LAGUNA BEACH Seniors and disabled residents who need a ride to shops in town or medical appointments will have a new option in June — calling Uber.
The City Council voted Tuesday to start a pilot program with Uber, the on-demand ride service company, to supplement transportation needs for those 55 and older and the disabled who have relied on the city’s mainline bus service, which is being cut in some areas and reduced in others.
It is Uber’s first partnership with a city in the U.S., Jarryd Davis, manager of marketing and regulatory partnership for Uber West Coast, told the council.
Other cities contract with Yellow Cab, but that doesn’t work in Laguna because there are not enough people who need transportation, said Charlie Quilter, board president of Laguna Beach Seniors. With the city’s demographic being nearly 50 percent 55-and-above, the demand is there and Uber recognizes that, he said.
Passengers will get free rides for the first two months of the six-month pilot program, according to the staff report.
Transportation will be available throughout town and up to 15 miles outside the city limits for those who need transportation to medical appointments at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo or other medical centers.
The City Council in March directed city staff to explore the Uber option after seeing data on declining ridership on the city ‘s mainline bus service. The council then voted to stop the bus service in north and South Laguna and reduce it in the afternoons in Top of the World, Arch Beach Heights and Bluebird Canyon.
The Uber service will be a compliment to Sally’s Fund, which operates donation-driven transportation for low-income seniors, said City Manager John Pietig. Sally’s Fund operates a small van and a car and takes people that are 60 years old or older from their homes to the Community and Susi Q Center.
The service will operate 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Riders will be limited to Uber X vehicles, which have a minimum of three riders in the car, the council decided.
After the two-month trial period, riders will pay 50 percent of the Uber cost, the staff report said. The other part will be reimbursed by the city. Average fares for outside the city are expected to range between $7.50 and $8.50. Passengers identified as low-income will pay only $1 each way for their Uber ride.
Riders will be able to order their rides…