‘E-hailing’ rider service en route to Glenwood Springs
In 2017, the city of Glenwood Springs contracted with “technology-driven design firm” IBI Group in an effort to bring up to speed the city’s five-year Transit Operations Plan.
On Thursday night, City Council examined IBI Group’s final report, which included findings from a yearlong transportation research study.
Ride Glenwood Springs, the city’s public transit bus system, runs daily from 6:53 a.m. to 7:53 p.m. with stops stretching from the Roaring Fork Marketplace to the West Glenwood Mall. But Ride Glenwood Springs has seen a decline in ridership, and Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s local valley bus makes several duplicate stops throughout the city.
As a result, the city has recommended phasing out Ride Glenwood Springs in favor of implementing an e-hailing rider service.
“We wanted to look at some of our, I guess, redundancies with the RFTA system and evaluate whether or not we could fix the redundancies and also maybe expand it to other areas,” said Glenwood Springs City Engineer Terri Partch. “We wanted to just evaluate whether or not expansions could be added or what could be done to address some of our operating issues.”
According to Partch, Ride Glenwood Springs sees fairly significant ridership along its U.S. 6 route and loop through the Glenwood Meadows. This area of service would not necessarily discontinue but would likely be integrated into one of RFTA’s existing routes.
The project would require two phases. First, the city would work with RFTA to re-route valley service and then create a pilot program for the e-hailing rider service.
“We have to evaluate and discuss with RFTA fare integration, and also we need to be able to reroute one of their existing buses to essentially cover a piece of the Ride Glenwood Route that’s well-used along Highway 6,” Partch said.
“This idea of a ride hailing service is kind of experimental in the United States,” she added. “We want to do a pilot program to evaluate how and if it could work here in Glenwood Springs.”
The e-hailing service would allow residents and tourists to call and request a ride from their mobile phone, and also afford them the opportunity to choose their pickup location.
“Depending on the time of day and depending on whether there are other people that need rides around you, the fare is variable,” Partch said. “It would be a little bit different from an Uber or a Lyft, they might use SUVs or a little bit larger vehicles so that there was the possibility of ridesharing if we were picking up a few people in north Glenwood or south Glenwood.”
The city e-hailing rider service must adhere to both Title VI and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance in order to receive federal funding. Partch also indicated the concept, based on its limited existence and performance in other regions, has a mixed track record. That means it’s more practical to begin with a pilot process.
“There’s some cities where it’s done well, and some cities where it’s not been as successful. So I think there is a fair amount of study in figuring out, you know, what factors contributed to its success or failure in other locations,” she said.
“But I thought it was a really creative idea in trying to use the revenue stream that we have and not ask for additional money, and also to address maybe trying to even broaden our service or increase our service area to catch people that live in residential areas that find it harder to use transit,” Partch explained. “I think it has the potential to be a really good change.”
If all goes as hoped, the system would be implemented by 2020. Council unanimously approved the five-year Transit Operations Plan.