City Agrees to Join Regional Driverless Shuttle Plan

Antioch, Calif., voted to join the public partnership that will use autonomous electric vehicles to shuttle passengers between public transportation and businesses. The four-city system will be operating by 2030.

(TNS) — Antioch, Calif., became the final of four East Contra Costa cities agreeing to work together to support a preliminary plan to use driverless electric cars to shuttle passengers to public transportation and business hubs.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 4 to 1, with Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker abstaining, to support the initial public-private partnership model for Glydways Inc. to build a multimillion-dollar micro transit network in East Contra Costa. The planned system would complement current bus and rail services in the region and be fully operational by 2030.

"We have a real project and transportation solution for East Contra Costa," said Habib Shamskhou of Advanced Mobility Group, which conducted a feasibility study on the plans.

Pittsburg, Brentwood, Oakley, Tri-Delta Transit and the Contra Costa County Transportation Authority — the lead agency — also agreed to support the project in previous weeks, and having all the public agencies onboard now will help pave the way for Glydways to secure private financing, Antioch City Manager Ron Bernal said.

Among the proposal's goals are providing better access and supplementing the existing transit within East Contra Costa County, all at minimal local funding, Bernal said.

"It provides transit accessibility to ensure economic development and attract employers," Shamskhou said. "This project is as much a transportation project, as it is an economic development project."

Under the agreement, Antioch endorses the regional vision of the project and the results of the feasibility study, which showed the plan was viable. The city also will work with public and private agencies to help develop the regional transportation system that is being promoted as convenient, and affordable, with customers hailing cars through a phone app or from kiosks along the closed routes.

The proposed closed 28-mile transit system would have 56 boarding locations between Pittsburg/Bay Point BART Station and downtown Brentwood, with stops at Amtrak, Los Medanos College, Streets of Brentwood, park-and-ride lots to BART, the Innovation Center @ Brentwood and more. The exact routes, though, are yet to be determined, Shamskhou said.

Glydways estimated its daily weekday ridership at 33,559 and daily weekend ridership at 5,196 for about 7 million annual ridership. In comparison, eBART ridership along that same corridor is about 2.2 million and vehicles traveling on Highway 4 make up another 52 million, Shamskhou said.

"It's a true game changer as congestion relief for our entire community," he said, noting a proof-of-concept track is nearly complete at Concord's GoMentum Station where such testing takes place.

The South San Francisco-based autonomous vehicle startup also envisions Glydways transit systems in Alameda, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties.

Not everyone, however, was sold on the idea with several residents voicing their opposition. Some questioned the touted low costs, noting possible issues with securing right-of-ways and building overhead pathways for the electric cars, which might obscure views for some.

But Shamskhou said the cars will be half the length of normal vehicles and only about 5-foot-9 inches tall and travel along narrow pathways, not taking up much space. When not in use, they could be stored in garages, he said, though the idea is to have them available at the push of a button at any time during the day, depending on demand.

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock also asked about security plans.

Zachary Zeliff, a Glydways spokesman, said the company "would take care of all the security within the closed network."

"We have 100% surveillance within that network all the time," Zeliff said. "So we could see any incursions we can deal with as it comes up. In the boarding zones, there will be some jurisdiction between the city and Glydways."

Before the vote, Mayor Lamar Thorpe clarified with the city manager that Contra Costa Transportation Authority would take the lead on the project, which has already been included in the regional transportation plan, and an official partnership agreement would come before the council later.

(c)2021 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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