Transit contest winners may increase transit participation, give bikes to kids

Local groups just netted a big bundle of cash — all for dreaming up ways to make transit more bearable in the Bay Area.

Lessening BART crowding, offering Caltrain riders a ride home and donating bikes to kids all netted cash prizes in the 11th Hour Project’s Just Transit Challenge this week, which aimed to empower local groups to help curb carbon emissions by increasing access to transit.

The top award of $125,000 was awarded to RideScout and TransForm, a transit tech company and local transportation nonprofit, respectively, who worked together in the challenge. The team’s idea is integrating “transit incentives” into tech apps, like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Muni Mobile app.

To do so they proposed offering free Muni tickets to lure people from cars, especially those who live by high­-traffic corridors and “disadvantaged communities.” The fares would be available through an app.

“By focusing on corridors that are getting significant transit upgrades — like the 9 San Bruno or 28 Daly City — we can attract people back to transit and provide immediate benefits,” wrote Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, in a statement. “By partnering with youth, senior and other community groups we will make sure it is focused on communities that need it most.”

The challenge was sponsored by the climate nonprofit 11th Hour Project, which receives funding from the Schmidt Family Foundation via Google’s Eric Schmidt.

The transportation network company Lyft and transportation nonprofit Livable City were the second runners up, and the focus of their proposal was Caltrain. The duo’s proposal, which won $50,000 to implement, would designate loading zones and offer in­-app prompts to alert ride-hail riders. That would allow Caltrain riders to head home in what Lyft often calls its “last mile” solution. Even local activists got in on the contest. People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Justice, or PODER, won $50,000 for their “Bicis del Pueblo” project, which would provide used bikes and bicycle safety education to low-­income youth in public schools.

The contest prompted projects implementation by November 2017.

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