How Will Autonomous Vehicles Change Public Transit?

Randy Iwasaki, Executive Director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) in the San Francisco Bay Area, sees AVs as more than just shiny new objects. He sees AVs as the solution to the first/last mile problem for suburban transit systems. As CCTA updated their countywide transportation plan, public feedback had a recurring theme?—?people couldn’t get to transit.  “We think of autonomous vehicles as complementing existing transportation for the first and last mile,” Iwasaki says.

He found a partner in Bishop Ranch, an office park in Contra Costa County with 30,000 workers who want fast and reliable access to BART, to build a pilot program to test out a proof of concept. Iwasaki also formed a partnership with the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA), a bus system in a low-density suburb that has experienced ridership decline. LAVTA thinks AVs can help grow transit ridership because they can provide service to people where it otherwise wouldn’t make cost effective sense to run regular bus routes and give them a mobility option other than their cars.