Reducing transportation emissions is critical to meeting Ulster County's environmental goals. However, electric mobility has been accessible only to those who can purchase new EVs. Meanwhile, dependency on fixed route transit has historically been a barrier to opportunity. New technologies can provide better access while promoting sustainability, but only if centered on those with the least means.
The County will lead a community-based equity-focused planning assessment and develop an app and kiosk system that unifies all countywide clean transportation options: fixed route, bikeshare, and everything in between. This multimodal offering will introduce electric on-demand transit in the county's most disadvantaged areas, Kingston and Ellenville, integrated with and streamlining the county's increasingly electrified bus system. Demand response networks have been attempted previously, but never tech-enabled, integrated into other modes, and designed to serve lower income riders. This project will expand transit ridership, expand access to opportunity, and reduce transportation emissions.
Following extensive community consultation, the Project Team will lead a countywide mobility equity planning study, leveraging Via's world-class service design team, proprietary simulation tools, and Remix planning software. Remix is especially well-suited to this project, having been designed to help communities collaborate and make intelligent, data-driven decisions about their transit networks and street design based on operational efficiency, service quality, environmental impact and equity. After the planning process, Via will launch and operate two electrified microtransit zones in Kingston and Ellenville. Residents will be able to plan and book multimodal and intermodal trips by entering their origin and destination into a new Ulster Connect-branded mobile app. Using Via's dynamic dispatch and routing technology and integration with Ulster County Area Transit's (UCAT) general transit feed specification (GTFS) feed, the app will return an itinerary using a combination of dynamic microtransit, fixed route and current and future micromobility options, optimized to minimize trip time and GHG emissions. This will give residents real-time clean mobility options to go anywhere in the county. The app will be fully accessible, and a phone line will be available to riders without smartphones. Physical kiosks in select underserved areas will also serve the same function.
We anticipate that within the first year, Kingston and Ellenville will experience an increase in the number of jobs accessible within a 45-minute transit commute from their homes, the UCAT system will have increased ridership, and per trip GHG emissions will be reduced countywide. The end state will be universal basic mobility for every disadvantaged resident in the county.