Media Alert: Arlington County Clarifies On-Demand Ridesharing Service

Published on August 18, 2016

Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz reiterated today that the County is in the early stages of examining an innovative proposal to introduce on-demand ridesharing service to keep some neighborhoods connected to transit where bus ridership is too low to justify fixed-route bus service.

"The Transit Development Plan recently adopted by the County Board asks us to review the viability of a plan to institute an on-demand ridesharing service to serve ART routes in north and south Arlington where bus ridership is low," Schwartz said. "Our goal is to review a possible way to encourage transit ridership, increase efficiency and reduce costs. This is just an option we are studying — we must overcome many challenges and answer many questions before we could consider implementing this proposal.  A recent press account quoted a County staff person as saying, incorrectly, that we will be subsidizing this service. No such decision has been made at this preliminary stage of analysis."

Schwartz noted that the approach is being studied by jurisdictions across the nation.

The TDP proposes the on-demand ridesharing service as one possible solution to the challenge of low bus ridership on the County's Arlington Transit (ART) buses in specific neighborhoods of north and south Arlington. The TDP outlines a process of reconfiguring those low productivity bus routes and potentially adding the on-demand service in areas that would no longer be served by ART. If the County Board approves the service, it would be launched no earlier than FY 2019.

In the TDP, a state-mandated plan for County-wide transit service, the new service is being analyzed for the following neighborhoods, where bus ridership does not meet our productivity standards (at least 15 passengers per hour):

  • Rock Spring, Williamsburg Middle School, and Dominion Hills

  • Chain Bridge Forest, Rivercrest, Bellevue Forest, Gulf Branch, and Stafford-Albermarle-Glebe

  • Douglas Park, Nauck, and Arlington Village

The proposed service could connect these areas to a transit center, such as the Ballston or East Falls Church Metrorail stations, or to a transit corridor, such as Columbia Pike. One option being reviewed is possible service between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, for those not within walking distance of a bus route providing service during those hours.

The shared ride service, if adopted, would be accessible to all. Rides could be grouped, and would be booked using a smartphone app. The County is looking at incorporating STAR — the paratransit component of ART — into this possible on-demand service to ensure accessibility to people with disabilities, and is looking at ways to book rides for those without smartphones.

Given the preliminary nature of the review, the County has not determined a transportation provider for the proposed service, but any provider would have to meet similar safety and background requirements that our current ART/STAR providers meet.

Details of the service, and its costs, will require further analysis. Once the analysis is completed, the County will evaluate the possibility of subsidizing the cost of the rides to users.

To learn more about the TDP, visit the County website