Officials say they anticipate residents will use the service in their daily commutes to travel to and from Metro stations, and for daytime errands and trips to commercial districts and public facilities.
"The Flex service holds tremendous promise not only for taking cars off our roads, but also improving equity for residents who need an affordable solution for getting around quickly,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement. “I am hopeful we will prove that on-demand service fills a hole in our transit system and that it will lead to eventual expansion to serve more areas of the county. This is the type of creative solution we need as part of our efforts to make transit more easy to use.”
How does it work? Download the Ride On Flex app from the Apple or Google stores, and request a trip from a designated pickup spot to a drop-off location within the same service zone.
After hailing a ride, the app will direct the rider to a pickup location. It also gives an estimated pickup and drop-off time, similar to Uber and Lyft.
The Flex service in Rockville will run weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., providing residents a ride to a lunch outing within Rockville’s commercial zones or a connection to Metro when bus service is less frequent. In the Glenmont/Wheaton zone, the on-demand rides will operate during weekday peak periods, from 6 to 9 a.m. and from 3:30 to 7 p.m., potentially connecting commuters from residential neighborhoods to Red Line Metro stations at Wheaton and Glenmont.
Montgomery Transportation Director Al Roshdieh said the program launches after a year in development and exploration of how to use on-demand technology to improve transit options.
“Our goal for Flex is to reshape the way residents think about getting around,” Roshdieh said.
The app is powered by Via, the popular developer of on-demand services. Via said this is its fifth on-demand microtransit project in the Washington area. The company operates its own service downtown, announced another service in Alexandria and has partnerships with Washington and District Cab.
Ride On Flex is another expansion of Montgomery’s Ride On public transit system, which recently introduced free WiFi on buses. The county is also building its first bus rapid transit system, branded Flash, which is scheduled to debut in 2020. That system will launch in the Route 29 corridor, with frequent service on new “clean diesel” buses.