SCAT records 1,000 passengers in first week of new OnDemand mobility service

Average rider rating is 4.8 out of 5, SCAT director tells County Commission

This is a still from one of the videos featured on the River North Transit/Via website. River North Transit, which does business as Via, is the vendor for OnDemand by Sarasota County. Image from the Via website

On the evening of June 11, Jane Grogg, director of Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT), had good news for the county commissioners.

At the end of the first week of the county’s new OnDemand mobility service, she wrote in an email, staff had recorded 1,000 rides.

Moreover, Grogg pointed out, “The average rating for the rider experience this week is 4.8 out of 5 stars.”

Jane Grogg. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

“This is a fantastic result for a brand new program,” Commissioner Nancy Detert responded in a June 15 email. “Keep up the good work.”

On June 5, SCAT began the service in four zones: Lido-Longboat keys, Siesta Key, North Port, and Venice-Englewood.

Last year, when the commissioners approved the new approach to public transit, Detert told Grogg, “What we’re trying to do is spend the same amount of money and provide better service.”

Commissioner Christian Ziegler, especially, lauded the plans as a way to provide a more comfortable experience for SCAT customers and to help them arrive at their destinations in a more timely fashion.

In her June 11 email, Grogg noted the following statistics as of 6 p.m. that day:

  • Saturday: 89 rides, 15-minute average estimated time of arrival (ETA).
  • Sunday: 85 rides, 13-minute average ETA.
  • Monday: 158 rides, 13-minute average ETA.
  • Tuesday: 175 rides, 16-minute average ETA.
  • Wednesday: 177 rides, 14-minute average ETA.
  • Thursday: 160 rides, 15-minute average ETA.
  • Friday “(so far),” she pointed out : 172+ rides, 17-minute average ETA.

Among the issues staff was addressing, Grogg noted in her email, was matching the supply of drivers to the new demand levels. “If there is a delay at the time of an attempted booking, a rider may not be able to immediately book their trip,” she wrote. “The contractor is seeing early morning demand in the Lido/Longboat/Downtown zone and an afternoon demand peak in Venice/Englewood.”

She added, “Staff is also working with the SCAT Plus contractor for coordination of trips, whether they are on SCAT Plus or OnDemand, for Transportation Disadvantaged passengers.”

Just before 6:30 a.m. the previous day, June 10, Grogg wrote the commissioners with preliminary data. In that email, she reported that the company with which the county has contracted for the service “is using each day’s demand data to help inform the need for supply of drivers.”

Grogg added, “County staff is learning interesting travel patterns, even after just 4 days of service. For example, there is a notable morning demand to travel from the Downtown Transfer Station to Lido and Longboat keys, likely for work. One resort alone has seen approximately 25 trips each day (one way).”

On April 6, the commissioners unanimously approved a $2,294,834 one-year contract with River North Transit LLC of New York City, which does business as Via. The contract includes the options for four one-year extensions.

This is the Longboat/Lido keys zone map. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The OnDemand county webpages note, “Think of us like a van that comes when you want, where you want — give us your pickup and dropoff addresses, and we’ll provide a ride.”

In advance of the service’s start, a county news release noted, “An OnDemand vehicle will pick up customers within 30 minutes of the ride request and take them to their destinations within the same zone. Other customers traveling similar routes may ride along. Vehicles will be similar to minivans, and accessible for those using mobility devices or needing a ramp to board.”

The release added, “Curb-to-curb rides for this new service will be available 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Each ride will cost $1.25 and rides can be paid for using an online registration service, an app or paying cash to the driver. Reservations are required to use this service.”

Apps are available for Apple and Android devices, the county webpages point out. Those will give a user the address or business name for the pickup location, the webpages add. “All pick-ups should be at your requested location or within a block,” they say.

Persons also may call 941-300-1553 to book a ride. An individual may reserve space for up to three additional passengers.

Maps on the county webpages provide details about the individual zones.

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