Monday, June 27, 2022
June 27, 2022

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Vancouver firm Ryd expands downtown commuter shuttle service

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Ryd is expanding service throughout downtown Vancouver. Driver Jacob Jensen takes a short tour of the riverfront area for a photographer.
Ryd is expanding service throughout downtown Vancouver. Driver Jacob Jensen takes a short tour of the riverfront area for a photographer. (James Rexroad for the Columbian) Photo Gallery

After being idle for almost a year and a half because of the pandemic, the Ryd commuter shuttle service is up and running again.

Ryd, which stands for Rethink Your Drive, began in 2018 as the brainchild of LSW Architects principal Casey Wyckoff, after his employees had a hard time finding parking close to their office in downtown Vancouver.

What began as a single all-electric six-seat golf cart has now expanded to five more with options that include a basic plan for rides from designated Ryd Stops, a premium subscription for custom pick-up and drop-off locations and corporate partnerships for businesses looking for parking and commuter services for their employees. To learn more go to the Ryd website at ryd.green.

Things slowed down during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as more people worked from home, and people are just now getting back to their offices in downtown, said Teresa Brum, deputy director of economic development with the city.

“We’ve been talking to Ryd since 2018 because they are such an innovative program and offer such a great alternative to single vehicle parking in downtown,” she said. “Of course, during the pandemic everything slowed down, but it’s now starting to ramp back up.”

Brum said her team recently appealed to the city council to take a renewed look at updating Vancouver’s parking policy, “so the news about Ryd is very timely.”

Timely and needed, she said.

“As downtown continues to grow, the innovative Ryd electric shuttle system will be an essential part of a downtown transportation ecosystem that will provide alternatives to single occupancy vehicle trips in and around town,” she said.

The city doesn’t contribute financially to Ryd since it’s not a nonprofit, but Brum has supported its efforts, including at the 2019 Greater Portland Tech Challenge, where she helped with Ryd’s pitch for the chance to partner with a tech company for assistance.

“Companies gave a pitch and partners bid on working with them for free,” she said. “The Ryd team was selected by MHP America, a Porsche company, to develop the Ryd shuttle service app.”

Shara Wokal, Ryd’s chief financial officer, said the system is still “working out the bugs” in its efforts to include the public, and future developments may include pay per ride or weekly passes.

“We’re still working on those,” Wokal said, with plans in the works to also connect to the light rail that will be part of the new bridge over Interstate 5.

“What with the upcoming bridge project with lanes for light rail — getting from Portland to Vancouver — there will be a place for that in downtown Vancouver,” she said. “And Ryd can be their service to get the last mile of their journey and also for people crossing the bridge (by driving).”

With the pandemic subsiding and more people returning to work in offices, parking in downtown Vancouver is at a premium, Wokal said, with most people using street permit parking or parking in building lots.

For those without guaranteed parking, finding a spot close to work can be a challenge. They can buy an on-street parking permit for $75 per month, but that doesn’t guarantee a space. Basic membership with Ryd is about $50 per month, Wokal said, a significant savings and better service for commuters. Ryd vehicles are restricted to streets with a maximum speed limit of 35 mph.

When Ryd began its service in 2018, Steve Kaspan, then parking manager for the city, said downtown parking is a challenge for everyone, “but the greatest demand is for employee parking.”

Ryd is trying to help solve that continuing problem for commuters, Wokal said.

“Some want to use the Ryd for lunch, but our emphasis is on first and last mile, and that may require a ride from the Vine (C-Tran) Terminal downtown and then to a bus uptown.”

The six-seater vehicles really are big golf carts, the GEM electric vehicle by Polaris, described as “a smarter alternative to typical golf carts…more spacious, comfortable and street legal, intentionally built for on-road use.”

The vehicle’s list price starts at around $19,000, less than minivans, most of which are priced in the $30,000 to $50,000 range.

Many other cities have privately owned shuttle services such as the Commuter Shuttle Program in San Francisco, and GOCO Charters which provides corporate shuttle services in several major U.S. cities, but Vancouver may be the only such service that uses electric golf carts, said Wokal

The Ryd website hypes that difference as a new way to think about getting around town:

“The modern world of ‘mobility’ is filled with electric scooters, autonomous vehicles and rides with strangers that always leave something to be desired,” it states. “Our 100 percent electric fleet keeps our environment clean as we partner with local businesses to bring you right to their front door.”

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