With app-driven ride-sharing programs like Uber and Lyft woven into the fabric of our communities, and self-driving cars on the horizon, the Buckhead Community Improvement District inked a contract last week to incorporate the systems into a public-like transit service.
The Buckhead CID approved a one-year contract for $607,000 with Via Transportation Inc., a service more focused on the ridesharing aspect and typically confined to specific areas. In this case, Via has partnered with Mercedes-Benz Vans to provide vans within the Buckhead CID. Like Uber and Lyft, a rider would use an app to request a ride. Within minutes, a van with other passengers would arrive nearby and take you close to your destination.
From a transit perspective, it’s a great alternative to providing your own system because there is really no up-front cost. It’s almost like subbing out a transit system to a private company. The system is meant to compliment the free Buc Shuttle service that runs through the corridor, but has more flexible routes and can get passengers to that “last mile.”
“When we created the buc there was no such thing as a smartphone, much less on-demand transportation,” said Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, in a recent Atlanta Business Chronicle article. “Transitioning to microtransit allows us to provide a more convenient service for our current riders and also opens up opportunities for expanded service down the road.”
The comment could mean that one day the Via service, if it works well, could supplant the current bus system.
One of the biggest knocks on MARTA these days is that it doesn’t get riders close enough to where they need to be. Or there are too many connections. You might take a bus to the North Springs MARTA station, for example, but if it takes you into town, you might still have several blocks to walk after getting off. Many riders then either get on a bus-line, or Uber of Lyft their way to their final destination.
Intown there is much more connectivity and MARTA has more train stops and bus routes that a worker wouldn’t have too much trouble say stepping out for lunch and not having to drive to get there. But out in the suburbs, there is nowhere near the network of public transportation. I can imagine the folks in Alpharetta taking note, and maybe the North Fulton CID thinking that this could be a great way to get workers around the different nodes. Certainly it would increase value for the various business parks if it was free and easy to get from work to Avalon or downtown Alpharetta for lunch.
The $607,000-contract that the Buckhead CID agreed to sign certainly shows that the service isn’t free. It’s free to the riders, but someone has to pay for it. And you know who that is? It’s the commercial property owners in that district. A CID, or community improvement district, is a geographical area where all of the commercial property owners agree to pay an added tax every year. That money goes into an account where a board made up of those property owners, and usually some members of the community, decide how the money is spent within that corridor. The funds are typically used to improve and maintain infrastructure, like building better looking sidewalks, improving infrastructure, or installing and maintaining landscaping. All of these things improve the corridor and thus improve a potential tenant’s desire to want to be in that corridor. With increased demand, it increases the values of those properties within that corridor. So by paying the added tax, the commercial properties owners are increasing the values of their properties as well as the incomes generated by their properties.
Certainly the businesses in the Buckhead CID will have an advantage over other companies located elsewhere, especially when it comes time to recruit talent if they can show them a free ridesharing service to move more easily throughout the corridor.
Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.
*The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group