MCDOT to launch microtransit service

June 25, 2019
Ride On Flex has been a year in development and will test residents’ receptivity to a corner-to-corner on-demand service within the service area.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, County Councilmembers Sidney Katz and Hans Riemer and Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) Director Al Roshdieh will join other stakeholders at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 26, at Rockville Town Square to launch “Ride On Flex,” the Washington region’s first on-demand public transit service.

After almost a year in development, MCDOT’s Flex pilot program will test residents’ receptivity to an innovative, low-cost service that can be requested through a mobile phone app powered by Via, a developer of on-demand, public mobility solutions. During the pilot program, Flex will provide corner-to-corner service in defined zones in the Rockville and Glenmont/Wheaton areas. Standard Ride On fare policy will apply to the new service, which means riders will pay no more than $2 as they board. The 11-passenger Flex buses are wheelchair accessible and offer free WiFi.

Using the Ride On Flex app, riders can request trips from a designated pick up spot to a drop off location within the same service zone. The app is now available for free download from the Apple and Google stores.

After requesting service, riders will be given an estimated time for pick up and drop off and will be directed to a pickup location. Flex will operate Monday through Friday in the Rockville zone from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and in the Glenmont/Wheaton zone during peak periods (6-9 a.m. and 3:30-7 p.m.). The zones offer connections between households, transit hubs, commercial centers and public services.

The Flex service holds tremendous promise not only for taking cars off our roads, but also improving equity for residents who need an affordable solution for getting around quickly,” said Montgomery County Executive Elrich. “During the pilot program, I am hopeful we will prove that on-demand service fills a hole in our transit system and that it will lead to eventual expansion to serve more areas of the County. This is the type of creative solution we need as part of our efforts to make transit more user friendly.”

Over the last several months, MCDOT has sought input from a wide range of community groups about the pilot program. At a public forum in April at Loiderman Middle School in Silver Spring, MCDOT staff unveiled plans for the pilot program and took questions and comments from residents.

“Our goal for Flex is to reshape the way residents think about getting around in the served Glenmont/Wheaton and Rockville zones,” said MCDOT Director Roshdieh. “In Glenmont/Wheaton, we hope to see residents using Flex to fill first mile/last mile gaps in their daily commute. In Rockville, the service lends itself more toward daytime errands and trips. Residents’ experiences, and the feedback they provide on the different spans of service in the two zones, will help us gather vital information about how they use this new service and point us toward the direction of future growth.”

MCDOT is encouraging residents to download the free Ride On Flex app now. Rides cannot be booked until June 26, but by downloading the app now, they can register and become familiar with the app’s interface and how to book rides.

“Via is thrilled to partner with MCDOT to provide residents with a convenient, affordable, and congestion-reducing transportation alternative,” said Daniel Ramot, CEO and co-founder of Via. “Via’s powerful passenger matching and vehicle routing algorithm will enable multiple riders to seamlessly share the vehicle. This technology makes for quick and efficient shared trips without lengthy detours, or inconvenient fixed routes and schedules.”

Area transportation officials will be watching to see what can be learned from the Flex pilot program. At a recent Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) Private Providers Forum, MCDOT Senior Planning Specialist Deanna Archey spoke about the Flex program.

A grant from MWCOG will support a MCDOT performance assessment of the new service. The grant will enable MCDOT to analyze trip data and user feedback.