Woodland plans to create an on-demand point-to-point public transportation system similar to Uber Pool that would allow people to request rides instead of relying exclusively on fixed-route buses.
The city has been working with the Yolo County Transportation District (YCTD) for the past eight months on proposals to implement a new form of public transit that would replace part of the current fixed-route system that Yolobus provides to the community, according to City Manager Ken Hiatt
“That would be a much more flexible and convenient alternative,” Hiatt said at Tuesday’s Woodland City Council meeting, held via Zoom. “Many cities across the country, including our neighbor West Sacramento, have already made this transition.”
Spencer Bowen, communications manager for Woodland, gave a presentation informing the council of the town’s efforts to create a microtransit system with the help of YCTD.
“What we’re looking at is an on-demand point-to-point flexible shuttle or small bus service,” Bowen explained. “What you can imagine is an operation much like an on-demand shared ride like Uber Pool, but it would be a public service that would run from a van or public shuttle.”
He said Yolo County already offers limited microtransit under the YOUR Ride (Yolo Urban-Rural Ride) brand operated by YCTD and the Knights Landing and Winters area communities.
He noted that a county study recommended cutting several routes in Knights Landing and Winters. Discussions about removing local routes 210 and 214 in Woodland and replacing them with microtransit service similar to those in those communities are ongoing between the city and YCTD.
“We’ve had many conversations with policy experts and other jurisdictions about microtransit,” Bowen pointed out. “Microtransit, or point-to-point on-demand transit, is still a relatively new model here in the United States. It has only been popularized in the last four to five years.
He explained that the city looked at other microtransit systems across the country and found the models that would work best for Woodland.
Bowen also stressed the importance of ensuring that this form of public transport is useful and usable for all members of the community by finding ways to make it accessible to unbanked people who want to pay cash, be sure that people can order a ride on their phone by calling instead of requiring a smartphone app and having multilingual and accessible cultural options.
Finally, Bowen said the discussions focused on the city’s youth and senior communities.
“We know from some of our partner jurisdictions and colleagues in the space that they’ve had great success with children and the elderly,” Bowen pointed out. “We want to focus particularly on children who may not have access to other transport options and this will provide a very valuable way to get around town, whether it’s for sports practice or something else, as well than for older people who may depend on public transport.”
Mayor Pro Tempore Victoria Fernandez expressed concern about the existing microtransit in Winters that only operates from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“How would microtransit work in a community the size of Woodland and how would someone working or a student access microtransit if it operates at these similar times?” Fernandez asked. “It wouldn’t work for someone who has to be in school at 8 a.m. or has to be at work at 8 a.m. and doesn’t get home until 6 or 7 p.m.”
Bowen assured that the service would also be designed to serve these people.
“Whether it’s jobs or dining downtown, we realize people have transit needs outside of those hours,” he said. “We are looking for a provider that will provide a service that can be efficient and cost-effective with as much uptime as possible.”
Bowen noted that the city and YCTD are working to come up with a transit model and plan to help them understand how many vehicles will be needed to meet Woodland’s goals while providing early and late rides for people who need them. .
Tom Stallard, alderman and vice chairman of the Yolo County Transportation Board, said he was grateful to be this far in the process.
“This is a pioneering effort,” he said. “There are 20 in place right now across the country. It’s clearly the wave of the future and I’m glad Woodland is at this stage.
The board took no action on this as it was only an informational update.