Ozark Regional Transit service gains traction

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,373 views 

Springdale-based Ozark Regional Transit operates multiple buses for the on-demand service that launched earlier this year on the Via platform. Ride requests for the service have tripled since February.

Springdale-based transit provider Ozark Regional Transit (ORT) has seen demand for its on-demand service triple since launching earlier this year on the Via platform.

Ride requests have risen from about 500 per week in late February to 1,500 in the last week of July, according to Sara-Jessica Dilks, associate principal, public relations for New York-based Via. The company provides the technology platform for the ORT service that’s offered in Bentonville, Fayetteville and Rogers.

On-demand ridership has risen consistently since the service started Feb. 22 on the Via platform. According to Via, the ridership was 4,456 in July, up 71.9% from 2,592 in March, the first full month on the platform. July ridership rose by 8.1%, from 4,122 in June.

Jeff Hatley, mobility manager and public information officer for ORT, attributed multiple factors to the success of the service, including that it’s zero-fare. Other factors include the service coverage area being greater, and the service being more direct than fixed-route transit. Still, Hatley said he expects fixed and on-demand services to continue to complement each other.

Between January and July, total systemwide ridership, which includes on-demand service, increased by 29.8% to 120,418, from 92,782 in the same period in 2021.

In February, ORT announced launching the on-demand service on the Via platform. In early 2020, Rogers established the service on another platform. It has since transitioned to the Via platform.

The service allows passengers to use the smartphone app ORT On Demand to schedule rides. It functions like existing ride-hailing services but at zero fare.

In November, the Walton Family Foundation gave ORT a $985,608 grant for multiple initiatives, including establishing the on-demand service and extending the zero-fare service through 2022.

Whether the service will continue to be zero-fare after 2022 has yet to be determined. ORT provides on-demand service using two buses each in Rogers and Bentonville. It has one bus handling the service in Fayetteville.