Lab shuttle riders will be treated to that “new shuttle smell” in the next few weeks, as the Lab rolls out its fleet of 19 new shuttles. Most of the shuttle drivers will be familiar faces, but the shuttle service is now managed by A-Para Transit, San Leandro.
Rider dissatisfaction issues such as unreliable schedules and wi-fi, bumpy rides, and difficulty knowing when the next shuttle was arriving were part of the discussion when looking for a vendor.
Although the contract was awarded prior to the spread of the coronavirus, A-Para Transit has made changes to the Lab’s shuttles before they even arrived. Plexiglass shields have been added to protect the driver and hand sanitizing dispensers are part of the new shuttles. Shuttles will now come in two sizes: 30 seat capacity for the main routes such as the Blue and Orange routes, and 14 seat capacity for routes such as North Berkeley and Potter. There will no longer be vans. All shuttles will have both back and front bike racks, be wheelchair accessible and have improved wi-fi.
The new shuttles are still undergoing preparation for their debut in a few weeks so the shuttles currently in use are loaners.
The other big change is the introduction of TripShot, a mobile app that provides shuttle arrival and departure time information.
Currently, it is being used to allow riders to request on-demand rides between Lab facilities and selected off-site locations. Once regular fixed-route service returns, TripShot will allow riders to see shuttle locations in true-time, find stops based on GPS location, plan trips with accurate ETAs integrated with walking, biking, and driving directions, and receive real-time accuracy and notifications. This new app can be downloaded at the Apple and Google Play app store.
In the future, there will be large-screen monitors at the Lab’s hill site shuttle shelters to provide not only information about the next shuttle but also other local public transit options.
The work to make this all happen has been led by Transportation Manager John Chernowski and Fleet and Contracted Services Manager Heather Pinto. Their rollout checklist has been long, but even with on the spot changes due to COVID-19, they are excited to see the shuttles getting ready to hit the streets.
“I’m excited to be working with our new dedicated team from A-Para Transit,” said Pinto. “We’ve been able to retain our excellent drivers while improving our fleet and reliability with technology that allows us to make adjustments to services based on true-time ridership information. As always, we welcome your feedback at [email protected].”
Chernowski added, “The all-new fleet supported by enhanced technology is a big step in our efforts to modernize our shuttle system and improve the Lab community’s experience.”