SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Over the last few months, Ozark Regional Transit’s On-Demand service has seen a 200 percent increase in riders.
The Northwest Arkansas service allows you to schedule a pickup on your phone, similar to Uber or Lyft but at no cost. The service is paid for by tax payer dollars and the a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.
Jeff Hatley with ORT said riders are sharing several reasons for the higher interest in the service, including not having to wait at as bus stop, frustration with parking their car, and getting home safe after a night out. He also said for some, it’s their only way to access food, shelters, or medical appointments.
Hatley adds that even county sheriffs are sharing their enthusiasm for the service, in hopes that people will use it to make court appearances.
With 1,500 riders a week and counting, he said the service will need to keep growing.
“We’re going to notice ourselves growing. Northwest Arkansas is one of the fastest growing areas of the country. We’re trying to catch up with what we’ve got right now much less where we want to be 10 years from now,” said Hatley.
Hatley said every ride is entered into a database which will give city planners a better idea of where more access to public transportation is needed. This information can then be used to redesign city transportation to keep up NWA’s growth.
When you schedule a ride, it’ll pick you up right where you are. Since the service has tripled in popularity over the last few months, so Hatley said you’ll need to schedule about 30 minutes or an hour in advance.
He said ORT hopes to keep using this service in tandem with more traditional bus routes.
“Our bread and butter is moving mass transit, mass groups of people around, and that’s going to still remain with fixed routes. So it’s going to be a complementary system of the two types of models. On-Demand transit will be useful more-so in residential areas, also rural areas,” said Hatley.
Hatley said if you need a quick ride, the best time to schedule is around 10 a.m. when less people are using it.
Unlike Uber or Lyft, there could be other passengers on your ride. Hatley said it depends on your route, but there is a possibility you’ll have to wait for other riders to be picked up or dropped off during your ride.