SUMMIT, NJ — Summit’s rush-hour ride-sharing program to its NJ Transit rail station has won praise and an award recently, and the city plans to expand on the concept.
The city will increase the number of people who use the service, extend its hours of operation and add the option to preschedule rides —new features planned to enhance the one-of-a-kind service in New Jersey.
“We recently surveyed program participants and 85 percent shared that they were satisfied with the program and would like it to continue,” city spokeswoman Amy Cairns told LocalSource on Nov. 16.
A pilot program was launched in October 2016 with San Francisco-based Uber, allowing Summit residents with prepaid parking permits to receive free rides to and from the Summit Train Station on NJ Transit’s Morristown and Gladstone lines during weekday commuting hours. Residents without prepaid permits qualify for $2 rides, equivalent to the cost of the city’s $4 daily parking.
The New Jersey State League of Municipalities awarded the program its 2017 Innovation in Governance Award, according to a Nov. 15 press release from the city. The award was presented to Mayor Nora Radest and city administrator Michael Rogers during the Mayor’s Box Luncheon earlier in the day.
The initial program was limited to 100 resident commuters, then expanded to included 50 more after its first six months. Beginning Dec. 4, Summit will enroll 50 more people and switch its provider from Uber to its California rival Lyft.
Parking availability and traffic congestion in and around the station during peak times was the impetus to adopt the ride-sharing service.
Through the contract with Lyft, rides must remain within Summit and begin or end at the train station.
The original program was limited to rides completed Monday through Friday between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. The new contract with Lyft will expand nighttime hours to 11 p.m. Other changes include moving the pickup location to the Railroad Avenue side of the station and allowing for advance ride scheduling.
“These improvements to the program were all made by incorporating feedback from participants,” Cairns said.
A recent press release from the city notes that the ride-sharing program will no longer pick up participants at the post office.
The new one-year contract with Lyft includes options for two, one-year extensions upon mutual agreement by both the city and the company.
The program is not paid for by taxpayer money, but subsidized by the parking utility. The cost of the Lyft service is not to exceed $275,000, according to the city’s resolution adopted on Nov. 13.
“This is the first program of its kind in the state of N.J. and the nation,” Cairns said. “We hope that other municipalities will initiate a similar program to help alleviate parking congestion.”
She added that the program is also unique because of its sustainability factor.
“It is sustainable because administration will continue to allocate funds toward it,” she said.
To take part in the ride-sharing program, participants must download the Lyft mobile application and set up a Lyft account prior to Dec. 4. To enroll, residents are asked to go to cityofsummit.org/ridesharing.