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Ride Now pilot program recap – what went well and lessons for the future

Ride Now pilot program steering committee members in a group photo taken in March 2022. Photo: SDOT.

Please note: This blog post is available in additional languages, via the links below. This includes Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Oromo, Somali, Tigrinya, Tagalog, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

Editor’s Note (Oct. 25, 2022): Please check out this recap video produced by the Community Transit Association of America (CMAA) recapping the Ride Now pilot program and sharing some key takeaways.

Ride Now pilot program recap video. Video credit: Community Transit Association of America (CTAA)

We recently completed a pilot program called Ride Now that provided free and discounted rides to transit and other places. The program was for people with disabilities, seniors, and their caregivers to travel in and around the city of Seattle.

We’ve reviewed the program and are sharing what went well, and what we learned. This can help inform future efforts to improve equity and affordable access to public transportation. You can also find more information about the Ride Now pilot program on our website, in our summary reports (below), or in our previous blog post in April.

Including community engagement every step of the way

We worked with community members in the planning and implementation of this pilot program. These community members included people with disabilities, seniors, caregivers, and service providers. Including these people during planning helped us create a better pilot program than one without their input.

We viewed community engagement an essential part of the program, not just as a step to complete. We also paid our community representatives who served on a steering committee for around 18 months. This was one of the pilot program’s big successes, and it helped the pilot program go so well. We’ll consider paying community members who take part in similar programs in the future. It took time for everyone to build trust, get comfortable, and work with community members to help shape the program.

Two people standing outside wearing masks smile at the camera. The women on the right side holds up paper vouchers from the Ride Now pilot program. Large brick buildings are present in the background.
Two community members hold a set of paper vouchers as part of the Ride Now Pilot Program. Photo: SDOT.

Ride Now pilot program evaluation – what we learned

The Ride Now pilot program tested the public demand and feasibility for a program of this kind. We found that there is public interest in a flexible, easy to access program for on-demand ride vouchers. We expected to hear from few hundred interested people, but we got requests from nearly 1,000 people.

Pilot program successes:

  • Offering rides without restrictions on destinations worked well and was more useful for everyday travel, based on feedback we received from participants.
  • Allowing participants to identify themselves as eligible also worked well. We did not find any fraud, and the participants shared that they liked this approach, rather than needing to prove their disability as in some other programs.
  • Offering several options, including more than one ride provider and a mix of paper and electronic vouchers, also worked well. This gave people more choice in the type of ride they wanted and the way to access it that worked for them.
A Yellow Cab driver smiles at the camera on a rainy and windy day, while he waits to pick up a Ride Now pilot program participant in Seattle. Large buildings are present in the background.
A Yellow Cab driver prepares to pick up a participant in the Ride Now pilot program. Photo: SDOT.

Lessons learned for potential similar programs in the future:

We learned things that could help improve similar programs in the future:

  • Offering a longer-term ride voucher program for older adults and people with disabilities.
    • Providing enough benefit so people can meet their needs and start focusing on their wants.
  • Understanding that riders prefer as much flexibility as possible.
    • Some Uber and Lyft riders were disappointed that they couldn’t keep any unused value, and others tried to plan trips that would cost as close to $20 as possible to maximize the value of their vouchers.
  • Connecting with drivers to build more knowledge about the program. For example:
    • Including drivers on the steering committee (once service providers are identified).
    • Convening a separate advisory group of drivers.
    • Holding and recording an orientation with drivers to introduce the pilot program and ask each other questions.
    • Preparing more driver-focused communications about the pilot program from the start.
  • Pursuing a more intentional phased roll-out:
    • Testing out ride vouchers with a smaller subset of riders (who can handle unexpected challenges) for a longer time before launching the main pilot program.

You can also read documents summarizing the program on our website.

Four people wearing masks sit at tables while discussing the Ride Now pilot program at a meeting in March 2022. One woman is holding a microphone and making a point while the other three people listen.
Ride Now pilot program steering committee members discuss the program at a meeting in March 2022. Photo: SDOT.

Ride Now pilot program quick statistics:

  • We distributed over 6,700 vouchers to about 1,000 participants
  • In total, about 58% of participants used at least one voucher
  • Riders took over 1,400 trips (on average, about 2 trips each)
  • The typical trip was under 3 miles, took about 11 minutes, and cost riders under $5
  • Riders rated Ride Now 4.1 out of 5 stars on average

Community quotes

“This program is necessary, useful, and transformative. I am a senior of limited means and having such good access to necessary transportation resources was so wonderful.”

“These vouchers saved my life! What a freeing program! I got to appointments I would have missed entirely, because there was a problem with the bus. I got to enjoy my life and see friends I wouldn’t otherwise. I got nutritious food on days when walking or transit to the grocery store felt just too much. As someone with a disability and chronic pain I was elated to have this help!!”

“Having the opportunity to use Ride Now Uber vouchers was like having a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders.”

Next steps and thank you

We plan to use the lessons we learned from this program to inform our ongoing work, including considering similar programs in the future. While we don’t have any specific programs currently planned, this pilot program helps provide valuable information for the future.

We appreciate the participation of our steering committee community representatives and want to thank everyone that participated in the program or showed interest in it. We are here to serve you, and value your time. We’d also like to thank our funding partner, Transit Planning 4 All, our ride service providers and drivers, and community partners who helped get the word out. Thank you.