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Case Study: Emerging Ridesharing Services Expand Mobility Options

The city of Monrovia, CA, offers a range of public transportation services at the local and regional levels, including bus service operated by Foothill Transit and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), Gold Line light rail operated by LA Metro and ADA paratransit services operated by Access Services and LA Metro.

With the Southern California Association of Governments projecting that the region’s population will grow by approximately 11 million people in the next 25 years, the city is looking at innovative ways to bring new and integrated transportation services to residents.

The main local public transportation mode in Monrovia had been a dial-a-ride shuttle bus, which had experienced low usage and high costs. In March 2018, the city created the GoMonrovia program—a partnership with Lyft and LimeBike that provides subsidized on-demand ride hailing and bikesharing services. A passenger can take Lyft anywhere in the GoMonrovia service area for just 50 cents or a ride on one of the more than 200 LimeBike dockless bikes for $1 per 30 minutes.

Both Lyft’s shared rides and LimeBike’s dockless bikes have experienced high levels of ridership, posing the question of how to scale up the program to satisfy increasing demand.

Getting Started and Building Relationships
City leadership examined local resources and existing mobility services within the context of a nationwide decrease in public transit ridership, with a view of leveraging technology platforms to facilitate a new public transportation model for the Monrovia suburban community.

Unique signs promote the GoMonrovia program, with instructions on how to access the Lyft and LimeBike services.

The city looked for transportation partners with whom they could work closely and that recognized the role of both public transit and emerging services in the new mobility landscape. Lyft and LimeBike proved the most suitable.

Lyft looks to be part of the transportation mobility ecosystem in a way that complements public transit while improving people’s lives and reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions, as evidenced by their commitment to purchase carbon offsets to make every ride carbon neutral as of April 2018. LimeBike’s flexibility and willingness to adapt were important in addressing potential issues, such as avoiding bike clutter around the city.

The city adopted a practical approach regarding data sharing. Knowing that all data shared with cities is public, which private companies tend not to like, the city did not seek an open data agreement but asked simply for the specific data it needed to develop future planning and analysis. Thus, Lyft and LimeBike have shared large amounts of information, but only in an aggregated and anonymous form.

LimeBike has provided the city access to its internal system to monitor in real time the number of rides occurring, where rides are starting and ending, highest-use areas and how many hours and miles have been ridden.

With Lyft, conversations are ongoing on how best to share information valuable for planning. The city is striving for more comprehensive data on overall numbers of rides to key areas such as train stations or downtown, and which are the highest-use areas for pickup or dropoff.

Program Implementation
Implementing the program was quick—approximately three months—with city leadership working closely with both companies and all internal departments during early 2018 on approvals, contracts, marketing and rollout.

Residents of the city of Monrovia take part in a community bike ride to celebrate the launch of the GoMonrovia program.

As part of LA County, Monrovia has four different revenue streams that are restricted to transportation-related uses. From these streams, approximately $1 million a year has been spent on operating the dial-a-ride program. The city decided to shift that funding to the GoMonrovia program, for which the city manager’s office worked with county partners to reallocate payments to the partners.

The team also addressed such issues as how residents without a smartphone might access the program. The city decided to retain its dial-a-ride program on a smaller scale, focusing on people without smartphones or with ADA-related needs and reducing the fare to match the fare on Lyft rides.

Communications and Outreach
A thorough communications campaign was essential to ensure that residents were aware of the program and how to use it. The city went to great lengths to reach the elderly population, talking with local senior clubs about the transition, and with current riders of the dial-a-ride program to explain the new program.

The city also worked with the Public Works Department to make sure the identified areas for bike deployment were properly rolled out, and coordinated all administrative staff associated with transitioning from the previous dial-a-ride program to the new ­GoMonrovia program.

The city opted for a “loud rollout,” deploying resources all over town. As LimeBike uses a lime green color for its bicycles, lime green banners were hung throughout town and lime green paint was added to several key locations throughout town where bikes were placed. The city also partnered with a marketing design firm to develop unique signs to promote the program. For example, at strategic points in ­public transit stations, decals placed on the ground illustrate the walk to get to the bike rack and Lyft pickup zones, with instructions on how to access the services everywhere.

Evaluating Success and Challenges Ahead
The city uses ridership numbers and the associated cost of trips as the main measures of success. The former dial-a-ride program cost approximately $1 million a year and facilitated 30,000 rides annually. With similar spending, the Lyft program has reached 30,000 rides a month and more than 2,700 people have signed up for LimeBike.

Additionally, the city sees that the program has had a positive impact on traffic and reducing the demand for parking space.

Representatives from Lyft and LimeBike joined with Monrovia representatives March 17 to formally launch the GoMonrovia program.

Currently, the most significant challenge ahead is how to address the overwhelming demand for the program. The city was not anticipating the level of ridership that both the Lyft and LimeBike services have enjoyed, and must now strategize how to adapt and sustain the services for growth, including design and operation, management and funding.

After three months of operation and a successful reception from the public, the city is developing educational outreach sessions with Lyft and LimeBike to share lessons learned with other cities in the region. Informally, the team is also sharing its experiences with different agencies, NGOs and other municipalities interested in how to build and manage such a program.

Public transportation agencies wishing to learn more about the city of ­Monrovia’s GoMonrovia program should contact Oliver Chi, city manager, city of Monrovia.
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