One major service change implemented as part of the August 29, 2011 service restructure was the introduction of the first LANtaFlex service. The Route 501 – Macungie/Alburtis Flex which serves the Lower Macungie, Macungie and Alburtis areas. LANtaFlex is a reservation based flexible service which is open to the general public. LANtaFlex service operates within a geographically defined zone. Riders can travel between any two points within that zone and if they are traveling to or from outside of the zone, they can transfer to/from a LANtaBus service at one of the transit hubs within the zone.
The Macungie/Alburtis Flex service was introduced in the area after the fixed route bus service serving these communities was eliminated due to poor performance. LANta felt that the Flex service model may be more effective at serving this area due to its more sparsely developed suburban nature. The implementation of the Flex zone made service available over an expanded area and also extended service over 12 hours each weekday as opposed to peak period only service provided under the previous service model.
LANtaVan vehicles are used for this service.
Ridership on the Macungie/Alburtis Flex has grown steadily since initial implementation. Ridership grew from 318 riders in September 2011 to 380 in May 2012 with a peak of 558 in February.
Average daily trips have grown from 13 in September 2011 to 19 in May 2012 with a peak of 27 in February. The former fixed route services in the area carried an average of 19 daily passenger trips. The average daily total on the Flex service initially fell below this number for the first few months of service but returned to the pre-implementation average by December 2011 and has consistently reached or surpassed that level since.
To maximize the economies of the new Flex model, the LANtaFlex service has been completely integrated into the LANtaVan system in terms of administration and operations. LANtaVan is the region’s coordinated human service transportation network. LANta’s human service transportation contractor, Easton Coach Company, registers users, takes reservation calls, and schedules and operates the service. While LANtaFlex is not the first service of its kind in the country, it is one of the first to be completely integrated into a coordinated human service transportation system.
The service model and integration into the LANtaVan system has allowed for significant savings over the previous fixed route bus model. In terms of financial performance, the net cost of the Flex model was $9,800 less than what net costs would have been under the fixed route bus model while still expanding service availability in geographical coverage and hours of service.
LANta’s administrative offices have only received three calls from members of the public with issues regarding the Flex service since the implementation. All three issues were addressed by Easton Coach. Also, LANta reached out to the Human Resources Department at Allen Organ in Macungie, a frequent destination for Flex riders, and asked if they could solicit feedback regarding the service from their employees who use it. They reported that their employees have had no issues with the service and have been very satisfied with the quality and convenience.
The Macungie/Alburtis LANtaFlex was implemented as a pilot project to determine if this service could be integrated into the LANtaVan system, and it is considered a success. Accordingly, LANta will continue to investigate opportunities to introduce Flex service to other areas of the Valley.