MTD moves forward with app-based on-demand service

MTD moves forward with app-based on-demand service

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District is on its way to launching two new on-demand services in which riders will be able to request van transportation using a new app.

The MTD board Wednesday authorized the execution of a contract with technology provider Routematch Software to enable on-demand service at a cost of nearly $200,000 for the first year, then $36,000 annually for subsequent years.

One of the new on-demand services will cover the University of Illinois student SafeRides program that's now largely being handled by phone-call requests and a dispatcher assigning rides to each vehicle, according to the MTD.

The other will bring on-demand service to an area of southwest Champaign difficult to serve with a fixed bus route — roughly bordered by Kirby Avenue, Rising Road, Interstate 57 and Windsor Road.

MTD Managing Director Karl Gnadt said the southwest Champaign service will cover rides anywhere within the covered boundaries and to and from two destinations — the Stephens Family YMCA and a Round Barn Road transfer point — where riders can catch buses going elsewhere.

The cost of an on-demand van ride will be the same as a bus ride, $1.

The on-demand services could begin as early as this coming January, though a date hasn't yet been set, Gnadt said. The new app will become available when the services are launched, he said.

In other business, the board approved the purchase of two more 40-foot diesel-electric hybrid buses, both to replace two 2003 standard diesel buses. The two buses are expected to be delivered next spring.

The district plans to cover the $1.2 million cost of the bus purchase with a loan — 65 percent of which will be reimbursed by a state operating grant, with the rest coming from local money.