The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) has introduced a pilot door-to-door shared-ride program called FlexRide, in addition to launching expanded bus service in Ypsilanti Township.
Mary Stasiak, manager of community relations for AAATA, says the portion of Ypsi Township served by FlexRide doesn't have the density to warrant a fixed route. So transportation officials needed to get creative in helping residents in that area get to the Paint Creek shopping center, the Whittaker Road branch of the Ypsilanti District Library, and other destinations in the area.
"There are a lot of residents in the area who need access to shopping or medical appointments or to get to work or school," Stasiak says. "It's a pilot service, and we may make adjustments as we go. The idea is to introduce it and see how people are using it."
After a bidding process, AAATA chose to partner with Metro On-Demand (MODE), a division of Golden Limousine, to operate FlexRide.
Currently, the service operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and for limited hours to Lincoln Consolidated schools when school buses are not running. The service costs $1 per trip each way. Discounts are available for students, seniors, and disabled riders.
Riders can reserve a ride the day before a trip or at least 45 minutes in advance for same-day rides by calling (734) 794-0377, by visiting MyFlexRide.org, or through the MODE Car app. Walk-ons may be accepted at the Paint Creek Shopping Center connection point if not all seats are full.
AAATA has also expanded traditional bus service on Route 46, which includes Huron River Drive and Textile Road, doubling service in the northwest corner of the pilot service area up to Whittaker and Merritt Roads in Ypsi Township.
Both the route expansion and the FlexRide pilot program were made possible by the approval of a 2014 transportation improvement millage.
Stasiak says the expectation is that FlexRide will continue to operate for the term of the millage, and possibly beyond, if voters choose to renew the millage in August 2018. As AAATA sees how riders use the service, the authority may tweak the hours and the pilot program could be expanded.
"We hope the service will do well and we can translate it to other areas as well," Stasiak says.
Stasiak says the transportation authority doesn't feel threatened by the rise of transportation options like Uber and Lyft, adding that she welcomes collaborations with other organizations.
"That's why we're working with MODE on this service," Stasiak says, adding that collaborations create "a future that has many new ways of providing transportation."
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.