BART awarded grant to explore on-demand wheelchair accessible van service
BART has been awarded a grant to develop an on-demand ride-hailing van service for passengers using wheelchairs for use when elevators are taken out of service.
BART, in partnership with the Community Resources for Independent Living, already has one wheelchair accessible van positioned at the Hayward Station and will soon have another one at the Castro Valley Station that can be used to carry passengers to an adjacent station if an elevator goes out of service. These vehicles, however, have required the passenger to arrange for their own driver. BART also partners with East Bay Paratransit to provide rides on wheelchair accessible vehicles when an elevator is out of service. As these vehicles may need to travel a far distance to a BART station to pick up or drop off a passenger, BART has been seeking ways to improve this service.
With the Mobility-on-Demand (MOD) On-Ramp program grant, BART will receive professional technical assistance from the Shared-Use Mobility Center to do the initial research and develop a project plan to then compete for another round of grant money to possibly expand the number of vans positioned near BART stations. BART would then use an app to put out a call for prequalified, drug tested drivers with experience in transporting passengers who travel with the use of wheelchairs. The driver pool is envisioned to include partnerships with bus drivers and unions. These drivers would be able to access the strategically positioned vans to carry passengers between stations.
The grant will be used to set up a project plan and identify what is required to develop the app, create a process for pre-qualified drivers, and expand the number of vans and the maintenance necessary to ensure a safe ride.
“While BART is constantly striving to improve the reliability of its elevators, there are times when an elevator is taken out of service, which is extremely disruptive for our riders who have no other way to enter and exit a station. Being able to provide an on-demand, safe, wheelchair accessible ride would be a tremendous improvement for our riders who rely on transit to get around,” said Bob Franklin, Department Manager of Customer Access and Accessibility.
BART is among six public transportation agencies across the country to receive this free technical assistance to develop projects from the Chicago-based Shared-Use Mobility Center’s MOD On-Ramp Program, part of a partnership with the Federal Transit Administration.
Independent evaluators from a combination of public agencies and private firms, in consultation with the FTA, selected the six grant winners from a pool of nearly 30 proposals from across the country.
The program gives public transportation agencies and other transportation providers the opportunity to receive expert assistance to develop business plans and other strategies.
“We need to continue to innovate in public transit to find new ways to improve and expand transportation options for all. Shared mobility partnerships can test out new technologies and creative ideas that have the potential to improve customers’ rides and increase efficiencies for agencies. New pilots are one of the best ways to develop new service models” said Shared-Use Mobility Center’s Executive Director Sharon Feigon.
BART previously received one of 11 MOD grants awarded in 2016 to develop a public/private partnership for its carpool program with Scoop.
The program guarantees parking before 10 am in permit spaces at BART stations specifically for riders who carpool using the Scoop app, which connects neighbors and co-workers to fill seats in vehicles already driving to BART stations.
To date, the Scoop program is now available at 17 BART stations and has generated over 50,000 trips to BART stations.