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The results are in. After a month and a half in operation, the pilot rideshare program, Birmingham On-Demand powered by Via, is off to a promising start.
According to figures presented at the January 22nd Birmingham City Council Transportation Committee meeting, Birmingham On Demand completed more than 3000 rides in the first 45 days and wait times averaged seven and a half minutes.
Here is the complete breakdown:
Birmingham On Demand Numbers from December 3, 2019- Jan. 21, 2020
● 3,072 rides
● 7.31 minute average wait time
● 94% pickups on-time
● 2.24 miles average ride distance
● 4.88 avg ride rating
Feeling positive with the performance
“We are seven weeks into our Birmingham On-Demand microtransit pilot and we are feeling positive with the performance so far,” said Lakey Boyd, deputy director at Birmingham Department of Transportation, The weekly ridership has been consistently growing since we launched in December.”
The City has been particularly encouraged that the most frequent pick-up and drop-off points are demonstrating that people are using the service for groceries, medical services, and connecting to other transportation options at the Birmingham Intermodal Facility.
The figures are particularly pleasing to Chris Nanni, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham whose foundation has partnered with the city to develop and operate the on-demand shared ride service that complements public transportation in the city.
A regular Birmingham On Demand rider, Nanni provided Bham Now a step by step tutorial on how the Birmingham On-Demand works.
- Directly book and pay for Birmingham On-Demand rides on the Via app (iOS and Android) or by calling 205-236-0768.
- Payments can be made by credit card or pre-paid debit cards (no cash transactions).
- It delivers you corner-to-corner. You may have to walk about one block for pick up or drop off, which is a function of how the algorithm pushes the shortest traffic pattern for the drivers.
- Wait time from ride booking to pick-up should average 15 minutes or less in the pilot service zone.
- Book a ride during service hours: Monday-Friday 6am-8pm and Saturday 10am-8pm.
The new Birmingham On Demand pilot program has been a team effort. Along with funding from the city, the Community Foundation is supporting the microtransit pilot project through its Catalyst Funds and direct Foundation funding. The Catalyst Fund is a philanthropic venture fund at the Community Foundation that consists of donors who support transformational change for greater Birmingham.
As a result of the Foundation’s support the pilot project is fully funded.
“We wanted to make sure that the pilot is successful so we added resources to make it happen,” added Nanni. “As one of four states that does not provide state funding for public transportation, we recognize that creative and alternative forms of transportation are needed.”
That included increasing from four to six Mercedes vans to provide better coverage and conducting a two month long community outreach campaign that prepared the community for the upcoming program.
Inexpensive, timely and excellent service
Perhaps, the best thing going for the new program is its cost and excellent service.
Sam Slaughter, a Birmingham On Demand Driver, told us that a lot of customers need the program and it is affordable.
“We have been picking up a good number of people in the service area in the western part of town. The number one destination is Publix downtown and then places like UAB Highlands hospital.”
Slaughter also said the low cost makes the program attractive.
“At $1.50 people- anyone can find that laying under their couch!”
The city is continuing to collect data on Birmingham On Demand. If more and more people use the service, chances are it will be picked up by the city and expanded.
“These ridership patterns are confirming our use case for the pilot,” said Boyd about the project. “We will continue to evaluate this data as we work to enhance public transportation in Birmingham.”