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‘Solving a transportation problem’ – Tech startup will offer last-mile rides in Solon, Bedford Heights

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A tech company is trying to solve a problem affecting employers and employees in Cleveland’s suburbs — a lack of reliable transportation to work.

Share Mobility, a startup headquartered in Columbus already operating is Central Ohio and 14 other states, is partnering with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to provide rides to workers in Solon and Bedford Heights. The initiative will essentially extend the bus lines, getting employees from their last bus stop to their jobs.

The start date for the program hasn’t been announced yet,as employers are still being lined up. But once it’s up and running, Share Mobility CEO Ryan McManus said it should help companies fill their open positions and fight labor shortages.

“We’re solving a transportation problem that companies knew they had but didn’t’ know how to do anything about it,” McManus said.

The RTA approved an 18-month pilot program in May. The transit authority will split the cost and pay half, or up to $300,000, for the service. Employers who sign up for the program and local governments will cover the other half, according to the RTA Board’s meeting minutes,

The service will be free for workers and serve riders on the 19, 40, 41 and 90 bus routes.

Mayfield and Highland Heights were approved for a similar program to be run those those communities, according to RTA records. Cleveland.com reached out to the RTA for comment.

Here’s how it would work.

Employees will schedule a ride in advance using Share Mobility’s app or website. The company’s software will then schedule hyper-efficient routes and send drivers to take one or several workers at a time to their destination.

It’s a way to solve the last-mile problem, McManus said. Public transit can often get people close to their destinations but can’t always get them close enough. McManus said this becomes more of an issue in the suburbs.

Hourly workers from Cleveland will travel to work using a bus, but naturally a suburb like Solon won’t have the route coverage that downtown would.

Workers have tried to solve this problem with rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft, but that can become expensive. McManus estimates that a worker using a rideshare app could spend up to $5,000 on last-mile transport.

Share Mobility is more efficient since rides are more predictable and scheduled up to months in advance, McManus said.

Facing these issues, a working adult may not apply for jobs with last-mile issues. Affecting them and the companies that would want to hire them. This is where McManus says Share Mobility can create value for people.

“It should open up the prospects for jobs significantly and impact their earning potential,” McManus said. “You might get to a job that would pay more but was previously car dependent.”

Share Mobility has two kinds of customers, governments or public institutions, and companies that pay for the service. The company started providing rides more than six years ago, McManus said

A company facing this issue might pay for Share Mobility and offer it as a perk to workers the same way they’d offer life insurance or even bus passes.

The company is already running a similar program in Dublin, a city 15 miles north of downtown Columbus. City spokesperson Lindsay Weisenauer said Share Mobility has provided more than 10,000 rides since Jan. 1. About 20% of rides were for workers.

The original idea of what is branded as the Dublin Connector was supplying transportation for residents 55 years and older and those with disabilities. Both would be picked up at their homes.

This later expanded to include workers. Weisenauer said workers can use the Central Ohio Transit Authority to get into Dublin, and then schedule a ride from their last bus stop to work.

Dublin plans to spend $400,000 on Share Mobility rides in 2022, with $107,000 of grant funding.

Weisenauer said the service has been well-used by several businesses, including Giant Eagle, Meijer and the Wendy’s headquarters,

McManus said Share Mobility wanted to start in Solon and Bedford Heights because both communities had a lot of workers traveling to them. If it’s successful, the program could expand.

He said about six employers have signed on so far. McManus said they want more companies that expressed interest to formally sign up before starting the program.

Almost all jobs ask if applicants have reliable transportation, McManus said, and that inadvertently discriminates against the people who don’t.

He said Share Mobility and the RTA’s program can help change that.

Read the cleveland.com article here.

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