Contra Costa Co. to install 28-mile micro-transit system with autonomous vehicles

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Thursday, November 30, 2023
Contra Costa Co to install 28-mile micro-transit system
A 28-mile micro-transit system will connect Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood and Oakley with autonomous vehicles, known as Glydcars.

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The roadway to the future is coming to Contra Costa County.

"Right now, first and last mile is one of our biggest challenges here in Contra Costa County. We don't want people to have to drive to the BART station," says Tim Haile, executive director of Contra Costa Transportation Authority.

For the past few years, it's been working on the Dynamic Personal Micro Transit (DPMT) system. It is 28 miles that will connect Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood and Oakley with autonomous vehicles, known as Glydcars.

"The vehicle is small. It is only five feet wide. And so, that reduces a lot of the infrastructure costs, as well as operational costs. And, the vehicle is also electric. It is also sustainable, zero emissions," Haile said.

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Using an app, users would show up at an access point -- which is similar to a bus stop or BART station -- get in, and off to your destination. However, all the pickup and dropoff points are still to be determined.

"It takes you, from say Pittsburg directly to a BART station or downtown community center or to a university or school, like a Los Medanos College. All those really important points of interest to the community," Haile said.

Eastern Contra Costa County has a population of close to 300,000 people and growing. The county estimates that 79% commute to work in other parts of the Bay Area -- using Highway 4. One goal of this new system is to reduce traffic by using a closed circuit roadway and to help California meet its zero carbon emission goals.

"We also want to get people off of cars. That is the most important, I think, element here, which is how do we reduce our carbon footprint?" said Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe.

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It is a public-private partnership, which includes Glydways, the company that provides the technology and the vehicles. Plenary Americas and Flatiron are also involved. Testing is being done at GoMentum station in Concord.

"A ride that takes you 25 minutes, will now take you, predictably, all the time, six to seven minutes," said Gokul Hemmady, CEO of Glydways.

The estimated cost of this transit system is $450 million, which is considerably less than the billions, for example, to expand BART.

In addition, Thorpe says the public-private partnership is critical since private projects usually move faster since they don't have to deal with bureaucratic red tape.

"It may seem like congestion is just congestion. And it's like, 'Well, okay, fix it.' But it requires creativity and innovation. And think this is it," said Thorpe about the partnership.

The next phase includes design and environmental reviews. If the timeline holds, Haile says the first Glydcars could be operating within three to four years, with social equity in mind.

"So, we want to make sure that the fares are going to be consistent with the public transportation system to make that it is equitable and accessible," Haile said.

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