Midpeninsula Post

Palo Alto to implement Lyft-like city-run ride sharing service

STORY BY SAMUEL STEIN, PHOTO BY ARYA NASIKKAR

Palo Alto residents will soon be able to benefit from a government-run on-demand transit service similar to Uber and Lyft, projected to begin before the 2022 school year. The city council gave the project the green light at its Nov. 8 meeting when it agreed to accept $2 million from the VTA and put up its own $500,000 to fund the program.

The transit service, which will be operated by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA),  will offer shared rides driven by city personnel in government-owned vehicles. According to Philip Kamhi, Chief Transportation Official of Palo Alto, the city hopes to implement this service before the 2022 school year, so students may use the system. 

“We’re taking the time to make it right,” said Kamhi. “We want this to work.”

Residents will schedule rides to and from locations via an app. There will be no extra tax for the upkeep of this program, only a projected $2.50 fee per ride to help fund the service. Certain demographics, like senior citizens, may receive discounts on the rides which will be confined to Palo Alto.

Kamhi is optimistic about the benefits of such a program, which reach further than just serving the community. 

“It may be environmentally friendlier than other single-occupancy vehicles,” Kamhi said. “It’s just more cost-efficient, as they’re all shared rides.”

However, the city is experiencing its fair share of struggles: for one, finding the drivers for their service. According to Kamhi, the labor force was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a “tight labor market.”

Despite this obstacle, Kamhi said he believes the transit service will be beneficial to Palo Alto residents.

“This service will provide mobility to all, and just makes Palo Alto more connected,” Kamhi said.

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