County, Overland Park agree to extend micro-transit pilot to Farmers Market

Overland Park and Johnson County have agreed to extend a pilot program that provides micro-transit service to the Overland Park Farmers Market on Saturdays.

Beginning July 6 people who want to go to downtown Overland Park on Farmer’s Market Saturdays will have a new transportation option. The city and county decided this week to extend a micro transit pilot project to provide Saturday service to the market.

Micro transit is a relatively new concept being explored by the county as an alternative to the bigger fixed-route bus service. Basically it works like the Uber or Lyft ride-share programs. Users hail a ride with an app or a phone call and are picked up at a nearby intersection. The difference is that they ride in a multi-passenger van rather than a car. Cost of a ride is $1.50 during the test period.

Photo credit RideKC.

The county has been testing micro-transit since January. Under the pilot program, vans operate 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The service area for the test is bordered by Shawnee Mission Parkway, Metcalf Avenue, 119th Street and Renner Road.

So far the pilot project has been considered successful, with ridership growing each month and cost per ride decreasing, said county business liaison Josh Powers.

Overland Park officials asked that the service be extended so shoppers could take the vans to the market on Saturdays, when downtown streets are crowded and parking is in short supply. The city will subsidize the service in an amount from $15,000 to $37,500 for the rides that originate or end in downtown Overland Park for the rest of 2019.

The extension will make micro transit available through the end of the year. Addition of the farmer’s market service will not only add Saturdays but enlarge the total service area. Since downtown Overland Park is at the very eastern edge of the original test area, the new eastern boundary will become State Line Road so that more people east of Metcalf will be able to ride.

Bicyclists may need to check ahead of time if they want to combine micro transit with a bike ride. Powers said the vans are not equipped with bike racks. Bicycles can fit inside the largest 15-passenger vans, he said, but not the 7-passenger van. Whether a bike can fit in the 10-passenger van will depend on how many other riders there are. Powers said officials are still looking for a way to carry bicycles on the vans.

Commissioners have been eyeing the micro transit as a way to cut out some of the fixed-route buses. Extending the test program until the end of this year will cost $250,000 from the county’s reserves.