(WXYZ) — Getting around metro Detroit without a car is getting a little bit easier with the launch of SMART Flex through SMART Bus. It's similar to Uber or Lyft, but with a different goal in mind.
Unlike those systems, SMART Flex is meant for shorter trips, to connect people in areas that are not very walkable. It should make connecting to shopping, restaurants, hotels, hospitals and schools more accessible.
“I don’t really like driving at night, I am getting older so it’s not as comfortable at night," Pamela Kaye said. She lives near a SMART Flex zone, and uses a SMART bus one or twice a month.
Kaye lives about a mile outside one of three new flex zones, and is looking forward to trying it out.
“You can just open your app and utilize it, if you use the shuttle service or even a bus sometimes you have to wait until their timing is correct rather than yours, so I think that is one of the big pluses for it," she said.
There are three zones SMART Flex will be operating out of – one in each of the major counties in our region. They include Dearborn, Troy and along Hall Rd. in Macomb County.
Like Uber or Lyft, you request and track your ride on your phone. Unlike those two ride-share systems, it isn't meant to take you anywhere in metro Detroit.
“The zones and the trips that are taken are much smaller, so the average trip is going to be a mile or two," SMART Bus Deputy GM Robert Cramer said.
He said the zones were picked because of how busy they are. For example, they include Somerset Mall or U-M Dearborn. They are also not easily walkable.
“M-59 has just tons of retail and jobs but you can’t get from one side of M-59 to the other without walking probably close to a mile just to get to the front door of one business to the other one," Cramer said.
SMART Flex is also meant to connect to other bus routes.
“We can get people the longest part of the trip we can get people to very effectively, but if they are going somewhere that is just a little bit farther than a convent walk from their bus stop this is the service that can really bridge that gap," Cramer added.
The plan is to operate SMART Flex for at least the next three years. If it's found to be successful, it will likely continue in the future.
The system will run you anywhere between $2-$8, and from now until May 15, the first 10 trips are free.