Hailed an “overnight success,” West Hollywood’s PickUp Line entertainment shuttle was praised Monday by city staff members and the City Council, which unanimously approved creating a mobile phone application for the five-week old shuttle but held off on expanding service until the end of its pilot period.
Officially launched on Aug. 16, the free shuttle, which runs Fridays and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. on a loop along Santa Monica Boulevard between Fairfax Avenue and Robertson Boulevard, is averaging 1,300 to 1,400 riders per weekend, according to a staff report. Saturdays see higher ridership than Fridays.
City staff members will create a mobile phone application using GPS tracking software so riders can know exactly when the next shuttle is coming.
According to City Manager Paul Arevalo, a GPS tracking device installed on the trolleys and daytime Cityline buses, an idea suggested by Mayor Abbe Land, will provide data for the city and the app will be alluring for potential riders.
However, don’t look for that app to be available immediately. It could take several months to create the software. The estimated cost is $10,000.
City staff members also recommended extending service to include Sunday afternoons. Councilmember John Duran was in favor of what he called a “Sunday Fun Day service,” which, he said, would cost an additional $7,000 per month for the remainder of the shuttle’s pilot period ending Dec. 31.
Ultimately, the council opted to continue studying data during the pilot period before approving expansion.
“I’m concerned it’s only a month of evaluation,” Councilmember John Heilman said. “I think we need to slow down.”
Councilmember Jeff Prang agreed.
“We established a pilot and should finish that pilot before expanding,” Prang said.
Similarly, the council also wanted to complete the pilot period before increasing the initially approved $71,000 operating and $25,000 marketing budgets. Likewise, the council opted not to add any paid advertisements inside or outside the trolleys yet, despite inquiries from several vendors.
City staff members said they were also getting requests to extend the Pick-Up Line to La Brea Avenue. However, to make that change, additional trolleys would be needed to maintain the 15-minute intervals between shuttles. Currently, American GTS, the company from which the city rents to trolleys, only has two classic trolleys available.
When the council first approved the Pick-Up Line, it hoped the shuttle would include a photo booth so riders could post photos to social media sites. However, a photo booth would cost $25,000 and would create problems with handicap access area, emergency exits and the driver’s line of sight, according to a staff report.
Instead, the city’s been using an ambassador on each trolley to answer questions and take photos for social media, plus act as a troubleshooter.