On-demand transit service launched by Ben Franklin Transit
Posted: 21 April 2020 | Sam Mehmet (Intelligent Transport)
The service was originally scheduled to launch in early April as a first-and-last mile service, but has been adapted to support residents and essential workers during the current pandemic.
Ben Franklin Transit (BFT) in Washington, U.S. has launched a new on-demand transit service in West Pasco, starting with support for essential travel needs during the COVID-19 crisis. The service – called BFT CONNECT – will be powered by Via under a contract approved by the BFT Board of Directors.
BFT CONNECT will allow riders within active service zones to request a ride directly through the Via mobile app, which will direct passengers to a nearby corner for pickup, allowing for quick and efficient trips to or from designated Transit Connections within the same zone.
Under normal operations, Transit Connections will include major bus stops and transit centres. However, as an added service during ongoing emergency response in the community, select essential service locations including pharmacies, supermarkets, and health clinics will be included as Transit Connections with front door drop-off and pickup.
In the Via app, customers can see, in real time, their available trip options, how far away their driver is, and estimated time of arrival at their destination. Customers without smartphones will be able to call in to request rides and receive text updates as appropriate. During the state of emergency, no fares will be collected for this service in accordance with BFT’s ongoing safety measures.
Under current emergency operating conditions, only one passenger will be allowed in each vehicle per trip, and riders must sit in the back row of the vehicle to maintain proper social distancing from the driver. However, the on-demand service is intended to and will eventually be a shared ride service.
“We have been planning for many months to introduce this exciting new on-demand option in our service area,” said BFT General Manager, Gloria Boyce. “And though we initially delayed it due to the pandemic declaration, we have realised bringing it online now represents a value-added community service during this time of emergency and hardship for so many. It will allow us to help better meet the mobility needs of our riders and community at this critical time, give us flexibility to adapt to changes in staffing availability at BFT, and fill service gaps as they arise.”