By Eric Heinz
In order to supplement the closing of the 191 and 193 bus routes, the city of San Clemente approved a contract with Lyft, a mobile transportation service, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, to operate a rideshare service in town.
City officials said they aren’t sure when the program will launch, and with days left until the two bus routes close, they’re hoping it will be operational as soon as possible.
The 191 and 193 bus routes are planned to end Oct. 9, as these routes were not getting enough riders for OCTA to justify the service. The 191 travels from the south end of San Clemente all the way up to Mission Viejo at Saddleback College. The 193 is a more circuitous route that travels just within San Clemente and Capistrano Beach.
In an informal online survey via Facebook, people said they or their family members would be affected as it’s the singular bus route that travels to the college. Others said family members with disabilities will have to find alternatives to transportation, whether it be to health facilities or just getting around.
Currently, the plans for the rideshare program would only operate throughout the boundaries of the city of San Clemente.
In August, the city approved an agreement with Orange County Transportation Authority for a $914,400 grant that would supplement the outgoing bus service with a rideshare beta test program for two years. The city will pay about $100,000 as a match. Rider statistics will be gathered and reported on a monthly basis.
The fares for people to use the service are expected to be subsidized so that rides will cost $2 at minimum. According to a city report, Lyft rides within the city cost between $5 and $11. For rides that cost more than $11, additional costs will be added.
OCTA’s grant will provide 90 percent of the subsidies needed for the program.
The report also said the city is working with Lyft to find other ways to subsidize the costs.
A rate structure is available on the city’s website at www.san-clemente.org under “Government”—click “City Council,” then “Agendas, ” then the 10/4/2016 agenda.
The Lyft routes within the city are expected to mimic the 191 and 193 routes, providing stops within 250 feet of those routes, according to the city report.
Lyft drivers are notified for a pickup through an app, but for people who don’t have smartphones, they will be able to purchase government-subsidized smartphones, and city officials said they will provide information on how to obtain them once the program launches.
Councilman Tim Brown, who championed the program, said that the city wants to serve a greater amount of potential riders.
“We’re asking for people who don’t have smartphone technology to upgrade just a little bit,” Brown said. “We’re hoping it’s not going to be difficult. For people who take the bus and check the daily times, my assumption is that’s something they already have.”
Brown also said if the city starts to notice the rideshare program is popular and the subsidies won’t last, flex pricing would be available and the cost per ride will be incrementally increased, which he said could be stretched over the two-year time.
Hours of operation are expected to be from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. every day.
Uber, Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County and Via also bid on the city’s project, but Lyft won the contract as of Tuesday night.