A new way to get around Kansas City launched Monday.
The program, Ride KC: Bridj, is the first of its kind in the area. The one-year pilot program is like a mix of the bus and a ride service like Uber, or Lyft. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority merged with urban technology company Bridj to create a faster and customized mode of transportation. KCATA is using 10 locally made Ford vans to transport commuters, and Bridj takes care of the technology.
The service runs Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
How it works
Riders need to download the free Bridj app on their smart phone. There, they'll see a map with darkened circles showing the service areas. The commuter will enter two locations in the app: where they want to be picked up and where they're going. The commuter will pick a time and date, and confirm the trip using a credit or debit card. Each trip is $1.50.
Bridj is designed to gather all the data points and create a "virtual bus stop" where everyone going in a certain direction can meet up and be dropped off. Users will usually have to walk a couple minutes to the stop and after getting off.
Right now, Bridj drives in downtown Kansas City, the near east and west of downtown, portions of Midtown, KU Medical Center, Hospital Hill, Crown Center, and the 18th and Vine district.
How Bridj is different
"You don't catch the bus, the bus catches you," CEO of KCATA Robbie Makinen said.
He says riders don't have to worry about sitting through numerous stops like they do when riding the Metro bus system. Bridj takes riders straight to their location, making for a faster, more streamlined process. Riders also always have a guaranteed seat with free Wi-Fi.
"It's about offering options, taking down the barriers," Makinen said. "The more options we can give folks to use public transportation, the more they can get out of their car."
Each van can hold 14 people, and some are handicap accessible. A person with a wheelchair would have to indicate that specifically in the app. The vans are brand new, and each have a newly trained driver behind the wheel. Many of them have driven for KCATA before.
"I think it will be a great entity for the KC area," Driver Robin Gray said. "Also, just the personalization with passengers. You get to know them, versus being on the bus with lots of people. It's a smaller capacity."
Each driver trained for two weeks on the routes, customer service and the app.
"It's not about just forty-foot buses going down a fixed route. It's about merging the streetcar, bike and pedestrian, merging plans like Bridj and a regular bus route," Makinen said.
Will Bridj stay in Kansas City?
The future of Bridj depends on how many people use it. KCATA will extend the program past its one-year pilot if the concept catches on. They might add additional routes based on demand through feedback on the app.
You can get 10 free rides by using the promo code "KCBRIDJ."
Get more information on Bridj here.
Sarah Plake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.