailing Service

The Capital District Transportation Authority in New York is marketing Flex, a ride-hailing service similar to Uber, in an attempt to recover from what public transit experts believe is a permanent loss of ridership.

Woman using ride-hailing app
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(TNS) — Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services have some competition these days: the Capital District Transportation Authority.

CDTA, known for the transit buses it runs throughout the Capital Region, has since last winter been running a new curb-to-curb service that users can hail with an app.

Dubbed "Flex" the service isn't as extensive as private services like Lyft or Uber, which run 24/7 and will take you anywhere. Flex runs until 10:45 weeknights, and less during weekends. And their service area is limited to Guilderland, Latham and Colonie in Albany County, although CDTA plans to expand the service into Saratoga County.

But the new door-to-door ride-hailing service is one of several new services that CDTA and other public transit agencies are offering in response to what they believe may be a permanently reduced ridership in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted countless people to work from home.

Certainly the pandemic has reduced ridership at CDTA as well as transit agencies in places like Rochester and Buffalo.

According to a recent report from state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, CDTA ridership fell almost 36 percent from fiscal year 2020 to FY 2021.

Ridership in 2020 totaled just over 15 million, down from previous highs of 17 million.

"We may never see ridership get back to those levels so what are other ways that transit services measure success?" asked CDTA spokeswoman Jaime Kazlo.

The new ride hailing service actually started in February 2020, just as the pandemic was hitting, said Kazlo. CDTA has four eight-passenger vans, and another four are coming. They are marked as CTDA "Flex" transit vans, which provides an extra level of assurance for people who may worry about getting into a stranger's car, which is the case with private ride hailing services.

The cost is $3 per trip, or 10 for $25.

The ride-hailing, she added, is part of a broader strategy by CDTA to expand their mobility options. They are rolling out an electric scooter sharing program, which is supplementing their bike shares. And this fall they plan to start a car sharing service where people can rent an all-electric Chevrolet Bolt if they need a car for a few hours.

An influx of people from New York City to the Capital Region, who have moved here due to the pandemic, will hopefully provide a ready market for car sharing. "It's not a foreign concept to them," said Kazlo.

She said CDTA's buses will continue their usual 22-hour-per-day schedule, and the agency hasn't cut or furloughed any staffers since the pandemic started. Some routes remain suspended as they wait to see if the new delta variant of COVID proves to be a setback or not.

The agency is also continuing to increase anti-microbial measures and is preparing to install ultraviolet air purifications on the vehicles.

©2021 the Times Union, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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