- Author: Kevin Chambers
- Date: April 27, 2023
It’s been a busy month in the world of mobility and technology: several big transit agencies announcing big plans on…
While regional and commuter rail lines in this New England state help spur economic growth, first and last mile transit remains an obstacle. But Norwalk’s WHEELS2U micro transit program was so successful that the state is expanding localized shared van programs.
When ranking Connecticut’s 25 most livable cities, CT Insider evaluated several metrics, including the density of major public transit stops relative to the local population. Norwalk, a small coastal city, had the highest ranking across 11 metrics, and also the most expensive median home price.
It’s estimated that 1/3 of all Uber rides ordered in Connecticut are to or from a train station. To make the state’s mass transit systems more equitably accessible, nine municipalities and transit providers are following Norwalk’s example and are partnering with private operators like Via Mobility to offer subsidized ride share programs. Bridgeport, which is included in Connecticut’s latest pilot program, plans to partner with a local taxi company.
Norwalk launched their program using vehicles used for their paratransit fleet, which weren’t being used in the evenings and during regular commuter hours. They hired a local advertising firm to create a marketing campaign for the service, including creating a YouTube video that explains how to use the service.
To reserve and purchase the $2 rides, users download the Wheels2U, a smartphone app developed and managed by private partner Via. Commuters can also use their weekly or monthly MetroNorth commuter train Uniticket for the service. Since the service launched in 2018, it’s also successfully expanded to nearby Westport.
“We receive a lot of feedback on our Microtransit services,” Wheels2U CEO Matt Pentz told the Greenwhich Free Press. “People in Westport love it, people in Wilton want it, and our team in Norwalk is very excited about the innovative opportunities that Connecticut [Department of Transportation] (DOT) is providing though the pilot project.”
In addition to solving first/last mile obstacles, Wheels2U is an affordable and efficient option for residents to get to work, entertainment, and shopping, while taking cars off the road. Norwalk’s transit agency also hopes that Wheels2U is also appealing to 25-44 year old’s, who are less likely to own their own vehicles.
“The CTDOT Microtransit Pilot Program is integral to the continued modernization of our state’s robust public transportation system and makes Connecticut more accessible to more people,” Connecticut DOT Commissioner Eucalitto said in a press release.
In November, Connecticut’s DOT announced $20 million in grants to nine municipalities and transit providers, including $2 million to Norwalk, which will be used to purchase six new minivans. To date, the state subsidizes 82% of the cost of Norwalk’s micro transit program, and 67% of Westport’s.
To launch their pilot, Norwalk also received funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), local commercial developer Brookfield Properties, and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. Local businesses and attractions periodically offer promotions connected with the Wheels2U program, such as discount yoga classes and happy hour specials.
Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Sage Kashner (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Please confirm you want to block this member.
You will no longer be able to:
Please note: This action will also remove this member from your connections and send a report to the site admin. Please allow a few minutes for this process to complete.