S. Chandler residents in line for cheap Lyft rides - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

S. Chandler residents in line for cheap Lyft rides

July 21st, 2020 development
S. Chandler residents in line for cheap Lyft rides

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

South Chandler residents can look forward to better access to public transportation, thanks to a new partnership between the city and Lyft.

The ride-sharing company intends to contract with the city to offer discounted rides to Chandler residents living south of Pecos Road.

Neighborhoods located in this part of the city have only a couple of bus routes that can transfer residents to other parts of the Valley; hardly any other transit options exist for individuals unable to drive.

The city is hoping to remedy this deficit by partially subsidizing rides that are requested through Lyft’s mobile app.

According to a contract drafted between Chandler and Lyft, the city will pay 50 percent of a Lyft fare if the driver drops a Chandler resident off at a pre-designated “transfer point” that’s within close distance to one of Valley Metro’s local bus routes.

The city has identified several transfer points along Arizona Avenue and Dobson, Alma School and Gilbert roads where a Lyft patron can ask to be dropped off and receive the half-off discount.  All the transfer points are positioned near bus routes 96, 112, and 136.

In order to qualify for the cheaper fare, the trip must originate or end within a quarter-mile of a transfer point. The trip can start or end anywhere within the Chandler city limits that’s south of Pecos Road.

After more than a year of planning and negotiation, the city expects to start its one-year service agreement with Lyft on Sept. 1.

“We’re pretty excited about this partnership with Lyft and think it’s a good way to utilize technology,” said Jason Crampton, the city’s senior transportation planner.

It would cost the city up to $900,000 to extend a Valley Metro bus route through the south part of Chandler, Crampton said, which is a substantially larger cost than the $49,000 that’s been budgeted for the first year of the Lyft program.

The city is expecting pay on average no more than $6 on each Lyft ride that qualifies for a discount. A new bus service in south Chandler is estimated to cost the city up to $12 per passenger boarding.

“It provides a much more cost-efficient service,” Crampton said. “As well as a convenient service for our residents.”

Instead of scheduling their days around a rigid bus schedule, Crampton added, Chandler residents could decide when they want to be picked up and where their destination will be.

As part of the agreement, Lyft will be obligated to share data with the city on the rides it provides in south Chandler. Crampton said the city will be regularly reviewing this data and using it to assess whether the Lyft’s contract should be renewed at the end of August 2021.

Chandler is not the first city to partner with Lyft to offer cheaper rides to its residents. Several cities across the country have formed similar partnerships to fill a service gap in neighborhoods that have few public transit options.

Phoenix conducted a six-month trial run of the Lyft program – known commonly as “First Mile Last Mile” – in 2017.

Councilman Mark Stewart said he was pleased the city had found a creative way to expand transit services without paying for an expensive bus route.

“This is innovation. This is thinking outside the box,” he said. “It allows those who are underserved to get to the bus stops.”

Chandler’s decision to partner with Lyft fulfills some of the goals outlined in the city’s newly-updated transportation master plan, which strongly advocated for finding more flexible types of transit.

“Students and younger working populations are not inclined toward driving,” the 2019 master plan states, “and need demand-responsive mode alternatives like carpool, micro-transit, and ride-hailing services.”

As part of the master plan, the city surveyed 900 Chandler residents and 44 percent of respondents thought the city should invest more resources in public transit options.

Looking ahead to the future, Crampton said his department will be attempting to use more technology to rejuvenate how public transit is delivered and, in turn, will ideally encourage more local residents to consider using it.