July 26, 2018
In the Fall of 2018, Norwalk plans to unveil Wheels2U, a new form of public transportation allowing residents to request rides and be picked up in minibus vehicles, creating an on-demand ridesharing service. While the minibus will be carrying other riders, they will all be dropped off at their final destinations. Here are some facts about the Microtransit system Wheels2U and how it will be established in Norwalk.
What is MicroTransit?
Microtransit is a form of transportation that has been rapidly growing in major cities such as Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and New York. The best way to describe Microtransit is “like Uber, but for public transit”. The technology behind this system allows users to request rides, then the transit service finds flexible routes to pick up riders and drive them to their destinations.
How Microtransit Works
The innovation behind the system is that each bus uses an algorithm to pick up others that are on the way as it drives you to your destination. This makes the transportation system something like an “uberPOOL” or “Lyft Line”, where multiple groups or individuals are picked up and brought to their various destinations in the same vehicle.
Norwalk officials believe Wheels2U will be successful in the city due to efficiency reasons. Instead of running empty buses through Norwalk neighborhoods to bus stops that may have no one waiting for hours at a time, the Wheels2U program will allow riders to let public transit drivers know when they are ready for a pickup via an app.
Simulations of this microtransit service in a city comparable to the size of Norwalk showed that waiting times for bus service can be cut to as little as two minutes. Similarly, the goal of Wheels2U is to cut down waiting times, while doubling ridership with no additional operating costs, as seen in other areas.
Microtransit in Norwalk
The Norwalk Transit District, in partnership with the City of Norwalk, State of Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, is implementing Wheels2U as a pilot program with TransLoc, a Ford Smart Mobility company. According to the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, the Norwalk Transit District is planning a trial of the program over a six month period in the fall. Funding for the pilot program comes from a partnership with TransLoc and their parent company Ford Smart Mobility, SoNo Collection mall developer GGP, and the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation as part of its pledge to improve transportation services in Norwalk’s urban core. The vehicles used for the service are part of the Norwalk Transit District’s paratransit fleet. The vehicles will be used during hours when the vehicles are in off peak mode for the paratransit service. These vehicles are funded 80% by the Federal Transit Administration and 20% by the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation.
So, when you are in Norwalk looking for a ride next fall and don’t have time to wait at a bus stop or enough money to call for an Uber ride, remember to check out Wheels2U! Wheels2U will be up and running, helping Norwalk citizens with safe and time-efficient rides around the city.