Golden Empire Transit will soon add a ride-hailing service in a part of Bakersfield with a low ridership count.
Just like private companies Lyft and Uber, customers will be able to use an app to request a ride. GET will provide a bus to pick them up anywhere within a designated zone. They can be dropped off anywhere within the zone, or taken to a bus stop or transit center to transfer to GET's fixed bus lines.
GET hopes the new service, which it is calling Ryde, will bring in more customers to a zone that is bordered by Highway 99, Panama Lane, Old River Road and Rosedale Highway.
“Instead of relying on fixed transit routes at fixed times, you’ll be able to request rides as needed for GET Bus on your own schedule,” said GET Marketing Manager Deekay Fox. “You can basically take a ride anywhere you want within the zone.”
Ryde will debut April 7, and last for a six-month trial period, Fox said.
The bus routes through the zone will remain active during the trial period. Unlike one of the fixed routes, which stops at 7 p.m., Ryde will run until 11 p.m.
Valley Plaza Mall is not in the zone, Fox said, but customers will be able to be picked up and dropped off at the food court of the mall.
GET has planned an extensive marketing campaign to try to get people to use the new service.
Ridership on the bus service has been decreasing over the last 10 years. The new model of business could turn that trend around.
“We’d really like people to use this,” Fox said. “If it’s successful, we will increase the zones and open it up to more of Bakersfield.”
Rides will cost $3.50 each way, less than its private competitors, GET officials say.
Customers must download the Microtransit app to use the service.
Much like Uber and Lyft, customers will drop a pin in the location at which they want to be picked up.
When the bus arrives, a text will be sent to the customer. The bus will wait five minutes at the location before leaving.
Fox said GET hopes to keep the wait times below 30 minutes.
GET will use small buses that seat eight people for the new service. Unlike their larger counterparts, the small buses will be able to drive into parking lots and are easier to drive around residential areas.
The buses will be able to accommodate those in wheelchairs.
Ryde is based off a ride-hailing service Sacramento Regional Transit District introduced last year, and expanded after it proved to be popular.
GET officials studied the Sacramento model in order to bring it to Bakersfield, Fox said.
Outside of Sacramento, many cities across the nation have experimented with adding ride-hailing to their bus service.
“Basically it’s sweeping the nation,” Fox said. “All of North America has been doing this.”
Those interested in learning more about the service can visit rydebakersfield.com.