Livingston Essential Transportation Service Director Greg Kellogg said use of a new mobile app-based system for transportation services in Livingston County will result in shorter wait times for riders.That information was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.
Several major changes are on the way for transportation services in Livingston County, including new partnerships and the use of a mobile app.
People’s Express of Whitmore Lake and Livingston Essential Transportation Service have agreed to a one-year contract for People’s Express to provide its buses and vans for public transit.
The service is planned to start Oct. 1.
Transportation services have been difficult for LETS to reach to the southeastern portion of the county since the LETS facility is in Howell Township, LETS Director Greg Kellogg said in a Aug. 16 memo to the Livingston County Board of Commissioners.
“Just having them available to supplement our service will result in better service for that part of the county,” Kellogg said. “We’re going to have them as a partner to serve those people better. It will free up our vehicles to provide better service to the rest of the county, too.”
Although People’s Express of Whitmore Lake provides service in Livingston County already, the organization does not receive funding from the State of Michigan for its services.
People’s Express is a low-cost public transportation service for select townships and cities in Washtenaw County and the surrounding area.
LETS provides curb-to-curb public transit service via a dial-a-ride service for residents to any destination countywide with regional medical service to surrounding counties.
Up to $56,000 in funding will come to People’s Express from the federal Rural Area Formula Program Grants program.
The federal program provides capital, planning, and operating assistance to states and federally-recognized Indian tribes to support public transportation in rural areas with populations less than 50,000 people, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation website.
“They will be reimbursed for what they spend,” Kellogg said. “They won’t automatically be given a check for $56,000. They’re going to have to provide the service in order to get it.”
People’s Express did not respond to a request for comment.
The county will not incur any additional expenses, the memo stated.
People’s Express will report quarterly revenues, expenses, and ridership data for the service to LETS, while LETS will report that information to the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Health transportation service announced
Another transportation service is on its way to Livingston County.
LETS will partner with St. Joseph Mercy Health, Ascension Providence Health and Michigan Medicine to provide transportation for trips to doctor appointments, pharmacy visits and on-demand emergency department discharges.
Service will include the use of four drivers and two wheelchair-accessible full-size vans. It will begin in Oct. 1.
Prospective riders will have to call LETS to schedule a ride for this service, Kellogg said.
Also, drivers will have a cell phone for riders to call to be picked up when their appointment ends, he said.
The service is eligible for federal and state transportation grants that will be matched by annual contributions from St. Joseph Mercy Health for $40,000; Ascension Providence for $33,000; and Michigan Medicine for $33,000.
“We will take that local funding and match our federal and state grants,” Kellogg said.
The total budget for the service is an estimated $236,000 annually, including$130,000 in grant revenue from the federal and state governments.
Also, separate state and federal grants worth $150,000 will fund the costs to purchase the two new vans.
A partnership came about after discussions at meetings regarding the 2015-2020 Community Health Improvement Plan that hospital representatives attended.
“Out of those came this idea,” Kellogg said. “It was led by the health systems. They wanted to do this.”
The service will “go a long way” in reducing the rate of cancellations patients make because of a lack of transportation, said John O’Malley, president of St. Joseph Mercy Livingston and the Brighton Health Center.
“Our objective is to help patients stay healthy and try to keep them healthy,” O’Malley said. “This will go a long way in accomplishing that goal.”
St. Joseph Mercy Health Systems has a hospital in Howell, along with the health center in Brighton and IHA offices in Pinckney.
Attempts to reach representatives of Ascension Providence Health, and Michigan Medicine were unsuccessful.
Mobile app incoming
A mobile phone app for riders to use will be unveiled later this year.
Similar to popular ride-hailing app Lyft, the TapRide app on Android and IOS devices will allow riders to choose pick up and drop off locations and pay for them via the app as well. Payment in the form of cash and check will still be accepted.
It will also show the rider their fare amount and bus availability, and replace the decades-long use of a token system to pay for rides, Kellogg said.
The new mobile app-based system will result in shorter wait times for riders, he said, though probably still longer than the wait times for Lyft.
This will not change the amount riders already pay for the service.
Both proposals will come before the Livingston County Board of Commissioners during its meeting Monday to consider for approval.
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Sean Bradley at 517-552-2860 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SbradleyLD.