Enlarge (credit: LA Metro)
LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority is soliciting proposals from tech companies to help it build a software-driven ridesharing service called MicroTransit that would augment its existing network of trains and buses.

The service would feature shuttle-like vehicles smaller than buses but larger than private automobiles, and it would aim to offer a more accessible and potentially lower-cost alternative to private services like Lyft and Uber.
In a townhall with press on Monday, Metro Chief Innovation Officer Joshua Schank laid out the details of the pilot program and its RFP (which will become public later this week) for LA citizens and other interested parties. To frame the service, he said, “There are many people who need better public transit in Los Angeles, that we cannot adequately serve with our existing scheduled bus network or our existing rail network, that would perhaps be better served by this dynamic service.” He said that he believes the private sector partner is key, as private tech and transportation companies would know better than the city how best to implement many aspects of the service.
How it works
MicroTransit would involve a fleet of vehicles, driven by Metro employees, that would pick up and drop off passengers at “virtual stops”—designated streets and corners that may change dynamically.

The vehicles would not follow a fixed route, but they wouldn’t be as direct as taking a Lyft, either. Rather, they would follow ever-changing dynamic routes between virtual stops based on demand.
Self-driving cars are not part of the current plan, but Metro reps said they wouldn’t rule anything out in the long run if a good proposal came in.
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