ARLINGTON (WBAP/KLIF)- Arlington RAPID, the first program in the United States to integrate on-demand, autonomous vehicles (AVs) into an existing public transportation service, has provided more than 28,000 trips in its first year to residents, university students, and visitors around Downtown and The University of Texas at Arlington campus.
Arlington is excited to announce that the innovative autonomous vehicle pilot program will expand service later this year and continue to provide convenient, dependable public transportation in the heart of The American Dream City through at least 2024 thanks to additional grant support from the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
Since March 2021, the City has operated Arlington RAPID (Rideshare, Automation, and Payment Integration Demonstration) in partnership with Via, May Mobility, and UT Arlington through a grant provided by the Federal Transit Administration. The pilot program offers shared rides in autonomous vehicles, operated by May Mobility, through Arlington’s on-demand public transit system, Via Arlington. With a 98% rider satisfaction rating, it’s clear that the Arlington community embraced the pilot program. Arlington RAPID, which is the City’s third successful autonomous vehicle transportation pilot project since 2017, was one of only 25 projects to receive funding in 2020 through the FTA’s Integrated Mobility Innovation Program. Deployment funded by the grant ends today, March 18.
“The City of Arlington continues to prove itself as a national leader on autonomous vehicle testing and deployment,” Arlington Mayor Jim Ross. “Thanks to the FTA’s Integrated Mobility Innovation grant, the City and its partners were able to build upon the country’s vital autonomous vehicle research and improve access to school, work and every day needs for thousands of people, including those who require mobility assistance, through on-demand public transportation access.”
Arlington RAPID’s fleet of autonomous vehicles, including the wheelchair-accessible vehicle, will continue to be available to riders through the Via app or by calling Via’s customer service line at 817-784-7382. Beginning Monday, March 21, the new hours will be noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The service was previously available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The original goal of the RAPID project was to provide a blueprint for combining on-demand public transit and autonomous technologies to develop effective, efficient, safe and accessible transportation for all riders.
The RAPID service area is currently bounded by Division Street to the north, Mary Street to the east, Mitchell Street to the south, and Davis Drive to the west. In all, more than 18 miles of Downtown streets have been mapped for the vehicles to take the most efficient path to pick up and drop off riders. During the first year of service, Arlington RAPID reported a 99% on-time performance and the vehicles were able to operate fully autonomously 80% of the time.
First year results show that more than 60% of riders use RAPID to access essential destinations like medical facilities, school or employment opportunities, which demonstrates the success of the service as part of the existing on-demand public transit network, to fill critical transportation gaps and expand equitable access to transit across the city.
“Arlington RAPID demonstrates how innovation and investment in the future of public transit are critical to advance equity in our communities,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via. “We are proud to continue our long-term relationship with the City of Arlington in the next phase of the RAPID program, and to be a model for other municipalities as they consider autonomous vehicles as a new option to improve public transportation access.”
This month, the North Central Texas Council of Governments awarded the City a new grant through its autonomous vehicle program, which seeks to support and expand AV planning, testing, and deployment in the region. Arlington’s project is one of four selected for funding in the program’s second round. The grant will allow RAPID to operate for two additional years, as well as adding vehicles with higher seating capacity and technology to move toward removing the human operator.
“May Mobility and Arlington share a commitment to creating great transit through shared, on-demand autonomous vehicles,” said Edwin Olson, CEO of May Mobility. “May is excited to continue serving the Arlington community, and the learnings from this successful deployment will not only help advance our AV technology, but also enhance our service offerings at future sites around the world.”
Via’s standard fares apply to rides taken on Arlington RAPID by the general public. Because of UTA’s participation in the pilot program and using dedicated funds from the FTA grant, the university’s students had been able to book rides on Arlington RAPID at no charge. The new discounted rate for UTA students is $1 off the standard fare per trip.
“UTA continues to provide cutting-edge mobility services to support our student’s transportation needs,” said Greg Hladik, executive director for Auxiliary Services at UTA. “It was very promising to watch how the student body responded to these self-driving shuttles and adopted them for their daily travel needs within the service zone. This pilot has taught us there are several applications on a college campus to incorporate self-driving technology into the traditional campus mobility network.