During the April 20th City of Tallahassee Commission meeting, the Commission unanimously approved StarMetro’s new pilot program, “Dial-A-Ride (DAR) on Demand.”
In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the city’s current DAR program offers curb-to-curb transportation to citizens who cannot take advantage of fixed-route buses. The program requires citizens to schedule a transportation service by at least 5:00 p.m. the day before the trip. Depending on various trip specifications, the service will then be scheduled as either a group pickup or an individual ride.
As it stands now, the current service is not effective for same-day transportation requests and offers limited scheduling options. However, the pilot program will improve choices for the citizens by allowing the use of Transportation Network Companies (TNC), also called ridesharing companies. In addition, it is designed to offer other benefits such as shorter wait times and may close service gaps currently experienced by increasing requests.
Using a mobile application or through StarMetro’s call center, a citizen can book a ride through a participating rideshare, such as Big Bend Transit. The customer will pay the regular DAR fare of $2.50, and the city will pay the remaining amount up to the negotiated contractor rate. After that, the customer would be required to pay any remaining fees.
The current negotiated rate for ambulatory services is $18.58, and for wheelchair transportation, the cost is $33.40. Rates for additional TNC providers participating in the pilot program will be determined during contract negotiations.
StarMetro currently receives annual funding from “various agencies” such as Leon County and the Florida Department of Transportation for approximately $2,444,613. According to the report by city staff, StarMetro’s funding covers the paratransit program, and the pilot program is expected to be “cost-neutral.” StarMetro will also work to apply for available grants to help fund the pilot program.
The city will leverage existing contracts that other transit agencies have already competitively bid upon implementation. The pilot program will be evaluated at six-month intervals for the two years of the program. Once completed, work will begin to adopt it formally if the program is successful.