Transportation Network Companies and Autonomous Shuttles to Play Roles
The Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA) approved major changes to the Wheels public transit system, providing more frequent buses and new routes in Livermore, Dublin, and Pleasanton. The agency also introduced two innovations: they are partnering with transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, to reach commuters in neighborhoods big buses cannot serve and exploring driverless shuttles to solve first and last mile issues to connect people to stations.
“These changes feature a dramatic new way of thinking about mass transit,” says Wheels Board Chair Don Biddle. “With these improvements, an additional 6,000 households and 5,000 employees will be within an easy 5-minute walk of high-quality, frequent bus service, while areas that cannot support big buses will be served with innovative partnerships and ultimately driverless shuttles. These changes will be a significant catalyst for residents to explore their transportation options.”
To create an easier-to-use, more productive transit system, LAVTA embarked on a yearlong planning effort with the Tri-Valley communities. Called Wheels Forward, the planning effort was led by Nelson\Nygaard, an international transportation planning firm. By focusing on making it easier and more convenient for riders, the team restructured Wheels bus service to provide more direct routes to key destinations with buses arriving more often. A major improvement is the addition of the agency’s second route with 15-minute all-day bus frequency that will receive signal priority at intersections for quicker service. For more information, visit www.wheelsforward.com
According to Wheels Executive Director Michael Tree, the bus route improvements were designed without an increase to the agency’s budget, which meant trade-offs had to be made, including the elimination of bus service in areas that could not support fixed-route service. In all, almost every route had changes and six bus routes were eliminated in the system redesign.
Other Wheels improvements approved for fiscal year 2017 include the addition of Wi-Fi to Rapid and express buses, the implementation of individualized marketing in target areas of the transit system, the development of a new phone app and website to include integration with TNCs, and a rebranding of Wheels services.
To serve lower-density suburban neighborhoods, LAVTA will test ridesharing service. Customers will receive a discounted rate when they take advantage of Uber, Lyft, or a taxi participating with the transit agency within the project areas.
“The City of Dublin is excited about the participation of TNCs in our transit system,” says Dublin Mayor David Haubert. “Real time, dynamic ridesharing in more suburban communities of the Bay Area is an increasingly popular and efficient transportation option that can reduce congestion.”
The LAVTA Board also approved and directed staff to seek partners and funding for a near future demonstration project in the City of Dublin, which would continue to advance the agency’s focus on improving first and last mile solutions to access public transit.
“Electric, driverless shuttles are being tested throughout the world as viable short-trip solutions to connect people to mass transit. With high density residential and business centers near the two BART stations in Dublin, the envisioned demonstration project will cover areas where conventional means of transportation simply aren’t viable, especially given the limited parking,” commented Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.”
Livermore Valley Transit Authority provides equal access to a variety of safe, affordable and reliable public transportation choices, increasing the mobility and improving the quality of life of those who live or work in and visit the Tri-Valley area. Operated by the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA), Wheels plays a vital role in providing transportation and mobility options for those who do not drive, either by choice or necessity. Wheels connects people to work, school, medical appointments, and to recreational opportunities. www.wheelsbus.com
Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc. is an internationally recognized firm committed to developing transportation systems that promote vibrant, sustainable, and accessible communities. Nelson\Nygaard recognizes that transportation is not an end by itself but a platform for achieving broader community goals of mobility, equity, economic development, and healthy living. Founded by two women in 1987, Nelson\Nygaard has grown from its roots in transit planning to a full-service, award-winning transportation firm with offices across the United States. www.nelsonnygaard.com