Tampa Bay, Fla., Pilots First/Last Mile Public Transit Solution

Urban developers often struggle in planning for commuters getting to and getting home from a public transit station, often described as a first mile/last mile problem.

(TNS) -- Getting people to use mass transit always comes with a hitch, commonly referred to as first mile/last mile.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board is expected to approve a contract Monday that would address that hitch. The $833,322 contract with Transdev Services Inc. will allow customers to catch a ride from home to a bus stop and from a destination bus stop to work — and vice versa — beginning this fall.

HART’s newly formed Legislative and Strategic Planning Committee voted Monday to move the contract for the one-year pilot program forward to the full board. It includes an optional one-year service extension.

The pilot project would initially be available in Brandon, the University area and the Carrollwood area.

A ride on one of Transdev Services’ vans would cost $3, with HART kicking in another $7 for commuters to travel up to 3 miles to a designated bus stop. It will use grant money from the Florida Department of Transportation to pay that portion. HART CEO Katharine Eagan said $10 is about the same price someone would pay to order a cab for that distance.

The program will provide rides within 15 minutes. Commuters can use a smartphone app or contact a call center to request a ride. They can also make advance reservations, which HART Senior Planner Justin Begley said would be especially helpful to people who know they will need the ride at least a few days a week. Once someone subscribes, they can arrange to be picked up, for example, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, without having to call each time for a ride, he said.

HART doesn’t yet know how many people might use the service, but that’s what the pilot process is for, Eagan said. The agency will track ridership to gauge the program’s success.

“This is the summation of a lot of work over a year and a half,” Eagan said. “We are fantastic with 30- and 40-foot buses but they’re not the answer for everything.”

HART received three bids for the pilot, including one from the popular ride-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc. Overall, in a ranking system, Transdev Services offered the better deal for the program, which included scoring for technology and price, according to a scoring summary.

Begley said the contract with Transdev Services includes a marketing campaign, which HART will sign off on before it is implemented. It will roll out in advance of the service to familiarize patrons with the program.

“I’m really interested in seeing how it goes,” said HART board member Karen Jaroch. “I’m excited. PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) is doing a different version and maybe we could compare notes.”

“I look at this as an opportunity to be excellent,” board member Mickey Jacob said. “I assume the contract is set up on a predicted usage level.”

Begley said he relied on Transdev Services to determine how many vehicles it would need. More will be available should the need arise, he said.

©2016 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.