Boise & Garden City

Boise wants you to ride public transit so badly, it’ll pay for your Lyft to a bus stop

In a move to encourage riding the bus, Boise will start paying for part of transit passengers’ Lyft rides to and from certain bus stops.

Starting Monday, Jan. 28, riders can pay $2 to get a Lyft ride of up to two miles to or from the stops. Boise and the Valley Regional Transit will pay up to $6 of the ride’s cost. A two-mile ride during rush hour usually costs between $7 and $8 in Boise.

“The goal is to get more people using public transit and out of single occupancy vehicles,” said Kaite Justice, program director for the Downtown Mobility Collaborative, a newly created partnership between Valley Regional Transit, the Capital Center Development Corp., Boise State University, the Ada County Highway District and the city of Boise.

The 18-month pilot program will launch on the same day as several changes to Valley Regional Transit’s bus schedules, which will consolidate some lines and increase trip frequency on certain routes.

Lyft rides will be available for those going to or from 14 stops, mostly along the No. 9 State Street route and the No. 7A/7B Fairview routes. Both routes will get more frequent service under the schedule changes. The No. 9 bus will stop every 15 minutes rather than every half hour from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and every half hour on Saturday.

Most of the Lyft stops are west of Orchard Street and Collister Drive.

“We really wanted to extend our service as far west in Boise as we could, mainly for equity purposes,” Justice said. “There’s a lot less service in that area but a lot more low-income and refugee housing.”

To use the program, download the Lyft app on a smartphone and set up an account. When you need a ride to or from one of the qualifying bus stops, enter the code VRT19.

The included stops in Boise are:

The No. 12 route’s stops at Gary Lane and Saxton Drive, Glenwood Street and State Street, and Maple Grove and Ustick roads.

The No. 8 stops Chinden at Hewlett Packard, and Five Mile Road and Country Squire Lane.

The No. 9 at State Street and Pierce Park Lane, State and Mercer Streets, State Street and Market Place Lane, and State and 35th streets.

The No. 7A at Milwaukee Street and Ustick Road, Milwaukee Street and Fairview Avenue, and the Boise Towne Square bus hub.

The No. 7A/7B at Fairview Avenue and Cole Road, and Fairview Avenue and Curtis Road.

Through a request for proposals, Valley Regional Transit chose Lyft as its partner for the pilot.

“They provided the most flexibility and most capacity to provide the largest amount of service,” Justice said.

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Transit riders within two miles of one of the 14 stops above can get a $2 ride with Lyft to and from the bus stop. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the City of Boise and a federal grant received by Valley Regional Transit. Provided by Valley Regional Transit

Residents can also purchase a $90 monthly premium pass, which includes a 31-day ValleyRide bus pass and 31 days of connecting service from Lyft.

Riders will have to pay the difference for Lyfts that cost any more than $8.

Funding for the pilot program comes from Boise, which is supplying $100,000. Valley Regional Transit matched those funds using a federal grant. Combined, the $200,000 will fund at least 33,000 rides.

If the program is successful, Boise could expand the program along the Vista Avenue and near the airport, Justice said.

“Hopefully it proves to be a successful program so that other [Treasure Valley] city governments want to expand the program,” she added.

The program will also make use of Lyft’s “Line” technology, which allows users to share rides at a discounted price. The service, which is not currently available in Boise, is popular in larger cities with high Lyft or Uber ridership.

“The more people sharing a vehicle the better,” Justice said. “That will decrease the cost for the user and for VRT.”

Lyft representatives did not immediately make themselves available for comment.

Boise is not the only city looking to ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft to help cover the first and last miles of transit trips. In Minneapolis, the “Guaranteed Ride Home” program reimburses regular transit-riders for emergency trips that might come up outside of rush hour, up to $100 a year. Seattle is in the midst of launching a pilot to provide Ubers to get suburban transit riders to the closest park-and-ride location.

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Kate reports on West Ada and Canyon County for the Idaho Statesman. She previously wrote for the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Providence Business News. She has been published in The Atlantic and BuzzFeed News. Kate graduated from Brown University with a degree in urban studies.
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