Saturday bus passengers demanding rides in SAM pilot program

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls Area Transit On Demand pilot transit program is transporting about 600 passengers a day, said Sam Trebilcock, a senior planner with the city.

The pilot program started in December 2020 and will continue until spring of 2022. The on-demand program is being used to help evaluate transit use and the possible addition of on-demand routes and fixed routes.

Riders call for a transit trip on Saturdays with the pilot program.

Riders schedule a pick-up time and are asked to be ready no earlier than the pick-up time. But just as with para-transit, sometimes the actual pick-up time will vary, Trebilcock said.

If the on-demand vehicle has other pick ups or drop offs on the way to an individual’s pick-up time, it could run behind, Trebilcock said.

“Most of are within the 20-minute (pickup) window,” Trebilcock said. “We’re doing well there.”

Sioux Falls Area Metro (SAM) has been encouraging riders to use an app to schedule and track their ride.

Before the app, “About 70% of riders were calling in. We’ve got 60% with the app and about 40% calling in,” he said.

A 2018 survey of transit riders showed that 64% of respondents have a smartphone. Also, 49% had an annual household income of less than $15,000.

Some on demand riders may not be able to afford a smartphone to use the app.

“It’s definitely a challenge and an equity issue,” Trebilcock said.

Riders who do not have a smartphone can schedule a ride at the bus depot. Rides can also be scheduled with a computer.

“It’s not perfect and we know there are still challenges,” Trebilcock said.

The on-demand service has already led to two-fixed Saturday routes called crosstown routes. One is the crosstown west route and other is the crosstown east route.

A SAM graphic for the Saturday on demand Crosstown West route. The fixed route was developed from the on-demand pilot program. A Crosstown East fixed Saturday route was also established. Sioux Metro Transit graphic.

Trebilcock said the pilot program could lead to other changes in the transit system.

Para-transit and on-demand riders could share a bus on weekdays.

“The system is like an Uber-shared ride,” Trebilcock said.

“We are working toward a pilot within a pilot,” Trebilcock said of ideas SAM wants to try.

Routes 8 and 19 are in the north industrial area and in the area of Southeast Technical Institute. Trebilcock said that could be an area where a para-transit bus could be used in a fixed-route system.

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