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County is uber excited about new program

Sarasota County has told its transportation services program to scat as it becomes the first municipality to partner with a trendy transportation service.

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  • | 4:54 p.m. April 1, 2015
  • Sarasota
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APRIL FOOLS — The results are in. After Sarasota County Area Transit hired an outside consultant to analyze its department and its efficiency, the answer is simple: Uber simple, it turns out.

SCAT staff made a presentation at Wednesday’s County Commission meeting outlining two options for the county’s transit services: maintain the status quo or become the first municipality to partner with Uber, an app-based taxi service program that popped up about six months ago in Sarasota.

In 2014 SCAT privatized its paratransit service. That success, as well as ridership feedback the consultant gathered, tipped the scales in favor of commissioners voting for using local drivers to transport residents.

The county estimates it will save $100 million a year in operational costs with the new program, including saving $12 million on vehicle replacement.

The current wait time for a SCAT bus is approximately 30 minutes, consultant VanRyder’s report shows. Now, wait times could be five minutes — or five hours — depending on the driver’s availability and whether he or she has multiple stops to make. Riders can also find other people traveling to the same place using the “Dude, Where’s Your Car?” feature on the app.
Cost per ride is $1.50 to $15 per mile due to the app’s demand-based pricing feature. Ridership is expected to increase based on the kinds of cars that sign up to participate. So far, three cars: a Smart car, Toyota Scion and a Fiat 500 are on board.

The program also solves another problem: what to do with the downtown transfer station. The county will lease the land to the city for $1 per year with one caveat: it will become a Come As You Are homeless shelter.

After six months the county will hire a consultant to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. If it gets the green light, the county would help other municipalities establish the same service in their areas.

“It’s a win-win,” said consultant Herman VanRyder. “You are not only helping the economy by employing local residents but now the system is truly in the hands of the people.”

The partnership, Just SCAT, will be promoted through a marketing campaign with the tagline, “They’ll take you there.”

“We wanted it to be something people would be familiar with but was a whole new way of thinking,” said a county transportation official.

“Our goal is obviously to be uber efficient and have people ride together as much as possible, but we’ll just have to take the wait-and-see approach,” said the county parking division manager.

“Obviously if you have a fleet of minivans you can do more than a whole bunch of two-door sports car,” the VanRyder said.

The number of SCAT stops throughout the city will be significantly reduced in that the goal is for Uber drivers to pick up residents in popular public places, such as the bayfront, for safety reasons.

You Can Drive Your Car
Want to apply to be a driver with the Just Scat program? Download the You Can Drive Your Car app, which will ask for information such as the make and model of your car, proof of insurance and whether you are a night owl. or early bird.

Once approved, the DMV will contact you to come in to take a computer test in which you will play a simulation game that tests your reaction time to real-life situations such as a snowbird crossing in front of your car when you have a green light; how quickly you break for a baby animal in the middle of the road (10 bonus points for immediately calling the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office) and your stress level when you have to sit through three lights at Ringling Boulevard while attempting to make a left-hand turn onto U.S. 301 (creeping out on a yellow light and then blocking the lane for other drivers charges you can extra $5 a minute in driver fees).

For instructions on how to download the app, email: [email protected].

Hopefully you made it to the end of the article, so we can say, Happy April Fools' Day! This story is not true.




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