Cost, convenience drives transit program success



FARE SHARE—Only about half a year in, Moorpark’s rideshare program appears to be a success as ridership continues to grow, though it has not outpaced bus ridership yet. Acorn file photo

FARE SHARE—Only about half a year in, Moorpark’s rideshare program appears to be a success as ridership continues to grow, though it has not outpaced bus ridership yet. Acorn file photo

Moorpark is going the extra mile for residents with its rideshare service.

Moorpark City Transit On Demand began in April 2022, and city staffers are using the early stages of the launch to smooth out any snags in the program.

The City Council hopes the service will help give residents burdened by high gas prices a far cheaper way to get around town. The council agreed to a three-year contract with Cincinnati-based First Transit Inc. in March.

“Nobody was sure what the ridership would be until we started providing the service, but we are very pleased with how the service has taken off,” said Michelle Woomer, the city’s interim management analyst. “We expect to reach a plateau for ridership eventually, but we haven’t plateaued yet. Ridership keeps going up every month!”

Although the program only launched in April—without any marketing conducted— commuters began to use the service quickly. The ridesharing service was providing about five to 10 trips per day when it launched, but the former public works manager anticipated that passengers would eventually be requesting 30 to 60 trips a day.

“The first couple of months in April and May was making sure the service was running smoothly, so ridership was low,” said Woomer.

Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., residents can book rides by phone, via the web or through the MCT On Demand app. The program includes about 100 locations throughout the city where passengers can ask to be picked up or dropped off. Stops are located at bus stops and other well-lit areas, The stops are within walking distance from anywhere in Moorpark.

The cost is $1 for each rider, each way. Seniors and disabled persons ride for 50 cents; children 5 or younger are free. For information, go to mctondemand.com.

The key metric used in measuring ridership is the number of passenger trips completed. Picking someone up in front of the Metrolink station and dropping them off at Target would count as one trip. A trip from Target back to the Metrolink station would be counted as another trip.

During the first full month of service, Woomer said the rideshare transported 166 passengers and grew to 801 passengers in August. In November, 1,200 passenger trips had been completed.

In December, Woomer said the second week of the month was the program’s busiest week ever with 398 completed trips and roughly 1,100 passengers.

“December ridership is typically low because of reduced demand due to the holidays,” she said.

Rideshare service drivers are provided by First Transit Inc. Feedback can be shared on the MCT On Demand app. So far, Woomer said, there has always been positive feedback regarding customer service.

“We have two awesome drivers, Richard and Louis, provided by our contractor. Both have been transit drivers in Moorpark for many years,” Woomer said.

The city expects to spend $1.7 million to run MCT On Demand from April 2022 through December 2024, which includes initial startup costs like vehicle procurement and advertising. The city was also able to secure grant funding to help run the rideshare service.

Meanwhile, the city’s traditional bus service continues to operate, with riders being able to hop on and off buses as they progress along their set routes, both making large circles around the city, one clockwise and one counter clockwise.

The rideshare service differs from traditional bus service in that the rideshare vehicles stop only at the riders’ predetermined pick-up or drop-off sites.

Factoring monthly operating costs and total number of rides in October and November, bus service costs the city between about $20 to $25. Rideshare rides cost between $33 and $37. Those figures drop as ridership goes up.

“(The service) is truly an innovative pilot program, and Moorpark is really on the cutting edge of micro-transit programs,” Woomer said.