Last week I had the chance to sit down with Summit County’s person in charge of transportation, Caroline Ferris. One of the issues we discussed was buses. I mentioned that one of the impediments I see with regard to adoption is that often people either need to walk a long way or would need to drive, park, wait, and then catch the bus.
Ms. Ferris offered a solution to that problem. She said that the city and county were looking into a shuttle service that could be scheduled to pick you up from your home and drop you off at a bus stop in time to catch the bus. Here is how it would likely work… Let’s say you want to take the 7:30 AM bus from Pinebrook to Prospector. You’d use an app and tell the bus service that you wanted to be on that 7:30 bus. They’d then schedule a van to come pick you (and others) up and transport you to the bus stop by 7:30. Of course, you may need to get picked up at 7:10, so that the van could service other people as well.
I said to Ms. Ferris that this process must be complex from a scheduling standpoint. She said that it wasn’t actually that hard. She said that the Park City Transit software currently had much of that capability built into the program and they were looking to find an area to pilot this type of program.
I personally think it would solve one of two big impediments to bus ridership, the last mile to people’s homes. The other of course, is ensuring that bus trips don’t take too much longer than a car. If it takes an hour to get from Pinebrook to Prospector, you can’t assume many people will take that option. However, if you can get to Prospector in 30 minutes or to Canyons (from Pinebrook) in 20 minutes, people would likely do it.
In speaking with a few other citizens about this, they bring up some of the negatives, of course. Having vans circulating through neighborhoods isn’t exactly “green” and there is a cost to ensuring that everyone who wants to schedule a pickup CAN schedule a pickup. Yet, it’s an interesting idea.
If the city and county could really pull this off, I think it would be a great test of whether locals want to take buses at all. The ride would be free. You’d be picked up at your door. About your only excuse left for not riding buses… is that you don’t want to ride a bus.
I like this sort of innovative thinking, though. In the long run, the only way we’ll really know if it will work is to try it. So, I hope Park City Transit pilots this soon. I hope they pilot it in an area like Park Meadows, which seems to get a lot of bus usage (the trips are shorter). If it works there, I’d like to see an expanded pilot into the “burbs.”
Regardless of whether this plan is ultimately successful, it shows that our transit officials are thinking outside the box. That is definitely a good thing.