The Vienna Town Council is looking to add new transportation options to make getting around town easier.
Michael Gallagher, the director of public works, presented information about microtransit service and potential grants to the Vienna Town Council last night (Monday).
Microtransit falls in the middle of private, individual transportation like taxis and mass public transit.
“It’s like Uber with shuttle buses,” Gallagher said, adding that it’s designed to be low-cost or fare-free.
People within a certain geographic area would be able to request rides through an app. Microtransit routes and schedules are flexible to try to match the demand for trips, he said.
“There’s really no data yet because it’s fairly new,” he said, noting that D.C. is one of the areas around the country exploring microtransit service.
Microtransit would cost between $200,000-$400,000 per year for the third party running the system, Gallagher estimated.
As for funding, Gallagher told the Town Council the upcoming application deadlines for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) and Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).
Councilmembers were supportive of pursuing the new option.
“If we can get a grant for a pilot program, I think that would be a great option for the town,” Councilmember Pasha Majdi said. “I think this should be considered without making major budget commitments.”
Councilmember Linda Colbert supported the idea for a trial period, adding that she is interested in seeing how many people would use microtransit compared to Uber or another ridesharing service.
Most of the debate was about how quickly the town staff would need to act in order to meet different grant deadlines.
Councilmember Douglas Noble argued the town should not seek funding immediately, saying that microtransit needs to be considered in the context of other transportation options. The council is set to hear about the multi-modal study from Kimley-Horn on Nov. 6.
Majdi noted that there may not be a lot of information about microtransit’s feasibility since it is a new technology.
Gallagher said that he is meeting with NVTC in about two weeks to discuss potential grants. The Town Council said that it will continue the discussion of microtransit service this year.
“Do you want to get a microtransit service that gives everyone a ride everywhere wherever they want to go 24/7 or do you want a shuttle that takes people back and forth to the Metro?” Majdi said. “Very, very different levels of service.”