T notes: Uber, Lyft keep growing at the T
North-South Rail Link study coming this month
THE MBTA’S PARATRANSIT PARTNERSHIP with Uber and Lyft is continuing to grow at a fairly rapid pace.
Ben Schutzman, the T’s director of innovation and the overseer of the RIDE, the agency’s paratransit service, said the number of customers signed up to use the ride-hailing apps is growing 6 percent a month while the number of trips provided by the apps is increasing 7 percent a month. In April, he said, there were 2,061 paratransit customers enrolled in the program (out of a total of 30,000) who took a total of 12,204 trips.
The ride-hailing apps offer a number of advantages. Eligible customers with disabilities can call for service when they need it rather than having to schedule a day in advance. The price to the user is generally less ($2 per trip plus any charges over $15) and the T’s average cost is far less ($46 with the traditional RIDE versus $9 with the ride-hailing apps).
Schutzman said the ride-hailing apps allow the T to offer much better service at lower cost. But he said the popularity of the apps has prompted users to use them to take a lot more trips, which has erased any potential savings.
Schutzman and his colleagues have been more focused recently on transitioning the overall paratransit service to a new vendor. The T concluded last year that the old vendor, Global Contract Services, was not up to the job of consolidating three control and call centers into one, so the transit agency hired a company called TransDev in April to take over. The transition to TransDev was completed on Friday, and Schutzman said the process went smoothly, with next to no service disruptions.
Schutzman, one of three T officials profiled by CommonWealth in April as employee examples of a bid to change the transit agency’s culture, received high marks from T officials and members of the Fiscal and Management Control board.
“We were in a big mess nine months ago,” said Joseph Aiello, chairman of the control board. “Now we’re in a much better place.”
Dedicated bus lane shuts down – for now
State and city officials seem convinced a dedicated lane for buses and bicyclists between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills Station is a good idea, but right now they’re putting the project on hold.
A four-week test run of the dedicated lane ended on Friday. Boston officials now plan to assess data from the experiment and come back with a longer-term recommendation as early as the end of the month.
Steve Poftak, a member of the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, seemed to think the review was unnecessary, given the feedback he has received. “People are stuck in gridlocked traffic,” he said. “There is a great need to see that project continue.”
Chris Osgood, Boston’s chief of the streets, spoke in glowing terms about the experiment but said the evaluation process must be followed. “We thought it was very successful during its four weeks,” he said. “We have heard a lot of very positive feedback.”
Get ready to rumble
State transportation officials plan to release a draft report later this month reassessing the feasibility of building an underground rail link between South Station and North Station.The report, which is expected to take a high-level view of routing, cost, and ridership, could set off a major policy debate in Massachusetts. The Baker administration favors expanding the number of tracks at South Station to add capacity to the commuter rail system, while a determined group of activists led by former governor Michael S. Dukakis and US Rep. Seth Moulton is pushing for the rail link as a way to knit the region together.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the report will be put out for public review before being finalized. She declined to provide any preview of what the report will say.