Wellesley’s Mobility Committee is working with the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA), the outfit that operates those small buses with stops around town, on a pilot for “microtransit” services that like Uber and Lyft focus on on-demand service calls.
The MWRTA will use accessible vans that seat up to five people for transportation mainly within town, but also to Riverside T station, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and possibly Stop & Shop and other medical facilities. The service would supplement existing services, such as the Council on Aging van and The Ride from the MBTA, but also potentially be attractive for younger people.
A soft launch in January will include MWRTA’s Route 8 bus, which had very low ridership even before the pandemic. Expect more from the town soon on a broader pilot in February, Wellesley Executive Director Meghan Jop said during a briefing at the end of the Dec. 21 Select Board meeting. The hope is that electric vehicles will become part of the mix, too.
Select Board member Colette Aufranc initially reported on the microtransit effort in early November, and said that this offering for the general public could lead to the regular Route 8 bus being phased out. Existing Route 8 users would be targeted as possible users of the new service and would be informed about how to use the new Catch app to reserve a ride.
Details on pricing, how far in advance you can call for a ride, etc., are all issues to be sorted out as the pilot unfolds. MWRTA bus fares are currently $1.25 or $1.50 for adults depending on whether you have a Charlie Card, and other discounts apply to different customer groups. “This has the potential to be a very different way of doing transit” than the current Route 8 bus, which has had just a handful of riders a day, Aufranc said. It could lead to a service that is more nimble, modern, and popular, she says.
In other Wellesley transportation news, the town’s Mobility Committee has selected Environmental Partners to conduct a $50K sustainable mobility study to come up with a plan that would focus on various modes of transportation, including use of the Crosstown Trail.
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