A pilot program to operate on-demand buses in Montgomery County, Maryland, is the region's latest development in public transporation, as the "Ride on Flex" service takes off on Wednesday.
A joint project between the ride-hailing company Via and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, "Ride on Flex" offers users "corner-to-corner" service in the Rockville and Glenmont/Wheaton areas, similar to a ride-hailing service that uses cars.
The progam launched Wednesday, with MCDOT calling it the region's "first on-demand public transit service."
Riders can download a mobile phone app to set a pick-up location in one of the two zones and pay a $2.00 fee if they are dropped off in an area within the same zone.
The Flex buses on service can seat up to 11 people and are wheelchair accessible.
Like other ride-hailing services, users are given an estimated pick-up and drop-off time when they order a ride.
The Flex Rockville service will operate Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and in the Glenmont/Wheaton area during "peak" periods from 6-9 a.m. and from 3:30-7 p.m.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich called the program a tool for "improving equity for residents who need an affordable solution for getting around quickly," and said that the service may fill a hole in regional transit needs.
MCDOT Director Al Roshieh said the service may help with both commutes and everyday tasks.
"In Glenmont/Wheaton, we hope to see residents using Flex to fill first mile/last mile gaps in their daily commute. In Rockville, the service lends itself more toward daytime errands and trips," Roshieh said in a news release.
A Via spokesperson said the Flex service is the company's fifth on-demand microtransit project in the D.C. area.