For some, transit centers are just out of reach.
But starting this month, Lyft, a ride-hailing company, will provide free rides to transit centers and bus stops for those with limited access.
Pierce Transit and Lyft partnered to create the Limited Access Connections pilot program with help from the Federal Transit Administration’s Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox grant program. The pilot program, called Limited Access Connections, allows agencies to experiment with new transportation options for the public.
Pierce Transit was one of 11 public transportation providers chosen to participate nationwide and was awarded $205,000.
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“We looked at areas where we feel like people don’t choose to use the bus because it’s just too far,” Pierce Transit business partnership administrator Penny Grellier said. “Hopefully, (the project) will boost ridership and give people more transportation options.”
How it works
Those who are interested in the service can see if they’re within the Lyft zone by entering their address on the Pierce Transit website. There are four zones located in Puyallup, Tacoma, Browns Point, Parkland/Spanaway, Midland and University Place.
Next, riders can download the Lyft app on their smartphones and make an account if they don’t already have one. By entering the promo codes listed on the Pierce Transit website, the free ride will be added to the rider’s account.
Bright yellow ride-share signs are stationed at transit centers to direct Lyft drivers to a safe drop-off and pick-up location.
For those who don't have a smartphone or are in a wheelchair, the Lyft rides are still available by calling a customer service line at 253-581-8032 to request a ride.
The pilot program was created to last a year on limited grant funds, so riders are limited to 48 rides per month.
Opportunities for students
Pierce College vice president of administrative services Choi Halladay estimates that there are anywhere from 200-250 students on the Puyallup campus in the evening, attending classes or events.
But bus services to the college stops at 8 p.m., leaving some students to find alternate ways home. That will change with the college’s involvement with the Limited Access Connections program.
“The way that it will work is that students who are at Pierce College Puyallup after the bus service ends on the weekdays will be able to summon a Lyft ride from the college’s existing bus stop to their home,” he said. Homes have to be approximately eight miles from the school. Otherwise, they can be taken to a transit center.
In surveys, transportation accessibility has always been in the top five concerns for students attending college, Halladay added.
“I think it’ll be a really good benefit to the night students who don’t have bus service to get them where they need to go,” Pierce College student body president Garrett Brown said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction in expanding transportation and transportation options.”
Relieving parking congestion
Finding a parking spot is a struggle for many train riders at the Puyallup Sounder Station. Local Park & Rides are also reaching capacity, Grellier said. Pierce Transit is collaborating with Sound Transit for the Limited Access Connections program in the hopes it’ll help the problem.
“We’re looking at this as a test to see if this will relieve congestion in those spots,” Grellier said. “All of the data we gather from this will help us improve service.”
The project will be a learning experience for Lyft, too, Grellier added.
“Our mission at Lyft is to improve people's lives with the world's best transportation. By partnering with Pierce Transit, we are removing mobility challenges many individuals face and instead making transit more accessible,” Lyft Pacific Northwest general manager Todd Kelsay said. "We are excited to kick off this new project with Pierce Transit."
If the program is successful, Pierce Transit will try to continue the program after the federal grant funds run out, either in-house or by continuing partnerships.
For more information, visit piercetransit.org/limited-access-connections.
Zones, times and codes
Zone A: East Puyallup Commuter and Fife Commuter. Rides are provided from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday from East Puyallup to select bus stops and the Sounder Station. Promo code: 18FIFEPUY
Zone B: Pierce College Puyallup Guaranteed Ride Home. Rides are provided from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday from Pierce College Puyallup to destinations within the East Puyallup Zone and South Hill Mall Transit Center. Promo code: 18RAIDERS
Zone C: Browns Point NE Tacoma Connection with Tacoma Dome Station. Rides are provided from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week between northeast Tacoma and the Tacoma Dome Station multimodal facility when Route 63 between northeast Tacoma and downtown Tacoma is not operating.
Zone D: Spanaway/Parkland, Midland and University Place Connections. Riders in Spanaway/Parkland, Midland and University Place who cannot otherwise reach transit with a connection to select bus stops. Promo codes (use code specific to your location): 18SPANPARK; 18MIDLAND; 18UPLACE