OmniRide has bright plans for the future

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By Wendy Migdal

Sponsored by OmniRide

It’s almost certain you’ve seen the brightly colored buses with the green and blue name “OmniRide” engraved on the side. Your local public transport agency celebrates its 35e anniversary this year. Did you know the following?

  • Local rides are currently free until June 2022.
  • You can pay for your ticket with your Metro SmartTrip card.
  • The bus goes directly to many central workplaces in Washington, DC and Virginia.
  • You can use OmniRide on Saturdays to travel to destinations such as Potomac Mills.
  • OmniRide will give you a guaranteed ride home if you have a family emergency during the workday, up to four times a year.
  • OmniRide offers services that will help you connect with other people with similar working hours so that you can create your own carpooling. They also offer

And that’s only part of it. Even if you tend to trust your car, it’s worth checking out their website to see if there is a program you didn’t know about that could be of use to you. OmniRide has changed a lot over the years and not just in terms of the number of buses and routes. The strategic plan involves growing and changing in a way that is flexible and tailored to the way people live today and the needs of the people of Prince William in particular.

Recently, Prince William alive magazine spoke with Joe Stainsby, Director of Development, about the origin of OmniRide and its prospects for the future.

What’s new on public transport in Prince William?

OmniRide has a number of projects in development, but perhaps the most innovative is the idea of ​​microtransit. “Our project is to become more than a simple bus company, more a mobility business, ”Stainsby says. “We want people to have flexibility in their options. Choice of fixed route or on request. The need for this has been exacerbated by the pandemic, but not caused by it. “

Microtransit in practical terms is something between a fixed route and a taxi service. Customers would request a ride through an app, website or call center. OmniRide would then provide a vehicle (which may be a smaller vehicle) and a driver, and only when a ride has been booked.

“We find that there are poorly performing routes and that the regular bus service is extremely expensive unless it is used very well. We need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and increase ridership to make these fixed transit routes viable or consider different modes of service like microtransit, ”Stainsby said. Some concerns are that it may seem a bit tech-savvy and off-putting to older users, and some people just like the idea of ​​a landline service. “At this point, we haven’t decided whether we will replace the regular routes or offer them as an overlay. And in the end, it’s up to elected officials to approve it. We just come with the potential solutions.

One project that will certainly be piloted in 2022, however, is the mobile ticketing app. The app will make it easier for people to access services in the short term, but eventually it could be used to access network fare products, such as with the Virginia Railway Express. Customers can purchase one week of unlimited service, for example, including everything OmniRide offers plus ERV service.

OmniRide buses currently run Monday through Saturday, but we hope Sunday trips will arrive in the future. “If you want people to rely on transit, it has to run seven days a week, not five or six,” says Stainsby. “But it all depends on getting the funding, of course.”

OmniRide’s growth mirrors Prince William’s growth

During his nine years with OmniRide, Stainsby has seen a lot of growth and development in the programs he offers. The main one is the new facility in the western part of the county. OmniRide focused primarily on the north-south corridor of I-95. But with the construction of I-66 and the development around it, they’ve expanded their footprint to include much more of the Prince William area, and the new facility allows them to add a lot more routes. The service has also crept further south to now include North Stafford. He also saw the carpooling program grow to 700 vans operating daily at its peak, before COVID-19.

Effects of the pandemic on public transport

Like every other locality in the world, Prince William and OmniRide have been affected by the pandemic. And like in all other localities, some options have been narrowed down while new opportunities have been created.

“Our use of the vanpool has been cut by more than half. On buses, we could occasionally make 11,000 trips a day and now we have 5,000. The commuter side of OmniRide, which is tied to the federal government, is only about 40% of what it was ” , explains Stainsby. “But since everyone in the country has been affected the same way, we are still the fifth largest rideshare company in the United States and the largest east of the Mississippi. In addition, our local service is doing better than our suburban service. That’s 60% of what it was a year and a half ago, but when you consider other vendors in the region that have been hit harder, it could certainly be worse.

The decision to make public transit free has most likely helped local patronage. OmniRide is proud to be able to transport first responders, hospital workers and food service workers to their workplace free of charge. It also means contactless boarding, and that makes good financial sense. There is a cost associated with collecting fares, such as “you spend dollars to collect pennies”. OmniRide was also proud of not having to lay off workers or cut local services during the pandemic.

Obtain public opinion

OmniRide always seeks to increase public awareness and engagement in its programs. To this end, they created three mobility councils: the carpooling council, the employers council and the Hispanic council. These are areas in which they solicit feedback from the people they serve.

For example, Stainsby notes that some routes, like along Route 68, pass through predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods and yet OmniRide’s services are underutilized. The council has made an effort to reach people through Latino supermarkets and a Facebook page. They identified some bus shelters where a program involving decorative murals and works of art, in partnership with Keep Prince William Beautiful, could be effective in raising awareness of the services offered. Hispanic neighborhoods are a target location.

To learn more about everything Omniride has or plans to offer, view timetables and maps, learn about commuter benefits, and more, visit their home page.

Wendy Migdal is a freelance writer who has lived in North and Central Virginia since 2000. She loves traveling the area to explore new parks, attractions, restaurants and most importantly, history. She has written extensively for The Free Lance-Star, including a monthly historical column, features, and book reviews. A former college teacher, Wendy now works as a freelance writer for online education companies. She also enjoys reading, sewing her own clothes and other creative endeavors, and walking her dog.


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