Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Better Public Transit Alternative for Corona Dial-A-Ride

Ridesharing incentives and subsidies are being experimented through various entities to encourage more public transit use. This can be a productive means to replace and improve general public Dial-A-Ride paratransit bus services.


Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
riversidetransit@gmail.com


The City of Corona of which operates the Corona Cruiser bus transit system and respective paratransit services has proposed to phase out its Dial-A-Ride services to the general public effective January 2, 2018. The plan is to have the curb-to-curb services be specialized and available only to seniors (age 60 and older), persons with disabilities and/or to persons who are certified under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).

The city has opened up a public hearing period and has set up meetings to collect comments related to the proposal starting July 31. The city has posted a flyer detailing the meeting dates on their website, aboard paratransit buses, and how comments can be submitted. The comment deadline is August 14 and City Council hearing/meeting on August 16 at 6:30pm.

Some other facts: According the Corona Transit Short Range Transit Plan FY 2018-2020, Dial-A-Ride had just over 63,000 trips in FY 2015-2016, about 10% of which were either general public or Metrolink transfers. Doing the math, the proposal will impact about 6,300 annual trips; so alternatives on top of improving the Corona Cruiser system should be explored. In addition, about 9% of paratransit appointments are no-shows and the city is planning on developing a no-show policy to address this issue.

My Two Cents

As written, the benefits of this proposal is clearly cost savings and improved productivity. Circle City can utilize the saved operating resources to other areas of transportation operations such as improving the Corona Cruiser bus system routing, scheduling, peak-hour frequency and service span. While the city will work on transitioning these riders from Dial-a-Ride to the Cruiser, the obvious drawback is transit mobility displacement for the 6,300 non-specialized annual trips--mainly those who are too far distant from the Corona Cruiser fixed route system. Because Corona has several low density areas not served by the Cruiser, another option needs to be explored to prevent displacement. So how do we resolve this in the most productive means?

Just this last April, researchers have provided the Riverside Transit Agency with the answer through the First and Last Mile Mobility Plan study, a solution the City of Corona should seriously consider.

Adopting the First & Last Mile Strategy

Corona should offer replacement service to general public Dial-a-Ride so that those impacted by this change will continue to have a means travel door-to-door via public transit. This is on top of the city's plan to improve the Corona Cruiser services.

While cost and budgeting is very important, Corona needs to be careful not to create a mobility barrier for riders who are too far away from the fixed route services. The goal of the plan should be to increase transit ridership through developing strategies that address such first-and-last mile barriers to transit use while keeping costs in check. To be clear, first-and-last mile is the experience that links people to and from the higher density areas, the Corona Cruiser and connecting RTA bus routes and better links their origins and destinations. Riders often rely on other ways to get to and from the bus stop or transit station.

In place of city-operated general public Dial-A-Ride service, Corona can and should partner with private ridehailing companies such as Uber and Lyft and the taxi industry to bridge this gap. Those needing a ride within the existing Dial-A-Ride service area and hours of service would continue to dial in through the city, pay the existing fares ($4 general public, $1 w/ valid Metrolink ticket to/from the station) and the city would subsidize the balance. The only difference is instead of boarding a paratransit bus, the rider's trip would be through a partnered taxi company or Uber or Lyft driver. The cost for such trips are far less than aboard paratransit. To be clear and by law, seniors and disabled would continue to be served directly through the city via the bus simply due to the required ADA accommodations such as the wheelchair ramp. However, general public would be served via the taxi or ridehailing providers.

Other transit agencies have found ways to help curb costs, including partnering with the private sector and subsidizing such trips. Such partnerships would allow Corona to not only save money by taking general-public riders off their own paratransit fleets but it would also grow--not shrink--transit mobility options for these 6,300 annual trips with better, more customer-focused services. Thus, it will prevent Corona from having to make the ever unpopular decision to make door-to-door transit cuts to the general public despite population and economic growth.

These innovative ridehailing companies have been at the forefront of ridesharing throughout the country and have begun working with transit agencies, cities and private companies to provide first and last mile connectivity.

In addition to maintaining the current fare policy, here are a few other features Corona may want to consider adopting:
  • Riders would receive discounts for travel to and from a bus stop/hub/Corona Transit Center within the existing Dial-A-Ride service area
  • Expansion of transit pass and ticket options
  • Discounts for travel to/from special public events within the city
  • Discounts during rush hours
  • Employee credits to and from a bus stop/transit center
  • Monthly Pass partnerships with businesses and employers
  • Mobile application integration - integrate with transit ticketing apps to offer passengers a seamless multi-modal experience
  • Co-Marketing - work with RTA and the private sector to market rideshare and transit use
The City Corona could have a first-rate, cost-efficient public transit system that connects every area of the city together. Now they have the opportunity to put these options into action. Let's get Circle City moving!

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