Dylan Feik, ICMA-CM, City Administrator
Like many suburban communities, Monrovia has enjoyed a housing development renaissance that threatened to create traffic congestion and parking problems in a community whose residents were accustomed to using personal vehicles for transportation. Anticipating a future with 2,200 new housing units, the city reevaluated its public transportation options and developed a new model of suburban mobility.
Public transportation in Monrovia had been limited to a traditional dial-a-ride system—Monrovia Transit. The program, while useful for a small subset of the population, was inefficient, inconvenient, and unreliable for meeting passenger needs. Monrovia is also served by the Metro L Line light rail station, which is convenient for residents who live and work nearby, but left a gap for those wanting to visit Monrovia’s most popular destination, the Old Town Monrovia business district.
Seeking a more thoughtful, affordable, and efficient way of providing transit services to the community, the city launched GoMonrovia, a multi-modal transportation program that leverages the strengths of ride-share programs offered by Lyft. In a completely revamped transportation model, Lyft serves as the city’s primary public transit provider for all non-ADA-related services, collaborates with the city’s existing dial-a-ride operator to serve passengers with ADA needs, and helps transition dial-a-ride shuttles onto the Lyft platform. The city chose to partner with Lyft due to the company’s desire to play a role in the larger mobility ecosystem in a way that does not replace but rather complements public transit.
Initially, to spur behavioral change among suburban residents, all rides anywhere in the service area cost just $0.50, with the city covering the remainder of the cost per trip at an average of $6.00. To assist those without access to a smartphone, the city offers an over-the-phone dispatch service for Lyft vehicles. Over time, the city modified its pricing structure to cover more of the program’s costs.
Thanks to the engaged and practical approach spearheaded by city leadership and the partnerships developed during the planning stages, GoMonrovia took less than three months from idea to implementation. Instead of competing with private companies, the city explored how it could leverage widely adopted and advanced technology platforms to facilitate its new public transportation model.
GoMonrovia’s success speaks for itself. Whereas Monrovia’s dial-a-ride program used to provide 38,000 rides per year, the city has provided approximately 522,711 rides per year through GoMonrovia. Operating the dial-a-ride system was costing the city around $19.70 per ride. The city’s subsidy of a GoMonrovia ride is on average $4.00
Throughout the development and implementation of GoMonrovia, residents and the business community remained engaged and informed, which helped foster trust and encouraged robust participation. This program has truly changed individuals’ behavior on a grand scale, with many reports of GoMonrovia changing lives for the better.