New On-Demand Transit Service for SW Port St. Lucie Running Well
PORT ST. LUCIE – The Treasure Coast Connector On-Demand micro-transit service for residents in the southwestern portion of Port St. Lucie has been wildly successful in its first eight months, transporting 358 registered users on 3,415 passenger trips.
This comes in spite of the coronavirus pandemic that shut down many aspects of Florida life three months after the service debuted. With mobility ramping up after the initial virus shutdown, ridership continues to increase monthly, and passengers rave about the new service.
“It helps me so much because I used to walk from my house to the bus stop, and I was always so hot and tired when I got on the bus,” said Lenora Copeland, who rides transit weekdays to get to work across town in Port St. Lucie. “It helps my whole family, too. They use it to go shopping and get to the drugstore. It’s changed our whole lives.”
Similar to ride-hailing services, Treasure Coast Connector – On Demand uses a smartphone app for riders to schedule customized curb-to-curb trips in the Gatlin Road area of Port St. Lucie. A small, neighborhood-friendly van will pick-up riders and drop them off wherever they wish to travel within the defined pilot program areas of Port St. Lucie, including businesses and offices in Tradition and near Interstate 95 on Gatlin Boulevard. Areas being served include: Becker Ridge; Paar Estates; Sawgrass Lakes; Crane Landin; Woodland Trails; Tulip Park; Rosser Reserve; Gatlin Pines; Whispering Pines; Newport Isles and Tradition. Along the way, the shuttle may pick-up other passengers who also request a ride. The service conveniently accommodates people with disabilities.
Rachelle Joachim registered for the service to help her disabled uncle become more independent. She books rides for him on her smartphone and lets him decide where to go each week.
“It saves a lot of time and it’s convenient,” said Joachim, who used to drive her uncle to parks and stores for shopping, exercise and entertainment. “Ninety percent of the time it’s been very consistent, and not much of a wait. He’s been taking it all year and it’s really lifted his spirits.”
The average wait time for an on-demand pickup is only 25 minutes, compared to hourly service for typical bus routes. It’s also a curb-to-curb trip, so there’s no wasted steps to reach a rider’s destination. In St. Lucie County’s pilot area, the No. 1 destination for riders is a Walmart and Sam’s Club shopping center, followed by a bus stop at CVS and a Publix shopping center. The most popular time for rides is 9 a.m., followed by 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Riders have expressed much enthusiasm about the new program, saying it’s saved them money on transportation and in some cases prevented the need to buy a second car – an expense that costs an average of $10,000 yearly.
St. Lucie County’s objective is to create a technology-driven, demand-response, public transportation system that is completely integrated with transit fixed bus route service. If successful in the initial area after three years, the program will be expanded throughout the entire region. The software that’s being used tolerates the complexity of a growing, diverse service area and has an intuitive learning ability to optimize vehicle routing and trip planning. As a result, this will promote sharing of vehicles and decrease the cost per trip while ensuring a favorable rider experience.
The decision to choose transit often starts with the first (or last) mile. By more conveniently connecting suburban customers to the county’s transit system, the county can increase the number of riders it brings into its fixed-route bus network, increasing economies of scale.
To find out more about the Treasure Coast Connector and the new micro-transit program for Port St. Lucie’s southwestern residents call 772-462-1778 or visit www.slcride.org.