Arlington RAPID, City’s Self-Driving Shuttle Service, Aims to Improve Access to Public Transportation for Passengers Who Rely on Mobility Assistance
By Susan Schrock, Office of Communication
Posted on May 13, 2021, May 13, 2021

Arlington RAPID is the newest way the City of Arlington is working to improve access to public transportation for residents and visitors who use wheelchairs or require mobility assistance.

The City’s self-driving, on-demand transportation pilot program includes a wheelchair accessible vehicle as part of its fleet that serves Downtown and the University of Texas at Arlington. Passengers can book a ride on a self-driving vehicle, including the electric Polaris GEM wheelchair accessible shuttle, through the Via app for rides to and from restaurants, shops, the UT Arlington campus and other Downtown destinations. Arlington’s other public transportation services, Via rideshare and Handitran, also offer wheelchair accessible vehicles.

The City launched Arlington RAPID (Rideshare, Automation, and Payment Integration Demonstration) in March in partnership with Via, May Mobility, and UT Arlington through a grant provided by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Representatives from the UTA Lady Movin’ Mavs wheelchair basketball team were recently invited to take a ride on Arlington RAPID around campus and provide feedback on their experience.

Megan Lotz, an aerospace engineering major and captain of the basketball team, had previously ridden in a self-driving vehicle. She said she believes travel will become safer in the coming years as technology improves and autonomous vehicles become more prevalent on the roadways. Lotz applauded the City’s inclusion of a wheelchair accessible vehicle that serves the fast-growing university campus as part of its AV pilot program.

“I personally drive but a lot of my teammates don’t,” Lotz said. “So being able to get around campus or if they need to go somewhere a little bit farther away that would be hard to push to — or if the weather is bad —I could definitely see other people using it.”

The ride on Arlington RAPID was Lady Movin’ Mavs Head Coach Jason Nelms’ first experience with an autonomous vehicle. After taking his trip around campus, Nelms said he would encourage others to test out the technology and provide feedback that could help shape the future of transportation for people with disabilities.

“This affects people further down the line,” Nelms said. “It really just shows the forward thinking that is going on in Arlington right now, to see further down the road and to make sure they not leaving any part of their population untended so that everybody in Arlington has a chance to get anywhere they want to go."

Doug Garner, coach of the Movin’ Mavs wheelchair basketball team, said he believes many of his players will use this service.

“We have some players who do not have vehicles,” Garner said. “This will be a valuable service for them to use. Sometimes they have to get from one side of campus to the other quickly. The RAPID service will come in handy in those cases.”

Autonomous vehicles can provide safe, affordable, flexible transportation when deployed in an equitable and accessible way, said Erin McCurry, Product Manager, Accessibility, for May Mobility.

"We are excited to be working with UTA and the City of Arlington, to not only be among the first to provide this type of transportation service, but to further improve our product accessibility by engaging with the Movin' Mavs student-athletes to learn what we can do better,” McCurry said.

Arlington RAPID is available between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The RAPID service area is generally bounded by Division Street to the north, Mary Street to the east, Mitchell Street to the south, and Davis Drive to the west.

Riders traveling to and from destinations in this service area can book and pay for rides through the Via app or by calling Via’s customer service line at 817-784-7382. Via’s standard fares apply to rides taken on RAPID by the general public. Because of UTA’s participation in the pilot program, UTA students can ride the RAPID service for free.

John Hall, vice president for administration and campus operations, said the service allows those students who want to experience Downtown to do so in a unique way.

“I think it’s a terrific opportunity for students to gain access to Downtown Arlington,” Hall said. “I’m certain the program will continue to grow ridership as more and more students come back to campus.”

Click here to learn more about Arlington RAPID.

Arlington RAPID
Enhance Regional Mobility, UT Arlington, City Council District 5
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