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Yolo County to Launch 'beeLine' Microtransit in August

Following the recent launch of Yolo Urban-Rural Ride for Knights Landing and the Winters area, Yolo Transportation District is preparing a new on-demand, point-to-point bus service for Woodland.

(TNS) — The Yolo Transportation District provided an update on its Woodland Microtransit Project — now branded as "beeLine by Yolobus" — ahead of the point-to-point service's planned launch this summer.

"This new transit service is part of a larger shift, both for YoloTD and the city, toward providing more flexible and sustainable mobility options," the city staff report explained. "Microtransit will be one of many improvements being implemented as envisioned within the city's general plan to help reduce reliance on automobile use, particularly for local trips."

The transportation district recently launched Yolo Urban-Rural Ride — "YOUR Ride" — a limited microtransit service in Knights Landing and the Winters area.

"This new service has been well received and has been helpful in informing how to launch the service in Woodland," the report added. "YoloTD also completed a multiyear 'YoloGo' study to determine how transit services can better serve the community and recommended offering more flexible transit options such as microtransit."

After receiving feedback from other jurisdictions and issuing a request for proposals for a technology partner to operate the microtransit platform, the transportation district selected RideCo to be the city's service provider.

"As will the current Yolobus service, the vehicles will be purchased and owned by YoloTD and operated by Transdev, YoloTD's current contractor for transit operations," the report highlighted. "City staff and YoloTD are currently working with RideCO and local stakeholders to finalize the details of the service including days/hours of operation, pricing, service boundaries, user interface and branding/marketing."

However, City Manager Ken Hiatt noted that the costs of an on-demand bus service are significantly more expensive per ride than traditional fixed-route bus services.

"When we started out on this process, we thought we could take the money that's currently going to fixed routes and we'll just put it to micortransit and it'll be a more efficient, more convenient service and it'll probably cost less," Hiatt said. "Well, that doesn't always prove out."

While city staff believes microtransit will be popular, more convenient and serve more people in the community, Hiatt warned that the city and transportation district will need to balance the benefits with how much the service will cost.

He highlighted that local transportation funds — which provide funding for roadway system repairs — will be used to fund the service, so city staff is working closely with the transportation district to figure out "the right balance."

"How do we provide the best service we can in an efficient manner but also make sure that we can retain as much of that local roadway maintenance funding that we can to provide a great roadway service for our constituents," he said.

Transportation district staff provided an update during the meeting noting that the service would cost two to three times more per passenger than traditional fixed-route bus services with an estimated annual operation cost of $1.1 million.

Staff also detailed two community survey results that were conducted in January and February asking participants several questions to inform the project.

The surveys found that 70 percent of Woodland residents owned their own car, 16 percent had access to a shared car and only 13 percent didn't have access to a car. Public transit was the primary mode of transportation among those who didn't own their own car.

Furthermore, 37 percent of respondents who ride the bus said they do so to run errands, 31 percent for work and 14 percent for school.

The service will only be available within a proposed zone map that will include most of Woodland but exclude the industrial areas.

"The reason being that the land uses there are very low density," Autumn Bernstein, executive director for the transportation district, said. "It is a job center, however, it's not a very transit-accessible place. With the types of employment that we see there, our current thinking is that it's not the kind of place that we're going to see a lot of ridership."

Autumn noted that staff is open to expanding service to these areas if it hears enough demand and interest from community members.

Councilman Tom Stallard applauded the work that's been done so far while pointing out the "sobering" reality of the service's cost.

"Like many good ideas, when you get into the details, it's much more sobering," he highlighted. "We all want all sorts of things for everybody but there's a cost factor. Staff has done its best job to come up with something as comprehensive as possible and a number that is still manageable. I personally would like to see this expand into the rest of the community, but we're crawling until we can walk."

"Staff has done its best job to come up with something as comprehensive as possible and a number that is still manageable. I personally would like to see this expand into the rest of the community, but we're crawling until we can walk."

The hours of operation will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, with four vehicles available during peak times with a $3 standard fare — $1.50 for youth and seniors — and an average wait time of 10 to 15 minutes, according to transportation district staff.

The exact launch date is still pending vehicle delivery, but the transportation district has a target deadline of August 2023.

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