FARGO - The city is getting into the ride-hailing business with an Uber-like service at North Dakota State University.
Matthew Peterson, Fargo's assistant transit director, said the city has worked out a deal with the university to replace Matbus' Route 35 for a semester with something called TapRide.
The city's aim is to provide rides to more remote corners of campus where fewer students go, without increasing costs. But if the ride-hailing model works out, the city could apply it to remote corners of the metro area where distances are longer than average but ridership is lower.
City leaders agreed to the plan at their meeting Monday night, Dec. 18.
TapRide is a computerized dispatch system used at many universities around the country and some regional transit systems. Riders use a smartphone app to tell the system they want a ride and the system tells drivers to pick them up. That's the same concept as Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services. The difference is the city will be providing the ride with shuttle buses like the ones it uses for paratransit.
From the riders' perspective, they'll get a ride from curb to curb rather than having to wait at the bus stop, according to Peterson. The app would tell riders where the bus is and will alert them when it comes close.
TapRide service isn't expected to cost more than Route 35, he said, because while the city does have to pay to use the software, it'll save money by using the smaller shuttle bus.
DoubleMap, the Indianapolis firm behind TapRide, said on its website that the service is ideal for areas with few riders, such as suburbs, or areas where demand is unpredictable. Fixed bus routes can be expensive in these circumstances.
Route 35 now runs every 20 minutes weekdays from 8 to 10:06 p.m., making 10 stops between University Village east of the Fargodome and the southern half of campus. Peterson said the TapRide service area would include all of campus as well as nearby neighborhoods.
City Commissioners John Strand and Tony Gehrig expressed interest in the potential to use ride-hailing in other parts of the city. Gehrig said it would be great if the city could use smaller vehicles and even contract with private vehicles.