The El Cajon City Council unanimously voted to green-light a micro-transit pilot program to support the public transportation system throughout the city.
Riders will be able to request rides through a new cell phone application, then be picked up by one of three electric-powered vehicles. The program will be free for the first month, with a $2.50 fare being implemented after the introductory period.
Funding for the program comes from a $1.5 million Clean Mobility Options grant the city received to create an on-demand transportation service through the statewide California Climate Investments initiative. The grant covers the first two years of the pilot program, and the city will seek additional funding through the Transportation Development Act to bolster funds collected from fares to complete the final two years of the pilot.
City engineer Mario Sanchez said the micro-transit program is part of a local effort to improve access for public transit users who sometimes need to walk long distances between bus or trolley stops and their homes.
"The intent of the service is to serve our underserved, environmental justice communities and to get them to the last mile to transit to make it to their jobs and so forth," Sanchez said.
While the population in the intended service area is approximately 71,900 people, city staff estimate that there will be approximately 200 riders per day using the program.
At an upcoming meeting, the city council will vote to contract Nomad Transit to deploy the program, through which the company will be responsible for hiring staff and providing the vehicles. The program is expected to launch sometime this summer.
Councilmember Michelle Metschel said that years ago, the city had a similar contract with Yellow Cab, which she said she used as a single mom to bring home groceries. She added the program will be especially helpful for older adults living in food deserts within the city where there is not easy access to grocery stores.
"This is going to give options to a lot of our residents who have to carry their groceries home, have to walk to do various tasks — groceries especially — and I think this is a wonderful idea," Metschel said.
This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.
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