The pilot program for The PickUp, West Hollywood’s newest form of public transportation, has been extended by the city council on a month-to-month basis, potentially through June 30.
Launched in August, the free entertainment shuttle has had “strong” ridership, with approximately 1,200 people boarding each weekend, said Laura Biery, an economic development analyst for the city of West Hollywood.
“It continues to be very popular,” she said, adding that Saturday is busiest day for The PickUp.
Since the launch, the city and its contracted vendor, American GTS, have modified the route three times based on feedback from riders and drivers, Biery said. She said the alterations allowed the city to add and move some stops.
Now, from Santa Monica and Crescent Heights boulevards, the route does a loop that goes north on Crescent Heights Boulevard, east on Fountain Avenue, south on Fairfax Avenue and east on Santa Monica Boulevard. The trolleys then travel down Santa Monica Boulevard to Robertson Boulevard and back again. In all, The PickUp has 20 stops on the four-mile route.
Biery said the city has incorporated on-board ambassadors, who assist riders with directions and other information while also providing an added security measure. The ambassadors also walk and bike Santa Monica Boulevard to help pedestrians and establishments.
“It’s provided a nice, additional benefit for the riders,” Biery added.
The PickUp has provided an additional benefit for businesses in the area, according to anecdotal information the city has received, Biery said. She said the businesses on The PickUp Perk Cards — Hugo’s, Yogurt Stop, The Abbey, FUBAR, Here Lounge and Micky’s — have been pleased thus far.
“That was the original focus, and continues to be a focus of the program,” Biery said, adding that the city is currently working to quantify the economic impact. She said the city also checks in with the establishments monthly to ensure that they want to continue participating.
Biery said city staff members are in the midst of analyzing the costs of the program, as well as the economic benefits and ridership. She said the city council will receive a report in February.
The monthly cost is approximately $21,000, which includes the vendor, vehicles, drivers, gas, marketing and more, Biery said. She said the figure does not account for city hall costs and contract oversight.
Councilman John Duran said The PickUp has been a “great success,” and he hopes that the trolleys become a permanent fixture on Santa Monica Boulevard on the weekends.
“The reality is it’s still public transportation, but if anybody can make public transportation sexy, I guess West Hollywood did,” he said, adding that the shuttle offers the same busses and services as traditional transit lines, but in a quaint, eccentric, unique and well-marketed manner. “And it worked. It’s amazing, when you think about it, that a coat of paint and a couple little quirks and a double entendre can market public transportation in a way that it becomes usable.”
The shuttles are vibrantly painted, with illustrations of people making statements such as, “Cuddling & breakfast not required.” They also play music mixed by DJ Derek Monteiro and offer onboard photo booths, which allow riders to upload photos to social media sites.
Duran said the council will probably be unanimous in determining that the shuttles have been worthwhile and should be continued beyond the pilot program.
Mayor Abbe Land said the council will need to determine the best hours, the best routes and other details for The PickUp.
“I think it’s had a fairly decent ridership, but I think we really wanted to have a better idea of who is riding it [and where],” she said.
Biery said city staffers are often asked if the shuttle runs during special events and on holidays. She said the trolleys continue to be a weekend-only service, but the city will offer a free shuttle service on New Year’s Eve.
The New Year’s Eve service will run from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., and will run every 15 minutes, just like The PickUp. The Dec. 31 service will utilize The PickUp route, which connects with several Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority bus lines — the 105, 705, 4, 704, 217 and 218.
Both services aim to lessen the amount of people driving under the influence of alcohol after spending time in West Hollywood nightclubs. Duran said the city will study whether The PickUp has impacted how many people drink and drive in the city.
“Hopefully, that will also be a net result [that] we will be able to calculate. It’s still too early,” he added.
The PickUp operates from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
For information, visit www.weho.org/business/weho-pickup.The PickUp pilot program keeps rolling in WeHo
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