LAVTA Celebrates Launch of Autonomous Vehicle Testing

LIVERMORE, CA, June 27, 2018 – The Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA) celebrated the launch of testing of its new Shared Autonomous Vehicle (SAV) on June 22 at an event held at the Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station. Approximately 70 area business leaders, elected officials and project sponsors attended the event.

Vehicle testing will take place on public roads in the city of Dublin, California. Dublin Mayor and LAVTA Board member David Haubert welcomed those in attendance, saying “I’m very proud that the innovative City of Dublin has been chosen to develop the leading edge of autonomous vehicle travel. Working together with LAVTA, EasyMile staff and our other project partners, our city traffic engineers will be among the first in the country to link a rail station to last mile destinations by navigating complex stoplight and turning scenarios along public roads.”

Funding for the project was obtained through a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Alameda County Supervisor and LAVTA Vice Chair Scott Haggerty, who secured the grant, noted that “providing a convenient and reliable first and last mile zero emission service will have a substantial environmental impact by reducing single occupancy vehicle trips to employment, retail and residential destinations located near the Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station.”

LAVTA’s SAV project also received legislative support through the efforts of California State Assemblymember Catharine Baker. Baker sponsored Assembly Bill 1444, which gave LAVTA the authority to operate the autonomous vehicle on public roads during testing. Regarding the project, Baker said “This shuttle is not only going to make our area an innovation hub, but also make our lives easier by making great connections for folks in the East Bay.”
LAVTA’s partners on the SAV project include GoMentum Station, which will oversee the entire testing process and First Transit, which will provide staffing, maintenance and operation support for the project. Speaking to the testing process, Pleasanton Councilmember and LAVTA Chair Karla Brown told attendees “Before we will begin carrying passengers, the technology on our vehicle will need to be proven by passing more than 100 different testing scenarios. That process is expected to take two to three years.”

The tests will include infrastructure communication; interactions with others on the road such as vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians; and a variety of road and weather conditions. LAVTA’s SAV is a second generation EasyMile EZ10, which can operate in fixed route or on-demand mode. The vehicle weighs 3,500 pounds and has space for 12 passengers. Although capable of higher speeds, during testing the vehicle will operate at 15 miles per hour or less. An operator from First Transit will be onboard the vehicle at all times during the testing phase.

Michael Tree, Executive Director of LAVTA, sees Shared Autonomous Vehicles as an important piece of the overall mobility puzzle. He noted that “Transit agencies are facing growing public frustration with inadequate parking at major transit centers and a lack of reliable on-demand options for those all-important first and last mile connections. For example, in our service area, both the West Dublin/Pleasanton and the East Dublin/Pleasanton BART stations provide intercity and Transbay transit options for TriValley residents; however parking lots at both of these stations are typically full by 7:30 am. Traditional fixed route transit services are only an attractive option to choice riders if the route happens to travel within a reasonable walk distance of the commuter’s origin or
destination.”

Although LAVTA is a relatively small transit system, Tree feels that the agency must embrace and implement new technology and mobility opportunities to remain relevant. LAVTA’s fixed route bus service area covers 40 square miles including the cities of Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton in Alameda County, approximately 35 miles east of San Francisco. LAVTA contracts for the operation and maintenance of all fixed route and paratransit services, with 70 fixed route buses and 18 paratransit vehicles. Combined total fixed route and paratransit ridership is approximately 1.6 million annually. LAVTA’s entire administrative staff consists of just 14 employees. Further evidence of the agency’s commitment to new mobility approaches occurred in 2016, as part of a bus service redesign. LAVTA introduced an innovative partnership with ridesharing companies Uber, Lyft and DeSoto Cab to offer city of Dublin residents enhanced transportation options and flexibility, in an on-demand and real time format. LAVTA’s Go Dublin program was the first of its kind in the Bay Area and the first to partner with both Uber and Lyft. With the Go Dublin promotion, LAVTA pays for 50% of the shared ride fare, up to $5 per trip. To qualify for the discount, rideshare trips must both start and end within the Dublin city limits, which includes both BART stations. Implementation of this program coincided with the elimination of a fixed route in Dublin that had very low productivity. At the time of the service restructuring, the route was carrying only five passengers per hour with a per passenger subsidy of $15. The Go Dublin partnership provides a higher level of service to Dublin residents at a lower subsidy per rider to LAVTA. The pilot program is being funded through a $100,000 grant from the Alameda County Transportation Commission and another $100,000 from LAVTA. An
evaluation of the program will be completed by the end of the year.