This approach is thought to work better for a small city

  WHATCOM — In 2021 WTA will introduce a pilot project in Lynden to test whether on-demand van service can improve access to public transportation in a small city.

  Eighty percent of the funding for this $720,000 pilot project will come from the Integrated Mobility Innovations Grant Program of the Federal Transit Administration.

  Like many agencies that serve both urban areas and small cities, WTA finds the standard offerings of fixed-route and paratransit service — which meet people’s needs well in densely populated areas — to be less effective for residents of small cities.

  This pilot project will test whether on-demand service could increase the effectiveness and usage of public transportation in a small city. Using a mobile app, Lynden residents will be able to hail a ride to any destination within the city of Lynden in a WTA-operated van. Although it will be open to everyone, marketing will target seniors, people with disabilities, and people with limited incomes.

  This pilot project for Lynden is one of 25 in 23 states to receive the Integrated Mobility Innovations funding. The purpose is to support projects that use innovative technologies and processes to improve access to public transportation, increase public transportation efficiency and enhance the overall rider experience.

  In a press release, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said the $20.3 million in federal grants disbursed will help communities nationwide enhance their transportation systems to make it easier for people to use transit, especially older adults and people with disabilities.

  WTA will work with community partners to design and monitor the service. For example, Lynden Family Medicine and Lynden Library are interested to know to what extent missed medical appointments or limited library access result from a lack of reliable transportation. WTA will work with these organizations and others to measure potential improvements.

  WTA applied for the grant in July 2019. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has created major challenges for public transportation. This pilot project is scheduled to begin in early 2021.