On April 21, 2017, the City of Georgetown started a 3 year fixed route public transit pilot in partnership with Cap Metro & the Georgetown Health Foundation. The City decided on a traditional approach that created 4 fixed routes in selected parts of the City.

The residents in Georgetown really need an affordable and cost-effective public transit solution, but is the fixed route GoGeo approach the best solution moving forward?

Was the GoGeo Pilot successful or should we start thinking outside the box and find a Smart solution to our transit needs?

We have all seen the blue GoGeo buses driving around town with few if any riders inside the buses. The problem with a fixed route bus solution in a City like Georgetown is actually getting to one of the fixed bus pick-up locations…the first mile problem. The, once you arrive at your fixed bus drop off location, you then have to walk to your final location…the last mile problem.

While Georgetown was implementing their fixed route system, the City of Arlington (100 miles to the North) decided to try a completely different approach that would allow residents a new, affordable and flexible solution while solving the first and last mile problem at the same time.

Arlington partnered with a new company named VIA Transportation that had developed sophisticated rider aggregation algorithms that powered a flexible on demand, micro-transit solution. In the first 18 months of their pilot, the Arlington/VIA partnership achieved over 120,000 rides & 13,000 unique accounts…much more successful than Georgetown’s fixed route GoGeo pilot that begin 6 months before.

Last summer, Cap Metro also started a partnership with VIA Transportation to create on demand, micro-transit solutions for Manor and 4 large neighborhood areas in Austin. About 6 months ago, they expanded into Leander and added an additional bus in Manor, due to the increased customer demand. I shared this information with City Council back in January.   My City Council Proposal for the Next Generation GoGeo On-Demand Public Transit  [PDF]

Capmetro Pickup Bus leaving stationSince their first pilot in Arlington, VIA Transportation has expanded throughout the US and internationally. As you would expect, other companies saw VIA’s success and have entered the on demand, micro-transit market.

RideCo, one of VIA’s new competitors, has started a very successful pilot in San Antonio. San Antonio’s public transit system is called VIA, but has nothing to do with VIA Transportation or their projects in Austin, Manor, Arlington, etc.   San Antonio VIA Link Brochure  [PDF]

VIA and RideCo’s concept is similar. Customers can either use an “app” on their phones or call a telephone number to schedule a ride. The company then picks you up close to your location and delivers you to your final destination…eliminating the first and last mile problems I mentioned earlier. Buses are similar to our current GoGeo buses and can handle one wheelchair.

I have encouraged City Council to consider this new and very successful on demand, micro-transit approach instead of the traditional fixed route bus system that has not been very successful here in Georgetown over the last 3 years.

Now that VIA Transportation has a real competitor in RideCo, which is good news for us. Georgetown has the opportunity to have VIA and RideCo compete for the City’s new transit solution. I would recommend that the City issue a Request for Information (RFI) to get the best ideas from these companies. With that information, the City can then develop a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) to issue to qualified on demand, micro-transit companies like VIA and RideCo.

Through competition, we can implement the Next Generation of GoGeo and make it cost-effective, affordable for customers and responsive to the needs of Georgetown’s residents. Let’s be Smart, think outside the box and use new ideas that can solve our problems, instead of doing what everyone has always done.

I think one of my favorite quotes is very appropriate during the discussion.  It came from our former Texas Lt Governor Bob Bullock…”If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Thanks and Keep Washing Those Hands,  Larry