Here are the minutes from the December 2nd McHenry County Board Transportation Committee consideration of expanding subsidized transportation opportunities in McHenry County:
Pace Taxi Forum Update
On Thursday, November 12, 2015 the McHenry County Division of Transportation hosted a Taxi Forum event in which Pace presented the requirements for taxis wishing to contract with Pace to provide service for MCRide.
Of the 140 companies that were invited to attend, four interested companies participated in the forum – Sunshine Taxi LLC, Black Cab Taxi & Shuttle, Metro Cab LLC, and CC Limousine & Taxi.
In the days that followed, staff received calls from two (2) additional taxi companies that expressed interest in contracting for service.
At the November 18, 2015 meeting of the Public Transportation Advisory Committee (PTAC) it was recommended to move forward with contracting with taxi companies as long as it is shown to be a cost-effective alternative to buses.
As they have recommended in previous meetings, the PTAC would also like to see this done in conjunction with an expansion of the service hours and geographical coverage of the MCRide program.
Given past direction from the Transportation Committee on the service hours of operation and geographical service area as part of the 2016 MCRide intergovernmental agreement, the use of taxis will be considered during the existing hours and service area.
To move forward with the use of taxis, it is recommended that Pace issue a request for proposals from taxi companies in the region to determine if they can be financially competitive with the existing bus service.
If taxis are added into the MCRide program, Pace determines which trips would be most cost effective for the use of taxis.
Discussion ensued and some members felt that their primary requests weren’t researched or touched upon in the presentation by staff. Some Committee members desired that rides provided by MCRide should be taken over by private enterprises. Also, is there a way to not use Pace to provide rides as taxi service for MCRide would be administered by Pace.
Ridesourcing Partnership Opportunities
MCDOT staff updated the Transportation Committee on its research and discussions with various “ridesourcing” companies such as UBER and Lyft.
Staff has been asked to help determine the feasibility of McHenry County contracting with ridesourcing companies to provide subsidized trips for residents of McHenry County.
After speaking with a representative from UBER and reviewing case studies from around the country, there are four issues that should be discussed before proceeding with any program to utilize/subsidize trips with ridesourcing companies as they presently exist:
- Pace has indicated they will not be able to assist in administering or funding such a system. In addition, no Federal Section 5310 funds can be used. Pace subsidy and Federal Section 5310 funds currently account for 60% of MCRide’s total funding.
- Ridesourcing companies require riders to own and be able to operate a smartphone to schedule and pay for their trips. While the exact percentage is unknown, it is possible that a large percentage of MCRide’s current users cannot afford a smartphone, are mentally or physically unable to use a smartphone due to a disability, or are seniors who may not be comfortable using the technology.
- With the way ridesourcing companies are presently setup, McHenry County may have to provide the ridesourcing company with a list of eligible riders and pay 100% of the fare for a trip.
- “UBER for Business” already allows private businesses to contract directly with UBER to provide free trips for their employees. This may be an off-the-shelf solution for local businesses with third shift workers, McHenry County College or other non-profits that can be implemented relatively quickly with no cost to McHenry County.
At its November 18, 2015 meeting, the Public Transportation Advisory Committee (PTAC) was split on its recommendation regarding future ridesourcing partnerships.
Half of the committee thought that the County should not partner with these companies by subsidizing passenger trips, while the other half thought that a partnership could be beneficial but would only be used by some of their clients.
[Diane Evertsen, John Hammerand and Nick Provenzano were in favor of partnering with the ride sharing companies.
[Tina Hill, Don Kopsell and Anna May Miller were opposed.
[Thursday night at District 2 County Board candidate John Reinert’s fundraiser, newly-appointed Jeff Thorsen came down on the side of those in favor of expanding transportation service beyond Pace.]
The PTAC did concur that the increase in cost to the County on a per trip basis was identified as one issue that would need to be considered.
Discussion ensued and the Committee identified specific direction(s) and requirements for the next Transportation Committee: Necessity for one more meeting after all requested information has been compiled to discuss and address options.
- What requirements Pace would place upon the taxi companies and the cost incurred by those requirements.
- The cost for current taxi ride services.
- Reach out to ridesourcing companies, explaining what the County would like to accomplish and what those companies could do within that framework.
- Have the State’s Attorney Office (SAO) research liability issues/situation and what can be done to comply with State laws.