The new AMORE transit service includes wheelchair accessibility, but rides need to be scheduled the night before.

Residents in Rita Ranch, the Civano community and parts of Vail now have access to AMORE, the Adaptive Mobility with Reliability and Efficiency ride project, which is designed to connect people to mass transit systems from areas lacking transportation options typically seen within cities.

Funded by a Federal Transit Administration grant and sponsored by the Regional Transportation Authority, the AMORE Ride app is free for Android and iPhone users and allows passengers to sign up and have access to rides almost immediately to anywhere in the service area.

“People that perhaps were getting a ride to take the bus, driving themselves or riding a bike in some instances to connect to public transit, this makes their commute a lot easier, saves them some time and some effort and gives them more flexibility,” said Chris Colemon, director of product developments for Metropia Inc, the company that developed the app.

When creating the route of a user, the service can pair people who are heading to the same general area to make prices cheaper.

In Vail, the service is available at Cienega High School and the Vail Commercial District. The Pima Community College East Campus Park and Ride station and the University of Arizona Tech Park were recently added to the service area after hearing user input while the program was being formed.

Scheduling a ride ahead of time is one way the service differs from other ride-sharing services. There’s a one-hour minimum lead time to use the service, but riders can schedule rides days in advance to eliminate the need to wait.

“What we’ve really encouraged people to do is to reserve a trip the day before or earlier, and the reason for that is it gives us ample time to really maximize our resources to plan the drivers and their routes accordingly,” Colemon said. He said it gets the most efficiency out of the service and keeps costs low.

The service is less expensive than trying to fund a bus route expansion to the area. Drivers are from the community, and they’re also paid differently than other services, said James McGinnis, transit services manager for the Pima Association of Governments, which manages the Regional Transportation Authority.

“We’ve said unlike some services that are only going to pay drivers by the mile, we’ve said we’re going to pay our drivers by the hour so even if they’re not actively transporting passengers, they’re still getting paid if they’re on their shift,” McGinnis said.

Wheelchair accessibility is also a key aspect of the service, but is only available by scheduling a priority reservation before 8 p.m. prior to the day of the ride.

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“Early in the project ... we said we need to have an accessible vehicle as part of this trial so that not only can we pick up ambulatory passengers, but we’d be able to accommodate anyone with a disability who might be using a mobility device like a wheelchair or a scooter,” McGinnis said.

Although it just launched Dec. 3, Colemon said it’s been exciting that community members have been supporting the project.

“Some of the members of the pilot program, they use public transit but, in some instances, the transit schedule didn’t align with their particular commute. Maybe they work late at night or weekends, and so for them this allowed them to connect with other parts of the transit system during those off-peak times,” Colemon said.

Prices for the service will be released in 2019, but until then all rides are free. Research will be done to find ways to possibly expand the service.

“From the Regional Transportation Authority’s perspective, we never make a profit on any of our projects, we’re here to help the community find solutions for transportation,” McGinnis said.

For more information and to see a map of the service area, head to www.amoretucson.com

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1

Reporter

Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.