At the start of the pandemic, when ridership declined, transit agencies around the country were faced with a difficult question: How can they provide adequate service to essential workers in financially sustainable ways?
Miami-Dade County’s Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) found an innovative a way to meet travelers’ needs through a special ride-hailing program when it suspended its overnight bus service during part of the pandemic.
As part of our mobility recovery project, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is examining ways to meet travel demand in an equitable, cost-effective, and sustainable way. DTPW’s Go Nightly program offers lessons that can be used during the pandemic and beyond.
To continue to serve its riders, DTPW launched Go Nightly, a partnership with Uber and Lyft that provided late-night rides for essential workers. Go Nightly offered free rides between midnight and 5:00 a.m. within 500 feet of the suspended bus routes.
The program cost Miami-Dade County $14 per hour per rider, well below the $40 per hour per rider needed to run the overnight fixed-route buses. However, as bus ridership rebounded in Miami-Dade County, it became more cost efficient and sustainable to operate these routes, which resumed in December 2021.
Bus and train lines will continue to be the backbone of the transit system, but as demonstrated by Go Nightly, ride-hailing can fill gaps in the transportation system when that is not an option. Public-private partnerships like Go Nightly can help address last-mile connection problems or provide residents an alternative in areas with less transit service.
Municipalities in northeastern Illinois are already exploring partnerships with ride-hailing companies to bridge service gaps. The Connect2Work program in Bedford Park offers riders discounted rates for late-night and last-mile rides. Pace is planning to launch a partnership with ride-hailing companies to offer low-cost options for riders to fill transportation gaps, especially when fixed-route transit services are less frequent or not available.
The region can use insights from Go Nightly, Connect2Work, and other similar programs that offer affordable and convenient services for riders while keeping costs low for transportation agencies.
CMAP is working with regional leaders on mobility strategies for an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As we develop recommendations, CMAP will periodically share insights on innovative policy ideas or best practices that can ease congestion, sustain transit, and increase resiliency in northeastern Illinois.