Trucks at Work

Shrinking down to expand service

As cities are projected to get bigger and denser, public transit agencies are running into some of the same problems being experienced by freight transporters in such tight urban confines: their vehicles are often too big to fit on many streets.

[You can go here and here for more strategic thoughts on that “urbanization throughput” issue.]

What to do? Well, the deployment of smaller vehicles, such as mid-sized pickups and vans, is one way of providing better mobility options within increasingly congested urban environments.

In fact, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) just kicked off a one-year pilot test in conjunction with Ford Motor Co. to test this very theory.

The new program, called Ride KC: Bridj, is a public-private partnership that combines a transit agency, an automaker and an urban technology firm – in this case, Bridj – to offer more public transit access options for Kansas City residents.

Scheduled to launch in early March, Ride KC: Bridj is built around Bridj’s data-point platform, which determines where riders want to go and how to get them there most efficiently.

Using the Bridj mobile app, riders can request on-demand shuttle service that they can access via pop-up shuttle stations. That shuttle fleet will initially be comprised of 10 high-roof long-wheelbase Transit vans modified with a custom 14-passenger seating layout and large running board for passenger convenience.

The one-year pilot program initially will include downtown Kansas City, the near east and west sides, Hospital Hill, Crown Center, portions of Midtown, University of Kansas Medical Center and the Historic 18th and Vine Jazz district, noted Robbie Makinen, KCATA’s president and CEO.

“This will augment and serve as a gateway to other forms of transit as many pick-up locations will be at bus stops and areas served by existing Kansas City transit and bike-share systems; [giving riders] one more option to make it easier for people to get around,” Makinen explained.

“Only 18% of jobs in the Kansas City region are accessible within 90 minutes when using existing mass transit options,” added Matt George, Bridj’s CEO. “Modernizing urban infrastructure will be the single greatest technology challenge of our time, and this pilot is part of the solution by significantly extending the current capabilities of Kansas City’s mass transit system.”

Makinen noted that Kansas City’s public transit system is truly “multi-modal” as well, allowing bus, bike, streetcar and rapid transit come together to create a “seamless and borderless transportation network” that’s easy and friendly to use – with the addition of on-call shuttle vans making it only more so.

Will it work as advertised? We’ll find out in a year.

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