(WXYZ) — The Huron-Clinton Metroparks and SMART are launching a joint collaboration aimed at promoting health and improving equitable access to parks and recreation.
A new pilot program, Metropark Express, aims to bring the first-ever public transit connection to a Metropark.
Beginning Sept. 3, the Metropark Express will give residents from across the region a connection on SMART Flex, a new on-demand service that will connect SMART riders to Lake St. Clair Metropark from the Gratiot and 15 Mile bus stop.
The new SMART Flex service is a transit option that uses a mobile app for individuals and groups to schedule a ride on the Metropark Express to travel the last few miles from Gratiot and 15 Mile to several destinations within the Metropark.
Rides to Lake St. Clair Metropark on the Metropark Express will be offered from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between Sept. 3, 2021 and Sept. 5, 2022.
“The Metroparks always strive to meet community needs and ensure its parks are accessible to visitors of all ages,” said Metroparks Director Amy McMillan, in a press release. “Transportation, or the lack thereof, is a barrier often cited as a reason people are unable to visit local parks or recreational activities. Currently, no Metroparks are connected by public transportation. As our first micro-transit pilot the Metropark Express collaboration with SMART will help us gather information that could lead to route services to other parks.”
Flex fares are $2 per person each way, or free if transferring from SMART bus route. Reduced fares are also available for seniors (65+), people with disabilities, and youth. Children 5 and under are free.
Riders will have the added benefit of not being required to pay to enter the park – a significant savings compared to paying the standard daily vehicle rate to drive their own car.
When booking a ride, the fare can be paid by an approved payment method, including a valid bus pass, however, there are no cash options available. Wait times are approximately 15 – 20 minutes from the time the ride is booked.
SMART Flex vans can carry up to five passengers at a time, and wheelchair accessible vans can be requested. If a reservation is made for a party larger than five, SMART will deploy multiple vehicles to take visitors to the park.
Flex vans will allow riders to bring their beach bags and coolers with them as long as they can load it themselves and it can safely fit within their lap or under their seat when riding on SMART fixed routes.
Riders will eventually be able to bring bicycles with them as well, utilizing bike racks that SMART is installing on Flex vehicles.
In addition to the “SMART Flex” app, Metropark Express rides to Lake St. Clair Metropark can also be scheduled by calling 734.212.8429. For information on how to ride the Metropark Express, visit www.smartbus.org